Transcribed from History of Bourbon County, Kansas : to the close of 1865 by T. F. Robley. Fort Scott, Kan.: Press of the Monitor Book & Print. Co., 1894.

1894 Robley's History of Bourbon County, Kansas




THE year 1844 passed without much incident bearing directly or indirectly on the future of this section of the country. The Republic of Texas was not yet quite ripe but it was rapidly maturing and would soon be gathered into the Union, and add its grand empire to the territory of slavery. This occured the next year—1845—and with the annexation came the war with Mexico. The annexation of Texas was the cause of the Mexican war. Texas claimed that its western boundary was the Rio Grande. Mexico claimed that it was the river Nueces. The United States "took the lawsuit with the property" and made it a pretext for a war which was essentially political and wholly unjustifiable. President Polk and his advisers saw in this war a prospect for still further acquisition of slave territory and the strengthening of the slave power. The acquisition of Texas had whetted the appetite of the Slave State men and the slavery propagandists; awakened the desire and renewed their determination to absolutely control the future of the United States. A mere equilibrium in territory and power between the North and South was not enough. They


must have such a pronounced advantage that hereafter their wish would be the law, subject to no makeshift of a compromise. The north half of the Louisiana Purchase contained too many possibilities for free States, and the preponderance of territory must be gained now.

It is not the design to enter into the details of that war, but to catch the spirit which actuated the already powerful and rapidly increasing following of John C. Calhoun. It formed one of the converging lines which at that epoch were beginning to sweep through the Republic, dividing and materializing public thought and action, and leading up to and educating the people to a realization of an impending crisis.

One of the principal events of the war, however, which had a bearing on the future, was the winning by General Taylor of the battle of Buena Vista, by which he at once broke the back of the Mexican army and overthrew the Democratic party at home; for that battle made him—a Whig and a restrictionist—President of the United States, and put a curb, for a short time, on their high ambition. But the additional teritory[sic] so much desired was gained by the acquisition of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, for which, by the treaty of February 2, 1848, $15,000,000 was paid to Mexico.


During the war, Aug. 8, 1846, President Polk made an effort to stop it by a money proposition to Mexico.


He sent a message to Congress asking for an appropriation to pay for territory to be acquired. A bill was reported. David Wilmot, Hannibal Hamlin, Preston King and a few other Northern Democrats, who were not of those John Randolph called "Northern Doughfaces," held a caucus and decided among themselves that, inasmuch as Mexico had abolished slavery some twenty years before, all territory acquired from that country should come in free. Wilmot therefore offered the following proviso to the bill:

"Provided, That as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty that may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall be first duly convicted."

This was the historic "Wilmot Proviso." The bill passed the House with this proviso, but was talked to death in the Senate and went over the session without a vote. And the two Whig generals, Scott and Taylor, went on with the war.

The Democratic party at that time contained no general officer of the army who was regarded as competent to conduct the war. A bill was introduced and passed one house authorizing the President to place Thomas H. Benton at the head of the army. But Benton had too many personal enemies in Congress and in the Cabinet, and the bill was finally defeated.



Congress in 1850 resumed its efforts to organize the country acquired from Mexico into Territories but without success. The whole matter was finally referred to a committee of which Henry Clay was chairman. The report of the committee formed the basis of a compromise—sometimes called the "Omnibus Bill"—the chief features of which were the admission of California as a free State, a territorial government for Utah and New Mexico, and prohibiting the slave-trade in the District of Columbia.

After a protracted discussion, a bill to organize Utah was passed, but the other measures of the bill went over to the next session, when they were brought forward separately and became laws, and the wrangle of 1850 was thus compromised. The effect was to allay the excitement that had so much agitated the country. The minds of the people were lulled to rest, and as 1851, '52 and '53 passed over without more than a slight increase in the boil and bubble of the political cauldron, it was hoped by all and believed by many that the slavery question was NOT irrepressible.

Outwardly, at least, all was quiet on the Potomac.