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  • 1907
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POPULATION.–When Harrison was elected in 1840, the population of our country was 17,000,000, spread over twenty-six states and three territories. Of these millions several hundred thousand had come from the Old World. No records of such arrivals were kept before 1820; since that date careful records have been made, and from them it appears that between 1820 and 1840 about 750,000 immigrants came to our shores. They were chiefly from Ireland, England, and Germany. [1]

[Illustration: SETTLED AREA IN 1840.]

West of the mountains were over 6,000,000 people; yet but two Western states, Arkansas (1836) and Michigan (1837), had been admitted to the Union since 1821; and but two new Western territories, Wisconsin and Iowa, had been organized. This meant that the Western states already admitted were filling up with population. [2]


THE PUBLIC LANDS.–The rise of new Western states brought up the troublesome question, What shall be done with the public lands? [3] The Continental Congress had pledged the country to sell the lands and use the money to pay the debt of the United States. Much was sold for this purpose, but Congress set aside one thirty-sixth part of the public domain for the use of local schools. [4] As the Western states made from the public domain had received land grants for schools, many of the Eastern states about 1821 asked for grants in aid of their schools. The Western states objected, and both then and in later times asked that all the public lands within their borders be given to them or sold to them for a small sum. After 1824 efforts were made by Benton and others to reduce the price of land to actual settlers. [5] But Congress did not adopt any of these measures. After 1830, when the public debt was nearly paid, Clay attempted to have the money derived from land sales distributed among all the states. The question what to do with the lands was discussed year after year. At last in 1841 (while Tyler was President) Clay’s bill became a law with the proviso that the money should not be distributed if the tariff rates were increased. The tariff rates were soon increased (1842), and but one distribution was made.

THE INDIANS.–Another result of the filling up of the country was the crowding of the Indians from their lands. They had always been regarded as the rightful owners of the soil till their title should be extinguished by treaty. Many such treaties had been made, ceding certain areas but reserving others on which the whites were not to settle. But population moved westward so rapidly that it seemed best to set apart a region beyond the Mississippi and move all the Indians there as quickly as possible. [6] In 1834, therefore, such a region, an “Indian Country,” was created in what was later called Indian Territory, and the work of removal began.

In the South this proved a hard matter. In Georgia the Creeks and Cherokees refused for a while to go, and by so doing involved the federal government in serious trouble with Georgia and with the Indians. In 1835 an attempt to move the Seminoles from Florida to the Indian Country caused a war which lasted seven years and cost millions of dollars. [7]

INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS.–Another issue with which the growth of the West had much to do was that of government aid to roads, canals, and railroads. Much money was spent on the Cumberland Road; [18] but in 1817 Madison vetoed a bill appropriating money to be divided among the states for internal improvements, and from that time down to Van Buren’s day the question of the right of Congress to use money for such purposes was constantly debated in Congress. [9]

[Illustration: THE NATIONAL ROAD.]

THE STATES BUILD CANALS AND ROADS.–All this time population was increasing, the West was growing, interstate trade was developing, new towns and villages were springing up, and farms increasing in number as the people moved to the new lands. The need of cheap transportation became greater and greater each year, and as Congress would do nothing, the states took upon themselves the work of building roads and canals.

What a canal could do to open up a country was shown when the Erie Canal was finished in 1825 (see p. 273). So many people by that time had settled along its route, that the value of land and the wealth of the state were greatly increased. [10] The merchants of New York could then send their goods up the Hudson, by the canal to Buffalo, and then to Cleveland or Detroit, or by Chautauqua Lake and the Allegheny to Pittsburg, for about one third of what it cost before the canal was opened (maps, pp. 267, 279). Buffalo began to grow with great rapidity, and in a few years its trade had reached Chicago. In 1839 eight steamboats plied between these two towns.

A TRIP ON A CANAL PACKET.–Passengers traveled on the canal in packet boats, as they were called. The hull of such a craft was eighty feet long and eleven feet wide, and carried on its deck a long, low house with flat roof and sloping sides. In each side were a dozen or more windows with green blinds and red curtains. When the weather was fine, passengers sat on the roof, reading, talking, or sewing, till the man at the helm called “Low bridge!” when everybody would rush down the steps and into the cabin, to come forth once more when the bridge was passed. Walking on the roof when the packet was crowded was impossible. Those who wished such exercise had to take it on the towpath. Three horses abreast could drag a packet boat some four miles an hour.


WESTERN ROUTES.–Aroused by the success of the Erie Canal, Pennsylvania began a great highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburg. As planned, it was to be part canal and part turnpike over the mountains. But before it was completed, railroads came into use, and when finished, it was part railroad, part canal. Not to be outdone by New York and Pennsylvania, the people of Baltimore began the construction (1828) of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the first in the country for the carriage of passengers and freight. [11] Massachusetts, alarmed at the prospect of losing her trade with the West, appointed (1827) a commission and an engineer to select a route for a railroad to join Boston and Albany. Ohio had already commenced a canal from Cleveland to the Ohio. [12]

EARLY RAILROADS.–The idea of a public railroad to carry freight and passengers was of slow growth, [13] but once it was started more and more miles were built every year, till by 1835 twenty-two railroads were in operation. The longest of them was only one hundred and thirty-six miles long; it extended from Charleston westward to the Savannah River, opposite Augusta. These early railroads were made of wooden beams resting on stone blocks set in the ground. The upper surface of the beams, where the wheels rested, was protected by long strips or straps of iron spiked to the beam. The spikes often worked loose, and, as the car passed over, the strap would curl up and come through the bottom of the car, making what was called a “snake head.”

[Illustration: AN EARLY RAILROAD.]

What should be the motive power, was a troublesome question. The horse was the favorite; it sometimes pulled the car, and sometimes walked on a treadmill on the car. Sails were tried also, and finally locomotives. [14]

Locomotives could not climb steep grades. When a hill was met with, the road had to go around it, or if this was not possible, the engine had to be taken off and the cars pulled up or let down an inclined plane by means of a rope and stationary engine. [15]

A TRIP ON AN EARLY RAILROAD.–A traveler from Philadelphia to Pittsburg, in 1836, would set off about five o’clock in the morning for what was called the depot. There his baggage would be piled on the roof of a car, which was drawn by horses to the foot of an inclined plane on the bank of the Schuylkill. Up this incline the car would be drawn by a stationary engine and rope to the top of the river bank. When all the cars of the train had been pulled up in this way, they would be coupled together and made fast to a little puffing, wheezing locomotive without cab or brake, whose tall smokestack sent forth volumes of wood smoke and red-hot cinders. At Lancaster (map, p. 267) the railroad ended, and passengers went by stage to Columbia on the Susquehanna, and then by canal packet up that river and up the Juniata to the railroad at the foot of the mountains.


The mountains were crossed by the Portage Railroad, a series of inclined planes and levels somewhat like a flight of steps. At Johnstown, west of the Alleghenies, the traveler once more took a canal packet to Pittsburg. [16]

THE WEST BUILDS RAILROADS AND CANALS.–Prior to 1836 most of the railroads and canals were in the East. But in 1836 the craze for internal improvements raged in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, and in each an elaborate system of railroads and canals was planned, to be built by the state. Illinois in this way contracted a debt of $15,000,000; Indiana, $10,000,000, and Michigan, $5,000,000.

But scarcely was work begun on the canals and railroads when the panic of 1837 came, and the states were left with heavy debts and unfinished public works that could not pay the cost of operating them. Some defaulted in the payment of interest, and one even repudiated her bonds which she had issued and sold to establish a great bank.

THE MAILS.–As the means of transportation improved, the mails were carried more rapidly, and into more distant parts of the country. By 1837 it was possible to send a letter from New York to Washington in one day, to New Orleans in less than seven days, to St. Louis in less than five days, and to Buffalo in three days; and after 1838 mail was carried by steamships to England in a little over two weeks.

[Illustration: THE SAVANNAH.]

OCEAN STEAMSHIPS.–In the month of May, 1819, the steamship _Savannah_ left the city of that name for Liverpool, England, and reached it in twenty-five days, using steam most of the way. She was a side- wheeler with paddle wheels so arranged that in stormy weather they could be taken in on deck. [17]

No other steamships crossed the Atlantic till 1838, when the _Sirius_ reached New York in eighteen days, and the _Great Western_ in sixteen days from England. Others followed, in 1839 the Cunard line was founded, and regular steam navigation of the Atlantic was established.

EXPRESS.–Better means of communication made possible another convenience, of which W. F. Harnden was the originator. He began in 1839 to carry packages, bundles, money, and small boxes between New York and Boston, traveling by steamboat and railroad. At first two carpetbags held all he had to carry; but his business increased so rapidly that in 1840 P. B. Burke and Alvin Adams started a rival concern which became the Adams Express Company.

[Illustration: CARPETBAG.]

MECHANICAL DEVELOPMENT.–The greater use of the steamboat, the building of railroads, and the introduction of the steam locomotive, were but a few signs of the marvelous industrial and mechanical development of the times. The growth and extent of the country, the opportunities for doing business on a great scale, led to a demand for time-saving and labor-saving machinery.

One of the characteristics of the period 1820-40, therefore, is the invention and introduction of such machinery. Boards were now planed, and bricks pressed, by machine. It was during this period that the farmers began to give up the flail for the thrashing machine; that paper was extensively made from straw; that Fairbanks invented the platform scales; that Colt invented the revolver; that steel pens were made by machine; and that a rude form of friction match was introduced. [18]

Anthracite coal was now in use in the large towns and cities, and grate and coal stoves were displacing open fires and wood stoves, just as gas was displacing candles and lamps.

THE CITIES AND TOWNS.–The increase of manufacturing in the northeastern part of the country caused the rise of large towns given up almost exclusively to mills and factories and the homes of workmen. [19] The increase of business, trade, and commerce, and the arrival of thousands of immigrants each year, led to a rapid growth of population in the seaports and chief cities of the interior. This produced many changes in city life. The dingy oil lamps in the streets, lighted only when the moon did not shine, were giving way to gas lights. The constable and the night watchman with his rattle were being replaced by the policeman. Such had been the increase in population and area of the chief cities, that some means of cheap transportation about the streets was needed, and in 1830 a line of omnibuses was started in New York city. So well did it succeed that other lines were started; and three years later omnibuses were used in Philadelphia.

[Illustration: NEW YORK OMNIBUS, 1830. From a print of the time.]

THE WORKINGMAN.–The growth of manufactures and the building of works of internal improvement produced a demand for workmen of all sorts, and thousands came over, or were brought over, from the Old World. The unskilled were employed on the railroads and canals; the skilled in the mills, factories, and machine shops.

As workingmen increased in number, trades unions were formed, and efforts were made to secure better wages and a shorter working day. In this they succeeded: after a long series of strikes in 1834 and 1835 the ten-hour day was adopted in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and in 1840, by order of President Van Buren, went into force “in all public establishments” under the federal government.

THE SOUTH.–No such labor issues troubled the southern half of the country. There the laborer was owned by the man whose lands he cultivated, and strikes, lockouts, questions of wages, and questions of hours were unknown. The mills, factories, machine shops, the many diversified industries of the Northern states were unknown. In the great belt of states from North Carolina to the Texas border, the chief crop was cotton. These states thus had two common bonds of union: the maintenance of the institution of negro slavery, and the development of a common industry. As the people of the free states developed different sorts of industry, they became less and less like the people of the South, and in time the two sections were industrially two separate communities. The interests of the people being different, their opinions on great national issues were different and sectional.

REFORMS.–As we have seen, a great antislavery agitation (p; 293) occurred during the period 1820-40. It was only one of many reform movements of the time. State after state abolished imprisonment for debt, [20] lessened the severity of laws for the punishment of crime, extended the franchise, [21] or right to vote, reformed the discipline of prisons, and established hospitals and asylums. So eager were the people to reform anything that seemed to be wrong, that they sometimes went to extremes. [22] The antimasonic movement (p. 292) was such a movement for reform; the Owenite movement was another. Sylvester Graham preaching reform in diet, Mrs. Bloomer advocating reform in woman’s dress, and Joseph Smith, who founded Mormonism, were but so many advocates of reform of some sort.

Owen believed that poverty came from individual ownership, and the accumulation of more money by one man than by another. He believed that people should live in communities in which everything–lands, houses, cattle, products of the soil–are owned by the community; that the individual should do his work, but be fed, housed, clothed, educated, and amused by the community. Owen’s teachings were well received, and Owenite communities were founded in many places in the West and in New York, only to end in failure. [23]

MORMONISM had better fortune. Joseph Smith, its founder, published in 1830 the _Book of Mormon_, as an addition to the Bible. [24] A church was next organized, missionaries were sent about the country, and in 1831 the sect moved to Kirtland in Ohio, and there built a temple. Trouble with other sects and with the people forced them to move again, and they went to Missouri. But there, too, they came in conflict with the people, were driven from one county to another, and in 1839-40 were driven from the state by force of arms. A refuge was then found in Illinois, where, on the banks of the Mississippi, they founded the town of Nauvoo. In spite of their wanderings they had increased in number, and were a prosperous community. [25]

[Illustration: PACK ANIMALS.]

THE GREAT WEST EXPLORED.–During the twenty years since Major Long’s expedition, the country beyond the Missouri had been more fully explored. In 1822 bands of merchants at St. Louis began to trade with Santa Fe, sending their goods on the backs of mules and in wagons, thus opening up what was known as the Santa Fe trail. One year later a trapper named Prevost found the South Pass over the Rocky Mountains, and entered the Great Salt Lake country. [26] This was the beginning, and year after year bands of trappers wandered over what was then Mexican territory but is now part of our country, from the Great Salt Lake to the lower Colorado River, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. [27]

[Illustration: THE FAR WEST IN 1840.]

Between 1830 and 1832 Hall J. Kelley attempted to found a colony in Oregon, but failed, as did another leader, Nathaniel J. Wyeth. [28] Wyeth tried again in 1834, but his settlements were not permanent. A few fur traders and missionaries to the Indians had better fortune; but in 1840 most of the white men in the Oregon country were British fur traders. It was not till 1842 that the tide of American migration began to set strongly toward Oregon; but within a few years after that time the Americans there greatly outnumbered the British.


1. In 1840 the population of the country was 17,000,000, of whom more than a third dwelt west of the Allegheny Mountains.

2. For twenty years there had been much discussion about the disposition of the public lands; but Congress did not give up the plan of selling them for the benefit of the United States.

3. As population increased, the Indians were pushed further and further west. Some went to the Indian Country peaceably. In Georgia and Florida they resisted.

4. As Congress would not sanction a general system of federal improvements, the states built canals and railroads for themselves.

5. The success of those in the East encouraged the Western states to undertake like improvements. But they plunged the states into debt.

6. The period was one of great mechanical development, and many inventions of world-wide use date from this time.

7. The growth of manufactures produced great manufacturing towns, and the increase of artisans and mechanics led to the formation of trades unions.

8. The unrest caused by the rapid development, of the country invited reforms of all sorts, and many–social, industrial, and political–were attempted.


[1] In the early thirties much excitement was aroused by the arrival of hundreds of paupers sent over from England by the parishes to get rid of them. But when Congress investigated the matter, it was found not to be so bad as represented, though a very serious evil.

[2] Life in the West at this period is well described in Eggleston’s _Hoosier Schoolmaster_ and _The Graysons_.

[3] The credit system of selling lands (p. 241) was abolished in 1820, because a great many purchasers could not pay for what they bought.

[4] The public domain is laid off in townships six miles square. Each township is subdivided into 36 sections one mile square, and the sixteenth section in each township was set apart in 1785 for the use of schools in the township. This provision was applied to new states erected from the public domain down to 1848; in states admitted after that time both the sixteenth and the thirty-sixth sections have been set apart for this purpose. In addition to this, before 1821, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana had each received two entire townships for the use of colleges and academies.

[5] After the Indian title to land was extinguished, the land was surveyed and offered for sale at auction. Land which did not sell at auction could be purchased at private sale for $1.25 an acre. Benton proposed that land which did not sell at private sale within five years should be offered at 50 cents an acre, and if not sold, should be given to any one who would cultivate it for three years.

[6] An attempt to remove the Indians in northern Illinois and in Wisconsin led to the Black Hawk War in 1832. The Indians had agreed to go west, but when the settlers entered on their lands, Black Hawk induced the Sacs and Foxes to resist, and a short war was necessary to subdue them.

[7] The leader was Osceola, a chief of much ability, who perpetrated several massacres before he was captured. In 1837 he visited the, camp of General Jesup under a flag of truce, and was seized and sent to Fort Moultrie, near Charleston, where he died. His followers were beaten (1837) in a hard-fought battle by Colonel Zachary Taylor, but kept up the war till 1842.

[8] When Ohio was admitted (p. 241), Congress promised to use a part of the money from the sale of land to build a road joining the Potomac and Ohio rivers. Work on the National Road, as it was called, was started in 1811. It began at Cumberland on the Potomac and reached the Ohio at Wheeling. But Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois demanded that the road be extended, and in time it was built through Columbus and Indianapolis to Vandalia. Thence it was to go to Jefferson City in Missouri; but a dispute arose as to whether it should cross the Mississippi at Alton or at St. Louis, and work on it was stopped.

[9] Jackson vetoed several bills for internal improvements, and the hostility of his party to such a use of government money was one of the grievances of the Whigs.

[10] For a description of life in central New York, read _My Own Story_, by J. T. Trowbridge.

[11] The first railroad in our country was used in 1807, at Boston, to carry earth from a hilltop to grade a street. Others, only a few miles long, were soon used to carry stone and coal from quarry and mine to the wharf–in 1810 near Philadelphia, in 1826 at Quincy (a little south of Boston), in 1827 at Mauchchunk (Pennsylvania). All of these were private roads and carried no passengers.

[12] While the means of travel were improving, the inns and towns even along the great stage routes had not improved. “When you alight at a country tavern,” said a traveler, “it is ten to one you stand holding your horse, bawling for the hostler while the landlord looks on. Once inside the tavern every man, woman, and child plies you with questions. To get a dinner is the work of hours. At night you are put into a room with a dozen others and sleep two or three in a bed. In the morning you go outside to wash your face and then repair to the barroom to see your face in the only looking glass the tavern contains.” Another traveler complains that at the best hotel in New York there was neither glass, mug, cup, nor carpet, and but one miserable rag dignified by the name of towel.

[Illustration: MANSION HOUSE, 39 BROADWAY, NEW YORK, IN 1831.]

[13] As early as 1814 John Stevens applied to New Jersey for a railroad charter, and when it was granted, he sought to persuade the New York Canal Commission to build a railroad instead of a canal. In 1823 Pennsylvania granted Stevens and his friends a charter to build a railroad from Philadelphia to the Susquehanna. In 1825 Stevens built a circular road at Hoboken and used a steam locomotive to show the possibility of such a means of locomotion. But all these schemes were ahead of the times.

[14] The friends of canals bitterly opposed railroads as impractical. Snow, it was said, would block them for weeks. If locomotives were used, the sparks would make it impossible to carry hay or other things combustible. The boilers would blow up as they did on steamboats. Canals were therefore safer and cheaper. Read McMaster’s _History of the People of the U. S._, Vol. VI, pp. 87-89.

[15] Almost all the early roads used this device. There was one such inclined plane at Albany; another at Belmont, now in Philadelphia; a third on the Paterson and Hudson Railroad near Paterson; and a fourth on the Baltimore and Ohio. When Pennsylvania built her railroad over the Allegheny Mountains, many such planes were necessary, so that the Portage Railroad, as it was called, was a wonder of engineering skill.

[16] The state built the railroads, like the canals, as highways open to everybody. At first no cars or motive power, except at the inclined planes, were supplied. Any car owner could carry passengers or freight who paid the state two cents a mile for each passenger and $4.92 for each car sent over the rails. After 1836 the state provided locomotives and charged for hauling cars.

[17] The captain of a schooner, seeing her smoke, thought she was a ship on fire and started for her, “but found she went faster with fire and smoke than we possibly could with all sails set. It was then that we discovered that what we supposed a vessel on fire was nothing less than a steamboat crossing the Western Ocean.” In June, when off the coast of Ireland, she was again mistaken for a ship on fire, and one of the king’s revenue cutters was sent to her relief and chased her for a day.

[18] A common form was known as the loco-foco. In 1835 the Democratic party in New York city was split into two factions, and on the night for the nomination of candidates for office one faction got possession of the hall by using a back door. But the men of the other faction drove it from the room and were proceeding to make their nominations when the gas was cut off. For this the leaders were prepared, and taking candles out of their pockets lit them with loco-foco matches. The next morning a newspaper called them “Loco-Focos,” and in time the name was applied to a wing of the Democratic party.

[19] Good descriptions of life in New England are Lucy Larcom’s _New England Girlhood_; T. B. Aldrich’s _Story of a Bad Boy_; and E. E. Hale’s _New England Boyhood_.

[20] Read Whittier’s _Prisoner for Debt_.

[21] In Rhode Island many efforts to have the franchise extended came to naught. The old colonial charter was still in force, and under it no man could vote unless he owned real estate worth $134 or renting for $7 a year, or was the eldest son of such a “freeman.” After the Whig victory in 1840, however, a people’s party was organized, and adopted a state constitution which extended the franchise, and under which Thomas W. Dorr was elected governor. Dorr attempted to seize the state property by force, and establish his government; but his party and his state officials deserted him, and he was arrested, tried, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was finally pardoned, and in 1842 a state constitution was regularly adopted, and the old charter abandoned.

[22] In New York many people were demanding a reform in land tenure. One of the great patroonships granted by the Dutch West India Company (p. 72) still remained in the Van Rensselaer family. The farmers on this vast estate paid rent in produce. When the patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer, died in 1839, the heir attempted to collect some overdue rents; but the farmers assembled, drove off the sheriff, and so compelled the government to send militia to aid the sheriff. The Anti-rent War thus started dragged on till 1846, during which time riots, outrages, some murders, and much disorder took place. Again and again the militia were called out. In the end the farmers were allowed to buy their farms, and the old leasehold system was destroyed. Cooper’s novels _The Redskins_, _The Chainbearer_, and _Satanstoe_ relate to these troubles. So also does Ruth Hall’s _Downrenter’s Son_.

[23] Read McMaster’s _History of the People of the U. S._, Vol. V, pp. 90- 97.

[24] Joseph Smith asserted that in a vision the angel of the Lord told him to dig under a stone on a certain hill near Palmyra, New York, and that on doing so he found plates of gold inscribed with unknown characters, and two stones or crystals, on looking through which he was enabled to translate the characters.

[25] Read McMaster’s _History of the People of the U. S._, Vol. VI, pp. 102-107; 454-458.

[26] In 1824 W. H. Ashley led a party from St. Louis up the Platte River, over the mountains, and well down the Green River, and home by Great Salt Lake, the South Pass, the Big Horn, the Yellowstone, and the Missouri. In 1826 Ashley and a party went through the South Pass, dragging a six-pound cannon, the first wheeled vehicle known to have crossed the mountains north of the Santa Fe trail, The cannon was put in a trading post on Utah Lake.

[27] In 1826 Jedediah Smith with fifteen trappers went from near the Great Salt Lake to the lower Colorado River, crossed to San Diego, and went up California and over the Sierra Nevada to Great Salt Lake. In 1827, with another party, Smith went over the same ground to the lower Colorado, where the Indians killed ten of his men and stole his property. With two companions Smith walked to San Jose, where the Mexicans seized him. At Monterey (mon-te-rá) an American ship captain secured his release, and with a new band of followers Smith went to a fork of the Sacramento River. While Smith and his party were in Oregon in 1828, the Indians massacred all but five of them. The rest fled and Smith went on alone to Fort Vancouver, a British fur-trading post on the Columbia River. Up this river Smith went (in the spring of 1829) to the mountains, turned southward, and in August, near the head waters of the Snake River, met two of his partners. Together they crossed the mountains to the source of the Big Horn, and then one went on to St. Louis. Early in 1830 he returned with eighty-two men and ten wagons. This was the first wagon train on the Oregon trail.

[28] Wyeth had joined Kelley’s party; but finding that it would not start for some time, he withdrew, and organized a company to trade in Oregon, and early in 1832, with twenty-nine companions, left Boston, went to St. Louis, joined a band of trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and went with them to a great Indian fair on the upper waters of the Snake River. There some of his companions deserted him, as others had done along the way. With the rest Wyeth reached Fort Vancouver, where the company went to pieces, and in 1833 Wyeth returned to Boston.



TYLER AND THE WHIGS QUARREL.–When Congress (in May, 1841) first met in Tyler’s term, Clay led the Whigs in proposing measures to carry out their party principles. But Tyler vetoed their bill establishing a new national bank. The Whigs then made some changes to suit, as they supposed, his objections, and sent him a bill to charter a Fiscal Corporation; but this also came back with a veto; whereupon his Cabinet officers (all save Daniel Webster, Secretary of State) resigned, and the Whig members of Congress, in an address to the people, read him out of the party. Later in his term Tyler vetoed two tariff bills, but finally approved a third, known as the Tariff of 1842. For these uses of the veto power the Whigs thought of impeaching him; but did not.


WEBSTER-ASHBURTON TREATY.–When Tyler’s cabinet officers resigned, Webster remained in order to conclude a new treaty with Great Britain, [1] by which our present northeastern boundary was fixed from the St. Croix to the St. Lawrence. Neither power obtained all the territory it claimed under the treaty of 1783, but the disputed region was divided about equally between them. [2]

Soon after the treaty was concluded Webster resigned the secretaryship of state, and the rupture between Tyler and the Whigs was complete.

THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS.–The great event of Tyler’s time was the decision to annex the republic of Texas.

[Illustration: THE ALAMO.]

In 1821 Mexico secured her independence of Spain, and about three years afterward adopted the policy of granting a great tract of land in Texas to anybody who, under certain conditions, and within a certain time, would settle a specified number of families on the grant. To colonize in this way at once became popular in the South, and in a few years thousands of American citizens were settled in Texas.

For a while all went well; but in 1833 serious trouble began between the Mexican government and the Texans, who in 1836 declared their independence, founded the republic of Texas, [3] and sought admission into our Union as a state. Neither Jackson nor Van Buren favored annexation, so the question dragged on till 1844, when Tyler made with Texas a treaty of annexation and sent it to the Senate. That body refused assent.

[Illustration: THE WAR WITH MEXICO.]

THE DEMOCRATS AND TEXAS.–The issue was thus forced. The Democratic national convention of 1844 claimed that Texas had once been ours, [4] and declared for its “reannexation.” To please the Northern Democrats it also declared for the “reoccupation” of Oregon up to 54° 40′. This meant that we should compel Great Britain to abandon all claim to that country, and make it all American soil.

The Democrats went into the campaign with the popular cries, “The reannexation of Texas;” “The whole of Oregon or none;” “Texas or disunion”–and elected Polk [5] after a close contest.

TEXAS ANNEXED; OREGON DIVIDED.–Tyler, regarding the triumph of the Democrats as an instruction from the people to annex Texas, urged Congress to do so at once, and in March, 1845, a resolution for the admission of Texas passed both houses, and was signed by the President. [6] The resolution provided also that out of her territory four additional states might be made if Texas should consent. The boundaries were in dispute, but in the end Texas was held to have included all the territory from the boundary of the United States to the Rio Grande and a line extending due north from its source.

After Texas was annexed, notice was served on Great Britain that joint occupation of Oregon must end in one year. The British minister then proposed a boundary treaty which was concluded in a few weeks (1846). The line agreed on was the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca (hoo-ahn’ da foo’ca), and by it to the Pacific Ocean (compare maps, pp. 278 and 330).

WAR WITH MEXICO.–Mexico claimed that the real boundary of Texas was the Nueces (nwâ’sess) River. When, therefore, Polk (in 1846) sent General Zachary Taylor with an army to the Rio Grande, the Mexicans attacked him; but he beat them at Palo Alto (pah’lo ahl’to) and again near by at Resaca de la Palma (ra-sah’ca da lah pahl’ma), and drove them across the Rio Grande. When President Polk heard of the first attack, he declared that “Mexico has shed American blood upon American soil…. War exists,… and exists by the act of Mexico herself.” Congress promptly voted men and money for the war.

MONTEREY.–Taylor, having crossed the Rio Grande, marched to Monterey and (September, 1846) attacked the city. It was fortified with strong stone walls in the fashion of Old World cities; the flat-roofed houses bristled with guns; and across every street was a barricade. In three days of desperate fighting our troops forced their way into the city, entered the buildings, made their way from house to house by breaking through the walls or ascending to the roofs, and reached the center of the city before the Mexicans surrendered the town.

NEW MEXICO AND CALIFORNIA.–Immediately after the declaration of war, Colonel Stephen W. Kearny with a force of men set off (June, 1846) by the old Santa Fe trail and (August 18) captured Santa Fe without a struggle, established a civil government, declared New Mexico annexed to the United States, and then started to take possession of California. But California had already been conquered by the Americans. In June, 1846, some three hundred American settlers, believing that war was imminent and fearing they would be attacked, revolted, adopted a flag on which was a grizzly bear, and declared California an independent republic. Fremont, who had been exploring in California, came to their aid (July 5), and two days later Commodore Sloat with a naval force entered Monterey and raised the flag there. In 1847 (January 8, 9) battles were fought with the Mexicans of California; but the Americans held the country.

BUENA VISTA.–Toward the close of 1846 General Winfield Scott was put in command of the army in Mexico, and ordered Taylor to send a large part of the army to meet him at Vera Cruz (vâ’ra kroos). Santa Anna, hearing of this, gathered 18,000 men and at Buena Vista, in a narrow valley at the foot of the mountains, attacked Taylor (February 23, 1847). The battle raged from morning to night. Again and again the little American army of 5000 seemed certain to be overcome by the 18,000 Mexicans. But they fought on desperately, and when night came, both armies left the field. [7]

[Illustration: GENERAL TAYLOR AT BUENA VISTA. From an old print.]

THE MARCH TO MEXICO.–Scott landed at Vera Cruz in March, 1847, took the castle and city after a siege of fifteen days, and about a week later set off for the city of Mexico, winning victory after victory on the way. The heights of Cerro Gordo were taken by storm, and the army of Santa Anna was beaten again at Jalapa (ha-lah’pa). Puebla (pwâ’bla) surrendered at Scott’s approach, and there he waited three months. But on August 7 Scott again started westward with 10,000 men, and three days later looked down on the distant city of Mexico surrounded by broad plains and snow-capped mountains.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL, MEXICO.]

Then followed in quick succession the victory at Contreras (kôn-trâ’ras), the storming of the heights of Churubusco, the victory at Molino del Rey (mô-lee’no del râ’) the storming of the castle of Chapultepec’ perched on a lofty rock, and the triumphal entry into Mexico (September 14). [8]

THE TERMS OF PEACE (1848).–The republic of Mexico was now a conquered nation and might have been added to our domain; but the victors were content to retain Upper California and New Mexico–the region from the Rio Grande to the Pacific, and from the Gila River to Oregon (compare maps, pp. 318, 330). For this great territory we paid Mexico $15,000,000, and in addition paid some $3,500,000 of claims our citizens had against her for injury to their persons or property. [9]


SHALL THE NEWLY ACQUIRED TERRITORY BE SLAVE SOIL OR FREE?–The treaty with Mexico having been ratified and the territory acquired, it became the duty of Congress to provide the people with some American form of government. There needed to be American governors, courts, legislatures, customhouses, revenue laws, in short a complete change from the Mexican way of governing. To do this would have been easy if it had not been for the fact that (in 1827) Mexico had abolished slavery. All the territory acquired was therefore free soil; but the South wished to make it slave soil. The question of the hour thus became, Shall New Mexico and California be slave soil or free soil? [10]

THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1848.–So troublesome was the issue that the two great parties tried to keep it out of politics. The Democrats in their platform in 1848 said nothing about slavery in the new territory, and the Whigs made no platform. This action of the two parties so displeased the antislavery Whigs and Wilmot Proviso Democrats that they held a convention, formed the Free-soil party, [11] nominated Martin Van Buren for President, and drew away so many New York Democrats from their party that the Whigs carried the state and won the presidential election. [12] On March 5, 1849 (March 4 was Sunday), Taylor [13] and Fillmore [14] were inaugurated.


GOLD IN CALIFORNIA.–By this time the question of slavery in the new territory was still more complicated by the discovery of gold in California. Many years before this time a Swiss settler named J. A. Sutter had obtained a grant of land in California, where the city of Sacramento now stands. In 1848 James W. Marshall, while building a sawmill for Sutter at Coloma, some fifty miles away from Sutter’s Fort, discovered gold in the mill race. Both Sutter and Marshall attempted to keep the fact secret, but their strange actions attracted the attention of a laborer, who also found gold. Then the news spread fast, and people came by hundreds and by thousands to the gold fields. [15] Later in the year the news reached the East, and when Polk in his annual message confirmed the rumors, the rush for California began. Some went by vessel around Cape Horn. Others took ships to the Isthmus of Panama, crossed it on foot, and sailed to San Francisco. Still others hurried to the Missouri to make the overland journey across the plains. [16] By August, 1849, some eighty thousand gold hunters, “forty-niners,” as they came to be called, had reached the mines. [17]

[Illustration: A ROCKER.]

THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA.–As Congress had provided no government, and as scarcely any could be said to exist, the people held a convention, made a free-state constitution, and applied for admission into the Union as a state.

ISSUES BETWEEN THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH.–The election of Taylor, and California’s application for statehood, brought on a crisis between the North and the South.

Most of the people in the North desired no more slave states and no more slave territories, abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and the admission of California as a free state.

The South opposed these things; complained of the difficulty of capturing slaves that escaped to the free states, and of the constant agitation of the slavery question by the abolitionists; and demanded that the Mexican cession be left open to slavery.

Since 1840 two slave-holding states, Florida and Texas (1845), and two free states, Iowa (1846) and Wisconsin (1848), had been admitted to the Union, making fifteen free and fifteen slave states in all; and the South now opposed the admission of California, partly because it would give the free states a majority in the Senate.

THE COMPROMISE OF 1850.–At this stage Henry Clay was again sent to the Senate. He had powerfully supported two great compromise measures–the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and the Compromise Tariff of 1833. He believed that the Union was in danger of destruction; but that if the two parties would again compromise, it could be saved.

To please the North he now proposed (1) that California should be admitted as a free state, and (2) that the slave trade (buying and selling slaves), but not the right to own slaves, should be abolished in the District of Columbia. To please the South he proposed (1) that Congress should pass a more stringent law for the capture of fugitive slaves, and (2) that two territories, New Mexico and Utah, should be formed from part of the Mexican purchase, with the understanding that the people in them should decide whether they should be slave soil or free. This principle was called “squatter sovereignty,” or “popular sovereignty.”

[Illustration: CLAY ADDRESSING THE SENATE IN 1850. From an old engraving.]

Texas claimed the Rio Grande as part of her west boundary. But the United States claimed the part of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande, and both sides seemed ready to appeal to arms. Clay proposed that Texas should give up her claim and be paid for so doing.

During three months this plan was hotly debated, [18] and threats of secession and violence were made openly. But in the end the plan was accepted: (1) California was admitted, (2) New Mexico and Utah were organized as territories open to slavery, (3) Texas took her present bounds (see maps, pp. 318, 330) and received $10,000,000, (4) a new fugitive slave law [19] was passed, and (5) the slave _trade_ was prohibited in the District of Columbia. These measures together were called the Compromise of 1850.

DEATH OF TAYLOR.–While the debate on the compromise was under way, Taylor died (July 9, 1850) and Fillmore was sworn into office as President for the remainder of the term.


1. Congress in 1841 passed two bills for chartering a new national bank, but President Tyler vetoed both. The Whig leaders then declared that Tyler was not a Whig.

2. The next year the Webster-Ashburton treaty settled a long-standing dispute over the northeastern boundary.

3. In 1844 the Democrats declared for the annexation of Texas and Oregon, and elected Polk President. Congress then quickly decided to admit Texas to the Union.

4. War with Mexico followed a dispute over the Texas boundary. In the course of it Taylor won victories at Monterey and Buena Vista; Scott made a famous march to the city of Mexico; and Kearny marched to Santa Fe and on to California.

5. Peace added to the United States a great tract of country acquired from Mexico. Meanwhile, the Oregon country had been divided by treaty with Great Britain.

6. The acquisition of Mexican territory brought up the question of the admission of slavery, for the territory was free soil under Mexican rule.

7. The opponents of extension of the slave area formed the Free-soil party in 1848, and drew off enough Democratic votes so that the Whigs elected Taylor and Fillmore.

8. Meanwhile gold had been discovered in California, and a wild rush for the “diggings” began.

9. The people in California formed a free-state constitution and applied for admission to the Union.

10. The chief political issues now centered around slavery, and as they had to be settled, lest the Union be broken, the Whigs and Democrats arranged the Compromise of 1850.

11. This made California a free state, but left the new territories of Utah and New Mexico open to slavery.



[1] Besides the long-standing dispute over the Maine boundary, two other matters were possible causes of war with Great Britain. (1) Her cruisers had been searching our vessels off the African coast to see if they were slavers. (2) In the attack on the _Caroline_ (p. 297) one American was killed, and in 1840 a Canadian, Alexander McLeod, was arrested in New York and charged with the murder. Great Britain now avowed responsibility for the burning of the _Caroline_, and demanded that the man should be released. McLeod, however, was tried and acquitted.

[2] Two other provisions of the treaty were of especial importance. (1) In order to stop the slave trade each nation was to keep a squadron (carrying at least eighty guns) cruising off the coast of Africa. (2) It was agreed that any person who, charged with the crime of murder, piracy, arson, robbery, or forgery, committed in either country, shall escape to the other, shall if possible be seized and given up to the authorities of the country which he fled.

[3] A war between Mexico and Texas followed, and was carried on with great cruelty by the Mexicans. Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, having driven some Texans into a building called the Alamo (ah’la-mo), in San Antonio, carried it by storm and ordered all of its defenders shot. A band of Texans who surrendered at Goliad met the same fate. In 1836, however, General Samuel Houston (hu’stun) beat the Mexicans in the decisive battle of San Jacinto. The struggle of the Texans for independence aroused sympathy in our country; hundreds of volunteers joined their army, and money, arms, and ammunition were sent them. Read A. E. Barr’s novel _Remember the Alamo_.

[4] Referring to our claim between 1803 and 1819 (p. 276) that the Louisiana Purchase extended west to the Rio Grande.

[5] James K. Polk was born in North Carolina in 1795, but went with his parents to Tennessee in 1806, where in 1823 he became a member of the legislature. From 1824 to 1839 he was a member of Congress, and in 1839 was elected governor of Tennessee. Polk was the first presidential “dark horse”; that is, the first candidate whose nomination was unexpected and a surprise. In the Democratic national convention at Baltimore the contest was at first between Van Buren and Cass. Polk’s name did not appear till the eighth ballot; on the ninth the convention “stampeded” and Polk received every vote. When the news was spread over the country by means of railroads and stagecoaches, many people would not believe it till confirmed by the newspapers. The Whigs nominated Henry Clay; and the Liberty party, James G. Birney. Tyler also was renominated by his friends, but withdrew.

[6] Read Whittier’s _Texas_.

[7] In the course of the fight a son of Henry Clay was killed, and Jefferson Davis, afterward President of the Confederate States of America, was wounded. At one stage of the battle Lieutenant Crittenden was sent to demand the surrender of a Mexican force that had been cut off; but the Mexican officer in command sent him blindfolded to Santa Anna. Crittenden thereupon demanded the surrender of the entire Mexican army, and when told that Taylor must surrender in an hour or have his army destroyed, replied, “General Taylor never surrenders.” Read Whittier’s _Angels of Buena Vista_.

[8] The war was bitterly opposed by the antislavery people of the North as an attempt to gain more slave territory. Numbers of pamphlets were written against it. Lincoln, then a member of Congress, introduced resolutions asking the President to state on what spot on American soil blood had been shed by Mexican troops, and James Russell Lowell wrote his famous _Biglow Papers_.

[9] Five years later (1853), by another treaty with Mexico, negotiated by James Gadsden, we acquired a comparatively small tract south of the Gila, called the Gadsden Purchase (compare maps, pp. 330, 352). The price was $10,000,000. The purchase was made largely because Congress was then considering the building of a railroad to the Pacific, and because the route likely to be chosen went south of the Gila.

[10] As early as 1846 the North attempted to decide the question in favor of freedom. Polk had asked for $2,000,000 with which to settle the boundary dispute with Mexico, and when the bill to appropriate the money was before the House, David Wilmot moved to add the proviso that all territory bought with it should be free soil. The House passed the Wilmot Proviso, but the Senate did not; so the bill failed. The following year (1847) a bill to give Polk $3,000,000 was introduced, and again the proviso was added by the House and rejected by the Senate. Then the House gave way, and passed the bill; but the acquisition of California and New Mexico by treaty left the question still unsettled.

[11] Their platform declared: (1) that Congress has no more power to make a slave than to make a king; (2) that there must be “free soil for a free people”; (3) that there must be “no more slave states, no more slave territories”; (4) that “we inscribe on our banner, ‘Free soil, free speech, free labor, and freemen.'”

[12] The Liberty party nominated John P. Hale of New Hampshire, but he withdrew in favor of Van Buren. The Liberty party was thus merged in the Free-soil party, and so disappeared from politics. The Democratic candidates for President and Vice-President were Lewis Cass and William O. Butler.

[13] Zachary Taylor was born in Virginia in 1784, was taken to Louisville, Kentucky, while still a child, and grew up there. In 1808 he entered the United States army as a lieutenant, and by 1810 had risen to be a captain. For a valiant defense of Fort Harrison on the Wabash, he was made a major. He further distinguished himself in the Black Hawk and Seminole wars. In the Mexican War General Taylor was a great favorite with his men, who called him in admiration “Old Rough and Ready.” Before 1848 he had taken very little interest in politics. He was nominated because of his record as a military hero.

[14] Millard Fillmore was born in central New York in 1800, and at fourteen was apprenticed to a trade, but studied law at odd times, and practiced law at Buffalo. He served three terms in the state assembly, was four times elected to Congress, and was once the Whig candidate for governor. In 1848 he was nominated for the vice presidency as a strong Whig likely to carry New York.

[15] Laborers left the fields, tradesmen the shops, and seamen deserted their ships as soon as they entered port. One California newspaper suspended its issue because editor, typesetters, and printer’s devil had gone to the gold fields. In June the Star stopped for a like reason, and California was without a newspaper. Some men made $5000, $10,000, and $15,000 in a few days. California life in the early times is described in Kirk Munroe’s _Golden Days of ’49_, and in Bret Harte’s _Luck of Roaring Camp_ and _Tales of the Argonauts_.

[16] Those who crossed the plains suffered terribly, and for many years the wrecks of their wagons, the bones of their oxen and horses, and the graves of many of the men were to be seen along the route. This route was from Independence in Missouri, up the Platte River, over the South Pass, past Great Salt Lake, and so to “the diggings.”

[17] Some miners obtained gold by digging the earth, putting it into a tin pan, pouring on water, and then shaking the pan so as to throw out the muddy water and leave the particles of gold. Others used a box mounted on rockers and called a “cradle” or “rocker.”

[18] Read the speeches of Calhoun and Webster in _Johnston’s American Orations_, Vol. II. Webster’s speech gave great offense in the North. Read McMaster’s _Daniel Webster_, pp. 314-324, and Whittier’s poem _Ichabod_. The debate and its attendant scenes are well described in Rhodes’s _History of the U. S._, Vol. I, pp. 104-189.

[19] The fugitive slave law gave great offense to the North. It provided that a runaway slave might be seized wherever found, and brought before a United States judge or commissioner. The negro could not give testimony to prove he was not a fugitive but had been kidnapped, if such were the case. All citizens were “commanded,” when summoned, to aid in the capture of a fugitive, and, if necessary, in his delivery to his owner. Fine and imprisonment were provided for any one who harbored a fugitive or aided in his escape. The law was put in execution at once, and “slave catchers,” “man hunters,” as they were called, “invaded the North.” This so excited the people that many slaves when seized were rescued. Such rescues occurred during 1851 at New York, Boston, Syracuse, and at Ottawa in Illinois. Read Wilson’s _Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America_, Chap. 26.

In the midst of this excitement Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe published her story of _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_. Mrs. Stowe’s purpose was “to show the institution of slavery truly just as it existed.” The book is rather a picture of what slavery might have been than of what slavery really was; but it was so powerfully written that everybody read it, and thousands of people in the North who hitherto cared little about the slavery issue were converted to abolitionism.

[Illustration: THE UNITED STATES IN 1850.]



THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1852.–The Compromise of 1850 was thought to be a final settlement of all the troubles that had grown out of slavery. The great leaders of the Whig and Democratic parties solemnly pledged themselves to stand by the compromise, and when the national conventions met in 1852, the two parties in their platforms made equally solemn promises.

The Democrats nominated Franklin Pierce [1] of New Hampshire for President, and declared they would “abide by and adhere to” the compromise, and would “resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question.” The Whigs selected Winfield Scotland declared the compromise to be a “settlement in principle” of the slavery question, and promised to do all they could to prevent further agitation of it. The Free-soilers nominated John P. Hale of New Hampshire. The refusal of the Whig party to stand against the compromise drove many Northern voters from its ranks. Pierce carried every state save four and, March 4, 1853, was duly inaugurated. [2]

THE SLAVERY QUESTION NOT SETTLED.–But Pierce had not been many months in office when the quarrel over slavery was raging once more. In January, 1854, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois introduced into the Senate a bill to organize a new territory to be called Nebraska. Every foot of it was north of 36° 30′ and was, by the Compromise of 1820 (p. 274), free soil. But an attempt was made to amend the bill and declare that the Missouri Compromise should not apply to Nebraska, whereupon such bitter opposition arose that Douglas recalled his bill and brought in another. [3]

KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT.–The new bill provided for the creation of two territories, one to be called Kansas and the other Nebraska; for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, thus opening the country north of 36° 30′ to slavery; and for the adoption of the doctrine of popular sovereignty.

The Free-soilers, led by Salmon P. Chase, William H. Seward, and Charles Sumner, tried hard to defeat the bill. But it passed Congress, and was signed by the President (1854). [4]

[Illustration: GOVERNOR’S MANSION, KANSAS, IN 1857. Contemporary drawing.]

THE STRUGGLE FOR KANSAS.–And now began a seven years’ struggle between the Free-soilers and the proslavery men for the possession of Kansas. Men of both parties hurried to the territory. [5] The first election was for territorial delegate to Congress, and was carried by the proslavery party assisted by hundreds of Missourians who entered the territory, voted unlawfully, and went home. The second election was for members of the territorial legislature. Again the Missourians swarmed over the border, and a proslavery legislature was elected. Governor Reeder set the elections aside in seven districts, and in them other members were chosen; but the legislature when it met turned out the seven so elected and seated the men rejected by the governor. The proslavery laws of Missouri were adopted, and Kansas became a slave-holding territory.

THE TOPEKA CONSTITUTION.–Unwilling to be governed by a legislature so elected, looking on it as illegal and usurping, the free-state men framed a state constitution at Topeka (1855), organized a state government, and applied to Congress for admission into the Union as a state. The House of Representatives voted to admit Kansas, but the Senate would not consent, and (July 4, 1856) United States troops dispersed the legislature when it attempted to assemble under the Topeka constitution. Kansas was a slave- holding territory for two years yet before the free-state men secured a majority in the legislature, [6] and not till 1861 did it secure admission as a free state.

PERSONAL LIBERTY LAWS.–In the East meantime the rapidly growing feeling against slavery found expression in what were called personal liberty laws, which in time were enacted by all save two of the free states. Their avowed object was to prevent free negroes from being sent into slavery on the claim that they were fugitive slaves; but they really obstructed the execution of the fugitive slave law of 1850.

Another sign of Northern feeling was the sympathy now shown for the Underground Railroad. This was not a railroad, but a network of routes along which slaves escaping to the free states-were sent by night from one friendly house to another till they reached a place of safety, perhaps in Canada.

[Illustration: RECEPTION AT THE WHITE HOUSE, IN 1858. Contemporary drawing.]

BREAKING UP OF OLD PARTIES.–On political parties the events of the four years 1850-54 were serious. The Compromise of 1850, and the vigorous execution of the new fugitive slave law, drove thousands of old line Whigs from their party. The deaths of Clay and Webster in 1852 deprived the party of its greatest leaders. The Kansas-Nebraska bill completed the ruin, and from that time forth the party was of small political importance. The Democratic party also suffered, and thousands left its ranks to join the Free-soilers. Out of such elements in 1854-56 was founded the new Republican party. [7]

THE CAMPAIGN OF 1856.–At Philadelphia, in June, 1856, a Republican national convention nominated John C. Fremont for President. The Democrats nominated James Buchanan. A remnant of the Whigs, now nicknamed “Silver Grays,” indorsed Fillmore, who had been nominated by the American, or “Know-nothing,” party. [8] The Free-soilers joined the Republicans. Buchanan was elected. [9]

DRED SCOTT DECISION, 1857.–Two days after the inauguration of Buchanan, the Supreme Court made public a decision which threw the country into intense excitement. A slave named Dred Scott had been taken by his owner from Missouri to the free state of Illinois and then to Minnesota, made free soil by the Compromise of 1820. When brought back to Missouri, Dred Scott sued for freedom. Long residence on free soil, he claimed, had made him free. The case finally reached the Supreme Court of the United States, which decided against him. [10] But in delivering the decision, Chief- Justice Taney announced: (1) that Congress could not shut slavery out of the territories, and (2) that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional and void.

THE TERRITORIES OPEN TO SLAVERY.–This decision confirmed all that the South had gained by the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Compromise of 1850, and also opened to slavery Washington and Oregon, which were then free territories.

If the court supposed that its decision would end the struggle, it was much mistaken. Not a year went by but some incident occurred which added to the excitement.


LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATE.–In 1858 the people of Illinois were to elect a legislature which would choose a senator to succeed Stephen A. Douglas. The Democrats declared for Douglas. The Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln, [11] and as the canvass proceeded the two candidates traversed the state, holding a series of debates. The questions discussed were popular sovereignty, the Dred Scott decision, and the extension of slavery into the territories, and the debates attracted the attention of the whole country. Lincoln was defeated; but his speeches gave him a national reputation. [12]

JOHN BROWN AT HARPERS FERRY.–In 1859 John Brown, a lifelong enemy of slavery, went to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, with a little band of followers, to stir up an insurrection and free the slaves. He was captured, tried for murder and treason, and hanged. The attempt was a wild one; but it caused intense excitement in both the North and the South, and added to the bitter feeling which had long existed between the two sections. [13]

THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1860.–The Democrats were now so divided on the slavery issues that when they met in convention at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1860, the party was rent in twain, and no candidates were chosen. Later in the year the Northern wing nominated Stephen A. Douglas for President. The Southern delegates, at a convention of their own, selected John C. Breckinridge.

Another party made up of old Whigs and Know-nothings nominated John Bell of Tennessee. This was the Constitutional Union party. The Republicans [14] named Abraham Lincoln and carried the election. [15]


1. The Compromise of 1850 was supposed to settle the slavery issues, and the two great parties pledged themselves to support it.

2. But the issues were not settled, and in 1854 the organization of Kansas and Nebraska reopened the struggle.

3. The Kansas-Nebraska bill and the contest over Kansas split both the Whig party and the Democratic party, and by the union of those who left them, with the Free-soilers, the Republican party was made, 1854-56.

4. In 1857 the Supreme Court declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and opened all territories to slavery.

5. In 1858 this decision and other slavery issues were debated by Lincoln and Douglas.

6. This debate made Lincoln a national character, and in 1860 he was elected President by the Republican party.



[1] Franklin Pierce was born in New Hampshire in 1804, and died in 1869. He began his political career in the state legislature, went to Congress in 1833, and to the United States Senate in 1837. In the war with Mexico, Pierce rose from the ranks to a brigadier generalship. He was a bitter opponent of anti-slavery measures; but when the Civil War opened he became a Union man.

[2] The electoral vote was, for Pierce, 254; for Scott, 42. The popular vote was, for Pierce, 1,601,474; for Scott, 1,386,580; for Hale, 155,667.

[3] Stephen A. Douglas was born in Vermont in 1813, went west in 1833, was made attorney-general of Illinois in 1834, secretary of state and judge of the supreme court of Illinois in 1840, a member of Congress in 1843, and of the United States Senate in 1847. He was a small man, but one of such mental power that he was called “the Little Giant.” He was a candidate for the presidential nomination in the Democratic conventions of 1852 and 1856, and in 1860 was nominated by the Northern wing of that party. He was a Union man.

[4] For popular opinion on the Kansas-Nebraska bill, read Rhodes’s _History of the U. S._, Vol. I, pp. 461-470.

[5] Proslavery men from Missouri and other Southern states founded Atchison, Leavenworth, Lecompton, and Kickapoo, in the northeastern part of Kansas. Free-state men from the North founded Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, Osawatomie, in the east-central part of the territory.

[6] In 1856 border war raged in Kansas, settlers were murdered, property destroyed, and the free-state town of Lawrence was sacked by the proslavery men. In 1857 the proslavery party made a slave-state constitution at Lecompton and applied for admission, and the Senate (1858) voted to admit Kansas under it; but the House refused. In 1859 the Free- soilers made a second (the Wyandotte) constitution, under which Kansas was admitted into the Union (1861).

[7] The breaking up of old parties over the slavery issues naturally brought up the question of forming a new party, and at a meeting at Ripon in Wisconsin in 1854, it was proposed to call the new party Republican. After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, a thousand citizens of Michigan signed a call for a state convention, at which a Republican state party was formed and a ticket nominated on which were Whigs, Free-soilers, and Anti-Nebraska Democrats. Similar “fusion tickets,” as they were called, were adopted in eight other states. The success of the new party in the elections of 1854, and its still greater success in 1855, led to a call for a convention at Pittsburg on Washington’s Birthday, 1856. There and then the national Republican party was founded.

[8] The American party was the outcome of a long-prevalent feeling against the election of foreign-born citizens to office. At many times and at many places this feeling had produced political organizations. But it was not till 1852 that a secret, oath-bound organization, with signs, grips, and passwords, was formed and spread its membership rapidly through most of the states. As its members would not tell its principles and methods, and professed entire ignorance of them when questioned, the American party was called in derision “the Know-nothings.” Its success, however, was great, and in 1855 Know-nothing governors and legislatures were elected in eight states, and heavy votes polled in six more.

[9] The electoral vote was, for Buchanan, 174; for Frémont, 114; for Fillmore, 8. The popular vote was, for Buchanan, 1,838,169; for Frémont, 1,341,264; for Fillmore, 874,534. James Buchanan was born in Pennsylvania in 1791, was educated at school and college, studied law, served in the state legislature, was five times elected to the House of Representatives, and three times to the Senate. In the Senate he was a warm supporter of Jackson, and favored the annexation of Texas under Tyler. He was Secretary of State under Polk, and had been minister to Great Britain.

[10] The Chief Justice ruled that no negro whose ancestors had been brought as slaves into the United States could be a citizen; Scott therefore was not a citizen, and hence could not sue in any United States court.

[11] Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, February 12, 1809, and while still a child was taken by his parents to Indiana. The first winter was spent in a half-faced camp, and for several years the log cabin that replaced it had neither door nor wood floor. Twelve months’ “schooling” was all he ever had; but he was fond of books and borrowed Aesop’s _Fables_, _Robinson Crusoe_, and Weems’s _Life of Washington_, the book in which first appeared the fabulous story of the hatchet and the cherry tree. At nineteen Lincoln went as a flatboatman to New Orleans. In 1830 his father moved to Illinois, where Lincoln helped build the cabin and split the rails to fence in the land, and then went on another flatboat voyage to New Orleans. He became a clerk in a store in 1831, served as a volunteer in the Black Hawk War, tried business and failed, became postmaster of New Salem, which soon ceased to have a post office, supported himself as plowman, farm hand, and wood cutter, and tried surveying; but made so many friends that in 1834 he was sent to the legislature, and reelected in 1836, 1838, and 1840. He now began the practice of law, settled in Springfield, was elected to Congress in 1846, and served there one term.

[12] For a description of the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858, read Rhodes’s _History of the U. S._, Vol. II, pp. 314-338.

[13] Many persons regarded Brown as a martyr. Read Whittier’s _Brown of Ossawatomie_, or Stedman’s _How Old Brown took Harper’s Ferry_. Read, also, Rhodes’s _History of the U. S._, Vol. II, pp. 383-398.

[14] The platform of the Republicans adopted in 1860 (at Chicago) sets forth: (1) that the party repudiates the principles of the Dred Scott decision, (2) that Kansas must be admitted as a free state, (3) that the territories must be free soil, and (4) that slavery in existing states should not be interfered with.

[15] The electoral vote was, for Lincoln, 180; for Douglas, 12; for Breckinridge, 72; for Bell, 39. The popular vote was, for Lincoln, 1,866,452; for Douglas, 1,376,957; for Breckinridge, 849,781; for Bell, 588,879. Lincoln received no votes at all in ten Southern states. The popular votes were so distributed that if those for Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell had all been cast for one of the candidates, Lincoln would still have been elected President (by 173 electoral votes to 130).



POPULATION.–In the twenty years which had elapsed since 1840 the population of our country had risen to over 31,000,000. In New York alone there were, in 1860, about as many people as lived in the whole United States in 1789.

Not a little of this increase of population was due to the stream of immigrants which had been pouring into the country. From a few thousand in 1820, the number who came each year rose gradually to about 100,000 in the year 1842, and then went down again. But famine in Ireland and hard times in Germany started another great wave of immigration, which rose higher and higher till (1854) more than 400,000 people arrived in one year. Then once more the wave subsided, and in 1861 less than 90,000 came.

[Illustration: SETTLED AREA IN 1860.]

NEW STATES AND TERRITORIES.–Though population was still moving westward, few of our countrymen, before the gold craze of 1849, had crossed the Missouri. Those who did, went generally to Oregon, which was organized as a territory in 1848 and admitted into the Union as a state in 1859. By that time California (1850) and Minnesota (1858) had also been admitted, so that the Union in 1860 consisted of thirty-three states and five territories. Eighteen states were free, and fifteen slave-holding. The five territories were New Mexico, Utah, Washington (1853), Kansas, and Nebraska (small map, p. 394).

CITY LIFE.–About one sixth of the population in 1860 lived in cities, of which there were about 140 of 8000 or more people each. Most of them were ugly, dirty, badly built, and poorly governed. The older ones, however, were much improved. The street pump had given way to water works; gas and plumbing were in general use; many cities had uniformed police; [1] but the work of fighting fires was done by volunteer fire departments. Street cars (drawn by horses) now ran in all the chief cities, omnibuses were in general use, and in New York city the great Central Park, the first of its kind in the country, had been laid out. Illustrated magazines, and weekly papers, Sunday newspapers, and trade journals had been established, and in some cities graded schools had been introduced. [2]

SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES.–In the country the district school for boys and girls was gradually being improved. The larger cities of the North now had high schools as well as common schools, and in a few instances separate high schools for girls. Between 1840 and 1860 eighty-two sectarian and twenty non-sectarian colleges were founded, and the Naval Academy at Annapolis was opened. Not even the largest college in 1860 had 800 students, and in but one (University of Iowa, 1856) were women admitted to all departments.

LITERATURE.–Public libraries were now to be found not only in the great cities, but in most of the large towns, and in such libraries were collections of poetry, essays, novels, and histories written by American authors. Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, Poe, Bryant, and Whittier among poets; Hawthorne, Irving, Cooper, Simms, and Poe among writers of fiction; Emerson and Lowell among essayists, were read and admired abroad as well as at home. Prescott, who had lately (1859) died, had left behind him histories of Spain in the Old World and in the New; Parkman was just beginning his story of the French in America; Motley had published his _Rise of the Dutch Republic_, and part of his _History of the United Netherlands_; Hildreth had completed one _History of the United States_, and Bancroft was still at work on another.

Near these men of the first rank stood many writers popular in their day. The novels of Kennedy, and the poetry of Drake, Halleck, and Willis are not yet forgotten.

OCCUPATIONS.–In the Eastern states the people were engaged chiefly in fishing, commerce, and manufacturing; in the Middle states in farming, commerce, manufacturing, and mining. To the great coal and iron mines of Pennsylvania were (1859) added the oil fields. That petroleum existed in that state had long been known; but it was not till Drake drilled a well near Titusville (in northwestern Pennsylvania) and struck oil that enough was obtained to make it marketable. Down the Ohio there was a great trade in bituminous coal, and the union of the coal, iron, and oil trades was already making Pittsburg a great city. In the South little change had taken place. Cotton, tobacco, sugar, and the products of the pine forests were still the chief sources of wealth; mills and factories hardly existed. The West had not only its immense farms, but also the iron mines of upper Michigan, the lead mines of the upper Mississippi and in Missouri, the copper mines of the Lake Superior country, and the lumber industry of Michigan and Wisconsin. Through the lakes passed a great commerce. California was the great gold-mining state; but gold and silver had just been discovered near Pikes Peak, and in what is now Nevada.

THE MORMONS.–Utah territory in 1860 contained forty thousand white people, nearly all Mormons. These people, as we have seen, when driven from Missouri, built the city called Nauvoo in Illinois. Their leaders now introduced the practice of polygamy, and in various ways opposed the state authorities. In 1844 they came to blows with the state; the leaders were arrested, and while in jail Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered by a mob. Brigham Young then became head of the church, and in the winter of 1846 the Mormons, driven from Nauvoo, crossed the Mississippi and began a long march westward over the plains to Great Salt Lake, then in Mexico. There they settled down, and when the war with Mexico ended, they were again in the United States. When Utah was made a territory in 1850, Brigham Young was appointed its first governor. [3]


THE FAR WEST.–Before 1850 each new state added to the Union had bordered an some older state; but now California and Oregon were separated from the other states by wide stretches of wilderness. The Rocky Mountain highland and the Great Plains, however, were not entirely uninhabited. Over them wandered bands of Indians mounted on fleet ponies; white hunters and trappers, some trapping for themselves, some for the great fur companies; and immense herds of buffalo, [4] and in the south herds of wild horses. The streams still abounded with beaver. Game was everywhere, deer, elk, antelope, bears, wild turkeys, prairie chickens, and on the streams wild ducks and geese. Here and there were villages of savage and merciless Indians, and the forts or trading posts of the trappers. Every year bands of emigrants crossed the plains and the mountains, bound to Utah, California, or Oregon.

PROPOSED RAILROAD TO THE PACIFIC.–In 1842 John C. Fremont, with Kit Carson as guide, began a series of explorations which finally extended from the Columbia to the Colorado, and from the Missouri to California and Oregon (map, p. 314). [5] Men then began to urge seriously the plan of a railroad across the continent to some point on the Pacific. In 1845 Asa Whitney [6] applied to Congress for a grant of a strip of land from some point on Lake Michigan to Puget Sound, and came again with like appeals in 1846 and 1848. By that time the Mexican cession had been acquired, and this with the discovery of gold in California gave the idea such importance that (in 1853) money was finally voted by Congress for the survey of several routes. Jefferson Davis, as Secretary of War, ordered five routes to be surveyed and (in 1855) recommended the most southerly; and the Senate passed a bill to charter three roads. [7] Jealousy among the states prevented the passage of the bill by the House. In 1860 the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties declared for such a railroad.

MECHANICAL IMPROVEMENT.–During the period 1840-60 mechanical improvement was more remarkable than in earlier periods. The first iron-front building was erected, the first steam fire engine used, wire rope manufactured, a grain drill invented, Hoe’s printing press with revolving type cylinders introduced, and six inventions or discoveries of universal benefit to mankind were given to the world. They were the electric telegraph, the sewing machine, the improved harvester, vulcanized rubber, the photograph, and anaesthesia.


THE TELEGRAPH.–Seven years of struggle enabled Samuel F. B. Morse, helped by Alfred Vail, to make the electric telegraph a success, [8] and in 1844, with the aid of a small appropriation by Congress, Morse built a telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington. [9] Further aid was asked from Congress and refused. [10] The Magnetic Telegraph Company was then started. New York and Baltimore were connected in 1846, and in ten years some forty companies were in operation in the most populous states.


THE SEWING MACHINE; THE HARVESTER.–A man named Hunt invented the lockstitch sewing machine in 1834; but it was not successful, and some time elapsed before his idea was taken up by Elias Howe, who after several years of experiment (1846) made a practical machine. People were slow to use it, but by 1850 he had so aroused the interest of inventors that seven rivals were in the field, and to their joint labors we owe one of the most useful inventions of the century. From the household the sewing machine passed into use in factories (1862), and to-day gives employment to hundreds of thousands of people.

[Illustration: EARLY HARVESTER. From an old print.]

What the sewing machine is to the home and the factory, that is the reaper to the farm. After many years of experiment Cyrus McCormick invented a practical reaper and (1840) sought to put it on the market, but several more years passed before success was assured. To-day, greatly improved and perfected, it is in use the world over, and has made possible the great grain fields, not only of our own middle West and Northwest, but of Argentina, Australia, and Russia.

VULCANIZED RUBBER; PHOTOGRAPHY; ANAESTHESIA.–The early attempts to use India rubber for shoes, coats, caps, and wagon covers failed because in warm weather the rubber softened and emitted an offensive smell. To overcome this Goodyear labored year after year to discover a method of hardening or, as it is called, vulcanizing rubber. Even when the discovery was made and patented, several years passed before he was sure of the process. In 1844 he succeeded and gave to the world a most useful invention.

[Illustration: A DAGUERREOTYPE, IN METAL CASE, 1843.]

In 1839 a Frenchman named Daguerre patented a method of taking pictures by exposing to sunlight a copper plate treated with certain chemicals. The exposure for each picture was some twenty minutes. An American, Dr. John W. Draper, so improved the method that pictures were taken of persons in a much shorter time, and photography was fairly started.

Greater yet was the discovery that by breathing sulphuric ether a person can become insensible to pain and then recover consciousness. The glory of the discovery has been claimed for Dr. Morton and Dr. Jackson, who used it in 1846. Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) was used as an ansesthetic before this time by Dr. Wells of Hartford.

TRANSPORTATION IMPROVED.–In the country east of the Mississippi some thirty thousand miles of railroad had been built, and direct communication opened from the North and East to Chicago (1853) and New Orleans (1859). For the growth of railroads between 1850 and 1861 study the maps on pp. 331, 353. [11] At first the lines between distant cities were composed of many connecting but independent roads. Thus between Albany and Buffalo there were ten such little roads; but in 1853 they were consolidated and became the New York Central, and the era of the great trunk lines was fairly opened.

On the ocean, steamship service between the Old World and the New was so improved that steamships passed from Liverpool to New York in less than twelve days.

Better means of transportation were of benefit, not merely to the traveler and the merchant, but to the people generally. Letters could be carried faster and more cheaply, so the rate of postage on a single letter was reduced (1851) from five or ten cents to three cents, [12] and before 1860 express service covered every important line of transportation.

THE ATLANTIC CABLE.–The success of the telegraph on land suggested a bold attempt to lay wires across the bed of the ocean, and in 1854 Cyrus W. Field of New York was asked to aid in the laying of a cable from St. Johns to Cape Ray, Newfoundland. But Field went further and formed a company to join Newfoundland and Ireland by cable, and after two failures succeeded (1858). During three weeks all went well and some four hundred messages were sent; then the cable ceased to work, and eight years passed before another was laid. Since then many telegraph cables have been laid across the Atlantic; but it was not till 1903 that the first was laid across the Pacific.

FOREIGN RELATIONS.–We have seen how during this period our country was expanded by the annexation of Texas (1845) and by two cessions of territory from Mexico (1848 and 1853). But this was not enough to satisfy the South, and attempts were made to buy Cuba. Polk (1848) offered Spain $100,000,000 for it. Filibusters tried to capture it (in 1851), and Pierce (1853) urged its annexation. With this end in view our ministers to Great Britain, France, and Spain met at Ostend in Belgium in 1854 and issued what was called the Ostend Manifesto. This set forth that Cuba must be annexed to protect slavery, and if Spain would not sell for a fair price, “then by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain if we possess the power.” Buchanan also (1858) urged the purchase of Cuba; but in vain.

CHINA AND JAPAN.–More pleasing to recall are our relations with China and Japan. Our flag was first seen in China in 1784, when the trading vessel _Empress of China_ reached Canton. Washington (1790) appointed a consul to reside in that city, the only one in China, then open to foreign trade; but no minister from the United States was sent to China till Caleb Gushing went in 1844. By him our first treaty was negotiated with China, under which five ports were opened to American trade and two very important concessions secured: (1) American citizens charged with any criminal act were to be tried and punished only by the American consul. (2) All privileges which China might give to any other nation were likewise to be given to the United States.

At that time Japan was a “hermit nation.” In 1853, however, Commodore M. C. Perry went to that country with a fleet, and sent to the emperor a message expressing the wish of the United States to enter into trade relations with Japan. Then he sailed away; but returned in 1854 and made a treaty (the first entered into by Japan) which resulted in opening that country to the United States. Other nations followed, and Japan was thus opened to trade with the civilized world.


1. Between 1840 and 1860 the population increased from 17,000,000 to 31,000,000.

2. During this period millions of immigrants had come.

3. As population continued to move westward new states and territories were formed.

4. In one of these new territories, Utah, were the Mormons who had been driven from Illinois.

5. The rise of a new state on the Pacific coast revived the old demand for a railroad across the plains, and surveys were ordered.

6. East of the Mississippi thousands of miles of railroads were built, and the East, the West, and the far South were connected.

7. This period is marked by many great inventions and discoveries, including the telegraph, the sewing machine, and the reaper.

8. It was in this period that trade relations were begun with China and Japan.

[Illustration: MODERN HARVESTER.]


[1] All the large cities were so poorly governed, however, that they were often the scenes of serious riots, political, labor, race, and even religious.

[2] An unfriendly picture of the United States in 1842 is Dickens’s _American Notes_, a book well worth reading.

[3] Several non-Mormon officials were sent to Utah, but they were not allowed to exercise any authority, and were driven out. The Mormons formed the state of Deseret and applied for admission into the Union. Congress paid no attention to the appeal, and (1857) Buchanan appointed a new governor and sent troops to Utah to uphold the Federal authority. Young forbade them to enter the territory, and dispatched an armed force that captured some of their supplies. In the spring of 1858 the President offered pardon “to all who will submit themselves to the just authority of the Federal Government,” and Young and his followers did so.

[4] An interesting account of the buffalo is given in A. C. Laut’s The Story of the Trapper_, pp. 65-80. Herds of a hundred thousand were common. As many as a million buffalo robes were sent east each year in the thirties and forties.

[5] John C. Fremont was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1813, and in 1842 was Lieutenant of Engineers, United States Army. In 1842 he went up the Platte River and through the South Pass. The next year he passed southward to Great Salt Lake, then northwestward to the Columbia, then southward through Oregon to California, and back by Great Salt Lake to South Pass in 1844. In 1845 he crossed what is now Nebraska and Utah, and reached the vicinity of Monterey in California. The Mexican authorities ordered him away; but he remained in California and helped to win the country during the war with Mexico. Later, he was senator from California, Republican candidate for President in 1856, and an army general during the Civil War.

[6] Whitney asked for a strip sixty miles wide. So much of the land as was not needed for railroad purposes was to be sold and the money used to build the road. During 1847-49 his plan was approved by the legislatures of seventeen states, and by mass meetings of citizens or Boards of Trade in seventeen cities.

[7] One from the west border of Texas to California; another from the west border of Missouri to California; and a third from the west border of Wisconsin to the Pacific in Oregon or Washington.

[8] In 1842 Morse laid the first submarine telegraph in the world, from Governors Island in New York harbor to New York city. It consisted of a wire wound with string and coated with tar, pitch, and india rubber, to prevent the electric current running off into the water. It was laid on October 18, and the next morning, while messages were being received, the anchor of a vessel caught and destroyed the wire.

[9] The wire was at first put in a lead tube and laid in a furrow plowed in the earth. This failed; so the wire was strung on poles. One end was in the Pratt St. Depot, Baltimore, and the other in the Supreme Court Chamber at Washington. The first words sent, after the completion of the line, were “What hath God wrought.” Two days later the Democratic convention (which nominated Polk for President) met at Baltimore, and its proceedings were reported hourly to Washington by telegraph.

[10] Morse offered to sell his patent to the government, but the Postmaster General reported that the telegraph was merely an interesting experiment and could never have a practical value, so the offer was not accepted.

[11] The use of vast sums of money in building so many railroads, together with overtrading and reckless speculation, brought on a business panic in 1857. Factories were closed, banks failed, thousands of men and women were thrown out of employment, and for two years the country suffered from hard times.

[12] It was not till 1883 that the rate was reduced to two cents. Before the introduction of the postage stamp, letters were sent to the post offices, and when the postage had been paid, they were marked “Paid” by the officials. When the mails increased in volume in the large cities, this way of doing business consumed so much time that the postmasters at St. Louis and New York sold stamps to be affixed to letters as evidence that the postage had been paid. The convenience was so great that public opinion forced Congress to authorize the post office department to furnish stamps and require the people to use them (1847).



THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1863


THE CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA.–After Lincoln’s election, the cotton states, one by one, passed ordinances declaring that they left the Union. First to go was South Carolina (December 20, 1860), and by February 1, 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had followed. On February 4 delegates from six of these seven states met at Montgomery, Alabama, framed, a constitution, [1] established the “Confederate States of America,” and elected Jefferson Davis [2] and Alexander H. Stephens provisional President and Vice President. Later they were elected by the people.

[Illustration: ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Photograph of 1856.]

[Illustration: JEFFERSON DAVIS.]

LINCOLN’S POLICY.–President Buchanan did nothing to prevent all this, and such was the political situation when Lincoln was inaugurated (March 4, 1861). His views and his policy were clearly stated in his inaugural address: “I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists…. No state on its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union…. The Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability I shall take care that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the states…. In doing this there need be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority…. The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government.”

FORT SUMTER CAPTURED.–Almost all the “property and places” belonging to the United States government in the seven seceding states had been seized by the Confederates. [3] But Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor was still in Union hands, and to this, Lincoln notified the governor of South Carolina, supplies would be sent. Thereupon the Confederate army already gathered in Charleston bombarded the fort till Major Anderson surrendered it (April 14, 1861). [4]


THE WAR OPENS.–With the capture of Fort Sumter the war for the Union opened in earnest. On April 15 Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand militia to serve for three months. [5] Thereupon Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas seceded and joined the Confederacy. The capital of the Confederacy was soon moved from Montgomery to Richmond, Virginia.

In the slave-holding states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri the Union men outnumbered the secessionists and held these states in the Union. When Virginia seceded, the western counties refused to leave the Union, and in 1863 were admitted into the Union as the state of West Virginia.

THE DIVIDING LINE.–The first call for troops was soon followed by a second. The responses to both were so prompt that by July 1, 1861, more than one hundred and eighty thousand Union soldiers were under arms. They were stationed at various points along a line that stretched from Norfolk in Virginia up the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River to Harpers Ferry, and then across western Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. South of this dividing line were the Confederate armies. [6]

Geographically this line was cut into three sections: that in Virginia, that in Kentucky, and that in Missouri,

[Illustration: STONE BRIDGE OVER BULL RUN. Crossed by many fleeing Union men.]

BULL RUN.–General Winfield Scott was in command of the Union army. Under him and in command of the troops about Washington was General McDowell, who in July, 1861, was sent to drive back the Confederate line in Virginia. Marching a few miles southwest, McDowell met General Beauregard near Manassas, and on the field of Bull Run was beaten and his army put to flight. [7] The battle taught the North that the war would not end in three months; that an army of raw troops was no better than a mob; that discipline was as necessary as patriotism. Thereafter men were enlisted for three years or for the war.

General George B. McClellan [8] was now put in command of the Union Army of the Potomac, and spent the rest of 1861, and the early months of 1862, in drilling his raw volunteers.


CONFEDERATE LINE IN KENTUCKY DRIVEN BACK, 1862.–In Kentucky the Confederate line stretched across the southern part of the state as shown on the map. Against this General Thomas was sent in January, 1862. He defeated the Confederates at Mill Springs near the eastern end. In February General U. S. Grant and Flag-Officer Foote were sent to attack, by land and water, Forts Donelson and Henry near the western end of the line. Foote arrived first at Fort Henry on the Tennessee and captured it. Thereupon Grant marched across country to Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, and after three days’ sharp fighting forced General Buckner to surrender. [9]

[Illustration: ULYSSES S. GRANT.]

SHILOH OR PITTSBURG LANDING.–The Confederate line was now broken, and abandoning Nashville and Columbus, the Confederates fell back toward Corinth in Mississippi. The Union army followed in three parts.

1. One under General Curtis moved to southwestern Missouri and won a battle at Pea Ridge (Arkansas).

2. Another under General Pope on the banks of the Mississippi aided Flag- Officer Foote in the capture of Island No. 10. [10] The fleet then passed down the river and took Fort Pillow.

3. The third part under Grant took position very near Pittsburg Landing, at Shiloh, [11] where it was attacked and driven back. But the next day, being strongly reënforced, General Grant beat the Confederates, who retreated to Corinth. General Halleck now took command, and having united the second and third parts of the army, took Corinth and cut off Memphis, which then surrendered to the fleet in the river.

BRAGG’S RAID.–And now the Confederates turned furiously. Their army under General Bragg, starting from Chattanooga, rushed across Tennessee and Kentucky toward Louisville, but after a hot fight with General Buell’s army at Perryville was forced to turn back, and went into winter quarters at Murfreesboro. [12]

[Illustration: NORTHERN CAVALRYMAN. A war-time drawing published in 1869.]

There Bragg was attacked by the Union forces, now under General Rosecrans, was beaten in one of the most bloody battles of the war (December 31, 1862, and January 2, 1863), and was forced to retreat further south.

NEW ORLEANS, 1862.–Both banks of the Mississippi as far south as the Arkansas were by this time in Union hands. [13] South of that river on the east bank of the Mississippi the Confederates still held Vicksburg and Port Hudson (maps, pp. 353, 368). But New Orleans had been captured in April, 1862, by a naval expedition under Farragut; [14] and the city was occupied by a Union army under General Butler. [15]

[Illustration: WAR IN THE EAST, 1862.]

THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, 1862.–In the East the year opened with great preparation for the capture of Richmond, the Confederate capital.

1. Armies under Fremont and Banks in the Shenandoah valley were to prevent an attack on Washington from the west.

2. An army under McDowell was to be ready to march from Fredericksburg to Richmond, when the proper time came.

3. McClellan was to take the largest army by water from Washington to Fort Monroe, and then march up the peninsula formed by the York and James rivers to the neighborhood of Richmond, where McDowell was to join him.

Landing at the lower end of the peninsula early in April, McClellan moved northward to Yorktown, and captured it after a long siege. McClellan then hurried up the peninsula after the retreating enemy, and on the way fought and won a battle at Williamsburg. [16]

THE SHENANDOAH CAMPAIGN, 1862.–It was now expected that McDowell, who had been guarding Washington, would join McClellan, but General T. J. Jackson [17] (Stonewall Jackson), who commanded the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah, rushed down the valley and drove Banks across the Potomac into Maryland. This success alarmed the authorities at Washington, and McDowell was held in northern Virginia to protect the capital. Part of his troops, with those of Banks and Fremont, were dispatched against Jackson; but Jackson won several battles and made good his escape.

[Illustration: THOMAS J. JACKSON.]

END OF PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN.–Though deprived of the aid of McDowell, General McClellan moved westward to within eight or ten miles of Richmond; but the Confederate General J. E. Johnston now attacked him at Fair Oaks. A few weeks later General R. E. Lee, [18] who had succeeded Johnston in command, was joined by Jackson; the Confederates then attacked McClellan at Mechanicsville and Gaines Mill and forced him to retreat, fighting as he went (June 26 to July 1), to Harrisons Landing on the James River. There the Union army remained till August, when it went back by water to the Potomac.

[Illustration: ROBERT E. LEE.]

LEE’S RAID; BATTLE OF ANTIETAM, 1862.–The departure of the Union army from Harrisons Landing left General Lee free to do as he chose, and seizing the opportunity he turned against the Union forces under General Pope, whose army was drawn up between Cedar Mountain and Fredericksburg, on the Rappahannock River. Stonewall Jackson first attacked General Banks at the western end of the line at Cedar Mountain, and beat him. Jackson and Lee then fell upon General Pope on the old field of Bull Run, beat him, and forced him to fall back to Washington, where his army was united with that of McClellan. [19] This done, Lee crossed the Potomac and entered Maryland. McClellan attacked him at Antietam Creek (September, 1862), where a bloody battle was fought (sometimes called the battle of Sharpsburg). Lee was beaten; but McClellan did not prevent his recrossing the Potomac into Virginia. [20]

FREDERICKSBURG, 1862.–McClellan was now removed, and General A. E. Burnside put in command. The Confederates meantime had taken position on Marye’s Heights on the south side of the Rappahannock, behind Fredericksburg. The position was impregnable; but in December Burnside attacked it and was repulsed with dreadful slaughter. The two armies then went into winter quarters with the Rappahannock between them.

THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION.–Ever since the opening of the year 1862, the question of slavery in the loyal states and in the territories had been constantly before Congress. In April Congress abolished slavery in the District of Columbia and set free the slaves there with compensation to the owners. In June it abolished slavery in the territories and freed the slaves there without compensation to the owners, and in July authorized the seizure of slaves of persons then in rebellion.

In March Lincoln had asked Congress to help pay for the slaves in the loyal slave states, if these states would abolish slavery; but neither Congress nor the states adopted the plan. [21] Lincoln now determined, as an act of war, to free the slaves in the Confederate states, and when the armies of Lee and McClellan stood face to face at Antietam, he decided, if Lee was beaten, to issue an emancipation proclamation. Lee was beaten, and on September 22, 1862, the proclamation came forth declaring that on January 1, 1863, “all persons held as slaves” in any state or part of a state then “in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforth, and forever free.” The Confederate states did not return to their allegiance, and on January 1, 1863, a second proclamation was issued, declaring the slaves within the Confederate lines to be free men.


1. Lincoln _did not abolish slavery anywhere_. He emancipated certain slaves.

2. His proclamation did not apply to the loyal slave states–Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri.

3. It did not apply to such Confederate territory as the Union armies had conquered; namely, Tennessee, seven counties in Virginia, and thirteen parishes in Louisiana.

4. Lincoln freed the slaves by virtue of his authority as commander in chief of the Union armies, “and as a fit and necessary war measure.”


1. In 1860 and 1861 seven cotton states seceded, formed the Confederate States of America, and elected Jefferson Davis President.

2. The capture of Fort Sumter (April, 1861) and Lincoln’s call for troops were followed by the secession of four more Southern states.

3. In 1861 an attempt was made to drive back the Confederate line in Virginia; but this ended in disaster at the battle of Bull Run.

4. In 1862 the Peninsular Campaign failed, Pope was defeated at Bull Run, Lee’s invasion of Maryland was ended by the battle of Antietam, and Burnside met defeat at Fredericksburg.

5. In the West in 1862 the Confederate line was forced back to northern Mississippi, and New Orleans was captured. Great battles were fought at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Perryville, and Murfreesboro.

6. On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln declared free the slaves in the states and parts of states held by the Confederates.


[1] The constitution of the Confederacy was the Constitution of the United States altered to suit conditions. The President was to serve six years and was not to be eligible for reëlection; the right to own slaves was affirmed, but no slaves were to be imported from any foreign country except the slave-holding states of the old Union. The Congress was forbidden to establish a tariff for protection of any branch of industry. A Supreme Court was provided for, but was never organized.

[2] Jefferson Davis was born in 1808, graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1828, served in the Black Hawk War, resigned from the army in 1835, and became a cotton planter in Mississippi. In 1845 he was elected to Congress, but resigned to take part in the Mexican War, and was wounded at Buena Vista. In 1847 lie was elected a senator, and from 1853 to 1857 was Secretary of War. He then returned to the Senate, where he was when Mississippi seceded. He died in New Orleans in 1889.

[3] Property of the United States seized by the states was turned over to the Confederate government. Thus Louisiana gave up $536,000 in specie taken from the United States customhouse and mint at New Orleans.

[4] Read “Inside Sumter in ’61” in _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_, Vol. I, pp. 65-73.

[5] Read “War Preparations in the North” in _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_, Vol. I, pp. 85-98; on pp. 149-159, also, read “Going to the Front.”

[6] An interesting account of “Scenes in Virginia in ’61” may be found in _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_, Vol. I, pp. 160-166.

[7] “The Confederate army was more disorganized by victory than that of the United States by defeat,” says General Johnston; and no pursuit of the Union forces was made. “The larger part of the men,” McDowell telegraphed to Washington, “are a confused mob, entirely disorganized.” None stopped short of the fortifications along the Potomac, and numbers entered Washington. Read _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_, Vol. I, pp. 229-239. “I have no idea that the North will give it up,” wrote Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy. “Their defeat will increase their energy.” He was right.

[8] George Brinton McClellan was born in Philadelphia in 1826, graduated from West Point, served in the Mexican War, and resigned from the army in 1857, to become a civil engineer, but rejoined it at the opening of the war. In July, 1861, he conducted a successful campaign against the