Sectionalism (1840-1861)

1242 Words Jan 12th, 2013 5 Pages
Westward Expansion and Sectionalism (1840-1861)

At the end of the Mexican War during Polk’s term as president, many new lands west of Texas were yielded to the United States, and the debate over the westward expansion of slavery was rekindled. Southern politicians and slave owners demanded that slavery be allowed in the West because they feared that a closed door would spell doom for their economy and way of life. Whig Northerners, however, believed that slavery should be banned from the new territories. Pennsylvanian congressman David Wilmot proposed such a ban in 1846, even before the conclusion of the war. Southerners were outraged over this Wilmot Proviso and blocked it before it could reach the Senate. When this act was denied it
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A Democratic senator from Illinois, Douglas was responsible for pushing the finished piece of legislature through Congress.

The Compromise of 1850, as it was called, was a bundle of legislation that everyone could agree on. First, congressmen agreed that California would be admitted to the Union as a free state (Utah was not admitted because the Mormons refused to give up the practice of polygamy). The fate of slavery in the other territories, though, would be determined by popular sovereignty. Next, the slave trade (though not slavery itself) was banned in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Texas had to give up some of its land to form the New Mexican territory in exchange for a cancellation of debts owed to the federal government. Finally, Congress agreed to pass a newer and tougher Fugitive Slave Act to enforce the return of escaped slaves to the South.

Though both sides agreed to it, the Compromise of 1850 clearly favored the North over the South. California 's admission as a free state not only set a precedent in the West against the expansion of slavery, but also ended the sectional balance in the Senate, with sixteen free states to fifteen slave states. Ever since the Missouri Compromise, this balance had always been considered essential to prevent the North from banning slavery. The South also conceded to end the slave trade in