Missouri, the Heart of the Nation

By William E. Parrish; Charles T. Jones Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

SEVEN
Political Turmoil
and the Kansas War

Although the questions of currency, reapportionment, and Texas annexation had shown that Senator Thomas Hart Benton's firm hold on the loyalties of Missouri Democrats might be weakening in the 1840s, the party went into the 1848 election campaign united. They chose Austin A. King of Ray County, a soft-money man who had stayed generally aloof from intraparty quarrels, as their compromise candidate for governor while balancing the remainder of their ticket with representatives of the various factions. Their convention adopted strong resolutions of support for Benton. King easily defeated the Whig candidate, James S. Rollins of Boone County, in the August state elections with a margin of 15,000 out of 83,000 votes cast.


The Jackson Resolutions

Rumblings of discontent began to be heard concerning Benton, however, in the interim before the national elections in November. While Senator David Rice Atchison and other party regulars campaigned enthusiastically for Lewis Cass of Michigan, the Democratic nominee for President, Old Bullion remained in Washington where he officially endorsed the party ticket but did nothing to help it. Missouri's senior senator found himself on the horns of a dilemma in the 1848 election. His close friend, former President Martin Van Buren, had led a split from the regular Democrats to organize the Free Soil party behind his own candidacy. This group took its name from its opposition to the extension of slavery into the newly acquired territories in the West. Cass and the regular Democrats, on the other hand, favored the doctrine of popular sovereignty by which the people in the territories would decide the issue of slavery for themselves.

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