The Election of 1860

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The United States Capitol in 1860. Courtesy: Library of Congress

Every presidential election is consequential, but the Election of 1860 would play a significant role in whether the United States would remain one nation. The division of the North and South on the issue of slavery threatened to cause a secession of the South. The result of the election would determine whether that threat would materialize and cause a Second American Revolution. Read more

The Compromise of 1850

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“United States Senate, A.D. 1850.” By: Peter F. Rothermel.

Upon President Zachary Taylor taking office, he sent a message to Congress deploring the sectionalism that was pervading the country. See David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 91. He looked to George Washington’s warnings against “characterizing parties by geographical discriminations,” which appeared by 1849 to be a prescient warning. Id. citing James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (11 vols.; New York, 1907), V, 9-24. President Taylor offered hope for northerners and those Americans who wanted to preserve the Union with his vow: “Whatever dangers may threaten it [the Union] I shall stand by it and maintain it in its integrity.” David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 91 citing James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (11 vols.; New York, 1907), V, 9-24. Read more

A Deadlocked and Destructive Congress

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The United States Capitol in 1848. Unknown Photographer, credit Library of Congress.

During President James Polk’s administration, Congress grappled with resolving sectional tension arising out of whether slavery would be extended to newly acquired land from Mexico as well as the Oregon territory. Congress did not resolve that sectional tension but exacerbated it in what may have been one of the most deadlocked and destructive Congresses in American history. Read more

The Oregon Question

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A Depiction of the Oregon Territory in 1848.

Following the Democrats’ victory in the Election of 1844, President James Polk began negotiating with the British about the Oregon territory, which America had permitted Britain to occupy for several decades. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 715.

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The Most Effective President

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Inauguration of James Polk. By: Granger.

James Polk, after winning the Election of 1844, set an agenda for what he hoped to accomplish during his presidency. Rather than elaborate on this agenda during his inaugural address, President Polk instead remained secretive. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 708.

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Election of 1844: Democratic Party Platform

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Robert Walker. By: Mathew Brady.

As part of the Democratic platform for the Election of 1844, the Democrats incorporated their positions on “strict construction, banking, and congressional noninterference with slavery.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 683. However, the Democrats took things one step further.

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America in 1815: The Native Americans

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The Last of the Mohicans. By: Thomas Cole.

By 1815, the Native Americans had been pushed mostly out of the New England area and into territories just east of the Mississippi River and the entirety of the territory west of the Mississippi River. The Native Americans were a significant obstacle to expanding American territory.

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