The Civil War was one of our nation’s greatest and saddest events. Many elements came into play in causing the war. The debates of the annexation of Texas, new land acquired from the Mexican War, all of the debates of the 1850’s, the rise of the Republican party and their presidential nomination, Abraham Lincoln were major factors. Slavery was not the only problem, everything dealing with the expansion of our western borders.
In the 1830’s, Texas was still within Mexican borders. Eager for economic growth, the Mexican government encouraged US citizens to come and settle. Since Mexico banned slavery, most settlers were not happy with this policy and tried to form stronger bonds with the United States government than with the Mexican government. Arguments and fights arose because of this bond, but in 1836 Texas claimed its independence from Mexico. Sam Houston, the President of Texas, sent a delegation to the District of Columbia to apply for statehood. This caused more arguments between the north and south. If Texas were admitted to the Union, it would throw off the balance of free states to slave states, 15 apiece at the time. The north did not want to have the south take political control of the government.
With the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago in 1848, the new territories immediately became controversial with the slavery issue. Since California and New Mexico were below the Missouri Compromise line, they were all southern colonized, and therefore, slaveholding territories. But the California gold rush put more pressure on the slavery issue. The gold rush brought many foreigners into America in hopes of quick riches. This caused many problems. For example, if a free black man tried to stake a claim at land he found gold on, he was denied his claim since blacks technically had no rights under the United States Constitution. This also applied to many foreigners who were put into “indentured” labor. This changed when they applied for statehood; California’s new constitution prohibited slavery.
The 1850’s caused many heated debated in the Senate and House of Representatives over slavery. Henry Clay has the first idea for calming both sides with his Compromise of 1850. Clay’s compromise had four main points to it. The first was admission of California as a free state. Formation of territorial governments in the rest of land from Mexico without restrictions on slavery was the second. Third, the abolition of slave trade, but not slavery itself in the District of Columbia. And finally, new, effective fugitive slave laws. John Calhoun had different ideas though. He insisted that the north give the south equal rights in the territories, and agree to observe the fugitive slave laws. Another one of his demands was that they stop attacking slavery and amend the Constitution to allow for two presidents, one from the north and one from the south, each with veto power. While all these debates were going on, Daniel Webster tried to rally the northern supporters in the Senate for Clay’s compromise. At the same time, a younger group of politicians were being voted into office. One of them was a New Yorker by the name of William Seward. Even though he was a northerner, he opposed Clay’s compromise claiming that the ideals of the Union were less important than eliminating slavery. Another one of the new faces in the Congress was Jefferson Davis, a southerner from Mississippi. For Davis the slavery issue was one of economic self-interest rather than principles and ideals. Eventually, Clay’s compromise got vetoed.
As the old, familiar faces left and new ones came into Congress, a Democrat from Illinois, Stephen Douglas, became a key player. He was a spokesman for the economic needs of the west, especially for the construction of a transcontinental railroad. One of his hopes was that if he could get a majority to concentrate on the economic interests of the new territories, it would end the sectional disputes. Much to his dismay, President Zachary Taylor said that only after California and New Mexico had been admitted as states, could other measures be discussed. Douglas’ first step then was to break up Clay’s compromise to the sectional issue. Finally a compromise was reached, but it was a victory of self-interest on all sides.
Another one of the great debates