Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation

By Willard Carl Klunder | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
The Presidential Election of 1848: "The Election of Gen. Cass Is Certain -- but That of Gen. Taylor a Leetle More So"

EIGHTEEN FORTY-EIGHT was an exciting year in the history of Western civilization. Americans viewed the revolutionary events in Europe with wonderment as the post-Napoleonic order established by the Congress of Vienna began to unravel. From Tipperary to Wallachia, from the Baltic to the Balkans, popular insurrections and nationalistic rebellions rolled across the continent, promising a more liberal Europe, before being brutally suppressed by autocratic governments. American society as well underwent significant, albeit less violent, changes. In January, gold was discovered in California, and the stampede of fortune seekers to the West Coast forever altered the political and economic structure of the country. John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man in America, died in New York City on March 29, and the public was titillated by reports he bequeathed little of an estimated twenty million dollar fortune to charity or civic improvements. Women's rights advocates under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott gathered at Seneca Falls, New York, to agitate for equality. And on the national political scene, the country was engaged in another quadrennial exercise to choose a chief executive.

The presidential race was well underway by the time the Free Soilers adjourned their convention at Buffalo. The political sniping commenced with the Baltimore nomination of Lewis Cass and developed into total warfare after the selection of Zachary Taylor by the Whigs. Until the Free

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