Analyze the way in which controversy over the extension of slavery into western territories contributed to the coming of the Civil War. Confine your answer to the period 1845-1861.
With nationalism, population increase, rapid economic development, and technological advances, manifest destiny was driven. It expressed the idea that America was destined to extend its territory and power by God, but it led conflicts between neighbor countries, especially Mexico. President Polk appointed John Slidell as his special envoy to Mexico with two expectations; persuade Mexico to sell California and New Mexico territories and settle Mexico-Texas border. Mexico refused Slidell’s proposals and the Mexican War began. The Mexican War caused disastrous damages but Mexico refused to admit defeat. However, after Mexico City was seized, a new Mexican government and Nicholas Trist, a special presidential envoy, reached agreement on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Through the treaty, Mexico accept the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas and cede California and New Mexico – the Mexico Cession – with $15 million.
Mexico Cession renewed the sectional debate over the extension of slavery. In August 1846, Pennsylvania Congressmen David Wilmot, an antislavery Democrat, proposed an amendment to the appropriation bill which was called Wilmot Proviso to forbid slavery in any new territories acquired from Mexico. It passed the House twice but failed in Senate because southern people believed that even in the new territories Americans had equal rights including slavery system. As the sectional debate became severe, President Polk supported a proposal to extend the Missouri Compromise line through the new territories to the Pacific Coast. However, many people agreed ‘squatter sovereignty’ which changed its name to ‘popular sovereignty’ that allowed people to decide whether to be a free state or a slave state.
In the election of 1848 since slavery questions were too controversy, both Whigs and Democrats tried to avoid them. However, opponents of slavery system was unsatisfied with situation so decided to make new party; Free-Soil Party. In the election, even Whigs’ candidate General Zachary Taylor became president and Free-Soil party failed to win a single state, it showed slavery system is not a problem that can be solved with time passes. In December 1949, California decided to become a free state and Taylor asked Congress to admit California as a free state. However, Congress hesitated to admit California as a free state because it would break the balance between free states and slave states. Also, Taylor’s plan promoted radical southerners (free-eaters) which led some southern extremists to discuss secession in Nashville in 1850. To reduce tensions, Henry Clay had proposed ‘The Compromise of 1850’. The compromise was consisted into five parts; admit California as a free state and give statehood, divide the remainder of the Mexico Cession into two territories; Utah and New Mexico while allow them to decide the slavery issue by popular sovereignty, give territories to New Mexico while give $10 million to Texas, allow holding slaves but ban the slave trade in District of Columbia, and strengthen Fugitive Slave Law.
In the election of 1852, Democratic candidate Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire who supported for the Fugitive Slave Law defeated Whig’s candidate General Winfield Scott because of Whig Party’s division. In 1854, a new law, which led disastrous result, was passed the House and Congress which are dominated by Democrats. Stephen A. Douglas, a senator of Illinois, wanted the transcontinental railroad to promote western settlement. Since it had to go through central United States, while Southern Democrats preferred more southern paths, Douglas knew that he need southern approval. He proposed a bill to divide Nebraska territory into two; Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory and give chances to choose whether to be a free state or a slave state through popular sovereignty. However it led the fighting between the proslavery and the antislavery groups which was called ‘Bleeding Kansas’. Furthermore, opponents of slavery system made new party which called the Republican Party.
In the election of 1856, the Democratic candidate James Buchanan who was not related to ‘Bleeding Kansas’ defeated the Republican candidate John C. Fremont and the Native American Party candidate Millard Fillmore. From the beginning of his term in the office, Buchanan faced challenges on slavery problems. His first challenge was Lecompton constitution in 1857, whether to accept or reject a proslavery state constitution for Kansas. Even Buchanan asked Congress to pass the bill, Democrats and Republicans rejected. Furthermore, next year, 1858, antislavery Republicans of Kansas settlers canceled proslavery constitution. Also, Dred Scott v. Sanford case in 1857 renewed the controversy between slavery system especially increased northerners’ doubt on slavery system which led thousands of former Democrats to vote Republican. In the Election of 1860, with the help of Democrats’ division, Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln won the presidency. Lincoln’s victory led white southerners to start secession which became the Civil War.