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Disunion!The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859$
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Elizabeth R. Varon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780807832325

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807887189_varon

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That Is Revolution! The Crisis of 1850

That Is Revolution! The Crisis of 1850

(p.199) 6 That Is Revolution! The Crisis of 1850

Elizabeth R. Varon

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter focuses on the time when the House and Senate were in turmoil over Wilmot's proposal, during which the fate of slavery in the territories “passed to the people, in a national presidential referendum.” The Democratic nomination in 1848 went to Michigan senator Lewis Cass, who ran on a “popular sovereignty” platform. The genius of the doctrine was that it was so malleable. Northern Democrats who supported slavery restriction held that the people in a given territory could decide to ban slavery early in the territorial stage of government and therefore well before either slaveholders or slaves had a chance to ensconce themselves there. Proslavery Southern Democrats insisted that a territorial legislature could rule on slavery only after sixty thousand residents—enough for the territory to apply for statehood—had settled there.

Keywords:   Wilmot's proposal, fate of slavery, national presidential referendum, Democratic nomination, Michigan senator, Lewis Cass

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