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which lay athwart
easot the fit inspibara
the independence of Texas, and could hardly be expected to tolerate its absorption in the great Republic. The United States, however, was strong; Mexico was weak; and the wisest American statesmen—both in the North and in the South-were of opinion that, if she had only been given a reasonable excuse, Mexico would have gladly refrained from pushing her differences with her powerful neighbour to an issue. The politicians of the Southern States, however, were intent on further developements. On the west of Texas was the territory of New Mexico, which lay athwart the path on which American ambition was already resolved to march on its western progress. Still further to the west, on the fringe of the Pacific Ocean, was the great district of California, which had been subject to Mexico since 1823, and which was destined in the immediate future to play so great a part in the economical history of the world. The line, moreover, which separated the two countries was not accurately defined. United States troops, under General Taylor, crossed the disputed frontier ; Mexican troops resisted the intrusion; blood was shed, and the President, urging bloodshed as a reason, asked Congress to declare war.
In a literary sense the English-speaking race owes much to the Mexican War. It inspired the first part of the Biglow papers, and created such characters as Bird o’ Freedom Sawin, Parson Wilbur, and Hosea Biglow. In a military sense the Mexican War will be chiefly recollected for the achievements of the troops of the United States under General Scott. With some exaggeration Sir Henry Bulwer, speaking at New York, declared that, if Waverley' and
Guy Mannering' had made the name of Scott immortal on one side of the Atlantic, Cerro Gordo and Churubusco (the scenes of Scott's victories) had equally immortalised it on the other. In a political sense it added 500,000 square miles of territory to the possessions of the great Republic, it laid the foundations of the power which the United States have since consolidated on the Pacific, and it led to the compromise of 1850. The controversy between North and South, which that compromise vainly strove to settle, precipitated the measures which led to the American Civil War.
The seeds of that controversy were sown before the war with Mexico was terminated. The President, both in 1846 and in 1847, asked Congress for a large sum of money-Mr. Rhodes calls it ‘Secret Service Money —to be employed at his discretion in 'negotiating'a treaty with Mexico. The Northern members put up one of their number--Wilmot, of
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Pennsylvania—to propose, as a vital condition to the appropriation of the money, that slavery should be for ever prohibited in all the territory to be acquired under the treaty. The 'Wilmot Proviso '-as it was called—was carried in the House of Representatives both in 1846 and 1847. It was on each occasion, however, rejected by the Senate; and when peace was finally secured in 1848, and California and New Mexico passed definitely into the keeping of the great Republic, it had not been finally arranged whether the new territories should be slave-owning or free.
The arguments of the North were these: Slavery had been abolished in Mexico; it followed that slavery did not exist in territory conquered from Mexico, and that any State ultimately carved out of the new territory should be free. It was not, perhaps, altogether easy to answer this reasoning, but it was not unnatural that the South should not accept it. The addition of a vast territory to the Republic, in which freedom was to prevail, would obviously decrease the political influence of the South. Much of the new territory, moreover, which had been acquired from Mexico lay south of the parallel of 36° 30', which the Missouri Compromise had regarded as the limit between free and slave labour. Southern planters hoped to be able to settle on the conquered territory and cultivate it with slaves. Southern breeders and Southern traders saw in the new acquisition fresh sources of demand for the slaves which they bred, or in which they traded. Southern statesmen could, indeed, hardly base their case on the ground of self-interest; they accordingly contended that each State, oeing a sovereign commonwealth, had the right to decide its own destiny. The squatters in the new State—to use the political slang of the period—were a · Squatter Sovereignty,' and should themselves determine whether the State in which they squatted’ should be slave or free.
While this controversy was still enduring and its issue was still uncertain, the discovery of gold in California altered the conditions of the problem. Notwithstanding the difficulties of the journey-for in 1849 the immigrant into California had to choose between the hardships of a wagon route of more than two thousand miles, the dangers of an ocean voyage in a sailing vessel round Cape Horn, and the hazard of crossing the Isthmus of Panama, and waiting in one of the most deadly climates of the world the possible arrival of some steamer on the Pacific coast-there was a rush from all quarters to the new El Dorado. More than 80,000 persons went to California in 1849 alone. The immigrants had to establish some sort of government; they framed their institutions on the models with which some of them were familiar in Iowa and New York, and they incidentally prohibited slavery. 'Squatter Sovereigns,' at any rate in California, had settled the question which the South was contending that Squatter Sovereignty' should determine. They had decided that California should be free.
There was, moreover, one other cause of difference between North and South. From 1793 a law had been in force throughout the United States which required the surrender, or, as the Americans called it, the rendition of fugitive slaves. But this law not unnaturally provoked strong protests in the Northern States. Lord Mansfield had decided, in the Sommersett case, that a slave brought to England must be set free. The citizens of Massachusetts contended that the principles which bad guided Lord Mansfield should be applied to the New England States, and that the fugitive slaves escaping to their territory should be free. The Legislature of Massachusetts actually passed a statute making it penal for their officers to carry out the Act of Congress of 1793 for the surrender of fugitive slaves. A few years later the Legislature of Pennsylvania, following the example of Massachusetts, prohibited her judicial authorities taking any cognisance of a fugitive slave case. However much sentiment and feeling may approve this legislation, it is not easy to deny that a Southern slave-owner had a right to complain that individual States should have rendered inoperative the arrangements which Congress itself had made for the rendition of fugitive slaves.
Thus, as the first half of the century was drawing to a close, strong, and, as they ultimately proved, irreconcilable, differences were arising between North and South. At the root of them lay the fact that the North was growing faster than the South, and that power was consequently passing from South to North. Neither the annexation of Texas nor the conquests arising from the Mexican War had redressed the balance. But, in addition to this paramount difference, the gulf between opinion in the two sections we use the word which is commonly employed in America—. was continually widening. Southern opinion-dictated possibly by interest - was contending that slavery was 'a 'great religious, social, and moral blessing.' Northern opinion, on the contrary, the creature partly of sentiment, was more and more convinced of its cruelties and its evils.
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Southern opinion was running so high that Southern States were passing stringent laws against the circulation of the · Liberator, and offering large sums of money for the arrest and conviction of Garrison, its founder and editor. Northern enthusiasm was retaliating by opposing the rendition and facilitating the escape of fugitive slaves.
The differences were so acute that many men in the South were already threatening secession. It became, in consequence, the interest of moderate men, who placed their country before party, the maintenance of the Union before the abolition or continuance of slavery, to try to arrange the dispute. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had held things together for thirty years. Was it beyond the capacity of statesmanship to devise some compromise in 1850 which might similarly endure ?
One man there was in the American Senate whose long services, whose marked ability, and whose kindly manners specially fitted him to assume the role of mediator. Henry Clay was a Southerner and a slave-owner. He had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and he had been a popular candidate for the Presidency of the United States in 1844. Clay proposed, inter alia, that Congress should admit California into the Union as a free State ; that 'as
slavery does not exist by law, and is not likely to be intro* duced into any of the [other] territory acquired from * Mexico, territorial governments should be established by • Congress without any restriction as to slavery, and that more effectual provision should be made for the rendition
of fugitive slaves. This compromise was supported by Webster, a man whose services to the Legislature and the Bar of the United States have given him an even more enduring reputation than that of Clay, and was ultimately adopted.
In one sense this compromise was in favour of the South. It affirmed the principle, for which the South had throughout contended, of Squatter Sovereignty. The Wilmot Proviso, to which Northern statesmen had attached so much importance, was quietly surrendered, and the Southern slaveowners were given a fair prospect of recovering the slaves who had escaped into the free States. But, though in form the compromise was in favour of the South, men who thought like Webster considered that in substance it was in favour of the North. For the stars in their courses were fighting against slavery. California had rejected it; it was almost certain that New Mexico would equally reject it. .
What Webster called the ordinance of Nature and the will of God had made it, in the highest degree, unlikely that slavery should exist in any of the new territories. It was useless, therefore, so he argued, for Congress to reaffirm what Nature had ordained, and to insist on a proviso that there should be no slavery in territories in which no one seriously dreamed of instituting it. It was true, indeed, that the article for the rendition of fugitive slaves was offensive to the conscience of the Northern people. But, from Webster's standpoint, this concession was one which the South had the right to demand. It constituted nothing more than an effectual provision for carrying out a law which had proved ineffectual. In common honesty, while the South had a legal right to claim the surrender of a slave, the North had no right to object to Congress insisting on his surrender.
Whatever force may have attached to Webster's reasoning, it was too subtle to commend itself to the average politician. The agitation for abolition had been extending rapidly since the days in which Garrison had founded the Liberator.' Northern abolitionists were shocked at the notion that Congress should not merely forbid them to shelter fugitive slaves, but should actually place the administrative machinery of the Northern States at the disposal of the slave-hunter. And even Whittier deplored wlfat he thought the apostasy of the statesman in the lines beginning
So fallen ! so lost ! the light withdrawn
Which once he wore !
For evermore! Abolitionists, however, did not confine themselves like Whittier to deploring Webster's political attitude. In 1851 the people of Boston forcibly rescued a fugitive negro in the custody of the Deputy-Marshal of the State, and enabled him to escape to Canada ; and Theodore Parker, the most popular preacher in Massachusetts, declared the rescue • the most noble deed done in Boston since the destruction
of the tea in 1773. Similar determination to resist or frustrate the law was shown both in Massachusetts and in other States. But a still stronger blow was struck against slavery; for, early in 1852, Mrs. Beecher Stowe, writing under the impulse of the Compromise of 1850,* published *Uncle Tom's Cabin.'
* Whittier wrote: "Thanks for the Fugitive Slave Law! Better