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This terribly crushing defeat sounded the death-knell of the Whig party. True, as the indictment for homicide runs, it “ lingering did languish, and languishing did live" a little while longer.
At the beginning of this administration Congress was divided politically as follows: Senate, 38 Democrats, 22 Whigs, 2 Free-Soilers; House, 159 Democrats, 71 Whigs, 4 Free-Soilers. When Congress met, December 3, 1855, there was a different classification. In the Senate there were 42 Democrats, 15 Republicans, 5 Americans, and 30 opposition of various names. In the House there were 71 Democrats, pure and simple, 117 Anti-Nebraska men, Democrats, Whigs, and Free-Soilers, 31 Pro-Slavery Whigs.
A new phase of the growing hostility to foreigners de. veloped a new party called “ Know-Nothings.” In 1834 there had been a Native American party; but it was in the main confined to New York and Philadelphia. The Whigs who joined it withdrew in 1844 because it would not support Clay. This new organization worked in se. cret, and attained considerable power. As will presently be seen, it culminated in 1856, and then dissolved as quietly as it had been born and grown.
'The electoral votes for Pierce were : Maine, 8 ; New llampshire, 5 ; Rhode Island, +: Connecticut, 6; New York, 35 : New Jersey, 7; Penn. sylvania, 27 : Delaware, 3; Maryland, 8; Virginia, 15; North Carolina, 10 ; South Carolina, 8: Cieorgia, 10; Alabama, 9; Mississippi, 7; Loui. siana, 6 ; Ohio, 23 : Indiana, 13; Illinois, 11; Arkansas, 4; Texas, 4; lowa, +: Missouri, 9. Michigan, 6; Florida, 3 : Wisconsin, 5; Cali. fornia, +-lotal, 254.
For Scull were: Vermont, : ; Massachusetts, 13 : Tennessee, 12; Ken. lucky, 12-lutal, 13.
The semi-chaotic state of the parties in 1855 prevented the election of Speaker of the House for two months; and it was not until February, 1856, that the House was organized by the election of N. P. Banks of Massachusetts.
This was a tumultuous session. The fight over Kan. sas-Nebraska was on. The House put a rider on the Army Appropriation Bill, prohibiting the use of the army to enforce the acts of the Kansas Legislature. The Senate struck the proviso out of the bill, and no appropriation for the army was voted until a special ses. sion in August.
Pierce's administration was overclouded by stormy and portentous scenes. The slavery question, like Banquo's ghost, would not down. The compromises, which it had been hoped would cure the abolition fever, proved to be the weakest of nostrums; or, perhaps, rather an unex. pected stimulant to the disease. Stephen A. Douglas, brilliant, persistent, and aggressive, introduced in Con. gress his famous bill to organize the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska, with the right of the residents to decide for themselves whether or not slavery should be per. mitted. This measure was sneeringly dubbed " Squatter Sovereignty." The intensity and bitterness of the preva. lent feeling was illustrated by a severe personal assault upon Senator Sumner by Preston S. Brooks, a hot. headed South Carolinian, because of some sharp and severe comments Sumner had made upon Brooks's uncle, Senator Butler.
Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Bill was a palpable depart. ure from the Compromise of 1820, by which slavery would be excluded from both of these Territories. But he claimed that the Compromise of 1820 had been super. seded by that of 1850. He stood upon the broad ground
that no arbitrary line should debar the people from forming and regulating their own domestic policy; and that the residents, whether living north or south of 36° 30', should have the right to sanction or prohibit slavery, as they might prefer. The oratorical struggle was long and fierce. The Southerners abandoned their claim to their inherent right to take their slaves into the new Terri. tories, and united-both Whigs and Democrats—in sup. port of Douglas's bill. In the Senate the Northern Whigs and Free-Soilers were the only opponents. But in the House just one half of the Democratic represen. tatives (there were 88, and 44 voted for the bill and 44 against it) joined the Whigs and Free-Soilers in voting against the bill.
Douglas's bill having become a law (May 30, 1854), there ensued a sharp struggle between the conflicting elements to secure control of Kansas; Nebraska, not being adapted to slave labor, was eliminated from the contest. Slaveholders hurried into Kansas, taking their human property with them. This movement was met by the anti-slavery men of New England organizing societies to encourage and aid the emigration of men from the free States. Many of the new settlers were furnished with Sharp's rifles, as a necessary part of their equipment. The promoters of these colonizers considered rifles as important to the outfit as ploughs and seed grain. Such preparation suggested, if it did nct invite, collision. A border warfare was the almost inevitable result. Armed men from slaveholding Mis. souri went into the disputed territory.
Lawlessness, violence, outrage, and bloodshed followed in the struggle to control the elections which were to determine the character of the local government, whether it should sanc. tion or prohibit slavery. Sectionalisın, which both of the great parties had hitherto striven to suppress, became the dominant and absorbing issue. Under its influence the Whig party succumbed. The Democratic party, having for half a century been indoctrinated in the theory that slavery was a domestic institution, recognized by the Constitution, and beyond the power of Congressional interference, remained steadfast to these views.
But Pierce's administration could point with some pride to its achievements in diplomacy. The rich Em. pire of Japan, which had barred out the rest of the world from all intercourse with her, opened her doors and, by treaty, gave the merchants of this country free access to two of her ports.
In June, 1853, Martin Koszta, a native of Hungary, who had resided in the United States, and had declared his intention to become a citizen thereof, returned to Europe on business, and was seized at Smyrna, Asia · Minor, in Turkish doininions, by the Austrian authorities, who claimed jurisdiction over him, and hurried on board an Austrian ship. Captain Ingraham, commanding the United States warship St. Louis, coming into port at Smyrna, learned the facts, and demanded the release of Koszta, threatening, if refused, to take him by force from the Austrian vessel on which he was imprisoned. He was thereupon released, subject to future negotia. tions. A diplomatic correspondence ensued between Wm. L. Marcy, Secretary of State for the United States, and the Foreign Office of the Austrian Government. Mr. Marcy's papers were an able, exhaustive, and unanswer. able argument upon the subject of the status of Koszta, and settled the question that this government would protect its citizens - even those who had only declared their intention to become such-wherever they might be. This added greatly to the dignity and power of the United States, and gave considerable éclat to the Pierce administration.
The Guadalupe Hidalgo treaty left the boundary line between Chihuahua and New Mexico in some doubt.
James Gadsden was sent as United States Minister to Mexico to adjust the issues growing out of the treaty referred to. On December 30, 1853, a convention was concluded by which there was secured to the United States all that she claimed under the foriner treaty; and what is now Arizona was added to the national domain, at the cost of $10,000,000.
During this adıninistration Messrs. Buchanan, Mason, and Soulé, three American ministers to European courts, issued their “Ostend Manifesto," indicating the desire, even the determination, .of this country to acquire the Island of Cuba.
This period was also marked by another filibuster. ing expedition. Nicaragua was the invaded territory, the forces being led by a General Walker. This proved as futile and fatal as had been the previous one to Cuba under Lopez.
It will be observed that there was an adverse majority in both branches of Congress during Adams's term. Jackson had a solid support during both terms. Van Buren started in office with a majority to support him in both Senate and House, but this was reversed in the last two years of his term. Harrison had the same experi. ence. During Polk's administration, the Democratic majority in the Senate was maintained; but was lost in the House in the second half of his term. The Whigs were in the minority in both Senate and House throughout the Taylor-Fillmore administration.
Pierce entered office with both Houses largely Demo. cratic. During his last two years the Senate was with him, but the opposition had a majority in the House.