TYLER AND THE WHIGS QUARREL. - When Congress (in May, 1841) first met in Tyler's term, Clay led the Whigs in proposing measures to carry out their party principles. But Tyler vetoed their bill establishing a new national bank. The Whigs then made some changes to suit, as they supposed, his objections, and sent him a bill to charter a Fiscal Corporation; but this also came back with a veto; whereupon his Cabinet officers (all save Daniel Webster, Secretary of State) resigned, and the Whig members of Congress, in an address to the people, read him out of the party. Later in his term Tyler vetoed two tariff bills, but finally approved a third, known as the Tariff of 1842. For these uses of the veto power the Whigs thought of impeaching him; but did not.

WEBSTER-ASHBURTON TREATY. - When Tyler's cabinet officers resigned, Webster remained in order to conclude a new treaty with Great Britain, [1] by which our present northeastern boundary was fixed from the St. Croix to the St. Lawrence. Neither power obtained all the territory it claimed under the treaty of 1783, but the disputed region was divided about equally between them. [2]

Soon after the treaty was concluded Webster resigned the secretaryship of state, and the rupture between Tyler and the Whigs was complete.

THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS. - The great event of Tyler's time was the decision to annex the republic of Texas.

In 1821 Mexico secured her independence of Spain, and about three years afterward adopted the policy of granting a great tract of land in Texas to anybody who, under certain conditions, and within a certain time, would settle a specified number of families on the grant. To colonize in this way at once became popular in the South, and in a few years thousands of American citizens were settled in Texas.

For a while all went well; but in 1833 serious trouble began between the Mexican government and the Texans, who in 1836 declared their independence, founded the republic of Texas, [3] and sought admission into our Union as a state. Neither Jackson nor Van Buren favored annexation, so the question dragged on till 1844, when Tyler made with Texas a treaty of annexation and sent it to the Senate. That body refused assent.

THE DEMOCRATS AND TEXAS. - The issue was thus forced. The Democratic national convention of 1844 claimed that Texas had once been ours, [4] and declared for its "reannexation." To please the Northern Democrats it also declared for the "reoccupation" of Oregon up to 54° 40'. This meant that we should compel Great Britain to abandon all claim to that country, and make it all American soil.

The Democrats went into the campaign with the popular cries, "The reannexation of Texas;" "The whole of Oregon or none;" "Texas or disunion" - and elected Polk [5] after a close contest.

TEXAS ANNEXED; OREGON DIVIDED. - Tyler, regarding the triumph of the Democrats as an instruction from the people to annex Texas, urged Congress to do so at once, and in March, 1845, a resolution for the admission of Texas passed both houses, and was signed by the President. [6] The resolution provided also that out of her territory four additional states might be made if Texas should consent. The boundaries were in dispute, but in the end Texas was held to have included all the territory from the boundary of the United States to the Rio Grande and a line extending due north from its source.

After Texas was annexed, notice was served on Great Britain that joint occupation of Oregon must end in one year. The British minister then proposed a boundary treaty which was concluded in a few weeks (1846). The line agreed on was the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca (hoo-ahn' da foo'ca), and by it to the Pacific Ocean (compare maps, pp. 278 and 330).

WAR WITH MEXICO. - Mexico claimed that the real boundary of Texas was the Nueces (nwâ'sess) River. When, therefore, Polk (in 1846) sent General Zachary Taylor with an army to the Rio Grande, the Mexicans attacked him; but he beat them at Palo Alto (pah'lo ahl'to) and again near by at Resaca de la Palma (ra-sah'ca da lah pahl'ma), and drove them across the Rio Grande. When President Polk heard of the first attack, he declared that "Mexico has shed American blood upon American soil.... War exists,... and exists by the act of Mexico herself." Congress promptly voted men and money for the war.

MONTEREY. - Taylor, having crossed the Rio Grande, marched to Monterey and (September, 1846) attacked the city. It was fortified with strong stone walls in the fashion of Old World cities; the flat-roofed houses bristled with guns; and across every street was a barricade. In three days of desperate fighting our troops forced their way into the city, entered the buildings, made their way from house to house by breaking through the walls or ascending to the roofs, and reached the center of the city before the Mexicans surrendered the town.

NEW MEXICO AND CALIFORNIA. - Immediately after the declaration of war, Colonel Stephen W. Kearny with a force of men set off (June, 1846) by the old Santa Fe trail and (August 18) captured Santa Fe without a struggle, established a civil government, declared New Mexico annexed to the United States, and then started to take possession of California. But California had already been conquered by the Americans. In June, 1846, some three hundred American settlers, believing that war was imminent and fearing they would be attacked, revolted, adopted a flag on which was a grizzly bear, and declared California an independent republic. Fremont, who had been exploring in California, came to their aid (July 5), and two days later Commodore Sloat with a naval force entered Monterey and raised the flag there. In 1847 (January 8, 9) battles were fought with the Mexicans of California; but the Americans held the country.

BUENA VISTA. - Toward the close of 1846 General Winfield Scott was put in command of the army in Mexico, and ordered Taylor to send a large part of the army to meet him at Vera Cruz (vâ'ra kroos). Santa Anna, hearing of this, gathered 18,000 men and at Buena Vista, in a narrow valley at the foot of the mountains, attacked Taylor (February 23, 1847). The battle raged from morning to night. Again and again the little American army of 5000 seemed certain to be overcome by the 18,000 Mexicans. But they fought on desperately, and when night came, both armies left the field. [7]

THE MARCH TO MEXICO. - Scott landed at Vera Cruz in March, 1847, took the castle and city after a siege of fifteen days, and about a week later set off for the city of Mexico, winning victory after victory on the way. The heights of Cerro Gordo were taken by storm, and the army of Santa Anna was beaten again at Jalapa (ha-lah'pa). Puebla (pwâ'bla) surrendered at Scott's approach, and there he waited three months. But on August 7 Scott again started westward with 10,000 men, and three days later looked down on the distant city of Mexico surrounded by broad plains and snow-capped mountains.

Then followed in quick succession the victory at Contreras (kôn-trâ'ras), the storming of the heights of Churubusco, the victory at Molino del Rey (mô-lee'no del râ') the storming of the castle of Chapultepec' perched on a lofty rock, and the triumphal entry into Mexico (September 14). [8]

THE TERMS OF PEACE (1848). - The republic of Mexico was now a conquered nation and might have been added to our domain; but the victors were content to retain Upper California and New Mexico - the region from the Rio Grande to the Pacific, and from the Gila River to Oregon (compare maps, pp. 318, 330). For this great territory we paid Mexico $15,000,000, and in addition paid some $3,500,000 of claims our citizens had against her for injury to their persons or property. [9]

SHALL THE NEWLY ACQUIRED TERRITORY BE SLAVE SOIL OR FREE? - The treaty with Mexico having been ratified and the territory acquired, it became the duty of Congress to provide the people with some American form of government. There needed to be American governors, courts, legislatures, customhouses, revenue laws, in short a complete change from the Mexican way of governing. To do this would have been easy if it had not been for the fact that (in 1827) Mexico had abolished slavery. All the territory acquired was therefore free soil; but the South wished to make it slave soil. The question of the hour thus became, Shall New Mexico and California be slave soil or free soil? [10]

THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1848. - So troublesome was the issue that the two great parties tried to keep it out of politics. The Democrats in their platform in 1848 said nothing about slavery in the new territory, and the Whigs made no platform. This action of the two parties so displeased the antislavery Whigs and Wilmot Proviso Democrats that they held a convention, formed the Free-soil party, [11] nominated Martin Van Buren for President, and drew away so many New York Democrats from their party that the Whigs carried the state and won the presidential election. [12] On March 5, 1849 (March 4 was Sunday), Taylor [13] and Fillmore [14] were inaugurated.

GOLD IN CALIFORNIA. - By this time the question of slavery in the new territory was still more complicated by the discovery of gold in California. Many years before this time a Swiss settler named J. A. Sutter had obtained a grant of land in California, where the city of Sacramento now stands. In 1848 James W. Marshall, while building a sawmill for Sutter at Coloma, some fifty miles away from Sutter's Fort, discovered gold in the mill race. Both Sutter and Marshall attempted to keep the fact secret, but their strange actions attracted the attention of a laborer, who also found gold. Then the news spread fast, and people came by hundreds and by thousands to the gold fields. [15] Later in the year the news reached the East, and when Polk in his annual message confirmed the rumors, the rush for California began. Some went by vessel around Cape Horn. Others took ships to the Isthmus of Panama, crossed it on foot, and sailed to San Francisco. Still others hurried to the Missouri to make the overland journey across the plains. [16] By August, 1849, some eighty thousand gold hunters, "forty-niners," as they came to be called, had reached the mines. [17]

THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA. - As Congress had provided no government, and as scarcely any could be said to exist, the people held a convention, made a free-state constitution, and applied for admission into the Union as a state.

ISSUES BETWEEN THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH. - The election of Taylor, and California's application for statehood, brought on a crisis between the North and the South.

Most of the people in the North desired no more slave states and no more slave territories, abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and the admission of California as a free state.

The South opposed these things; complained of the difficulty of capturing slaves that escaped to the free states, and of the constant agitation of the slavery question by the abolitionists; and demanded that the Mexican cession be left open to slavery.

Since 1840 two slave-holding states, Florida and Texas (1845), and two free states, Iowa (1846) and Wisconsin (1848), had been admitted to the Union, making fifteen free and fifteen slave states in all; and the South now opposed the admission of California, partly because it would give the free states a majority in the Senate.

THE COMPROMISE OF 1850. - At this stage Henry Clay was again sent to the Senate. He had powerfully supported two great compromise measures - the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and the Compromise Tariff of 1833. He believed that the Union was in danger of destruction; but that if the two parties would again compromise, it could be saved.

To please the North he now proposed (1) that California should be admitted as a free state, and (2) that the slave trade (buying and selling slaves), but not the right to own slaves, should be abolished in the District of Columbia. To please the South he proposed (1) that Congress should pass a more stringent law for the capture of fugitive slaves, and (2) that two territories, New Mexico and Utah, should be formed from part of the Mexican purchase, with the understanding that the people in them should decide whether they should be slave soil or free. This principle was called "squatter sovereignty," or "popular sovereignty."

Texas claimed the Rio Grande as part of her west boundary. But the United States claimed the part of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande, and both sides seemed ready to appeal to arms. Clay proposed that Texas should give up her claim and be paid for so doing.

During three months this plan was hotly debated, [18] and threats of secession and violence were made openly. But in the end the plan was accepted: (1) California was admitted, (2) New Mexico and Utah were organized as territories open to slavery, (3) Texas took her present bounds (see maps, pp. 318, 330) and received $10,000,000, (4) a new fugitive slave law [19] was passed, and (5) the slave tradewas prohibited in the District of Columbia. These measures together were called the Compromise of 1850.

DEATH OF TAYLOR. - While the debate on the compromise was under way, Taylor died (July 9, 1850) and Fillmore was sworn into office as President for the remainder of the term.


1. Congress in 1841 passed two bills for chartering a new national bank, but President Tyler vetoed both. The Whig leaders then declared that Tyler was not a Whig.

2. The next year the Webster-Ashburton treaty settled a long-standing dispute over the northeastern boundary.

3. In 1844 the Democrats declared for the annexation of Texas and Oregon, and elected Polk President. Congress then quickly decided to admit Texas to the Union.

4. War with Mexico followed a dispute over the Texas boundary. In the course of it Taylor won victories at Monterey and Buena Vista; Scott made a famous march to the city of Mexico; and Kearny marched to Santa Fe and on to California.

5. Peace added to the United States a great tract of country acquired from Mexico. Meanwhile, the Oregon country had been divided by treaty with Great Britain.

6. The acquisition of Mexican territory brought up the question of the admission of slavery, for the territory was free soil under Mexican rule.

7. The opponents of extension of the slave area formed the Free-soil party in 1848, and drew off enough Democratic votes so that the Whigs elected Taylor and Fillmore.

8. Meanwhile gold had been discovered in California, and a wild rush for the "diggings" began.

9. The people in California formed a free-state constitution and applied for admission to the Union.

10. The chief political issues now centered around slavery, and as they had to be settled, lest the Union be broken, the Whigs and Democrats arranged the Compromise of 1850.

11. This made California a free state, but left the new territories of Utah and New Mexico open to slavery.


[1] Besides the long-standing dispute over the Maine boundary, two other matters were possible causes of war with Great Britain. (1) Her cruisers had been searching our vessels off the African coast to see if they were slavers. (2) In the attack on the Caroline (p. 297) one American was killed, and in 1840 a Canadian, Alexander McLeod, was arrested in New York and charged with the murder. Great Britain now avowed responsibility for the burning of the Caroline, and demanded that the man should be released. McLeod, however, was tried and acquitted.

[2] Two other provisions of the treaty were of especial importance. (1) In order to stop the slave trade each nation was to keep a squadron (carrying at least eighty guns) cruising off the coast of Africa. (2) It was agreed that any person who, charged with the crime of murder, piracy, arson, robbery, or forgery, committed in either country, shall escape to the other, shall if possible be seized and given up to the authorities of the country which he fled.

[3] A war between Mexico and Texas followed, and was carried on with great cruelty by the Mexicans. Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, having driven some Texans into a building called the Alamo (ah'la-mo), in San Antonio, carried it by storm and ordered all of its defenders shot. A band of Texans who surrendered at Goliad met the same fate. In 1836, however, General Samuel Houston (hu'stun) beat the Mexicans in the decisive battle of San Jacinto. The struggle of the Texans for independence aroused sympathy in our country; hundreds of volunteers joined their army, and money, arms, and ammunition were sent them. Read A. E. Barr's novel Remember the Alamo.

[4] Referring to our claim between 1803 and 1819 (p. 276) that the Louisiana Purchase extended west to the Rio Grande.

[5] James K. Polk was born in North Carolina in 1795, but went with his parents to Tennessee in 1806, where in 1823 he became a member of the legislature. From 1824 to 1839 he was a member of Congress, and in 1839 was elected governor of Tennessee. Polk was the first presidential "dark horse"; that is, the first candidate whose nomination was unexpected and a surprise. In the Democratic national convention at Baltimore the contest was at first between Van Buren and Cass. Polk's name did not appear till the eighth ballot; on the ninth the convention "stampeded" and Polk received every vote. When the news was spread over the country by means of railroads and stagecoaches, many people would not believe it till confirmed by the newspapers. The Whigs nominated Henry Clay; and the Liberty party, James G. Birney. Tyler also was renominated by his friends, but withdrew.

[6] Read Whittier's Texas.

[7] In the course of the fight a son of Henry Clay was killed, and Jefferson Davis, afterward President of the Confederate States of America, was wounded. At one stage of the battle Lieutenant Crittenden was sent to demand the surrender of a Mexican force that had been cut off; but the Mexican officer in command sent him blindfolded to Santa Anna. Crittenden thereupon demanded the surrender of the entire Mexican army, and when told that Taylor must surrender in an hour or have his army destroyed, replied, "General Taylor never surrenders." Read Whittier's Angels of Buena Vista.

[8] The war was bitterly opposed by the antislavery people of the North as an attempt to gain more slave territory. Numbers of pamphlets were written against it. Lincoln, then a member of Congress, introduced resolutions asking the President to state on what spot on American soil blood had been shed by Mexican troops, and James Russell Lowell wrote his famous Biglow Papers.

[9] Five years later (1853), by another treaty with Mexico, negotiated by James Gadsden, we acquired a comparatively small tract south of the Gila, called the Gadsden Purchase (compare maps, pp. 330, 352). The price was $10,000,000. The purchase was made largely because Congress was then considering the building of a railroad to the Pacific, and because the route likely to be chosen went south of the Gila.

[10] As early as 1846 the North attempted to decide the question in favor of freedom. Polk had asked for $2,000,000 with which to settle the boundary dispute with Mexico, and when the bill to appropriate the money was before the House, David Wilmot moved to add the proviso that all territory bought with it should be free soil. The House passed the Wilmot Proviso, but the Senate did not; so the bill failed. The following year (1847) a bill to give Polk $3,000,000 was introduced, and again the proviso was added by the House and rejected by the Senate. Then the House gave way, and passed the bill; but the acquisition of California and New Mexico by treaty left the question still unsettled.

[11] Their platform declared: (1) that Congress has no more power to make a slave than to make a king; (2) that there must be "free soil for a free people"; (3) that there must be "no more slave states, no more slave territories"; (4) that "we inscribe on our banner, 'Free soil, free speech, free labor, and freemen.'"

[12] The Liberty party nominated John P. Hale of New Hampshire, but he withdrew in favor of Van Buren. The Liberty party was thus merged in the Free-soil party, and so disappeared from politics. The Democratic candidates for President and Vice-President were Lewis Cass and William O. Butler.

[13] Zachary Taylor was born in Virginia in 1784, was taken to Louisville, Kentucky, while still a child, and grew up there. In 1808 he entered the United States army as a lieutenant, and by 1810 had risen to be a captain. For a valiant defense of Fort Harrison on the Wabash, he was made a major. He further distinguished himself in the Black Hawk and Seminole wars. In the Mexican War General Taylor was a great favorite with his men, who called him in admiration "Old Rough and Ready." Before 1848 he had taken very little interest in politics. He was nominated because of his record as a military hero.

[14] Millard Fillmore was born in central New York in 1800, and at fourteen was apprenticed to a trade, but studied law at odd times, and practiced law at Buffalo. He served three terms in the state assembly, was four times elected to Congress, and was once the Whig candidate for governor. In 1848 he was nominated for the vice presidency as a strong Whig likely to carry New York.

[15] Laborers left the fields, tradesmen the shops, and seamen deserted their ships as soon as they entered port. One California newspaper suspended its issue because editor, typesetters, and printer's devil had gone to the gold fields. In June the Star stopped for a like reason, and California was without a newspaper. Some men made $5000, $10,000, and $15,000 in a few days. California life in the early times is described in Kirk Munroe's Golden Days of '49, and in Bret Harte's Luck of Roaring Camp and Tales of the Argonauts.

[16] Those who crossed the plains suffered terribly, and for many years the wrecks of their wagons, the bones of their oxen and horses, and the graves of many of the men were to be seen along the route. This route was from Independence in Missouri, up the Platte River, over the South Pass, past Great Salt Lake, and so to "the diggings."

[17] Some miners obtained gold by digging the earth, putting it into a tin pan, pouring on water, and then shaking the pan so as to throw out the muddy water and leave the particles of gold. Others used a box mounted on rockers and called a "cradle" or "rocker."

[18] Read the speeches of Calhoun and Webster in Johnston's American Orations, Vol. II. Webster's speech gave great offense in the North. Read McMaster's Daniel Webster, pp. 314-324, and Whittier's poem Ichabod. The debate and its attendant scenes are well described in Rhodes's History of the U. S., Vol. I, pp. 104-189.

[19] The fugitive slave law gave great offense to the North. It provided that a runaway slave might be seized wherever found, and brought before a United States judge or commissioner. The negro could not give testimony to prove he was not a fugitive but had been kidnapped, if such were the case. All citizens were "commanded," when summoned, to aid in the capture of a fugitive, and, if necessary, in his delivery to his owner. Fine and imprisonment were provided for any one who harbored a fugitive or aided in his escape. The law was put in execution at once, and "slave catchers," "man hunters," as they were called, "invaded the North." This so excited the people that many slaves when seized were rescued. Such rescues occurred during 1851 at New York, Boston, Syracuse, and at Ottawa in Illinois. Read Wilson's Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Chap. 26.

In the midst of this excitement Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe published her story of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Mrs. Stowe's purpose was "to show the institution of slavery truly just as it existed." The book is rather a picture of what slavery might have been than of what slavery really was; but it was so powerfully written that everybody read it, and thousands of people in the North who hitherto cared little about the slavery issue were converted to abolitionism.