The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE MEXICAN WAR

We have seen that about 1832-3 a new distinctness and prominence was given to the slavery question by various events,--the substantial victory of the South Carolina nullifiers, and the leadership thenceforth of the South by Calhoun; Nat Turner's rising, and the rejection by Virginia of the emancipation policy; the compensated liberation of the West India slaves by the British Government; and the birth of aggressive Abolitionism under the lead of Garrison. We have now to glance at the main course of history for the next twenty years. Party politics had for a time no direct relation to slavery. The new organizations of Whigs and Democrats disputed on questions of a national bank, internal improvements, and the tariff. The Presidency was easily won in 1836 by Jackson's lieutenant, Van Buren; but the commercial crash of 1837 produced a revulsion of feeling which enabled the Whigs to elect Benjamin Harrison in 1840. His early death gave the Presidency to John Tyler of Virginia, who soon alienated his party, and who was thoroughly Southern in his sympathies and policy.

The newly aroused anti-slavery enthusiasm in the North found expression in petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. It was not intrinsically a great matter, but it was the one point where the national authority seemed clearly to have a chance to act--questions of new territory being for the time in abeyance. Petitions poured in on Congress with thousands of signatures--then with tens, then hundreds of thousands. There was a hot

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