Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Election 1848: Holy Shit! Slavery!

President Polk swept into office promising to achieve America's Manifest Destiny by owning Atlantic to Pacific, Canada to Mexico. He led the country into the Mexican-American War to annex Texas and California. To try to win over Whigs, he promised to serve only one term, so when all this new territory kicked up the slavery debate, it was someone else's mess to clean up.

The Contenders

General Zachary Taylor (Whig-VA) – The Whigs once again found the most Jackson-looking guy and nominated him, even though Taylor had never taken a political stance on anything. Taylor was such a public force that Polk tried to ensure his failure by cutting his fight force down to 6,000 men. Taylor used those men to take down a Mexican regiment of 20,000, thereby solidifying his status as "Old Rough and Ready."

Senator Lewis Cass (Democrat-NH) – Despite being a giving and sympathetic political leader, Lewis Cass was an open and unashamed racist. As Jackson's Sec. of War, he made Indian Removal as bloody and brutal as possible. Since I can't write anything as bat-shit racist as he could, I'll let Lewis Cass tell you his views on slavery, "If the relation of master and servant may be regulated or annihilated... so may the relation of husband and wife, or parent and child..."

Former President Martin Van Buren (Free Soil-NY) - The Free Soil Party popped up in 1848 as the only party willing to take a non-negotiable stance against slavery. As the movement's most well respected member, Van Buren became the party's natural candidate.

The Fight

The general Whig stance was to keep out of important issues, like slavery, and just let the people decide. Non-committal Taylor was their poster child. The Democrats, on the other hand, wanted to do something, but they couldn't decide what. Cass stressed legislation to protect personal liberties, while his opponents stressed legislation to ban the evils of slavery from the new Western territories.

Free Soilers sought to scoop up enough Whigs and Democrats disillusioned with their parties lack of moral leadership. This would have worked pretty well had they not nominated the guy who created the Democratic Party. Even ardent anti-slavery Whigs couldn't stomach Van Buren. Way to go guys, you could have ended slavery by creating a viable moderate third party. Come to think of it, had to created a viable third party, we wouldn't be stuck in a two-party system now. Thanks, douchebags.

The election was ridiculously close. Both Taylor and Cass held support in the North and South. The deciding factor would be Van Buren, and the fight for the Democratic soul in New York. With Democratic votes split, Van Buren's home state, along with the presidency, went to Taylor.

The Title

After the election, President Taylor finally stopped keeping his politics to himself. He threatened to veto The Compromise of 1850, championed by Captain Whig, Henry Clay because of its many concessions to the South. When he died in 1850, his successor Millard Fillmore supported and passed the Compromise, which included among other things, the Fugitive Slave Act. Good times.

James Polk, most likely to stick it to critics of his one-term plan, died 4 months after leaving office. Good thing too. I don't think I can process the idea of a guy named President Dallas.

Cass became Buchanan's Sec. of State, but he resigned because Buchanan was a fucking dickweed.

The Democrats found themselves at odds with their own platform. Stephen Douglas (Dem-IL), chief architect of The Compromise of 1850, didn't necessarily believe in slavery, but he believed if the government could abolish slavery, it could abolish other rights. This put the people's party in the complicated position of supporting people's rights to own people. Martin Van Buren, his new party drawing away anti-slavery Democrats, lived to see the party he built around Jackson become the pro-slavery party.

Next Up - Election 1860: *SPOILER ALERT* Lincoln Wins

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