The term doughface originally referred to an actual mask made of dough, but came to be used in a disparaging context for someone, especially a politician, who is perceived to be pliable and moldable.[1] In the 1847 Webster's dictionary doughfacism was defined as "the willingness to be led about by one of stronger mind and will".[2] In the years leading up to the American Civil War, "doughface" was used to describe Northerners who favored the Southern position in political disputes. Typically it was applied to a Northern Democrat who was more often allied with the Southern Democrats than with the majority of Northern Democrats.[3]

Origin of the term

The expression was coined by John Randolph, a Representative from Virginia, during the Missouri Compromise debates. Randolph had no respect for northerners who voted with the South, considering them, in historian Leonard Richards' words, "weak men, timid men, half-baked men". Randolph said of them:

Autographed portrait of John Randolph
Portrait and signature of John Randolph

They were scared at their own dough faces—yes, they were scared at their own dough faces!—We had them, and if we wanted three more, we could have had them: yes, and if these had failed, we could have three more of these men, whose conscience, and morality, and religion, extend to 'thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude'.[3]

John Randolph may actually have said "doe faces" instead of "dough faces": the pronunciation would have been identical, and Randolph was a hunter, sometimes bringing his hunting dog with him to Congress. Ascribing "doe faces" (or "doe's faces") to those he despised would have been Randolph's comment on the weakness of these men.[2]

In 1820 seventeen doughfaces made the Missouri Compromise possible. In 1836 sixty northern congressmen voted with the South in the passage of a gag rule to prevent anti-slavery petitions from being formally received in the House of Representatives. In 1847 twenty-seven northerners joined with the South in opposing the Wilmot Proviso, and in 1850 thirty-five supported a stronger fugitive slave law. By 1854 the South had changed its position on the Missouri Compromise and fifty-eight northerners supported its repeal in the Kansas–Nebraska Act.[4]

The 1850s

While the term originated in the House, doughfaces eventually had their greatest influence in the United States Senate. In the House the greater growth of the northern population gave it a greater proportion of votes, but in the Senate the even balance of slave and free states required that only a few northerners needed to support the South in order to hold the House in check. The clearest case came in the Wilmot Proviso votes of 1846 and 1847 when the Senate rejected the Proviso after its passage in the House.[4]

Of course, many Southerners still looked at these doughfaces from the same perspective as Randolph—weak men who, without any firm moral commitment to their cause other than political expediency, could prove at some critical point in the future to be unreliable.[5] Richards has classified 320 congressmen in the period from 1820 to 1860 as doughfaces. The two U.S. Presidents preceding Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Pierce[6] and James Buchanan, were both commonly referred to as doughfaces. Stephen A. Douglas was severely criticized by Lincoln as the "worst doughface of them all",[7] even though he broke with his party over the Lecompton Constitution for Kansas in 1857. Other such doughfaces were Charles G. Atherton, the author of the gag rule, and Jesse D. Bright, the only northern senator expelled for treason during the Civil War.

The ultimate weakness of the doughfaces, from a Southern perspective, came over the issue of popular sovereignty. At the time of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, popular sovereignty was accepted by both the northern and southern Democrats as the proper states' rights position. It protected against federal consolidation and insured the equality of the states to compete in the territories.[8] Douglas and many northern Democrats remained consistent through 1860 in their support for popular sovereignty. Southerners, on the other hand, saw the increasing strength of the anti-slavery movement in the North and by the late 1850s were no longer content simply to rely on preventing the Federal government from interfering in the territories. They now insisted on Federal intervention to protect slavery in the territories and prevent any decision on slavery until a territory prepared a constitution as part of an application for statehood. Northern Democrats such as Douglas could not go that far with the South. The doughface, as an agent for sectional compromise, had outlived his usefulness.[9]

Modern usage

In Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.'s book The Vital Center, he applied the term to modern liberalism in the United States, referring to the part of the movement perceived as practicing appeasement toward Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Vintage Vocabulary, accessed 22 April 2007 at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 2007-04-23.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b Richards p. 86
  3. ^ a b Richards pp. 85–86
  4. ^ a b Richards pp. 86–87
  5. ^ Richards p. 106
  6. ^ Holt, Michael F.; Fitzgibbon Holt, Michael; Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M; Wilentz, Sean (2010). Franklin Pierce Volume 14 of The American Presidents. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0805087192.
  7. ^ Richards p. 109
  8. ^ Morrison p. 143
  9. ^ Morrison pp. 219–241
  10. ^ Greenberg, David (2009-04-09). "Double Negative: The return of doughface liberalism". The New Republic. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-04-17.


  • Morrison, Michael A. Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War. (1997) ISBN 0-8078-2319-8.
  • Richards, Leonard L. The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination 1780–1860. (2000) ISBN 0-8071-2537-7

External links

Black suffrage in Pennsylvania

Prior the early 1800s wealthy African-American men could vote just as their rich European-American male counterparts could. However, voting rights were expanded to include poor European-American men, in a shift that began the transgression away from a stratified society based on class, to one which was now based on race; black wealthy men were now no longer allowed to vote. This page covers the context of the gradual decline in rights for African Americans which culminated in the loss of their voting rights, as well as the effects on the surrounding society and the resulting political climate as well as the revolt from the black community.

Caleb Cushing

Caleb Cushing (January 17, 1800 – January 2, 1879) was an American diplomat who served as a U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts and Attorney General under President Franklin Pierce.

Copperhead (politics)

In the 1860s, the Copperheads, also known as Peace Democrats, were a faction of Democrats in the Northern United States of the Union who opposed the American Civil War and wanted an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates.

Republicans started calling anti-war Democrats "Copperheads", likening them to the venomous snake. Those Democrats accepted the label, reinterpreting the copper "head" as the likeness of Liberty, which they cut from Liberty Head large cent coins and proudly wore as badges. By contrast, Democratic supporters of the war were called War Democrats. The Copperheads represented the more extreme wing of the Northern Democrats. Notable Copperheads included two Democratic Congressmen from Ohio: Clement L. Vallandigham and Alexander Long. Republican prosecutors accused some prominent Copperheads of treason in a series of trials in 1864.Copperheadism was a highly contentious grass-roots movement. It had its strongest base in the area just north of the Ohio River as well as in some urban ethnic wards. Some historians have argued that it represented a traditionalistic element alarmed at the rapid modernization of society sponsored by the Republican Party and that it looked back to Jacksonian democracy for inspiration. Weber (2006) argues that the Copperheads damaged the Union war effort by opposing conscription (the "draft"), encouraging desertion and forming conspiracies, but other historians say that the draft was already in disrepute and that the Republicans greatly exaggerated the conspiracies for partisan reasons.

Historians such as Wood Gray and Jennifer Weber argue that the Copperheads were inflexibly rooted in the past and were naive about the refusal of the Confederates to return to the Union. Convinced that the Republicans were ruining the traditional world they loved, they were obstructionist partisans. In turn, the Copperheads became a major target of the National Union Party in the 1864 presidential election, where they were used to discredit the main Democratic candidates. Copperhead support increased when Union armies did poorly and decreased when they won great victories. After the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, Union military success seemed assured and Copperheadism collapsed.

Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 – October 8, 1869) was the 14th president of the United States (1853–1857), a northern Democrat who saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation. He alienated anti-slavery groups by championing and signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act, yet he failed to stem conflict between North and South, setting the stage for Southern secession and the American Civil War.

Pierce was born in New Hampshire, and served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate until he resigned from the Senate in 1842. His private law practice in New Hampshire was a success, and he was appointed U.S. Attorney for his state in 1845. He took part in the Mexican–American War as a brigadier general in the Army. He was seen by Democrats as a compromise candidate uniting northern and southern interests and was nominated as the party's candidate for president on the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. He and running mate William R. King easily defeated the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham in the 1852 presidential election.

As president, Pierce simultaneously attempted to enforce neutral standards for civil service while also satisfying the diverse elements of the Democratic Party with patronage, an effort which largely failed and turned many in his party against him. He was a Young America expansionist who signed the Gadsden Purchase of land from Mexico and led a failed attempt to acquire Cuba from Spain. He signed trade treaties with Britain and Japan, while his Cabinet reformed their departments and improved accountability, but these successes were overshadowed by political strife during his presidency. His popularity declined sharply in the Northern states after he supported the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which nullified the Missouri Compromise, while many whites in the South continued to support him. Passage of the act led to violent conflict over the expansion of slavery in the American West. Pierce's administration was further damaged when several of his diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto calling for the annexation of Cuba, a document which was roundly criticized. He fully expected to be renominated by the Democrats in the 1856 presidential election, but was abandoned by his party and his bid failed. His reputation in the North suffered further during the American Civil War as he became a vocal critic of President Abraham Lincoln.

Pierce was popular and outgoing, but his family life was a grim affair, with his wife Jane suffering from illness and depression for much of her life. All of their children died young, their last son being gruesomely killed in a train accident while the family was traveling shortly before Pierce's inauguration. He was a heavy drinker for much of his life, and he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869. Historians and scholars generally rank Pierce as one of the worst and least memorable U.S. Presidents.

Henry C. Murphy

Henry Cruse Murphy (July 5, 1810 – December 1, 1882) was an American lawyer, politician and historian. During his political career, he served as Mayor of Brooklyn, a member of the United States House of Representatives, U.S. Minister to the Netherlands, and member of the New York State Senate.

Murphy was a historian, author, and newspaper editor; he founded and was the first editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper, authored monographs on subjects including Henry Hudson's explorations, and translated several Dutch historical works into English.

In addition to his political and literary careers, Murphy was involved in several business ventures in Brooklyn, including railroads and construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Murphy died in Brooklyn in 1882 and was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery.

History of the United States Democratic Party

The Democratic Party is the oldest voter-based political party in the world and the oldest existing political party in the United States, tracing its heritage back to the anti-Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican Party of the 1790s. During the Second Party System (from 1832 to the mid-1850s) under Presidents Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren and James K. Polk, the Democrats usually bested the opposition Whig Party by narrow margins. Both parties worked hard to build grassroots organizations and maximize the turnout of voters, which often reached 80 percent or 90 percent of eligible voters (at this time, suffrage was granted only to white males). Both parties used patronage extensively to finance their operations, which included emerging big city political machines as well as national networks of newspapers. The party was a proponent for slave-owners across the country, urban workers and caucasian immigrants.

From 1860 to 1932 in the era of the American Civil War to the Great Depression, the opposing Republican Party, organized in the mid-1850s from the ruins of the Whig Party and some other smaller splinter groups, was dominant in presidential politics. The Democrats elected only two Presidents to four terms of office for twenty-two years, namely Grover Cleveland (in 1884 and 1892) and Woodrow Wilson (in 1912 and 1916).

Over the same period, the Democrats proved more competitive with the Republicans in Congressional politics, enjoying House of Representatives majorities (as in the 65th Congress) in 15 of the 36 Congresses elected, although only in five of these did they form the majority in the Senate. Furthermore, the Democratic Party was split between the Bourbon Democrats, representing Eastern business interests; and the agrarian elements comprising poor farmers in the South and West. The agrarian element, marching behind the slogan of free silver (i.e. in favor of inflation), captured the party in 1896 and nominated William Jennings Bryan in the 1896, 1900 and 1908 presidential elections, although he lost every time. Both Bryan and Wilson were leaders of the progressive movement in the United States (1890s–1920s).

Starting with 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 during the Great Depression, the party dominated the Fifth Party System, with its progressive liberal policies and programs with the New Deal coalition to combat the emergency bank closings and the continuing financial depression since the famous Wall Street Crash of 1929 and later going into the crises leading up to World War II. The Democrats and the Democratic Party finally lost the White House and control of the executive branch of government only after Roosevelt's death in April 1945 near the end of the war and after the continuing post-war administration of Roosevelt's third Vice President Harry S. Truman, former Senator from Missouri (for 1945 to 1953, elections of 1944 and the "stunner" of 1948). A new Republican Party President was only elected later in the following decade of the early 1950s with the losses by two-time nominee, the Governor of Illinois Adlai Stevenson (grandson of the former Vice President with the same name of the 1890s) to the very popular war hero and commanding general in World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower (in 1952 and 1956).

With two brief interruptions since the Great Depression and World War II eras, the Democrats with unusually large majorities for over four decades, controlled the lower house of the Congress in the House of Representatives from 1930 until 1994 and the Senate for most of that same period, electing the Speaker of the House and the Representatives' majority leaders/committee chairs along with the upper house of the Senate's majority leaders and committee chairmen. Important Democratic progressive/liberal leaders included 33rd and 36th Presidents Harry S. Truman of Missouri (1945–1953) and Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas (1963–1969), respectively; and the earlier Kennedy brothers of 35th President John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts (1961–1963), Senators Robert F. Kennedy of New York and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts who carried the flag for modern American liberalism. Since the presidential election of 1976, Democrats have won five out of the last eleven presidential elections, winning in the presidential elections of 1976 (with 39th President Jimmy Carter of Georgia, 1977–1981), 1992 and 1996 (with 42nd President Bill Clinton of Arkansas, 1993–2001) and 2008 and 2012 (with 44th President Barack Obama of Illinois, 2009–2017). Democrats have also won the popular vote in 2000 and 2016, but lost the Electoral College with Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, respectively. The 1876 and 1888 elections were other two presidential elections in which Democrats won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College (the Democrats candidates were Samuel J. Tilden and Grover Cleveland). Social scientists Theodore Caplow et al. argue that "the Democratic party, nationally, moved from left-center toward the center in the 1940s and 1950s, then moved further toward the right-center in the 1970s and 1980s".

History of the United States Republican Party

The Republican Party, also referred to as the GOP (abbreviation for Grand Old Party), is one of the world's oldest extant political parties. The party values reflect economic conservatism, classical conservatism (modern day American conservatism) and corporate liberty rights. It is the second oldest existing political party in the United States after its primary rival, the Democratic Party. The party emerged in 1854 to combat the Kansas–Nebraska Act, an act that dissolved the terms of the Missouri Compromise and allowed slave or free status to be decided in the territories by popular sovereignty. The early Republican Party had almost no presence in the Southern United States, but by 1858 it had enlisted former Whigs and former Free Soil Democrats to form majorities in nearly every Northern state.

With its election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and its success in guiding the Union to victory in the American Civil War and abolishing slavery, the party came to dominate the national political scene until 1932. The Republican Party at its beginning consisted of African-American and White Northern Protestants, businessmen, small business owners, professionals, factory workers, and farmers. It was pro-business, supporting banks, the gold standard, railroads and high tariffs to protect factory workers and grow industry faster. Under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, it emphasized an expansive foreign policy.

The GOP lost its majorities during the Great Depression (1929–1940). Instead, the Democrats under Franklin D. Roosevelt formed a winning New Deal coalition, which was dominant from 1932 through 1964. That coalition collapsed in the mid-1960s, partly because of white Southern Democrats' disaffection with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Republicans won five of the six presidential elections from 1968 to 1988, with Ronald Reagan as the party's iconic conservative hero. From 1992 to 2016, the Republican candidate has been elected to the White House in three of the seven presidential elections. Two of these (the 2000 and 2016 elections) saw George W. Bush and Donald Trump losing the popular vote, but winning the Electoral College. A similar situation in which Republicans won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote were the 1876 and 1888 elections.

The Republican Party expanded its base throughout the South after 1968 (excepting 1976), largely due to its strength among socially conservative white evangelical Protestants and traditionalist Roman Catholics. As white Democrats in the South lost dominance of the Democratic Party once American courts declared the Democratic white primary elections unconstitutional, the region began taking on the two-party apparatus which characterized most of the nation. The Republican Party's transforming leader by 1980 was Reagan, whose conservative policies called for reduced government spending and regulation, lower taxes and a strong anti-Soviet Union foreign policy.

Reagan's influence upon the party persists as nearly every Republican Party speaker still reveres him. As such, social scientists Theodore Caplow et al. argue: "The Republican party, nationally, moved from right-center toward the center in the 1940s and 1950s, then moved right again in the 1970s and 1980s".

James Buchanan

James Buchanan Jr. (; April 23, 1791 – June 1, 1868) was an American politician who served as the 15th president of the United States (1857–1861), serving immediately prior to the American Civil War. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the 17th United States secretary of state and had served in the Senate and House of Representatives before becoming president.

Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, to parents of Ulster Scots descent. He became a prominent lawyer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and won election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Federalist. In 1820, Buchanan won election to the United States House of Representatives, eventually becoming aligned with Andrew Jackson's Democratic Party. After serving as Jackson's Minister to Russia, Buchanan won election as a senator from Pennsylvania. In 1845, he accepted appointment as President James K. Polk's Secretary of State. A major contender for his party's presidential nomination throughout the 1840s and 1850s, Buchanan finally won his party's nomination in 1856, defeating incumbent President Pierce and Senator Stephen A. Douglas at the 1856 Democratic National Convention. Buchanan and his running mate, John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, defeated Republican John C. Frémont and Know-Nothing Millard Fillmore to win the 1856 election.

Shortly after his election, Buchanan lobbied the Supreme Court to issue a broad ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which he fully endorsed as president. He allied with the South in attempting to gain the admission of Kansas to the Union as a slave state under the Lecompton Constitution. In the process, he alienated both Republican abolitionists and Northern Democrats, most of whom supported the principle of popular sovereignty in determining a new state's slaveholding status. He was often called a "doughface", a Northerner with Southern sympathies, and he fought with Douglas, the leader of the popular sovereignty faction, for control of the Democratic Party. In the midst of the growing sectional crisis, the Panic of 1857 struck the nation. Buchanan indicated in his 1857 inaugural address that he would not seek a second term, and he kept his word and did not run for re-election in the 1860 presidential election. Buchanan supported the North during the Civil War and publicly defended himself against charges that he was responsible for the war. He died in 1868 at age 77, and was also the last president to be born in the eighteenth century. He is the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor.

Buchanan aspired to be a president who would rank in history with George Washington, by using his tendencies toward neutrality and impartiality. Historians fault him, however, for his failure to address the issue of slavery and the secession of the southern states, bringing the nation to the brink of civil war. His inability to address the sharply divided pro-slavery and anti-slavery partisans with a unifying principle on the brink of the Civil War has led to his consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst presidents in American history. Historians who participated in a 2006 survey voted his failure to deal with secession as the worst presidential mistake ever made.

Nathan Clifford

Nathan Clifford (August 18, 1803 – July 25, 1881) was an American statesman, diplomat and jurist, whose career culminated in a lengthy period of service as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Presidency of Abraham Lincoln

The presidency of Abraham Lincoln began on March 4, 1861, when he was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States, and ended upon his assassination and death on April 15, 1865, 42 days into his second term. Lincoln was the first member of the recently-established Republican Party elected to the presidency. He was succeeded by Vice President Andrew Johnson. Lincoln presided over the Union victory in the American Civil War, which dominated his presidency.

Lincoln took office following the 1860 presidential election, in which he won a plurality of the popular vote in a four-candidate field. Almost all of Lincoln's votes came from the Northern United States, as the Republicans held little appeal to voters in the Southern United States. A former Whig, Lincoln ran on a political platform opposed to the expansion of slavery in the territories. His election served as the immediate impetus for the outbreak of the American Civil War. During the 16 weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day, seven slave states declared their secession from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. After being sworn in as president, Lincoln refused to accept any resolution that would result in Southern secession from the Union. The Civil War began weeks into Lincoln's presidency with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, a federal installation located within the boundaries of the Confederacy.

Lincoln was called on to handle both the political and military aspects of the Civil War, facing challenges in both spheres. As commander-in-chief, he ordered the suspension of the constitutionally-protected right to habeas corpus in the state of Maryland in order to suppress Confederate sympathizers. He also became the first president to institute a military draft. As the Union faced several early defeats in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, Lincoln cycled through numerous military commanders during the war, finally settling on General Ulysses S. Grant, who had led the Union to several victories in the Western Theater. Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed about millions of slaves in Confederate-held territory, and established emancipation as a Union war goal. In 1865, Lincoln was instrumental in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery unconstitutional. Lincoln also presided over the passage of important domestic legislation, including the first of the Homestead Acts, the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, and the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862. He ran for re-election in 1864 on the National Union ticket, which was supported by War Democrats in addition to Republicans. Though Lincoln feared he might lose the contest, he defeated his former subordinate, General George B. McClellan of the Democratic Party, in a landslide. Months after the election, Grant would essentially end the war by defeating the Confederate army led by General Robert E. Lee. Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, five days after the surrender of Lee, left the final challenge of reconstructing the nation to others.

Following his death, Lincoln was portrayed as the liberator of the slaves, the savior of the Union, and a martyr for the cause of freedom. Political historians have long held Lincoln in high regard for his accomplishments and personal characteristics. Alongside George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt, he has been consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as one of the top three greatest presidents, often as number one.

Presidency of James Buchanan

The presidency of James Buchanan began on March 4, 1857, when James Buchanan was inaugurated as President of the United States, and ended on March 4, 1861. Buchanan, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, took office as the 15th United States president after defeating former President Millard Fillmore of the American Party, and John C. Frémont of the Republican Party in the 1856 presidential election.

Buchanan was nominated by the Democratic Party at its 1856 convention, where he defeated both the incumbent President Franklin Pierce and Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Despite his long experience in government, Buchanan was unable to calm the growing sectional crisis that would divide the nation at the close of his term. Prior to taking office, Buchanan lobbied the Supreme Court to issue a broad ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Though Buchanan hoped that the Court's ruling would end the dispute over slavery in the territories, Buchanan's support of the ruling deeply alienated many Northerners. Buchanan also joined with Southern leaders in attempting to gain the admission of Kansas to the Union as a slave state under the Lecompton Constitution. In the midst of the growing chasm between slave states and free states, the Panic of 1857 struck the nation, causing widespread business failures and high unemployment.

Tensions over slavery continued to the end of Buchanan's term. Buchanan had promised in his inaugural address to serve just one term, and with the ongoing national turmoil over slavery, no one asked him to rescind his pledge. Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln, running on a platform devoted to keeping slavery out of all Western territories, defeated the splintered Democratic Party and Constitutional Union candidate John Bell to win the 1860 election. In response to Lincoln's victory, seven Southern states declared their secession from the Union. Buchanan refused to confront the seceded states with military force, but retained control of Fort Sumter. The secession crisis culminated in outbreak of the American Civil War shortly after Buchanan left office.

Texas v. White

Texas v. White, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 700 (1869), was a case argued before the United States Supreme Court in 1869. The case involved a claim by the Reconstruction government of Texas that United States bonds owned by Texas since 1850 had been illegally sold by the Confederate state legislature during the American Civil War. The state filed suit directly with the United States Supreme Court, which, under the United States Constitution, retains original jurisdiction on certain cases in which a state is a party.

In accepting original jurisdiction, the court ruled that, legally speaking, Texas had remained a United States state ever since it first joined the Union, despite its joining the Confederate States of America and its being under military rule at the time of the decision in the case. In deciding the merits of the bond issue, the court further held that the Constitution did not permit states to unilaterally secede from the United States, and that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were "absolutely null".

Timeline of events leading to the American Civil War

This timeline of events leading up to the American Civil War describes and links to narrative articles and references about many of the events and issues which historians recognize as origins and causes of the Civil War. The pre-Civil War events can be roughly divided into a period encompassing the long-term build-up over many decades and a period encompassing the five-month build-up to war immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln as President in the Election of 1860, which culminated in the Fall of Fort Sumter (April 1861).

Since the early colonial period in Virginia, slavery had been a part of the socioeconomic system of British North America and was recognized in the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the United States' Declaration of Independence (1776). Since then, events and statements by politicians and others brought forth differences, tensions and divisions between the people of the slave states of the Southern United States and the people of the free states of the Northern United States (including Western states) over the topics of slavery. The large underlying issue from which other issues developed was whether slavery should be retained and even expanded to other areas or whether it should be contained and eventually abolished. Over many decades, these issues and divisions became increasingly irreconcilable and contentious.Events in the 1850s culminated with the election of the anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln as President on November 6, 1860. This provoked the first round of state secession as leaders of the Deep South cotton states were unwilling to remain in a second class political status with their way of life threatened by the President himself. Initially, the seven Deep South states seceded, with economies based on cotton (then in heavy European demand with rising prices). They were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. After the Confederates attacked and captured Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for volunteers to march south and suppress the rebellion. This pushed the four other Upper South States (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) also to secede. These states completed the formation of the Confederate States of America. Their addition to the Confederacy ensured a war would be prolonged and bloody because they contributed territory and soldiers.

William L. Marcy

William Learned Marcy (December 12, 1786 – July 4, 1857) was an American lawyer, politician, and judge who served as U.S. Senator, Governor of New York, U.S. Secretary of War and U.S. Secretary of State. In the latter office, he negotiated the Gadsden Purchase, the last major acquisition of land in the continental United States.

Born in Southbridge, Massachusetts, Marcy established a legal practice in Troy, New York after graduating from Brown University. He fought in the War of 1812, serving as a captain of volunteers. Politically, he aligned with the Bucktail faction of the Democratic-Republican Party and became a leading member of the Albany Regency. As the Democratic-Republicans fractured in the 1820s, he became a member of the Democratic Party. Between 1821 and 1831, he successively served as Adjutant General of New York, New York State Comptroller, and as an associate justice of the New York Supreme Court. In 1831, the New York legislature elected Marcy to the U.S. Senate, and he held that position until 1833, when he became the Governor of New York. He served three terms as governor until his defeat in 1838 by the Whig nominee, William Seward.

He served as Secretary of War under James K. Polk from 1845 to 1849, overseeing the Mexican–American War. After leaving the Polk administration, he resumed the practice of law and became a leader of the "Soft" Hunker faction of the New York Democratic Party. He returned to the Cabinet in 1853, serving as Secretary of State under Franklin Pierce. In this role, he resolved a dispute about the status of U.S. immigrants abroad and directed U.S. diplomats to dress in the plain style of an ordinary American rather than the court-dress many had adopted from Europe. He also negotiated a reciprocity treaty with British North America and the Gadsden purchase with Mexico, acquiring territory in present-day Arizona and New Mexico. He left office in 1857 and died shortly thereafter.

Wilmot Proviso

The Wilmot Proviso was an unsuccessful 1846 proposal in the United States Congress to ban slavery in territory acquired from Mexico in the Mexican–American War. The conflict over the Wilmot proviso was one of the major events leading to the American Civil War.

Congressman David Wilmot first introduced the proviso in the United States House of Representatives on August 8, 1846, as a rider on a $2,000,000 appropriations bill intended for the final negotiations to resolve the Mexican–American War (this was only three months into the two-year war). It passed the House but failed in the Senate, where the South had greater representation. It was reintroduced in February 1847 and again passed the House and failed in the Senate. In 1848, an attempt to make it part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also failed. Sectional political disputes over slavery in the Southwest continued until the Compromise of 1850.

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