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New York gubernatorial election, 1817

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

New York gubernatorial election, 1817

← 1816 April/May, 1817 1820 →

 
DeWitt Clinton by Rembrandt Peale.jpg
Nominee DeWitt Clinton
Party Democratic-Republican
Running mate John Tayler
Popular vote 43,310
Percentage 96.7%

Governor before election

 John Tayler (Acting)
Democratic-Republican

Elected Governor

DeWitt Clinton
Democratic-Republican

The 1817 New York gubernatorial election was held in April/May 1817 to elect the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York.

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  • 2018 Winter Lecture Series - The Fateful Compromise of 1850
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Transcription

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. How's everyone doing today? Great. Ready to talk some antebellum era politics? Yeah. I am, too. All right. I'm - yeah. I'm just hoping that there are no Compromise of 1850 experts out there to call me out on some things I might get wrong. But thank you all so very much for coming out this afternoon. I am John Hoptak. I'm a Park Ranger here at the Battlefield. And we really appreciate you coming out week-after-week for these winter lectures. We truly do. My topic today is somewhat complex. At times it could be tedious. But it is absolutely essential if we are committed to understanding why this war came about in the first place. So I'm going to spend the next 60 minutes or so, and forgive me if I go a few minutes over, just a few I hope, talking about all the major players involved in the Compromise -- or I should say Compromises of 1850. We'll look at each of the issues that were hammered out that fateful year. And because the theme of this year's lecture series if Turning Points, I'll try my best to explain how this compromise, or series of compromise, was indeed a turning point for the United States. But to begin, before we start talking about Henry Clay and Daniel Webster and Zachary Taylor, I've got a simple question for you. And you could answer this internally if you'd like. Quite simply when and where did the American Civil War begin [chuckle]. Well, after years and years of debate and tension and sectional argument about slavery and its expansion, the American Civil War began here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the summer of 1850, when Texas state forces overran and attacked U.S. Infantry posted there under Colonel John Monroe. Did anyone guess that [laughter]? Good. Good. And for everyone watching on YouTube, of course you know this is not true. That is absolutely not true. But, but as we will see, it very nearly was the case. This war, this Civil War, almost began 11 years before Fort Sumter. And if it did begin then, the most likely place, as I will try to explain, was Santa Fe, New Mexico, or New Mexico territory. All right. So, of course, that is not true. But what was true, what was absolutely true, the United States of America was on the verge of civil war well before Fort Sumpter. In 1850, the nation was at the edge of disunion. And the issue that was tearing the country apart was slavery, and especially the expansion of slavery into the newly-acquired territories in the West. In fact, the debate, the tension, the argument between the North and South were at a fever pitch by 1850 to such a degree that there were many in this country who felt that nothing could work, that this union was inevitable. And there were some people who thought that nothing should be done, that, of course, that they felt that secession was an option. Now, this was the greatest crisis to yet confront the nation in its very short history. By 1850 it had been only 74 years since the United States declared its independence from Great Britain. But within that very short time, those 74 years, this nation was becoming a major player on the world stage, especially in trade and commerce. The north was growing at a rapid rate, industrializing at a remarkable rate with factories, railroads, and telegraph wires springing up almost every single day. There were 30 states in the country in 1850 and about 23 million people. Of those 23 million people, approximately 3.2 million were enslaved. The United States had also just trounced its neighbor to the south, Mexico, in the incredibly controversial and extremely consequential Mexican-American War which was waged from May of 1846 until September of 1847. Now, as a result of the Mexican-American War, the United States grew by a staggering 40%, from 1.75 million square miles to 3 million square miles, getting the territories of New Mexico, Utah, and California. Yet, of course, ironically it was this very vast acquisition of new land which very, very likely threatened to tear the nation apart. The debate, very simply stated, was whether slavery would be allowed to spread into that newly-acquired land. Southerners and slaveholders in particular said yes. Salves, they thought, they felt, were property. And the Fifth Amendment says the government cannot interfere with personal property, that they should be able to take their slave, their enslaved people wherever they wanted to go, and especially into this territory. Many southerners, of course, had fought in the Mexican War and they were adamant that they will not be denied entry into that land. Many Northerners, on the other hand, and not just Abolitionists, but many Northerners said no, slavery had already grown too big, too powerful, in this land of liberty that it should not spread any further, and especially not into this territory because Mexico had outlawed slavery here in the 1820s. So the institution of slavery was not being practiced in that territory recently acquired from Mexico. Now this debate over the expansion of slavery was certainly nothing new. It could be traced back all the way to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Of course, that was when the Three-Fifths Clause was worked out which gave southern states disproportionate representation in the House of Representatives. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 prohibited the spread of slavery into the states that became Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. The debate about the spread of slavery would emerge about, oh, 30 years later in 1819 when Missouri, the first state to be organized from the Louisiana Purchase applied for statehood into the country. Even then, the application, the though of admitting Missouri almost drove this nation apart. The Missouri Compromise was worked out which settled things down for a few years. The Missouri Compromise essentially allowed for Missouri to enter the United States as a slave state while at the same time admitting Maine as a free state. So they're maintaining that delicate balance of power. But things had become so heated during the Missouri debates that Thomas Jefferson, an aged Thomas Jefferson, famously declared that this compromise frightened him like a fire-bell in the night. "I considered it at once the knell of the Union. It is hushed, indeed, for the moment, but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence, said Thomas Jefferson. And just as he predicted, it was only a reprieve, one which ended in a big way in 1846 right after the nation went to war with Mexico when Congressman David Wilmot of Pennsylvania introduced a proviso to an appropriations bill. And that proviso said, "Any territory, any territory to be gained from Mexico as a result of this war will not have slavery." And that proviso set up a firestorm, not only in Congress, but across the nation. And it really brought to light the big bitter division between North and South. Wilmot's Proviso was brought up every single year in Congress -- in 1846, 1847, 1848, 1849, and every single year it passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate. And that is an important point that needs to be made. Going hand-in-hand with this debate over the expansion of slavery was this very delicate balance of power in Washington, D.C. As I noted earlier, in 1850 there were 30 states -- 15 north and 15 south. There were 60 Senators in the Senate, 30 from norther states, 30 from southern states. What happens if one more state is added? That balance of power will shift. It will shift. Now, the House, the House of Representatives was dominated by northerners. The population of the north was much larger than it was of the south. And that would have been much bigger in the House if it were not for that Three-Fifths Clause. The Three-Fifths Clause of the Constitution gave the South 60 additional members of the House of Representatives in 1850, okay, representing their so-called constituents who were enslaved. It was in the Senate where this balance of power was threatened. And as John Calhoun, who we're going to talk a lot about today, as John Calhoun said, the day that the balance of power between the two sections of the country is destroyed is a day that that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster. With all of these issues at play, the expansion of slavery, this balance of power in the Senate -- well, things were coming to a head. Representative Henry Hilliard of Alabama stated that the question of slavery touched every part of the horizon and threatened the destruction of the Union. Henry Clay, when he arrived in Washington in December of 1849, wrote home, "the feeling of this union is stronger than I supposed it could be." And future Confederate General Henry Benning will write, "That by 1850 the whole North is become ultra anti-slavery and the South ultra pro-slavery. And Henry Benning was among many people who felt that compromise was a thing of the past. So what can be worked out? Let's start our look at the Compromises of 1850 with the convening of the Nation's 31st Congress. The 31st Congress of the United States convened on December 2nd of 1849. And there were five major issues facing the country. And each of those five had the power to tear the nation apart. Those five issues were as follows -- California. The first and most pressing issue of all dealt with California. Throughout the late 1840s, as we know, tens of thousands of people flocked to California. Why? Looking for gold. Looking to strike it rich. And it was quite readily apparent that some kind of government was needed there. It was becoming like an outlaw territory, and the people of California wanted a government. They wanted to become part of the United States. So they got together in 1849, 35 representatives of the Territory of California , and they wrote a Constitution for their state. Anyone happen to know, just as a trivia question, who it was who literally wrote out that Constitution? Henry Halleck. Henry Halleck, yeah. Future Union General-in-Chief Henry Halleck wo was stationed out there at the time. And in that Territorial Constitution the people of California said unanimously, we do not want slavery here. They made it clear. Northerners, okay. That's great. When can we get you into the country? Southerners said what? Uh-uh, because that balance of power would be shifted. So the people of that state said no slavery, and the southern members of the Senate said, not so fast, not so fast. A second issue that was confronting the nation -- New Mexico and Utah. Now, this was the other big swath of land that was acquired from the Mexican War. Utah was well-above that Missouri Compromise Line. The Missouri Compromise -- they created a line of 36 degrees, 30 minutes across the United States, and it said that slavery would not be allowed to spread north of it. It could south. Utah was a far way away from organizing. But New Mexico wasn't. The people of New Mexico also wanted to come part of the United States. And they had a territorial government. And they were preparing to draft a constitution. And the people of New Mexico said, we do not want slavery to spread into this land. Let's not forget slavery did not exist there in New Mexico or California. It had been outlawed by the Mexican Government 20-some years earlier. Now going hand-in-hand with this issue was another big-time problem, and this was the most incendiary, most potentially explosive problem of them all, and that was a very bitter boundary dispute between Texas and New Mexico. Texas had just become a part of this country in 1845. And it was the biggest state in the Union. It wanted to be bigger still. It was claiming a sizeable portion of New Mexico -- what is today Eastern New Mexico including Santa Fe. So the south said yes, we agree with Texas's thought. They should have more land. People in the north were saying, why? No, this is just a ploy to extend slavery where it doesn't exist. So we can see how all of this is coming together. And, also, one more thing about New Mexico and Texas. Governor Peter Bell of Texas was ready and it seemed willing to use force by 1849 to enforce Texas's claim on that land in New Mexico. Now, if a war was to break out, as I mentioned at the outset, it would be here. Henry Clay called the boundary dispute between Texas and New Mexico "the crisis of the crisis." A fourth problem, slavery and the slave trade in the nation's capitol. There were many people who were, quite frankly, embarrassed by this. The fact that there were foreign visitors arriving in the capitol of this land of liberty and they could see a slave auction taking place. People were repelled by that in the north, and especially the Abolitionists. They wanted slavery, the slave trade, everything, to be gone from the capitol of the United States. Southerners said that an attack on slavery there would be interpreted as an attack on slavery everywhere. And, finally, the fifth major problem, violations of that fugitive slave law. Widespread violations in the north. Slaveholders and southern political leaders had been railing about this for quite some time. Northerners were simply not following the law. The fugitive slave law meant they had to, you know, turn over fugitives. But, of course, with the underground railroad in full operation many people in the north were harboring fugitives, hiding them, helping them to freedom. The southerners claimed that there were 30,000 escaped slaves living in the North by 1850 worth $15 million in value. Southerners called on the federal government for a more active enforcement, a stronger fugitive slave law. Many in the north simply refused to follow that law. Those were the five major problems. Those were the five major issues that confronted the United States when that 31st Congress convened in December of 1849. So there was much work to be done. A lot of work to be done if these problems were to be worked out peacefully. But before anything could get done the House of Representatives had to elect a Speaker of the House. Simple, right? A mere formality. Well, not here, because the times were different. The stakes were high. Now, typically, electing a Speaker happens quickly, the first order of business. But now, as I said, things were a big different. No political party had a majority in the House. There were 230 members of the House at the time -- 112 Democrats, 105 Whigs, and 13 Free Soilers. The Whigs put forward Robert Winfah [assumed spelling] of Massachusetts, the previous Speaker of the House. He was opposed to the spread of slavery, but he also sought compromise. The Democratic Party put forward future Confederate General Howell Cobb, 34 years old, who owned more than 1000 slaves and was one of the fiercest defenders of slavery in the south. But like Winthrop, Howell Cobb also sought compromise. It was clear that this was going to be a battle. Ballot after ballot, day after day, week after week, the debate continued with no headway. The question looming largest had to do with slavery. At times it got ugly. A number of Southern Representatives hinted that they were ready to call for secession if their demands were not addressed. And this prompted a New York Congressman by the name of William Dewar to declare that there were treason, people there in Congress who were committing treason. And he named a few by name. In response, Robert Toombs of Georgia barked out, "I avow, before this House and country and in the presence of the living God that, if by your legislation you seek to drive us from the territories of California and New Mexico and to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, I am for disunion and I will devote all I am and all I have on Earth to its consummation." Battle lines are being drawn. Have I emphasized the fact that the country was close to war in 1850? That's really what I'm going for. It took 63 ballots before a Speaker was finally elected. And for the first and only time in American history it was decided that a simple plurality of the vote would do, not a majority. So in the end, Howell Cobb won by a vote of 102 to 99. That's how close it was. He wrote to his wife, "The agony is over, and now the question is whether it is to be rejoiced or regretted." This deadlock in the House of Representatives was but one example, a shining example of how close the government came to collapse that year. But now that the house was ready to move forward, now that a Speaker had been elected, it was time to get the President's thought. And there is old rough and ready Zachary Taylor. As soon as Congress elected their Speaker of the House, Zachary Taylor would send his first, and as it turned out his only, State of the Union Address if you will, to the House, to the Senate. Now, Zach Taylor was 64 years old and a war hero. He rode his military heroics to the White House. In 1848 he defeated the Democratic Senator Louis Cass in the Presidential Election. He was, though, a political novice and reportedly he had never cast a vote in his life. Many believed he was entirely, wholly unqualified for the Office of the Presidency, including Henry Clay. Henry Clay wrote that, "His only qualification for the Presidency was sleeping 40 years in the wood and cultivating moss on the calves of his legs [laughter]." I think Henry Clay was bitter he wasn't nominated for that. Now, Zachary Taylor was honest, plain-spoken, unassuming, and as it turn out, many underestimated him. His four decades in the uniform to his country had instilled in him a pure patriotic love of country and a strict obedience to duty. He was stubborn, truthful, independent-minded, and he made clear from the very start that he was not going to be a mere rubberstamp for the Southern slaveowners in Congress. Southerners supported his bid for the Presidency because he was, after all, a Southern slaveholder who had a very large Louisiana plantation. But Zachary Taylor called slavers "a moral and political evil." And he was opposed to extending it. He was opposed wholeheartedly to expanding slavery. And even worse to Southerners, the ultras, he soon became very close with the leading Abolitionist voice in Congress, a freshman Senator from New York named William Henry Seward. So there's opposition to the expansion of slavery. How he became so close to Seward made him in the eyes of many southerners a traitor. His State of the Union was really simple. His idea for solving the nation's problems? Let's get California in. And that was it. California. Let's admit California as quickly as possible to the country. Southerners, of course, are already outraged with Taylor, and there were others in the Senate who felt that Zachary Taylor simply did not go far enough. There were five major issues confronting the country, and he was only dealing with one of them, just one. Henry Clay felt that Taylor had simply not gone far enough. Now, Henry Clay, he was watching with alarm all the drama playing out in the House, and he believed President Taylor simply was inadequate in dealing with the nation's problems. Now he felt that he and the Senate could come up with a compromise. He felt that if peace is going to be restored to this country, it would be up to him, and he was ready to take the lead. Now Henry Clay, one of the most famous men in America, he was beloved and lionized across the land as the Great Compromiser. He had taken the lead in that 1820 Missouri Compromise. Abraham Lincoln called him the "beau ideal of a statesman." He was 73 years old in 1850 and in failing health. Tall, loose-jointed, courteous, he was an excellent, impassioned speaker who mesmerized crowds. He was tall, too, so he might have mesmerized clouds [laughter]. But despite all of his accomplishments, despite all of his accolades, the one thing that he coveted most had always eluded him. And that was the Presidency. He sought the Whig Party nomination for President five times. He got it three times. He lost all three times. The last time was in 1844 when the Expansionist James Polk in this Era of Manifest Destiny defeated him. Clay was an anti-Expansionist. Clay retired to his home in Lexington, Kentucky. He lost his son, killed in action in the Mexican War fighting under Zachary Taylor at Buena Vista. He was a slave-owner, too, but he opposed it. And he began to take the lead in calling for the gradual emancipation of slavery. Now, in 1849, Henry Clay was returning once more to the Senate. One of Kentucky's seats opened up. The Kentucky Legislature voted him to return to Washington. He said he didn't want it. He was in bad health. But, again, he felt he had been called upon to save the nation in its time of need. And he would spend much of January, 1850, working out ideas. And on January 29th, to a packed Senate Chamber, Henry Clay rose and he presented eight resolutions, eight proposals which, he said, when taken together, proposed an amicable arrangement of all the questions and controversy between the free and slave states growing out of the subject of slavery. "It was," he said, "a great national steam of compromise and harmony." And his proposals were this. Yes, California will be coming into the Union without slavery. The people there had already made up their mind. They made it clear. So let's get California. He also said that Congress shall pass no law prohibiting or allowing for slavery in New Mexico. Let the people there decide. This is kind of the popular sovereignty thought that was raging through Congress at the time. And because New Mexico had already made it clear they didn't want slavery, Henry Clay was fairly certain that it would apply for statehood as a free state. And, also, he felt the climate, the soil, the terrain of New Mexico would naturally prohibit slavery from spreading there. Third, Texas will relinquish its claim on any New Mexico territory. In exchange, Texas will be given about 15 million bucks. The Federal Government would assume all of Texas's public debts. Slavery would not be abolished in Washington, D.C. But the slave trade would. He called for a strengthening of the Fugitive Slave Act, okay? And, finally, Congress will make no law interfering with the slave trade between the slave states. He thought that he had reached out to both sides. He is presenting olive branches to the northerners, the southerners, okay? Yes, the north is going to get California as a free state. But no Wilmot Proviso. Congress will say nothing dictating slavery. Slavery would continue, but not the slave trade in Washington. Now Henry Clay first presented these eight resolutions on January 29th, and he would rise twice more on February 5th and February 6th of 1850 to further defend and to argue them. His proposals, he said, again, it would please both sides. And that day he seemed to be a great soul on fire. The Senate was thronged with onlookers as Clay just spoke hour and hour. He spoke for a total of seven hours during these two days. He urged the firebrands in the south not to secede and not to go to war to extend slavery. "Such a war," he said, "would be fought to propagate a wrong and not propagate a right. And that all of mankind of all of history would rightfully be against them" He warned Southerners that, "secession would lead to war," and made it known that he stood firmly with the Union. On the other hand, Henry Clay also called upon the ultras in the north, the Abolitionists especially, to tone down their rhetoric and to stop insulting southerners, to stop insisting on that Wilmot Proviso. He said, "all now is uproar, confusion, menace to the existence of the Union and to the happiness and safety of its people." He urged his colleagues "to pause at the edge of the precipice before the fearful and disastrous leap is taken into the yawning abyss below." The moderates loved him. The moderates in the Senate looked at Clay as the hero of the hour. And people across the United States applauded Henry Clay once more for seeking compromise. But it soon became very clear that Clay failed to appeal to the extremists on both sides. Abolitionists decried Henry Clay's support for a stronger Fugitive Slave Act. Frederick Douglas called him a monster. Firebrands in the south were appalled by Clay, believing that they had been betrayed again by one of their own. Southern firebrands did not see much of compromise at all in Clay's proposals. Jeremiah Clemens of Alabama stated that "it called for the unconditional surrender of the south and its interests." While Jeff Davis, we know him, Senator from Mississippi and the rising voice of pro-slavery south, he expressed his great disappointment with Clay, telling him again that "enslaved human beings were property, Mr. Clay," property that could be taken to any common territory, and that the government had to right to tell its citizens where they can and cannot go with their property. Davis stated that it was clear Clay had taken the side of the north and not the south. And this badgering is going to provoke an immediate response from Clay. "I have held, and I have said from the day I first considered slavery again and again, and I shall go to my grave with the opinion that it is an evil, a social and political evil. I intended, so help me, God, to propose a plan of doing equal and impartial justice to the south and the north, and I think it does." Yet it was clear there would be no immediate agreement. This, by the way, is what the Senate looked like in 1850. There would be no compromise from those fierce firebrands in the south. And at the head of that contingent was John Calhoun, the most vocal and most prominent mouthpiece of southern slaveowners in the country. Now, on March 4th, about a month after Henry Clay made his pitch to the Senate, a very sick, feeble, frail and haggard, John Calhoun, 67 years of age and dying, he entered the Senate held up on either side by two fellow Senators. One observer said he looked like he was so emaciated, pale and cadaverous that he was a fugitive from the grave. But he went there that day to give his thoughts on the crisis and to give his response to Henry Clay. He did, he believed, speak for the south. But he couldn't speak. He was too weak physically to speak. So he gave his speech to James Mason of Virginia. And Calhoun sat there, stone-faced, haggard, a heavy black cloak over his shoulders while Mason read Calhoun's prepared remarks. Now Calhoun, of course, we know, had always been very serious, very in earnest, and he never seemed to have a good time. The joke about John Calhoun is that he attempted to write a poem only once in his life, and it began with the word, "Whereas." He was highly intelligent, a graduate of Yale, with those gaunt cheeks and a long iron-gray mane, and John Calhoun believed he was 100% right, 100% of the time. Anybody know anybody like that [laughter]? I don't think my wife -- don't point at me [laughter]. Calhoun had no interest in compromising, about anything. He had no interest in compromising over slavery. He stated that the south faced -- the situation the south faced was critical, and he expressed his doubt that the two sides, north or south, quote, "so different and hostile could exist in one common union. The impression is now very general, and is on the increase, that this union is the only alternative left to the south. I have believed from the first that the agitation over slavery could end disunion," he said. The country was in danger and it was the north's fault. The north was to blame because of its long continued attacks on the institution of slavery. Now, Calhoun also expressed his fear that the north was becoming too powerful, the population was growing too big, the House was dominated by northerners and they soon are going to take the Electoral College. He also believed the federal government was getting too big, and it was interfering too much with slavery. Look at the Northwest Ordnance, for example, prohibiting slavery from spreading into that territory. Now he forgot the fact that during the first 62 years of the country's history that there was a President, a slaveowner was President for 60 of them, that Chief Justices of the Supreme Court were slaveowners for 52 of those 62 years, and that because of that 3/5 Clause, white southerners were disproportionately represented in the House. Nevertheless, he felt that the government's legislation to outlaw slavery from the territories was too much. He fumed against Abolitionists and their, quote, "fanatical zeal. Slavery," he said, "was essential and natural." It was the north who had to come up with a solution, pure and simple. The north had to come up with a solution to the problem since there would be no concessions from the south. "The territories should be open to slavery," declared Calhoun, "and the north must vigorously enforce the Fugitive Slave Act." He then suggested the way to go about this is a constitutional amendment that would forever guaranteed sectional balance in the government. He called for more federal power, not less. And he even put forward a thought of a dual Presidency, a northern President and a southern President. Each had veto power. Calhoun died just a month later, March 31, 1850. News of his death was announced in the Senate and there were the eulogies spoken. Clay and Daniel Webster, they spoke out favorably with Calhoun. But not Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Thomas Benton of Missouri declared that "Calhoun is not dead. There may be no vitality in his body, but there is in his doctrines. Calhoun died with treason in his heart and on his lips, and his disciples are now disseminating his poison." That is what Thomas Benton said in the Senate. Calhoun believed that the country was, indeed, headed toward a civil war and it would come soon. Calhoun said right before he died that it would be as a result of a Presidential election, and he was right. Fergus Bordewich, an author who wrote extensively on this, said that "It is possible that no political man in American history worked harder or longer to undermine the foundation of American democracy. It is certain that none did more to make the Civil War inevitable." But was the war inevitable? Daniel Webster hoped not. Now, after John Calhoun gave his thoughts on the crisis, all attention turned to the great Daniel Webster, "the godlike Daniel of Massachusetts," as he was called. He was the very definition of an American statesman. The mouthpiece, not for the north or for the south, the mouthpiece of America. And he had this great physical magnetism, the deep-set eyes, a very large head. And people claimed that his head grew larger every single year [laughter]. He had a deep, melodious, operatic voice, and whenever he spoke, it was an event. He was a very gifted orator, but he drank heavily, very heavily. And maybe it was because of a history of personal tragedy. His firstborn child died in 1817 at age seven. He lost another son at age three. His wife, Grace, died in 1828 at age 47. A beloved brother died the following year. And in 1848, his son, Edward, died in Mexican War. To make matters worse, the very day that Edward Webster's body returned home for burial, Daniel Webster's daughter, Julia, died of tuberculosis at the age of 30. He wouldn't live to see it, but another one of his sons would be killed in the war, in war, Fletcher Webster, Commander of the 12th Massachusetts, killed at the Second Battle of Bull Run. On March 7th, three days after Calhoun's speech was read, Daniel Webster stood up in the Senate and he began his famous "Seventh of March" speech. "I speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, not as a northern man, but as an American. Hear me for my cause. I speak today for the restoration of that country and that harmony which makes the blessings of this union so rich and so dear to us all." He blamed the extremists on both sides for the current crisis. He stated that "it was useless to debate slavery in the territories. It can never work. The law of nature," he said, "the soil, the climate, the terrain of New Mexico would prohibit slavery from spreading there. So why are we getting so worked up over this?" He also surprised many when he expressed his support for a stronger Fugitive Slave Law. Dan Webster personally hated slavery. He once called it "unjust and repugnant to the natural equality of mankind." But he was not willing to risk the union to further attack it. He made it known that the valuations of the Fugitive Slave Act throughout the north were wrong, pure and simple. Webster then addressed his southern firebrands. "I hear with pain and anguish the word secession. Secession, peaceable secession. We will never see that miracle," he said. "I would rather hear of natural blasts and mildews, war, pestilence, and famine than to hear of gentlemen talk of secession. "Secession," he thundered, "would lead to war." And he was determined to prevent that from happening. And to that end he will support Henry Clay's compromises. Throughout the nation, people applauded Webster. Here was this great statesman who was willing to risk his own personal beliefs to support compromise. Henry Clay smiled of course. Maybe we could get something done. But Abolitionists up north decried this. They felt betrayed by Webster. He was called a Benedict Arnold among Abolitionists. John Greenleaf Whittier, in his poem "Ichabod" wrote, "From those great eyes, the soul has fled. When faith is lost, when honor dies, the man is dead." Robert Remini, Former Historian of the Senate, wrote, "Webster had argued law, history, politics, and geography to make his case, but he had spoken not a word about human rights or moral principles." Aside from the Abolitionists though, Webster's speech was hailed nationwide. Hope was entertained for compromise. But just a few days later, another speech. And this one was given by William Henry Seward, Lincoln's future Secretary of State, 48 years old, two-term Governor of New York. He was the most radical of all northern Whigs, an Abolitionist through and through. He fervently opposed anything related to slavery. He was not a gifted speaker like Clay or Webster, but that did not stop him from unleashing a firestorm. He made it known that just like the southern firebrands, he and his Abolitionists will not compromise. There could be no compromise over slavery. Slavery's wrong. You can't compromise over that. He said, "California should be admitted to the union." Why not? They did everything right. They formed a territorial government, they wrote their constitution, they are applying for statehood. Why are we going to attach that to a strengthened Fugitive Slave Act? So he wanted California and nothing else. He also said in regards to the violations of the Fugitive Slave Act, which he did repeatedly as Governor of New York, he refused to prosecute anybody who helped harbor runaways. His hometown of Auburn, New York, a major stopping point on the Underground Railway. He said that, yes, there is the Constitution. But there is a higher law, God's law, and in God's eyes slavery is unjust. The response, as you could imagine, profound. Southerners Clay, Webster, they villainized Seward's speech. Even Zachary Taylor said, "The Constitution is not worth one straw if every man is to be his own interpreter." But Seward had made his peace and it was clear from these responses and from others that there was still a long fight to go. Those clamoring for compromise were in for a tough fight. Throughout February, March, and April, day after day, week after week, the debate and the argument went back and forth between Whigs and Democrats, northerners and southerners, unionists and those who made it clear they were ready to secede if their demands are not met. Frustration grew in the Senate as the months passed and nothing was done. Senator Henry Foote of Mississippi declared that "every day that we have sat here deliberating as we call it, agitating the question of slavery, we have placed this union in still greater peril." And he wholeheartedly believed that disunion was imminent. Now, Henry Foote was 46 years of age, slight, short, talkative, pugnacious. He had been in four duals. He was shot in three of them. He got into a fistfight with Jefferson Davis on Christmas Day, 1847. And in 1848 he got into a wrestling match on the Senate Floor with Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania. We think things are bad now [laughter]. I mean, they were literally fighting on the Floors of the Senate. He was a first advocate of southern rights, but he was also a unionist who sought compromise. And right after Daniel Webster's speech that called for compromise, Henry Foote had an idea. Why don't we package all of Henry Clay's ideas into a single bill, a single package bill. We will call it "The Omnibus," named after a very popular form of urban transportation, okay? A lot of people from a lot of different social classes, male/female passengers, could all pile into The Omnibus that travelled through the cities of this country. So, Henry Foote said that the only way we could get Henry Clay's resolutions passed is if we package them all together. Henry Clay never planned for this. He wanted to trot out every one of his bills, one at a time, to be voted on separately. But Henry Foote was afraid that Zachary Taylor would use his veto power on anything except California. So the way to eliminate that threat of a veto is to pass everything all at once. Some liked the idea; some did not. Thomas Benton of Missouri hated the idea, and he hated Henry Foote. Benton and Foote did not get along. Physically the two men were opposites. Benton was brawny and burly with a big fit frame. He was overbearing, without fear. Foot was more feminine, smaller in stature. But, boy, he didn't hold back. Things finally boiled over after months of frustration. And on April 17th, Henry Foote unleashed a torrent of insults at Henry -- at Thomas Benton from the Senate Floor. Benton had enough. He rose. He tossed his desk to the side and he ran directly at Foote. Henry Foote pulled a revolver from his jacket, pointed it at Benton coming at him down the aisle, and Millard Fillmore, the Vice President presiding over this banging the gavel, order, order. Two people are trying to hold Benton back, but he opened his shirt and he said, "Let the coward fire. Let the assassin fire. Only cowards go armed." And Henry Foote, he's saying, "I only brought the gun for personal safety." I think he was right. But this happened on the floor of the Senate. A New York Senator took the pistol very carefully from Foote, walked it away in his desk. And Daniel Webster's shaking his head. He wrote, "I am sorry for this country." That is what was happening in the Senate. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away -- oh, forgive me. I'm so sorry. Henry Foote got his way. Henry Foote, the day after this whole embarrassing episode on the Senate floor with pistols drawn, finally the Senate approved this omnibus plan. So, okay. Let's package everything together. Henry Clay was named the Chairman of a committee of 13 Senators and he drafted what was called, "The Omnibus Bill." But just like earlier, there were those immediately against it. David Yulee, Jeremiah Clemens, and other southern Senators said right away they will vote no for it. Pierre Soule of Louisiana said, "Sir, I wish this were a compromise, a real compromise, containing mutual concessions. I do not see in these measures any such compromise. The south gives; the north takes." And there were northern hardlines, took like John Hale of New Hampshire, an Abolitionist, who said that Henry Clay's Omnibus will turn the south into a giant slave pasture. Now, Henry Seward said, "All this talk about nature prohibiting slavery, just wait until they find a few flakes of gold. Just wait until they find some lumps of coal. And then we will hear quickly how God had ordained slavery to spread into that land." So he was against it also. Henry Clay, Henry Foote once again had to rise repeatedly to defend their omnibus approach. Henry Clay said, "This bill is neither southern nor northern. It is equal. It is fair. It is a compromise." And he said that if Congress did not act, blood would be spilled." Henry Clay also vehemently criticized Zachary Taylor on the floor of the Senate. And they're both Whigs by the way. They were both members of the Whig Party. He though Zach Taylor was too stubborn, too bullheaded, because Zach Taylor said he would veto this omnibus. So this whole theory of blowing up in their faces. Daniel Webster said, "All is paralysis." They didn't have time to deal with any other order of business. Nothing. Not a single government appointment. Not the approaching Census of 1850 that had to be taken care of. The entire session dealt with this compromise. June turned to July. Nothing was done. The extremists had taken hold. But as Congress remained at an impasse, events in Texas were spurring the nation toward civil war. Remember, of course, Texas was claiming a large part, a significant part of the New Mexico territory including Santa Fe. They made it known that they would use force to claim that land. The people of New Mexico said what? Try us. This was their territory, not Texas. The people of New Mexico were gathering. They were starting to form a territorial government and they would repeatedly call on the military leader there, John Monroe of the U.S. Army, to resist any effort Texas might make. In the early spring of 1850 Governor Peter Bell of Texas had called up the State Legislature to raise and equip an army to stake their claim. And he is going to summon a friend of his, Robert Simpson Neighbors, to carry out Texas's imperialistic dreams. Neighbors was told to ride west into the disputed territory carrying copies of the Texas State Constitution and making it known to anyone and to everyone that they and their land was not subject to Texas law. So Neighbors rode out with his small party. He arrived in Santa Fe and he met with Colonel Monroe. Now John Monroe, 60 years old, a native of Scotland, a hero of the Mexican War -- not only was he called upon by the people of New Mexico to resist any effort by Texas, but the Administration in Washington had also instructed him to do the same. Secretary of War is going to summon a young lieutenant by the name of George McCall, and the Civil War buffs out there know George McCall, the future P.A Reserves fame. And George McCall was to write to Monroe and tell him that if Texas tried to make a claim, that Monroe was authorized to use force. Reportedly also, in June of 1850, Zachary Taylor met with a young Lieutenant, Alfred Pleasanton. Pleasanton was on his way out to Monroe with a reinforcing column of a few hundred soldiers. And Zachary Taylor told Alfred Pleasanton, reportedly, that he would come out there himself and lead the U.S. Army to fight Texas if they tried anything. So the battle-lines are being drawn. And this was all happening the same time Foote and Benton are drawing pistols on each other in the Senate. Neighbors soon discovered the resolve of Monroe. And Neighbors also found out the resolve of the people of New Mexico. They were flatly against anything Texas had in mind for them. They were also against slavery. Neighbors returned to Texas. He was defeated; he was dejected in his plan. But he informed Governor Bell that it might be best now to raise an army, and that's exactly what Bell intended to do. As Monroe and his soldiers kept a nervous eye toward Texas, so, too, did many political and military leaders across the country. The Governor of Mississippi said he would send his State Militia to help Texas if it came to that. And in Congress, Henry Foote again said that "If this government shall ever drop one shed of Texas blood on Texas soil, it will speedily be found that there is not one heroic son of the south who will not arm himself in defense of a patriotic and oppressed and persecuted people. If ever one battle is fought in such a quarrel, the dissolution of this union is inevitable." Representative Alexander Stephens, future Confederate Vice President, he took it one step farther. When he learned of Zachary Taylor's determination, his resolve regarding New Mexico, Alexander Stephens wrote a letter, an open letter to the President of the United States. And it was printed on July 4th, of all days, 1850 in the ^IT National Intelligencer ^NO. "The first federal gun that shall be fired against the people of Texas, without the authority of law, will be the signal for the freemen from Delaware to the Rio Grande to rally to the rescue. Be not deceived. And deceive not others. When the Rubicon is passed, the days of the Republic will be numbered, the cause of Texas will be the cause of the entire south." No wonder Henry Clay called this the crisis of the crisis. And things were spiraling out of control in Texas and Santa Fe. But if things could not get more stressful to the nation, in the literal midst of all this the President of the United States died in office. Zachary Taylor attended an Independence Day ceremony at the Washington Monument, a broiling hot day. They didn't have enough awning. They didn't have enough shade. And he didn't want to ask the ladies to move from their seats under the awnings. So he sat in the sun for two straight hours, sweat dripping from his brow as Henry Foote, of all people, gave this rousing, patriotic speech. He went back to the White House that night and he gorged himself on ice milk, cherries, and raw vegetables. And that night he got very sick. His health would worsen through the week. It was likely acute gastroenteritis, but his doctors diagnosed it as cholera. Within a week he was dead. He died at age 66 on the night of July 9th after serving just 16 months as President. The nation mourned. Henry Seward said he had never seen grief so universal, so profound. And, of course, Members of Congress would use the event of the death of the President to call for harmony, to call for compromise. The day after Zachary Taylor died, Millard Fillmore will become President. Boy, I'd love to get a chance to talk about Millard Fillmore, right [laughter]? He was 50 at the time. He was portly, handsome, dignified, and courteous, with a very sharp analytical mind. And let's not forget, that as Vice President, every single day he did what? He sat at the Senate sessions. He had a front-row seat to everything that was being said. But, unlike Taylor, Fillmore was a lot more amenable to compromise, any compromise. That's what he was going for. He inherited a mess. I know we oftentimes like to dismiss Millard Fillmore, you know, as one of the great unknown Presidents, but imagine being in his shoes. When he became President, with everything that was happening in Texas and New Mexico, the impasse in the Senate, he is for compromise. And he began to fill his Cabinet with like-minded individuals. Daniel Webster became Secretary of State. And after Daniel Webster died in 1852, anybody know who came over, who took that position? Edward Everett. So when people ask, who did Edward Everett serve for as Secretary of State, it was Millard Fillmore. He was into compromise. And because of this -- oh, and by the way, though, he's not compromising over Texas. I mean he told Winfield Scott to send 500 more soldiers to Monroe's aid in August of 1850. So, just like Taylor, he was not going to take any nonsense from Texas down there. Henry Clay saw the death of Zachary Taylor as a godsend. Hate to say it that way, but Zachary Taylor was a tremendous obstacle in Henry Clay's path. He felt now with Taylor out of the way, finally we could get this omnibus passed. All of his resolutions passed, just like that in one single bill. He spoke to the Senate on July 22nd, and he gave his final defense of his plan. He called upon his colleagues for their patriotic and moralistic sentiment. He asked them to put their section behind, to leave jealousies aside. He said, "This Omnibus is truly the vehicle of the people." He said, "If it's not passed, it would lead to war. Texas, Texas will not be alone," he said. If a war does break out between Texas and the soldiers of the United States, there are ardent, enthusiastic spirits in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama that will flock to the standards of Texas, contending, as they will believe they will be contending for slave territory." Who could say which side would prevail in such a fratricidal conflict? It was incumbent upon Congress to avoid this. And the way to go about it was to vote Yes for the Omnibus. "I believe from the bottom of my soul that the measure is the reunion of this union. It is the dove of peace which, taking flight from the capitol, carries its glad tidings of assured peace and restored harmony to all the remotest extremities of this land." A thunderous applause broke out from the Senate. A tour-de-force, a passionate, eloquent, tear-provoking speech. "And now I ask you, would you here move forward with a vote for this Omnibus?" For those here -- let's imagine we're members of the Senate, 1850. It's July 23rd. Henry Clay has finished his final pitch. Now let's call for a vote. California, a state, a free state; New Mexico will decide for themself whether to be slave or free. Slavery would not be abolished, but the slave trade would. And a stronger Fugitive Slave Act. Who's voting yea on that measure? Who is voting nay on that measure? It looks like here, the yeas have it. Henry Clay would have loved you. But just a week later everything fell apart. On July 30th the Omnibus was dismantled. The Omnibus failed. On July 30th, an amendment was made to the Omnibus that said, "Until we resolve the boundary between Texas and New Mexico, let us consider New Mexico under Texas authority." It passed. But a Senator from Maryland rose up in opposition to this and he said, "You know what? Why don't we remove anything pertaining to Texas from this Omnibus?" And what he was hoping to do was remove it and then reintroduce an amendment that would take it back to where it actually was, you know. So they voted to remove it. And then the floodgates opened. David Yulee of Florida said, "I propose to remove anything pertaining to California." Pass. "I propose to remove anything pertaining to that Fugitive Slave Act." Pass. Plank by plank, everything was removed. And there were people who celebrated. Thomas Benton and William Henry Seward dance with each other in the aisles of the Senate when the Omnibus fell apart. Henry Foote just put his head down in despair. And Henry Clay who spoke no fewer than 70 times in defense of that Omnibus rose from his seat and quietly left the Senate. He went to Newport, Rhode Island to recover his health. This was killing him, literally killing him. But all was not yet lost because there was that steam engine in britches [laughter], by the name of Senator Stephen Douglas. Stephen Douglas was the Committee Chairman for the Committee on the Territories. He had a powerful voice, but he kept it silent throughout this entire debate. He knew from the start really that this Omnibus will fail because the Omnibus is only going to unite the opponents of every bill. So as they were debating and talking things over, Stephen Douglas went to every one of the Members of the Senate and he began to ask them, so will you vote for California? Okay. Would you vote for a stronger Fugitive Slave Act? All right. So Stephen Douglas is working behind the scenes. He knew the Omnibus would fail. And when it did he was ready to step up to the plate. On the very next day Stephen Douglas rose in the Senate and he put forward a proposal, a proposal to organize the government for Utah without slavery. Okay. That's fine. Slavery probably would not work there anyway. It passed. That very same day, he put forward another proposal on the Senate Floor, a bill that would establish the boundary between Texas and New Mexico. Texas would relinquish its claims in exchange for government funding to assume its debts. And guess what? It passed. It passed. Also he called for California to be admitted to the Union without slavery. And it passed. One after the next. All they're doing, instead of voting on this as a package, let's try it one at a time. And it worked! It was a miracle! It was working! Now, let's keep in mind a few things. Millard Fillmore and the new Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, they were talking to their Whigs in the Senate. "I want you to stay home tomorrow from the vote, okay?" Oh, would you like a government position? Then why don't you go ahead and vote for that Fugitive Slave Act." So Stephen Douglas is rallying Democratic support for each of Henry Clay's bills while Millard Fillmore and Danial Webster are doing the same thing for the Whigs. On August 15th, a bill to organize government for New Mexico without the Wilmot Proviso. It passed. On August 26th, a strengthened Fugitive Slave Act was passed. Fifteen Northern Senators did not show up that day to cast a vote. It passed by a vote of 27 to 12 when there were 60 Senators. Finally, the Slave Trade in DC would be abolished -- 33 to 19. All 19 nays from the south. It was really quite amazing. After seven months of debate, seven months, with the nation on the verge of war, that Stephen Douglas, only 36 years old, stood and said, okay, let's try these bills one at a time. At by mid-September all of Henry Clay's ideas were passed. When Henry Clay returned from Newport, Rhode Island, he probably couldn't believe what was happening. How did this work? So that Omnibus Plan of Henry Foote -- he had good intentions, but it just was the bad thing to do. And here's how we know that. There were only four Senators, four out of the 60, who voted yea for all five of those bills. So the Omnibus had no change of every passing. Jeff Davis from Mississippi, he voted yea for only one of these bills. Which one? The Stronger Fugitive Slave Act. There would be no compromise from Jeff Davis. Compromise at last. As each bill passed through the Senate, they were sent to the House. The members of the House had sat in idle debate for nine months waiting to vote on something. Stephen Douglas, he was not only working with the Senate side, but also with the House side. He would get supporters like John McClernand, Robert Toombs, Thomas Clingman, all future Civil War Generals, to make sure every single bill that came from the Senate passed. John McClernand actually went to work every day with two pistols and a Bowie knife on his belts [laughter]. There was still debate. It was acrimonious. But by the end of September, the House of Representatives also passed each one of those five Senate bills. And with President Millard Fillmore's signatures, each of the various components of the compromise went into law. Eight straight months -- 10 straight months, I apologize. Ten straight months, 302 consecutive days of argument, threats, and mind -- no -- some numbing weariness, and all of this was over. The 31st Congress finally adjourned on September 30th of 1850. They had been in session from December 2nd of 1849 to September 30th of 1850 without break. It was the longest Congressional session ever in American history, ever. There was wild celebrations throughout the country. In Washington, D.C., there were fireworks, brass bands were playing, cannons were fired. And there was a collective sign of relief. Daniel Dickinson of New York wrote that, ^IT That the mad current of disunion which had threatened to overwhelm us had been turned back ^NO. And George Templeton Strong said, ^IT Congress has acted at last and blighted the hopes of incendiaries who wanted to set this country on fire with civil war ^NO. But what about Texas? What about Texas? Remember the Governor is raising an army mid-August? On August 26th, the Texas Legislature met and they approved a 2000-man force to march into Santa Fe as early as September 1st. So as soon as these bills are being passed through the Senate, Daniel Webster, everybody of the Administration, is forwarding them to a fellow in New Orleans who then had to take them overland to the Texas capitol. Let's see if we could avoid conflict down there. They raised the army, 2000 men, but soon cooler heads prevailed. When they found out about the compromise and that 10 million bucks that was coming their way, well, they agreed to the boundary, the boundary that we know today. They did get land, by the way. They did get some of the land they were seeking in New Mexico, the New Mexico Territory, but not all of it. Not all of it. Harmony is secure. The patriots rejoice. Lovers of the Union, throw up your hats. The occupation of agitators is gone. Daniel Webster wrote, "We have now gone through the most important crisis which has occurred since the foundation of this government. And the Union stands firm. Faction, disunion, and the love of mischiefs are put under, at least for the present, and I hope for a long time." Millard Fillmore rejoiced, regarding the bills as the final settlement to the question and debate over slavery. Passions would subside, he thought. Peace would return. The Union would prosper. And there would be no civil war. But, was it really a triumph? As we know, it was not long before everything fell apart again. The Compromise of 1850 -- it may have been a brilliant example of statecraft, but it was, in the end, a bandage, a bandage over the nation's deepest wounds. And it soon began to unravel. Historian John Wau wrote that this was an armistice, not a compromise. Most in the country rejoiced. Most applauded the efforts of Clay and Douglas. They became household names once more. They became celebrated across the country. But there were those in the south who would have none of it. The Editor of ^IT The Columbus Sentinel ^NO wrote, "We've now abandoned the Union as an engine of infamous oppression. We are for secession -- open, unqualified secession. Henceforth, we are for war upon the government." That was their response to the compromise. Governor Quitman of Mississippi told Governor Bell of Texas that if he wanted to raise an army, he'll send him troops. He'll do it. On the other end of the spectrum, of course, were the Abolitionists, and they vehemently denounced and condemned that Fugitive Slave Law. They called in the Bloodhound Bill, and they made it known they will not follow it. Simple as that. This new Fugitive Slave Law put the enforcement of the law under federal control exclusively. It set up the procedure to authorize U.S. Commissioners to issue warrants for the arrest and return of runaway slaves with a simple affidavit from a slave-owner as proof of property. Commissioners also had the power to call on people of the north to help locate, secure, and return slaves. Fugitives, claiming to be free, were denied the right to a trial by jury. And their testimony could not be entered into evidence. Northern marshals who refused to serve a warrant would be fined $1000. Citizens who head runaway slaves would be imprisoned up to six months. One of the results of this Compromise of 1850 was a mass exodus of free blacks from the north into Canada. Over 200 residents of Rochester left their homes in the immediate aftermath of this bill, black residents. Of the 114 members of Rochester's Black Baptist Church, 112 left the country. An estimated 15,000 black residents, free black residents of the north, fled for Canada during the years that followed. It was not long before there was resistance. Free black men and women were being kidnapped, captured, and detained and sent south. And they could not even testify on their own behalf. Civil disobedience reached peak levels. Public meetings throughout the north denounced the law as unjust, unchristian. Syracuse said it would be a sanctuary city for all fugitive slaves. Slave-hunters, too, met with great resistance. Meanwhile, Millard Fillmore, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, called anyone who violated that law traitors. That's what it came to. People who opposed slavery now calling people who wanted to help slaves get freedom traitors. That's where this country was in the 1850s. This Fugitive Slave Law was the single most intrusive assertion of federal authority into the lives of daily Americans, a fact that was lost on those in the south who said the federal government had too much control. Henry Clay died on June 29, 1852. Daniel Webster followed him in death a few months later. And so, too, did the spirit of compromise. The Whig party was dead. And in the place of people like Webster and Clay, rose the Seward's and the Davis's who would not compromise. Also, throughout the 1850s, that compromise continued to unravel. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, introduced, ironically enough by Stephen Douglas. The hero of the hour of 1850, is now telling the residents of Kansas and Nebraska, both above the Missouri Compromise Line, that they could decide whether or not they wanted slavery. And we know the result -- bleeding Kansas. We know what happened a few years later when the Supreme Court passed its infamous Dred Scott Ruling. "Slaves were property" said the Supreme Court. And slaveholders could take them anywhere. Anywhere. Out west, Abraham Lincoln, in response to this, said, "This country can't survive anymore half-slave/half-free. It's going to become one or the other." And it was looking, especially after all the events of the 1850s, that it would soon become all slave. Finally, following Lincoln's election, just like Calhoun predicted in response to a Presidential election, the southern firebrands, fearing the loss of power in the nation, and fearful of the implications of their property rights, not states' rights, made good on their long-called-for threats for succession. And that succession led directly to civil war. So, was this compromise a success or a failure? And how is it a turning point? It must be remembered, it must be acknowledged that the United States was on the verge of civil war in 1850, 11 years before Fort Sumpter. The fate of the nation was hanging in the balance. Some were for open disunion, even war. Most were not. Unionists and moderates in the 31st Congress did their best to avoid breaking the country apart, and they succeeded, at least in 1850. The last surviving member of the 31st Congress was Andrew Harlan, and in 1902 he wrote, "In this Congress there was but one overshadowing question, that of slavery. Members were subjected to but one inquiry -- are you for the extension of slavery or against it? I do not think anyone could form an adequate idea of the bitterness and intensity of partisan feeling that prevailed. It resembled nothing so much as a bundle of combustible material to which every spoken word was a spark. There was a consciousness that such a conflagration, once lighted, must sweep and engulf the nation. These debates in 1850 and the effort to ultimately avoid war in 1850 is unsurpassed in American history. Ten straight months of deliberation and argument. And while today we don't always empathize with the views of Clay and Webster and even Zach Taylor, especially with their support, Clay and Webster, of that Fugitive Slave Act, their courage and the stand that they took to save the nation mattered, as did the courage it took for the Abolitionists like John Hale and William Seward who were more enlightened in that era than most. The rancorous debates that defined the 31st Congress -- the statesmen prevailed. And by doing so they saved the union a few crucial years. What would have happened? I know it's completely counterfactual. What would have happened if civil war broke out in 1850? Who would have led the country? Millard Fillmore? Who would have led the armies? I think at that time, Strong Vincent was about 14 years old. The Compromise of 1850 gave the United States 10 critical years. It didn't save the country ultimately from civil war, but it gave the United States, the north, 10 critical years. And during those 10 years, the north's advantage in population, industrial production, and transportation grew. By 1860 northerners outnumber southerners by 7 million people, nearly twice as many as in the 1850s, while northern states added almost twice as many miles of railroads, built four times as many ships. Throughout the 1850s immigration into the north also added to the growing population, and added to the number of those who would fight for their adoptive country in 1861. And throughout the 1850s, as slavery continued to grow, and as the slave-owning south continued to demand more and more federal protections, people of the north turned against that as well. So this effort to undermine the underground railroad only strengthened the resolve of northerners. One more thing. The Compromise of 1850 provided the United States another 10 years to find a statesman equally committed to the Union as Clay, Webster and Taylor, but one more devoted to human rights, a statesman whose birthday we will observe tomorrow. We know him. Thank you so much everybody. I apologize for going over my time. [ Applause ]

Contents

History

Governor Daniel D. Tompkins was elected Vice President of the United States in November 1816; he resigned in February 1817. Article XVII of the New York State Constitution of 1777 said that "...as often as the seat of government shall become vacant, a wise and descreet freeholder of this State shall be, by ballot, elected governor,...,which elections shall be always held at the times and places of choosing representatives in assembly..." This meant that, whenever a vacancy occurred, the Lieutenant Governor did not succeed to the governor's office but administrated the state only until the end of the yearly term of the New York State Assembly on June 30, the successor being elected in April.

Porter did not run for Governor, but the Tammany organization, which opposed Clinton, distributed ballots with Porter's name in New York City, and a few were cast.[1]

Results

1817 General election results
Governor candidate Running Mate Party Popular Vote
DeWitt Clinton John Tayler Democratic-Republican 43,310 96.70%
Peter Buell Porter (none) Tammany Hall 1,479 3.30%

Notes

  1. ^ History of Political Parties in the State of New-York by John Stilwell Jenkins (Alden & Markham, Auburn NY, 1846; page 195)

See also

This page was last edited on 8 August 2017, at 18:27
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