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If the two preceding chapters have shown that the larger social and economic interests tended strongly toward the elimination of sectional hostility, political conditions and party vows gave even stronger assurances that there should be no more conflicts like those of 1833 and 1850. Yet there was one section of the country which was a sort of storm center, the Northwest. There a wide expanse of rich lands held by Indians, a rapidly increasing population, and great annual harvests of wheat and corn, selling at high prices, created a condition not unlike that of the lower South when Jackson became President. Removal of the Indians from the fertile areas of the Nebraska country, the creation of new Territories, and the building of railroads connecting the wheat and corn areas with Chicago and the Eastern markets were the demands of the Northwest in 1853, and a really great party leader would have seen the problem and his duty.

But Pierce was not a great leader. In the make-up of his Cabinet he chose William L. Marcy, of New York, for Secretary of State, James Campbell, of Pennsylvania, for Postmaster-General, and Caleb Cushing, of Massachusetts, for Attorney-General, all of whom were close political allies of the South. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, became Secretary of War, and James C. Dobbin, of North Carolina, Secretary of the Navy. Both of these were extreme pro-slavery men. From the West, James Guthrie, of Kentucky, and Robert McClelland, of Michigan, were taken into the President's Council, the one to be Secretary of the Treasury and the other the head of the Department of the Interior. Although Douglas had been the strongest candidate for the nomination for the Presidency before the recent Democratic Convention, neither he nor any of his friends was selected. Nor did it seem wise to those who were then shaping the destinies of the country to conciliate the still powerful anti-slavery element of the East.

Looking backwards the new Administration found three lines of procedure open to it, all suggested by President Polk in his later messages to Congress. One of these was the closer attachment of California to the rest of the country, another was the purchase of Cuba as a makeweight to the growing Northwest, and the third was the rapid expansion of American commerce by federal subsidies to shipping and the opening of new channels of trade.

To carry into effect the first of these, James Gadsden, an able railroad president of South Carolina, was sent to Mexico to purchase a large strip of land lying along the southern border of New Mexico and thus make easy the building of a national railway from Memphis to San Francisco, for the lowest passes over the Rocky Mountains were in this region. Gadsden returned in the autumn successful. For $10,000,000 he had secured 50,000 square miles of territory, and the way was open for the Government to lay its plans for the greatest undertaking ever proposed by the most latitudinarian politicians. Davis, hitherto an extreme States-rights leader and disciple of Calhoun, worked out the program. The constitutional authority for building a Pacific railroad was deduced from the "war powers" of the Federal Government, and, though it was not definitely stated that the road should pass through the recent annexation, it was commonly understood that such was the purpose of the President and that the lower South was to be the economic and social beneficiary of the great improvement. Arkansas, Texas, and California were willing and anxious to build the parts of the road that passed through their territory. With the exception of a group of Gulf-city representatives and some of the up-country Democrats of the older South, the leaders of the party approved the plan, and Pierce made the Pacific railroad the burden of his first annual message to Congress. Congress voted the money for the preliminary survey of five routes to the Pacific, and confided the work to Jefferson Davis, the recognized leader of the Administration. The people of the country, long familiar with the arguments of Asa Whitney and others in favor of such an undertaking, made no objection, though men of political foresight saw the far-reaching purposes of the scheme.

To effect the second object of the Democratic program, the purchase of Cuba, Pierre Soulé, of Louisiana, was sent to Spain. Soulé was one of the most ardent of Southern expansionists, and his mission was not relished at Madrid any more than it was approved by conservative Eastern Democrats. In support of the new Spanish Minister, John Y. Mason, of Virginia, and James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, both former members of the Polk Cabinet, were sent as Ministers to France and England respectively. Soulé made little progress till the Black Warrior, an American coasting vessel, was seized in 1854 by the Spanish authorities in Havana and searched in the expectation of finding evidence that the people of the United States were still assisting the Cuban insurrectionists. No proof was discovered, and the people of the country, especially those of the South, were greatly excited; for a time it seemed that war would ensue. Davis and Soulé pressed the case upon the President, at the risk of war and perhaps in the hope that war would follow and that thus Cuba, so long coveted, would fall into the lap of the United States. But Marcy, though ambitious of annexing Cuba, was hard pressed by Eastern public opinion, and he persuaded Pierce to recall his hasty minister. This was not done, however, until the three ministers concerned had met at Ostend in the autumn of 1855 and published to the world the manifesto which declared it to be the purpose of their Government not to allow any other European country to get possession of Cuba, and which further stated that the United States was always ready to pay a fair price for the island. A more moderate man succeeded Soulé, but the subject was pressed at Madrid with increasing persistence during the remainder of that and the next Administration.

The third item of the Democratic policy, the expansion of American commerce, was furthered by a continuation of the subsidies to steamship companies like the Collins line, which put upon the ocean many vessels of the best and largest build. Even more was planned in offering Robert J. Walker the mission to China, and the appointment of Townsend Harris, a wealthy New York merchant, as consul to Ningpo, Japan. Walker declined, but Harris accepted, and within two years, with the assistance of Commodore Perry, he succeeded in opening the hermit kingdom to the civilization and commerce of the United States. It was the beginning of modern Japan, and it marked a new stage in the development of American trade in the Orient. In all these measures Pierce met with some opposition in the East, particularly in the rough handling of the Cuban question; and there was much dislike of the Southern filibustering against Lower California and, especially at the close of the Administration, against Nicaragua, which was seized by William Walker, the Tennessee imperialist already mentioned, and proclaimed in 1856 a slave State. But the opposition was rather to the spirit and tone of things, and the very plain subserviency of the President to Southern wishes, than against expansion as such. The real resistance to Pierce came on another matter and in the most unexpected way, in the struggle over the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.

The stone rejected of the builders really became the head of the corner, for in spite of all that the Pierce Administration could do, the problem of the Northwest, which Douglas personified, became the bone of contention between the sections, and again, as in 1850, the South, the East, and the Northwest struggled for supremacy. When the Davis plans for a southern Pacific railroad were maturing, Senator Douglas, the head of the Senate Committee on Territories, was preparing to renew his six-year fight for the opening of the wide Nebraska hinterland of his section. The squatters of the Kansas and the Platte River Valleys were already confronted with hostile Indians who protested against the unlawful seizure of their lands. And now that wheat and corn were becoming great staple crops, the Northwestern pioneers were loudly demanding that the natives should not be permitted to cumber the ground. They must move on to the arid desert beyond or be carried into the Southern country, which Davis, as we have seen, was trying to open to Southern pioneers. It was a real conflict of interest between the lower South and the Northwest, and in order to win, the Northwestern politicians must find allies in the East as Clay had done in 1825-36, though Douglas as an "old-line" Democrat could not so readily see this.

He resorted to management and _finesse_. He found two delegates from Nebraska in Washington in December, 1853, one from what was soon to be Kansas, the other from the pioneers of Nebraska. It was natural, therefore, for him to change his Nebraska bill of the former sessions into a bill for the creation of two Territories, with the two rival delegates as their prospective spokesmen in Congress. Besides, Douglas, who was a consummate politician, would have two more loyal followers and two other embryo States in his wing of the Democratic party.

[Illustration: Conflicting Sectional Interests, 1850-1860]

Hence Douglas prepared for the removal of the Indians, for the creation of two Territories instead of one, and he enlisted in his cause the Senators and Representatives of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, by showing them that their own schemes for the granting of public lands to assist in the building of railroads would be furthered by their voting for the opening of Nebraska. Every economic and political instinct of the people of the Northwest tended to enlist them in the cause of Douglas and Nebraska. And it was known to most of the Chicago public and big business men that a Pacific railroad was to be laid from Council Bluffs, a point already in railroad connection with Chicago, to San Francisco, in the event of the rapid development of the Platte River country. But St. Louis and Missouri leaders would oppose this because they had been fighting since 1848 to get a railway to the Pacific directly from Kansas City.

There was, however, a vigorous pro-slavery party in Missouri, led by David Atchison. This party had overthrown Benton, and their first purpose was the making of Kansas a slave State. It was the western half of Missouri which now controlled the State, and the commercial element of St. Louis, to which the Pacific railroad was so attractive, was in the minority. Douglas won Atchison and western Missouri to his plans by holding out to them that their contention, as old as Missouri itself, that the Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional, might be granted by Congress. When this was fully appreciated, Kentucky and Tennessee leaders became interested. Southern newspapers took up the discussion and Douglas immediately became a statesman. Even Jefferson Davis was led to commit himself to the new Kansas-Nebraska Bill when the anti-slavery men of the East began to attack it. And on Sunday, January 22, Pierce promised Douglas the official support of the Administration.

The bill now provided for two Territories west of the Missouri River, for the formal repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and for the adoption of the old Cass doctrine of popular sovereignty, whereby the settlers in the new communities were to determine for themselves whether they would have slaves or not. If any dispute arose as to this a test was to be made of the question in the United States courts. This looked like a surrender of a large part of the public domain to the South, and the repeal of the semi-sacred Compromise was perhaps the boldest proposition that had ever been offered in Congress. Still the great purpose was the development of the Northwest, and wise public men might have seen that the populous free States of the Northwest would inevitably win and make the 400,000 square miles of Nebraska free territory; and if the railroad bills which Douglas supported and tied to his main measure by all kinds of promises passed, the supremacy of the Northwest would be certain.

But the weakness of popular government is the fact that public men are seldom strong enough to deny themselves the opportunity of an appeal to the people on a side issue, if such appeal promises political victory. The day that Douglas introduced his bill, there appeared in the New York papers, _The Appeal of the Independent Democrats_, signed by Senators Chase and Sumner and the Free-Soil members of the House. It was an able protest against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and a denunciation of the "unscrupulous politician" who made this surrender of national and free States rights in order to secure for himself the coveted Presidency. The essential purpose of the Douglas legislation, the rapid upbuilding of the Northwest and the blocking of the Davis plans for a Pacific railroad, were entirely overlooked. A wave of excitement swept over the East and the New England colonies of the Northwest. Petitions poured into Congress, meetings were held to denounce Douglas as a second Benedict Arnold, and he was burned in effigy by thousands who never took the trouble to read the Kansas-Nebraska Bill or seriously contemplated its effects. In Congress Chase, Sumner, Seward, and even moderates like Edward Everett denounced the ambitious politician from Illinois who had dared to "sell the birthright of the free States for a mess of pottage." It was a revival of the sectional hatred, as well as of the fears of the aggressive planters who had enticed Douglas to go one step farther than he had intended.

Though the South had begun to fear the consequences of popular sovereignty and to see that Douglas was only making the more certain the power of his group of States, its spokesmen felt compelled to support him in a fight against abolitionists and anti-slavery agitators. Alexander Stephens, an able Whig leader of Georgia, and most other members of that party in the South, gave Douglas hearty support. The struggle developed into a fight between the East and the South. A great many of the followers of Douglas were won away from the original program when it seemed a mere question of slavery extension, and the Democrats of the Northwest divided sharply. After four months of angry debate and unprecedented log-rolling the bill became law, and the President promptly organized Kansas and Nebraska as Territories. Members of Congress went home after the adjournment to face their constituents, and a most exciting campaign followed. In Wisconsin and Michigan a new party was organized. Its appeal was to the fundamental American doctrines that all men are equal and that no great interests should rule the country. It received immediate support in the two States mentioned, and in all the counties of the Northwest where the New England influence was predominant, in northern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Naturally the remnants of the old party organizations, the Whigs and the Free-Soilers, lent enthusiastic support.

Chase and Sumner had called into being a new idealist movement resembling that which had overwhelmed the Federalists in 1800, and a group of new leaders, soon to become famous, emerged. In addition to the well-known names already mentioned, there now appeared the kindly, shrewd Abraham Lincoln, of Kentucky and Illinois; J. W. Grimes arose in Iowa to threaten a Democratic machine which had never known defeat; Zachary Chandler, of Michigan, was making ready the stroke which was to unhorse the great and popular Cass; and Benjamin F. Wade, of Ohio, joined Chase and Giddings, thus making up the trio which was to rule that State for years to come. The young and vigorous Republican party of the Northwest, guided by this company of ambitious "new" politicians, readily effected the union of East and Northwest which Adams and Clay had long striven in vain to perfect. The work of Chase, Seward, Lincoln, and Sumner of these years paralleled that of Calhoun, Jackson, and Benton in 1828; and as a result the Democrats lost their hold on the legislatures of nearly all the States above the Ohio and the Missouri Rivers, and their overwhelming majority in the Federal House of Representatives disappeared as if overnight.

While the new Republican party, almost wholly sectional in its origin and perhaps in its purposes, was winning leadership in the country, the more conservative Whigs of the East sought to affiliate with a small organization of nativists who called themselves Americans and whose slogan was "America for Americans." Foreigners should be barred from citizenship and Catholics should be ostracized. In the South most followers of Clay and in the East many admirers of Webster avoided a complete surrender to the Democrats by stopping in this halfway house. The "Know-Nothings," as the party was called in derision of their failure to answer questions about their platform, gained so many followers from the dissatisfied elements of the older parties that in 1855 it seemed likely they would sweep the country. In Virginia they made their most spectacular campaign. Henry A. Wise, a Whig who had gone into the Democratic party with Stephens, was their greatest opponent, and in the gubernatorial campaign of 1855 he completely discomfited them; in Georgia they likewise lost their contest. The South was accepting the Democratic leadership and becoming solid, as Calhoun had prayed that it might become. In the East, Seward and Weed persuaded most of the Whigs to unite with the Republicans, and when the first national convention of the Americans met in 1856, it was clear that its leaders could not hold the Southern and Eastern wings together on the slavery question. The anti-slavery Americans bolted, and the remnant which remained nominated ex-President Fillmore, who in the succeeding election received a majority in only one State, Maryland, though his popular vote was nearly a million. The parties of the future were plainly the Democratic, Southern, pro-slavery, and well organized, and the Republican, Northern, we may now say, anti-slavery, and also well organized.

Meanwhile the frontiersmen from Iowa and Missouri were trying to work out the principle of popular sovereignty in Kansas, and their Governor, Andrew Reeder, was doing what he could to assist them. Anti-slavery aid societies in the East sent resolute men to Kansas to vote and save the Territory from slavery, and pro-slavery lodges in Missouri went across the border to vote against and perhaps to shoot Free-State men who disputed the right of the South to plant and to maintain slavery there. Under these circumstances the first election for members of the territorial legislature was a farce. Yet Reeder felt obliged to let the new assembly go on with its work of making easy the immigration of masters with their "property"; when he went East a little later he took occasion to protest in a public address against the intrusion of Missouri voters. He was regretfully removed from office, though he returned to Kansas to coöperate with Charles Robinson, a Californian of political experience, in the organization of the Free-State party, which refused to recognize the territorial legislature and which met in voluntary convention at Topeka in the autumn of 1855 and drew a state constitution. In this document slavery was outlawed. Following the example of California, representatives of the new government asked for prompt admission to the Union.

The Southerners had never recognized California as properly within the Union, and the pro-Southern party in Kansas made open war upon the Topeka party in December. Lawrence, the anti-slavery headquarters, was besieged, but the new governor managed to compromise so as to prevent bloodshed, and the two governments of Kansas continued to exist. The Federal Congress was compelled to decide which of the questionable governments should be recognized as lawful. Since the Senate was Democratic and pro-Southern, and the House Republican and pro-Northern, a decision was impossible. The Topeka constitution was supported by the House, and even the fair and reasonable bill of the Senate offered by Toombs in 1856 was rejected. This called for a submission of both parties in Kansas to an election safeguarded against unlawful interference from any source. It seemed that Seward, Chase, and their friends did not desire a settlement before the election. And Sumner's speech on the "Crime of Kansas" was a challenge to war. He compared Douglas to "the noisome squat and nameless animal whose tongue switched a perpetual stench," and Senator Butler, of South Carolina, a leader of the highest character, was a man who could not open his mouth but to lie.

The war of the sections was now renewed in the most bitter form, as was shown when Preston Brooks, a kinsman of Butler, assaulted Sumner a day or two after the speech, resigned his seat in the House as Representative from South Carolina, and was immediately reëlected. Sumner retired from the Senate, a hero in all New England, and Massachusetts ostentatiously refused to fill the vacant seat during the next three years, thus constantly reminding her people of Sumner's vituperation and the South Carolina assault.

When the Democrats met in their national convention in Cincinnati in June, the struggle in Kansas still went on, and the excitement of the Sumner-Brooks affair had not subsided. All elements of the South were represented, and the American party showed no signs of being able to carry a single Southern State. The convention accepted Douglas's popular sovereignty as its platform, but nominated Buchanan as its candidate. He was "available" because he had been out of the country for four years and had said nothing on the Kansas quarrel. John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, was nominated for the Vice-Presidency in the hope of winning Tennessee and Kentucky, which had not voted for a Democratic candidate since Jackson.

The Republicans used the "Crime of Kansas" as politicians always use such opportunities, and they made an appeal to the Revolutionary tradition by calling their convention on the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, June 17. They had not a _bona fide_ delegation from any Southern State. But the Declaration of Independence, overlooked by both parties for many years, was made a part of the platform. The Pacific railway was indorsed and internal improvements at federal expense were again recommended to the country. John C. Frémont, son-in-law of Benton and an explorer of national fame, was nominated for the Presidency. The campaign had already been waging since the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. It now became intense. Douglas gave Buchanan his loyal support, and the great Southern planters united with New York merchants and New England conservatives to make the Democratic ticket successful. Even Edward Everett and Rufus Choate made public announcement of their conversion to Democracy. Large sums of money were sent to Pennsylvania to influence the vote. Southern governors in a conference at Raleigh proposed secession if the Democrats failed, and Eastern radicals urged the break-up of the Union if the slave power continued in control.

The result was a victory for the conservatives, or "reactionaries," as we should perhaps say. The solid South voted for Buchanan; and Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and California were found in the same column. Frémont received the support of a solid East and all the Northwest except the States just mentioned. The fear of radicalism and the distrust of men of great wealth everywhere had defeated the young Republicans; the returns showed that the Democrats had polled 200,000 more votes than in 1852, and there was no reason to believe that the 874,000 which had been cast for Fillmore would not in the end be given to the conservative Democrats in preference to the sectional Republicans. There was no chance for the enthusiastic followers of Seward and Chase unless the majority party could be broken into factions, and this a wise and able Democratic leadership would avoid.

Strangely Buchanan formed his Cabinet without consulting Douglas, so far as can now be ascertained. No friend of his was appointed to high office, yet the support of the Northwest was the one condition of continued success. In the foreign policy the new Administration made no change. A part of northern Mexico and all of Cuba were still coveted and, till the outbreak of the Civil War, efforts were made to obtain both. Howell Cobb, of Georgia, was the master spirit of the Cabinet, and Jefferson Davis was the Administration leader in the Senate.

The Supreme Court, composed of seven pro-Southern members as against two anti-slavery men, undertook to give a _coup de grace_ to the quarrel about slavery in the Territories. The Missouri Compromise had never been passed upon by the court. Now a case came before the august tribunal which gave opportunity for the judges to say whether slavery could be prohibited by federal authority in the public domain. Dred Scott, a slave belonging to a Missouri master, had been carried into Minnesota and there held in bondage. He sued for his freedom on the ground that slavery was unlawful in free territory, under the Compromise. The case was before the court nearly a year before the judges gave out their opinion that Scott was not a citizen of the United States, and that, therefore, he could not sue in the federal courts. The case was dismissed. But the judges granted a rehearing of the case, and in March, 1857, hoping to assist the country to a peaceful solution of the slavery problem, gave out a so-called _dictum_, which it had been the custom of the court occasionally to submit to the public.[9] In this document the judges said that the negro was property, and that as such the Federal Government must protect it in the Territories. This was the Calhoun doctrine, and the South rejoiced immoderately; the Republicans now began to realize that the courts were in alliance with the slave-power, and they were forced to attack the most sacred political institution in the country.

[Footnote 9: Chief Justice Marshall had set the example for this in his Marbury _vs._ Madison _dictum_.]

Both parties turned to Kansas to see what could be won there. During the spring of 1856, when Sumner and Brooks were manifesting the spirit of the members of Congress, the Southern and Northern groups in Kansas carried their warfare to similar extremes. Lawrence was destroyed by the pro-slavery men; the anti-slavery men returned the stroke in the massacres on Pottawatomie Creek. John Brown, a fanatical New England emigrant, imagined himself to be commissioned of Heaven to kill all the pro-slavery people who fell into his hands, and he did a bloody work which under other conditions would have been counted as murder and denounced everywhere. But in the autumn of 1856 wealthy and benevolent men in the North applauded him, gave him money, and held meetings in his honor.

Into a Kansas frenzied with the work of Brown on the one side and that of the "border ruffians," as the Missourians were called, on the other, the President sent Robert J. Walker as governor, commissioned to solve the insoluble problem. So great was the faith of the country in Walker that he was hailed as the next President of the United States by fair-minded men and important newspapers. Walker called an election for a constitutional convention. Again the Missourians participated, and the Lecompton constitution was the result. The Free-State men refused to recognize the convention unless the new constitution should be submitted to a fair vote. This the convention refused to do, and the governor appealed to the President to compel submission. This was denied, and Walker resigned. The Lecompton, pro-slavery constitution of Kansas was submitted to the first Congress of Buchanan in December, 1857, and the Administration urged its adoption. Walker openly condemned Buchanan for deserting him, and he declared the Lecompton constitution to be a fraud. Yet the leaders of the South, resentful and angry, supported it, and the majority of the Senate was on the same side. The judges of the Supreme Court were known to favor it. The Republicans urged the adoption of the Topeka constitution of 1855, and the majority of the people seemed to be of the same view. What was the way out of the dangerous _impasse_?

Bibliographical Note

Most interesting and trustworthy accounts of subjects discussed in the chapter are: T. C. Smith's _Parties and Slavery_, in _American Nation_ series; F. Bancroft's _The Life of William H. Seward_ (1900); Allen Johnson's _The Life of Stephen A. Douglas_ (1908); O. G. Villard's _John Brown; a Biography_ (1910); L. D. Scisco's _Political Nativism in New York_ (1901); William Salter's _Life of James W. Grimes_ (1876); George W. Julian's _Life of Joshua R. Giddings_ (1892). Rhodes, McMaster, and Schouler treat the period critically. Some special studies of importance are P. O. Ray's _Repeal of the Missouri Compromise_ (1909); Allen Johnson's _Genesis of Popular Sovereignty_ (_Iowa Journal of History and Politics_, _III_); F. H. Hodder's _Douglas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act_ (_Wisconsin Historical Society Proceedings_, 1912); and E. S. Corwin's _The Dred Scott Decision_ (_American Historical Review_, _XVII_).

Some of the most instructive contemporary narratives will be found in M. W. Cluskey's _Political Text Book_ (1857), and _Speeches, Messages, and other Writings of A. G. Brown_ (1859); H. Wilson's _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power_ (1872-77); Horace Greeley's _The American Conflict_ (1864); Mrs. Jefferson Davis's _Jefferson Davis; a Memoir_ (1890); J. M. Cutts's _Constitutional and Party Questions_ (1866); S. J. May's _Recollections of the Anti-Slavery Conflict_ (1869); _Works of Charles Sumner_ (1874-83), and many other works of a similar character.

William McDonald's _Select Documents_ gives the most important sources for this whole period. But the _Congressional Globe_, _U.S. Documents, House Reports_, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., vol. _II_, must be studied in order to get the spirit of the times.