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extension of slavery and against the theory of secession. The
Missouri Compromise (1820) had established a Beginning of the struggle feeling in the country that the compromise line over slavery.
would separate for ever the territory devoted to freedom from that given over to slavery. The breaking of the compromise by the addition of a strip of western land to Missouri, in 1836, had not disturbed this feeling of confidence. Nor did the fact that several of the eastern slave-States were north of the compromise line suggest that one day an effort might be made to increase the size of the region consigned to the slave-owners. Yet some attempt at the extension of that territory was inevitable. The surest and easiest way would have been to absorb new lands to the south-west, and perhaps also to add Cuba and other West India Islands to the United States. This extension of slave territory was necessary to the slave-power, as it was apparent that the control of all the branches of the national government might at any time belong to the people of the free States of the North, unless new domains were opened to slavery. Representation in the popular branch of the national legislature was based upon population — slaves being estimated at only three-fifths of their actual number, and Presidential electors were apportioned according to the same ratio, with two additional electors for each State. The Senate offered the only security to the slavepower, for there each State had two votes. Only by increasing slave territory or by adding to the number of slave-States, could the South hope to retain control of even one branch of Congress and thus to prevent legislation hostile to slavery. The Census of 1840 showed clearly that the South was falling behind in the increase of population. This was due to the fact that slave labour was suitable only to agriculture and also tended to keep out the free immigrants from Europe, who, almost without exception, either remained in the manufacturing and commercial centres of the North, or settled in the agricultural regions of the West.
Annexation of Texas.
Annexation of Texas.
Southern statesmen, therefore, cast about them for new territory to annex to the United States that would be suitable to slavery. In this way their attention was directed to Texas.
In 1821 Mexico had revolted from Spain and formed a federative republic. Later Texas, the most north-eastern province and the one nearest the United States, revolted in turn from Mexico. The settlers of that province were largely from the United States. Led by Samuel Houston, of Tennessee a friend of Jackson's -- they defeated the Mexicans under Santa Anna, on the San Jacinto, and organized the Republic of Texas (1836). The independence of the new nation was recognized by the United States and by some other powers in 1837. Texas almost immediately sought admission to the American Union. But the attempt to bring this about was certain to arouse dangerous contentions, and Jackson and Van Buren had declined the earlier overtures. Tyler, himself a slaveowner, viewed the matter more favourably, and negotiations ripened into a treaty of annexation, which was submitted to the Senate for ratification in 1844. It failed to secure the necessary votes, and was rejected. This was partly due to the clandestine manner in which the treaty had been made. The controversy proved to be the leading issue in the Presidential campaign of that year (1844). Many persons preferred to use the word re-annexation in place of annexation — implying thereby that the United States in absorbing Texas would be only taking territory to which she was justly entitled.
The Whig candidate for President in 1844 was Henry Clay, a slave-owner from Kentucky. He seemed to have two minds on the question of admitting Texas, writing letters of approval and disapproval, as if trying to compromise with himself on the matter. The Democratic candidate was James K. Polk, of Tennessee, who had been Speaker of the National House of
Election of 1844.
Representatives. He owned slaves and was outspoken in his desire for the admission of Texas. Tyler had intrigued for a re-nomination, but, conscious that he had no chance of being elected, he withdrew and Polk was nominated. Meantime a party, advocating the abolition of slavery, had sprung up in the North. It was known as the Liberty party, and held the balance of power. Had the voters of this party supported Clay, he would have been elected. But they distrusted him and nominated a candidate of their own. They seem to have preferred a slave-owner who knew his own mind to one who did not, and by throwing away their votes on a third candidate assured the election of Polk. A joint resolution now passed both Houses of Congress, providing for the reannexation of Texas, and extending the line of the Missouri Compromise through the new territory to be acquired. Three days before the expiration of his term of office, Tyler signed this law, and at once took the necessary steps to carry the plan into execution. It was not until the middle of April, however, that the final arrangements were made, and Polk was then President. A question immediately arose as to the true western
boundary of Texas. Was Texas to be confined The Mexican War, 1846-48.
within the area assigned to her as one of the
States of the Mexican Republic, or was her true western limit the Rio Grande, the limit of the old French and Spanish district denominated Texas? The State of Texas and the United States contended that the Rio Grande was the true frontier, and this, as a matter of fact, was the limit of Texas when sold by Spain in 1800, and by France three years later. President Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor, commander of the United States army in the South-west, to advance to the Rio Grande, adding that if the Mexicans should attack him there, he should at once cross the river into Mexico. Taylor advanced, the Mexicans ordered him to return, and these
The Mexican War, 1846-48.
orders not being complied with they attacked and, after some blood had been shed, captured a small detachment of the American army (April 23rd, 1846). This enabled the President to assert that “War existed by the act of Mexico," and Congress accepted the issue thus raised. The Mexican War which followed was in reality an attack on a weak nation by a strong one. The American armies in the field, however, were nearly always greatly outnumbered by their opponents, who also enjoyed all the advantages of fighting on the defensive. The American soldiers, consequently, won renown by the splendid fighting qualities they displayed, and the chief commanders acquired great military reputations. There were two lines of operations, one being a continuation of Taylor's forward movement. With this campaign are associated the names of the victories of Palo Alto, Resaca de las Palmas, and Buena Vista (February, 1847). These victories made General Taylor a successful candidate for the Presidency; they did not convince the Mexicans, however, that the claim of the United States to their Northern provinces must be allowed. That conviction could only be forced upon them by the capture of their capital, the City of Mexico. This task was intrusted to General Winfield Scott — the senior officer of the army, and one of the few men who had won an enduring reputation in the War of 1812. Landing on the Mexican coast (March, 1847), near Vera Cruz, he captured that seaport and then began a long march to the interior, following, in general, in the footsteps of the Spanish Conquistadores of the early part of the sixteenth century. He swept aside a Mexican force which tried to check his advance at Cerro Cordo, and passing by the mighty peaks of Orizaba and Popocatapetl, entered the valley of Mexico. The splendid victories of Contreras, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and Chapultepec (September, 1847) placed the City of Mexico within his power. On February 2nd, 1848, a treaty was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo, which, with unim
portant changes, was ratified by the Senate of the United States and by Mexico. By this treaty, the United States acquired a clear title to Texas as far as the Rio Grande, to New Mexico, and to California - which had been seized by American military and naval forces. For these great acquisitions the United States gave Mexico (1) peace, (2) fifteen million dollars, and (3) a promise to pay some three million dollars more to American citizens who held claims on the Mexican government. Later, in 1853, the United States purchased from Mexico a strip of land between the Rio Grande and the Colorado River. These acquisitions, including Texas, added about eight hundred and seventy-five thousand square miles of land to the area of the United States. During Polk's administration, also, the frontier of the United States in the North-west was settled substantially as it exists to-day. The region west of the crest of the Rocky Mountains and
north of the forty-second parallel was called The Oregon
Oregon. The northern limit of this region was Treaty, 1846.
vague and its ownership unsettled. The title of the United States to Oregon was shrouded in such obscurity as only diplomatists care to penetrate. It was composed of many elements: (1) the discovery of the Columbia River by an American citizen, (2) the assignment of whatever rights Spain still had by the Florida Treaty of 1819, (3) contiguity to Louisiana, (4) exploration and occupation resulting from the ownership of Louisiana. It was not contended that any one of these elements constituted a valid title, but it was argued that taken together they formed a better title than could be advanced by any other nation. The only other power which pushed its claims to this region was Great Britain. The governments of these two countries could not agree as to partition, and they determined to occupy the region in common as long as the joint occupation seemed to be advantageous to both nations. This condition of affairs continued from 1818