Section #13 - The 1850 Compromise has Democrats backing “popular sovereignty” voting instead of a ban

Chapter 149: Four Cross Party Factions Emerge On The Slavery Issue

February 1850

Abolish Slavery

As Clay weighs in with his Omnibus Bill, four distinct cross-party factions have developed around the issue of “what to do about slavery in the west.” 

The first faction remains relatively small, the Abolitionists, a handful of outspoken and much maligned congressional leaders who have followed in the footsteps of John Quincy Adams after his death in 1848. Recent additions include Thad Stevens in the House and Salmon Chase in the Senate. 

“Abolish Slavery” Leaders In Congress In 1850 
1838-59 Joshua Giddings Ohio Whig/Rep
1849-53 Thad Stevens Pa Whig
1847-53 John P. Hale NH Free Soil
1849-55 Salmon Chase Ohio Free Soil

Contain Slavery

The second faction is the “Contain Slavery” men of the North, whose leaders accept slavery in the old South, while standing in opposition to expanding it into the new western lands. They are very much in the ascendency by 1850, bolstered by the “Free Soil” movement and Whig Senator Henry Seward’s influence with President Taylor.  

“Contain Slavery” Leaders In Congress In 1850
1845-51 David Wilmot Pa Democrat
1849-53 Preston King NY Free Soil
1848-61 Hannibal Hamlin Maine Democrat
1849-61 Henry Seward NY Whig/Rep

Expand Slavery

Then come the “Expand Slavery” Southerners – also referred to as State’s Righters or Fire-Eaters  – arguing that slavery is guaranteed in the Constitution and threatening secession should Washington interfere with their institution. They are Democrats, serving predominantly in the Senate, and accustomed to having influence over whoever is President.  

“Expand Slavery” Leaders In Congress In 1850 
1844-55 David Atchison Mo Democrat
1845-50 John Calhoun SC Democrat
1846-57 Andrew Butler SC Democrat
1847-51 Jefferson Davis Miss Democrat
1847-61 Robert Hunter Va Democrat
1847-61 James Mason Virginia Democrat
1850-52 Robert B. Rhett SC Democrat

Compromise To Save The Union 

Finally, there are the “Unionist” hoping to find a middle ground on slavery that gains enough support to hold the nation together. In the House they have been led so far by the Georgia Whigs, who are now in flux. In the Senate they include the giants, Clay and Webster, and the rising star, Douglas. Their voice into the White House is carried by the Kentucky Governor, John J. Crittenden, who was Taylor’s campaign manager in the 1848 election.  

“Unionist” Leaders In Congress In 1850 

Tenure House State Party
1842-50 Robert Winthrop Mass Whig
1843-51 Howell Cobb Georgia Democrat/CU52
1843-51 Robert Toombs Georgia Whig/CU52
1843-59 Alexander Stephens Georgia Whig/CU52/D55
1849-53 Edward Stanly NC Whig
1821-51 Thomas Hart Benton Missouri Democrat
1845-50 Daniel Webster NH Whig
1847-61 Stephen Douglas IL Democrat 
1847-59 John Bell Tenn D/Amer/Con U
1847-52 Henry Foote Miss Democrat
1849-52 Henry Clay Kentucky Whig
Note: “CU” = The Constitutional Union Party; Amer = Know Nothings Party