Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation

By Willard Carl Klunder | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
United States Senator (1845-1848): "In These Great Questions of National Bearing, I Acknowledge No Geographical Claims"

WHIG SENATOR William Woodbridge presented the credentials of Lewis Cass, his erstwhile friend, to the United States Senate on March 1, 1845. Cass was sworn in three days later, at the convening of the Twenty-ninth Congress. Although his only legislative experience was acquired during a single term in the Ohio assembly, nearly forty years earlier, Cass was not treated as a typical congressional freshman. He was rightly regarded as a veteran Democratic statesman. After all, Cass had served in military, executive, and diplomatic stations, and as runner-up at the Baltimore convention the preceding year, he was the leading contender for the presidential nomination in 1848. His mission to France and protracted debate with Daniel Webster enhanced his reputation as a party spokesman, and he was appointed to the prestigious Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by another western expansionist, William Allen of Ohio. Cass and Allen, in spite of a slight personal rivalry, emerged as the chief advocates of the "all of Oregon" movement. Indeed, Cass became the Senate's most consistent and enthusiastic promoter of American territorial expansion. Unquestionably, this furthered his presidential ambitions, but Cass also passionately believed it was the country's destiny to spread across the continent. His desire for more territority was motivated by nationalistic, economic, and ideological impulses. Cass wished to enhance trade opportunities in Asian markets by obtaining Pacific Coast ports, at the same time fostering; Jefferson's ideal of an agrarian republic and expanding the

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