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The North had its share of violence. In Connecticut a school for negro children, kept by two white women, was forcibly broken up. In Illinois in 1837 an anti-slavery newspaper office was destroyed by a mob, and its proprietor, Elijah P. Lovejoy, was murdered.
In the Presidential election of 1840 slavery was almost forgotten. The Whigs were bent on overthrowing the Democratic administration, to which they attributed the hard times following 1837; and they raised a popular hurrah for the candidate of the "plain people," William Henry Harrison of Indiana, who had won a victory over the Indians at Tippecanoe. In a canvass where "log-cabins" and "hard cider" gave the watchwords and emblems, national politics played little part. But now first those resolute antislavery men who were determined to bring their cause before the people as a political issue, and fight it out in that arena, with solid ranks be their forces ever so small,-came together and nominated for the Presidency James G. Birney. They could give him but a handful of votes, but it was the raising of a flag which twenty years was to carry to victory. Birney, never an extremist, had grown to a full recognition of all that was at stake. He wrote in 1835: "The contest is becoming-has become-not one alone of freedom for the blacks, but of freedom for the whites. There will be no cessation of the strife until slavery shall be exterminated or liberty destroyed."
For a dozen years there had been only skirmishing. Now came on a battle royal, or rather a campaign, from 1844 to 1850, the annexation of Texas, the war with Mexico, and the last great compromise. Texas, a province of Mexico after Mexico became free from Spain, received a steady immigration from the American Southwestern States. These immigrants became restive under Mexican control, declared their independence in 1835, and practically secured it after
sharp fighting. Slavery, abolished under Mexico, was reestablished by the republic of Texas. From the character of its population, it seemed to gravitate toward the United States. The keen eyes of the Southern leaders were early fixed upon it. Annex Texas, and a great field of expansion for slavery was open. Its votes in the Senate and House would be added to the Southern column, and from its immense domain future States might be carved. As early as 1829 Lundy's and Garrison's Genius had protested against this scheme. The time was now ripe for carrying it out. Calhoun was again the leader. He claimed to be "the author of annexation," and with good reason. He exchanged the Senate for Tyler's cabinet as Secretary of War in 1844, the change being engineered by Henry A. Wise, one of the rising men in Virginia,—for the express purpose of bringing in Texas. A treaty of annexation was negotiated with Texas, and sent to the Senate. There were difficulties; the Texans had cooled in their zeal for annexation; and the American Senate was not over-favorable. To give the necessary impetus, Calhoun,-so says Van Holst, in his excellent and not unfriendly biography,-fell below his habitual sincerity, and misrepresented a dispatch of the English Foreign Secretary, Lord Aberdeen, as showing a disposition on England's part to get hold of Texas for herself. It was a Presidential year; the Democratic convention nominated James K. Polk of Tennessee, and passed a resolution favoring annexation. But Calhoun had now shown his motive so plainly that the country took alarm, and the Senate rejected the treaty. The Whigs nominated Clay. He was believed to be opposed to the annexation scheme, but his hunger for the great prize betrayed him into an equivocal expression, which lost him the confidence of the strong anti-slavery men. Again they nominated Birney, taking now the name of the Liberty party-and gave
him so many votes that the result was to lose New York and Michigan for Clay, and Polk was elected. The administration now claimed-though in truth the combined Whig and Liberty vote put it in a minority-that it had received a plebiscite of popular support on its annexation policy. Thus emboldened, its friends,-knowing that they could not yet count on the two-thirds vote necessary for a senatorial confirmation,-dropped the treaty altogether, and brought into Congress a joint resolution affirming the annexation of Texas to the Union. This won the necessary majority in both houses, and as the last act of Tyler's administration Texas was declared a State.
Calhoun now returned to the Senate,-his temporary substitute promptly vacating at his word. Thus far he had triumphed. But his associates in their elation were eager for another conquest. Texas is ours, now let us have California and the Pacific! But to that end, Mexico, reluctant to yield Texas, and wholly unwilling to cede more territory, must be attacked and despoiled. At that proposal Calhoun drew back. It does not appear that he had any scruples about Mexico. But, keener-sighted than his followers, he knew that any further acquisitions to the West would be stoutly and hopefully claimed by the North. His warning was in vain; he had lighted a fire and now could not check it. The next step was to force Mexico into a war. She claimed the river Nueces as her boundary with Texas, while Texas claimed the Rio Grande. Instructions were quietly given to General Taylor, in January, 1846, to throw his small force into the disputed territory, so near the Rio Grande as to invite a Mexican attack. The Mexican force did attack him, and President Polk instantly declared that
war existed by the act of Mexico "—thus allowing Congress no chance to pass on it. As is the way of nations, fighting once begun, every consideration of justice was ig
nored and the only word was our country, right or wrong." Congressmen of both parties voted whatever supplies were needed for the war; and the Whigs, trying to throw the blame on the President, put no obstacles in the way of his conquest of Mexico. Only one man in Congress spoke out for justice as higher than party or country. Thomas Corwin of Ohio, in a powerful speech, denounced the whole iniquitous business, and declared that were he a Mexican facing the American invaders of his home, "I would welcome them with hospitable hands to bloody graves!"
The war called out another voice that went home to the heart of the people,-the voice of James Russell Lowell in the "Biglow Papers." In the homely Yankee vernacular he spoke for the highest conscience of New England. The righteous wrath was winged with stinging wit and lightened with broad humor. He spoke for that sentiment of the new and nobler America which abhorred slavery and detested war, and saw in a war for the extension of slavery a crime against God and man. The politician's sophistries, the respectable conventionalities current in church and state, found no mercy at his hands:
Ez fer war, I call it murder,-
Than my Testyment fer that:
Ef you want to take in God.
'Tain't your eppyletts an' feathers
Make the thing a grain more right; 'Tain't a follerin' your bell-wethers Will excuse ye in his sight;