key words in lecture 1 - Lone Star College System

Guide to Lecture 17 (The Mexican War and
the Compromise of 1850)
Background and Primary Point
1850s—increasing sectional tension between North and South—future
of slavery
Inevitable outcome—Civil War
Crisis really began in 1845
Texas admitted to the Union
Confrontation with Mexico
1836—Texas War of Independence, republic for 9 years—Mexico
never recognized independence
1842—Santa Anna of Mexico—armies captured San Antonio
Broke diplomatic ties with US
Brink of war with US
How Did the War Occur?
James K. Polk responsible President
Jacksonian Democrat from Tennessee
Platform frankly expansionist—Manifest Destiny—to the Pacific
Victory in election of 1844—mandate—determined to acquire New
Mexico and California, purchase if possible, use force if necessary
Disputed territory—Mexico (unofficially) would grant loss of Texas
north of Nueces River, but not from the Rio Grande
1846—Zachary Taylor was sent to the north bank of the Rio Grande,
across from Matamoros, Mexico
Mexicans crossed over and killed a few American soldiers in April,
1846—Congress declared war in May
The Mexican War
Total US victory—never lost a battle
Invasion at Vera Cruz to take Mexico City
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 1848
Mexican Cession--$15 million for the Southwest—500,000 square
miles—Ca., N. Mex., Nevada, Ariz, Utah.
The Oregon Question
1846—Polk resolved the Oregon Question with British—extending the
boundary at the 49th Parallel to the Pacific.
Manifest Destiny was thereby attained
The Polk Presidency
One of the most successful Presidents—all his major campaign promises
were fulfilled
Neglected to run for President in 1848
Results of Territorial Expansion
Stoked patriotism, almost undid the nation
Debate started about extension of slavery to new territories
Wilmot Proviso—David Wilmot (Dem, Pa.)—August, 1846, early in
Mexican War
Forbid slavery in any lands acquired from Mexico
Obnoxious to the South, looking forward to expanding slavery
Passed the House, not the Senate—equality of representation
Re-introduced several times in 1850s, always defeated
Alignment in Senate—along sectional rather than party lines
Wilmot Proviso prophesies the eventual breakup of the second
party system—its disappearance will ease the breakup of the Union
Election of 1848
Showed these divisions—politicians trying to avoid split along sectional
lines, straddle the issue of slavery
Lewis Cass—Democratic candidate from Michigan
Platform—popular sovereignty—a notion which could be sold in
two different ways
Northern Democrats—stress that popular sovereignty means
“free soil.” Arid climate in New Mexico precludes pro-slave
Southern Democrats—Southern rights are protected—“equal
chance” to migrate to the Southwest with slaves
Zachary Taylor—Whig candidate from Louisiana
War hero—patriotism a unifying factor
Southern Whigs—from Louisiana, father-in-law of Jefferson
Northern Whigs—let it be known (quietly) that he would not
veto the Wilmot Proviso if passed
Martin Van Buren—Free Soil Party candidate from New York (former
Strictly opposed to slavery’s extension—wanted Congressional ban
Taylor won—8 slave states, 7 free. Cass had the reverse; Van Buren
10% of popular vote—New York—enough to prevent Cass’s election
Note exact equality of slave and free states (15 and 15)
California’s Admission to the Union
1849—Taylor supports immediate entry of California into Union as a state
Would be a free state due to population type
Would upset the balance of free vs. slave states in the Union
How could a Southern President support this?
Gold Rush of 1849—California’s population expanding rapidly
Boom economy—problems with law and order, valued highly by
the soldier Taylor
Make California a functioning state ASAP to overcome problems
The Compromise of 1850
Crisis developed—Civil War could have happened at this time—secession
meetings held all over the South
Some argued should leave the Union while their strength was still
With entry of California—anti-slavery strength would be too much-abolition
Henry Clay saved the Union one final time
Omnibus Bill—package of proposals favoring both sections
Hoped that a majority would support the whole lot
Comprehensive settlement of sectional crisis
Debate raged in Congress
Taylor died at this time, 09 July—poisoned by Southerners for
his treachery? Disinterred in 1991—no poison.
Compromise of 1850 passed in the fall of that year—major provisions:
California enters as a free state
Rest of Mexican Cession (Utah and New Mexico)—organized on
basis of popular sovereignty
Texas-New Mexico boundary dispute settled in favor of New
Mexico—east of the Rio Grande. Favored the North—Texas was a
slave state
US paid Texas $10 million for this claim
Slave trade (not slavery) abolished in Washington, D.C.—symbolic
victory for the abolitionists. Slavery itself, however, continued till
the Civil War
Fugitive Slave Law was made tougher to appease the South—on
the books since 1793. Northerners would have to cooperate in
capture and return of runaways.
Slave-catchers would bring runaway before federal
$10 for decision in favor of claimant
$5 if in favor of the defendant
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Christian abolitionist, angered by law
Uncle Tom’s Cabin—abolitionist propaganda—written and
stirred up animosities between sections
Compromise of 1850 brought great relief to the nation—civil war had
been averted—actually a ten-year truce between the sections.