Chapter 18
• Renewing the Sectional Struggle, 1848–1854
I. The Popular Sovereignty
• As the topic of slavery began to heat up, it is
interesting that Democrats and Whigs both
had strong supporters in the North and the
• The idea of Popular Sovereignty gained
traction – doctrine that stated that the
sovereign people of a territory should
themselves determine the status of slavery.
II. Political Triumphs for General
• Whigs select Zachary Taylor to run for
– Clay should’ve but he had made too many
enemies to get elected.
– Taylor had no experience in politics and hadn’t
even voted before… but he was a war hero.
• Northern antislavery men didn’t trust him
(primarily because he owned a bunch of
slaves.) So they began the Free Soil Party.
• Free Soil Platform:
– For the Wilmot Proviso (prohibited slavery in any
territory acquired in the Mexican War)
– Against slavery in the territories
– Federal aid for internal improvements
– Free government homesteads for settlers
• During the campaign neither side was willing to
bring up the issue of slavery, they just attacked
each other.
– Ultimately, Taylors wartime popularity would pull
him through.
Map 18-1 p380
III. “Californy Gold”
• 1849 California gold rush – attached tens of
thousands of people to CA almost overnight.
• Territorial government struggled to protect
its citizens from the influx of lawless men
entering the territory in search of gold.
– Robbery, claim jumping, and murder were
• Californians drafted a constitution (1849)
that excluded slavery (so they wouldn’t have
to seek approval from southern politicians)
and applied to Congress for admission.
• Southern Politicians were upset by California’s
attempt to bypass them and arose in violent
IV. Sectional Balance and the
Underground Railroad
• The North outnumbered the South a little in
the House of Representatives, but had
equality in the Senate.
– No one truly thought the institution of slavery
was in danger for the states where it already
– But the South was worried about the ever
shifting political balance based state
• There were 15 slave states and 15 free states.
The admission of California as a free state
would throw everything off.
• Southerners were also angry over the loss of
their runaway slaves, many of which were
assisted by the Underground Railroad.
– Chain of “stations” (antislavery homes), through
which “passengers” (runaway slaves) were directed
by “conductors” (abolitionists such as Harriet
• 1850 southerners were demanding a new
fugitive-slave law.
– The old one passed in 1793 proved inadequate.
• Some estimations suggest that the South
was losing around 1,000 runaways a year out
of the 4 million slaves.
Map 18-2 p382
V. Twilight of the Senatorial Giants
• In 1850 Southern fears were such that Congress
was confronted with a catastrophe.
– Free-soil California was banging on the door.
– “fire-eaters” in the South were voicing threats of
• In 1849, Southerners had announced to meet the
following year to discuss withdrawing from the Union.
• Clay, Calhoun, and Webster appeared together
for the last time on the public stage.
• Senator Henry Clay, seventy-three years old,
played a crucial role.
– He urged that the North and South both make
concessions and that the North partially yield by
enacting a more feasible fugitive-slave law.
• Senator John C. Calhoun, sixty-eight and dying
of tuberculosis, championed the South in his
last formal speech.
– His plea was to leave slavery alone, return runaway
slaves, give the South its rights as a minority, and to
restore the political balance.
• Senator Daniel Webster, sixty-eight years old
and suffering from liver complications, urged
all reasonable concessions to the South,
including a new fugitive-slave law with teeth.
– Webster’s rationale was that through climate,
topography, and geography – a plantation
economy, in other words a slavery economy,
could not profitably exist in the Mexican Cession
• Note: Webster was wrong… within a hundred years
California became a great cotton producer
VI. Deadlock and Danger on Capitol Hill
• As the debates of 1850 raged on, the Young
Guard in Congress, after listening to the Old
Guard (Clay, Calhoun, and Webster,) focused
more on purging and purifying than patching
and preserving.
• William H. Seward, freshman senator of New
York, opposed giving any concessions to the
– Seward argued that Christian legislators must obey
God’s moral law, an even “Higher Law” than the
• Seward’s “Higher Law” must have struck a
cord with President Taylor, who then vetoed
any compromise passed by congress.
– He seemed to be ready to “Jacksonize”
dissenters by leading an army against them.
VII. Breaking the Congressional
• At the height of the controversy in 1850
President Taylor Died suddenly (most likely
from an intestinal disorder.)
• Millard Fillmore, who was much more bent
toward arguments for conciliation, gladly signed
the compromise measures that passed
• Trying to get buy-in for the Compromise of
1850 was a struggle both in Congress as well as
the country.
Table 18-1 p384
VIII. Balancing the Compromise Scales
• North wins out…
– CA tipped scales in the Senate for the North.
– New Mexico and Utah were open to slavery
through popular sovereignty, but the free soil
group had the advantage.
– Texas received $10 million but proved to be only
a modest sum.
– Slave “trade” only being outlawed in D.C. was a
victory for the South, but it began the
conversations for emancipation of the nation’s
• Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
– Fleeing slaves couldn’t testify on their own behalf
– They were denied jury trial
– Federal commissioners who handled fugitive cases
received $5 if a runaway slave was released and $10
if not.
– Whites who aided the slaves received heavy fines
and jail sentences.
• They were sometimes ordered to join the slave-catchers.
Slavery After the Compromise of 1850
Map 18-3 p386
Map 18-4 p388
Map 18-5 p389
Map 18-6 p392
Map 18-7 p393

I. The Popular Sovereignty Panacea