Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute & Sectional Crisis

Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute & Sectional Crisis

Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute & Sectional Crisis

Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute & Sectional Crisis

Synopsis

Writing from the vantage point of the Texas-New Mexico boundary issue, Mark Stegmaier provides a comprehensive analysis of the dispute, the compromise, and the overall implications for the Civil War. He meticulously examines the crisis through a close reading of Texan and New Mexican documents, U.S. government records, maps, newspapers - particularly the reports of Washington correspondents - and collections of personal letters. In addition, he introduces a revisionist analysis of roll call voting in the U.S. Congress and the Texas legislature. Stegmaier recounts how, with the support of Southern radicals, Texas attempted to extend its jurisdiction despite opposition from New Mexicans and U.S. political leaders. Threatened by military occupation, New Mexicans countered by seeking free state status, while Presidents Taylor and Fillmore committed U.S. forces to defend the territory against a Texan attack. The resolution of this issue allowed the passage of the Compromise of 1850, the last great accord on the sectional issues between North and South. Texas, New Mexico, and the Compromise of 1850 deserves the term "definitive". It will appeal to all students of the Civil War era.

Excerpt

The sectional crisis leading up to the American Civil War has been examined over the decades by many historians from many different angles. Some have constructed their histories to emphasize some particular theme of Civil War causation. Others have examined in detail certain events, the critical decisions of individual leaders, and the dramatic fluctuations in the political party system as pieces in the fabric of sectional conflict. Certainly one of the major occurrences of the antebellum period that has received much attention from historians and biographers is the crisis and Compromise of 1850.

Traditionally this subject has been treated primarily as a function of three major issues: California statehood, the status of slavery in national territories, and the fugitive slave law. The following work, however, departs from traditional scholarship by stressing the role of the Texas--New Mexico boundary dispute, an issue hitherto vastly underrated in significance. I have attempted to relate the story of the boundary dispute as fully as possible and to write a new account of the 1850 crisis from the vantage point of the Texas--New Mexico issue.

Most accounts place undue emphasis on the early stages of the 1850 crisis in Congress, particularly on the famous speeches of February and March 1850 by Senators Clay, Calhoun, Webster, and Seward. Without denying the significance of these famous orations and their widely different interpretations of the overall sectional conflict, it must also be noted that these addresses had . . .

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