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The Election

From the preceding comments on the Democratic and Whig national platforms, it will be seen that both parties were under no small embarrassment in the contest. The result turned on the Texas question, and its closeness was a convincing proof of the latent power of anti-slavery. If the slavery issue had not been concerned, the party standing for so valuable a territorial accession as Texas could hardly have failed to win a most decisive victory. Yet the Democrats would have been defeated if New York had gone against them, and in that State Polk's plurality was only 5,000. The Whigs bitterly reproached the third-party Abolitionists, who polled for their ticket in New York 15,812 votes; but the latter retorted that they could not understand how a legitimate claim upon their support could have been advanced by Clay, who had temporized during the canvass in order to satisfy the south and had accordingly carried five slave States.

For President and Vice-President, Electoral vote: James K. Polk and George M. Dallas, Democrats:-Alabama, 9; Arkansas, 3; Georgia, 10; Illinois, 9; Indiana, 12; Louisiana, 6; Maine, 9; Michigan, 5; Mississippi, 6; Missouri, 7; New Hampshire, 6; New York, 36; Pennsylvania, 26; South Carolina, 9; Virginia, 17. Total, 170. Elected.

Henry Clay and Theodore Frelinghuysen, Whigs:-Connecticut, 6; Delaware, 3; Kentucky, 12; Maryland, 8; Massachusetts, 12; New Jersey, 7; North Carolina, 11; Ohio, 23; Rhode Island, 4; Tennessee, 13; Vermont, 6. Total, 105.

Popular vote:

Polk, 1,337,243; Clay, 1,300,518; Birney, 62,300.


The great and historic administration of President Polk (March, 1845, to March, 1849) brought to completion the continental development of the United States in its comprehensive expanse from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from north to south.1 The total gain in square miles was 1,201,178, which exceeded by more than 350,000 the area of the original States as established by the peace of 1783, and by more than 300,000 that of the vast Louisiana Purchase. This gain was divided as follows:-territory claimed by Texas, annexed in 1845, 389,610 square miles; territory comprising the present States of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming, confirmed to us by treaty with Great Britain in 1846, 285,123 square miles; cession by Mexico in 1848 of all demanded territory west of Texas, inclusive of California, 526,445 square miles.

The Oregon dispute was adjusted by acceptance of the forty-ninth parallel as the boundary; the Texas question was settled by the Mexican War. In reality the previous opposition to Texan annexation represented only certain scruples and misgivings, which

1The only continental territory afterward added (except the detached possessions of Alaska and the Panama Canal Zone) was the Gadsden Purchase, a strip of 31,017 square miles acquired from Mexico by peaceful treaty in 1854, embracing portions of the present States of Arizona and New Mexico. Our authority for the various areas of territorial acquisition given above is the Cyclopedia of American Government, article on Area of the United States.

were without the sustaining and binding force of declarative support by a great party. The decisive steps concerning Texas were taken during the last days of Tyler's administration, and, with annexation thus made an accomplished fact, public sentiment was for pursuing all the subsequent measures and realizing all the national advantages logically involved. At the foundation of the question was the claim made for the Texans as our own people, entitled to our active sympathy and coöperation-a claim that could no more be ignored or treated indifferently than the demand of the American pioneers in Oregon for due maintenance by the government of their rights and interests. In view of the undoubted national character of the response to Texas's appeal, the charge urged by not a few orators and publicists of that period, that the annexation and the war were purely enterprises of slavery aggression, was certainly most unjust to the country. The slavery aggressions that followed were indeed numerous and intolerable, and moreover were not unforeseen; but in heartily supporting the war the northern people deprived the south of any reasonable pretension to either a superior sectional interest in it or special sectional advantages from its results. In truth the south, in all its later reproaches and allegations against the north, never raised a question concerning the Mexican War except in relation to the decided refusal of northern sentiment to regard its outcome as establishing new "rights" for slavery.

The issue of slavery extension, which the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had settled for the unorganized



territory at that time existing, took on a new and portentous aspect with the prodigious increase of the national possessions in 1845-48. Incidentally to the annexation of Texas in 1845 and its prompt admission as a State, the slave system that had been instituted and maintained throughout its jurisdiction by its American settlers was fully sanctioned by the national government. This was expected by everyone. It was even arranged and stipulated that the State of Texas might, at discretion, carve out of its territory four additional States "of convenient size," and that each of the new States should, if lying south of the line 36° 30′, be entitled, upon acquiring sufficient population, to admission to the Union "with or without slavery, as the people of each State asking admission may desire";—an arrangement, however, that never came to anything practically.

The real contest on the slavery questions springing out of the war was with reference to the ceded territory outside of Texas-a territory comprehending the entire present States of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Toward the end of the Congressional session in the summer of 1846-the war being in progress but its result mainly a question of the territory to be acquired, President Polk requested an appropriation with a view to initiating peace negotiations. David Wilmot, a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania, after consulting with influential members of his party from the north, thereupon offered the very famous proposal known as the "Wilmot Proviso," as follows:

"Provided, That as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of the said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall be first duly convicted."

The House passed the bill with the Proviso, 87 to 64, anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs supporting it, but owing to the adjournment of Congress without day it did not come to a vote in the Senate. It was never favorably acted on by the latter body, but on frequent occasions was reaffirmed by the House. The principle laid down was of immense significance, and the steadfast support accorded it gave mortal affront to the south. Perhaps equally exasperating to the south was the constant northern contention that, as Mexico had abolished slavery, its reëstablishment in the territory in question would mean a reversion to an archaic condition. It was well known that the Mexican slaveryabolition was not based on humanitarian grounds, but inspired by recognition of the social and political equality of the inferior races with the Spanish elements consequent upon their long reciprocal intermixture, legitimately as well as otherwise. The high-spirited slaveholders of the United States did not for a moment admit that the systemic introduction of their "domestic institution" on the conquered soil would be equivalent to a retrogression from the existent Mexican standard.

In the interval remaining before the Presidential campaign of 1848 the southerners, on their part,

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