How much of a factor was slavery in Southerners' desire to expand the US?

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,759
Dispargum
Is there a list of zero-return concessions?
Nothing you haven't heard before:

Compromise of 1850 with its Fugitive Slave Law
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Dred Scott Decision
The Tariff of 1857
The elections of 1852 and '56 were both won by Northerners who were friendly to the South. In fact almost every presidential election prior to 1860 was either won by a Southerner or a Northerner who was friendly to the South.

A lot of this was perception rather than reality, but perception trumps reality everytime. Real or not, my point was that the North was getting fed up with compromising with the South. Maybe I misspoke about compromise without compensation. It would be more accurate for me to say the North was just getting fed up with compromise.
 
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Jun 2017
627
maine
Yes, Southern slave owners needed more land, but most Southern farmers did not own slaves and they needed more land, too. The national appetite for land was not driven only by slavery.
Note that I wrote "big landowners". I believe that it was the economic needs of the plantation owners that whipped up the southern farmers, etc. into fighting for the Confederacy: it was the plantation owners that decided the course of the South.
 
Feb 2011
1,143
Scotland
Reading MacPherson at the moment. His view is that problems were ongoing and increasing from the 1820s onward. Southerners hoped right up to Dred Scott that slavery could be imposed throughout the US.

Where new territories were opening up, they wanted their share of the returns to be obtained, whether by cotton or other crops, at least in accessible territories or below the Mason Dixon line. But they wanted to achieve this along with the use of slavery in those territories. Kansas brought this to a head and the political shenanigans and violence there showed how far they were prepared to go. (there were Northerners to match them for violence though.).

They wanted those new territories as slave states. Southern politics had been dominant or very influential throughout the post -revolution period and was so up till Lincoln's election by a solid Northern bloc. Throughout the period of tension, Southerners were very sensitive about anything that might disturb the status quo, especially the prospect of new territories become free states and tilting the electoral college against slave states. For a time, compromise permitted 1 free state admitted to be followed by 1 slave state. Once the South felt that the political tide had turned and that henceforth a Northern bloc would increasingly eat away at what the South considered its culture (and especially its 'peculiar institution') - it seceded.

In fact, MacPherson goes so far as to state that it was the South that was fighting for the 'old' Union - and that it was the North, which (after 1862) was fighting to destroy the old Union and build a new Union upon the debris.
 
Jun 2017
627
maine
Just so. Except, I venture to add, the problem was more than any Southern belief in an "old union": it was that some truly unresolved issues of the Constitution Convention remained; the South was actually displeased with some of the compromises of the Constitution which, ironically, included states' rights for the North. But perhaps I am veering off subject.
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
4,440
Caribbean
Nothing you haven't heard before:

Compromise of 1850 with its Fugitive Slave Law
Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Dred Scott Decision
The Tariff of 1857
The elections of 1852 and '56 were both won by Northerners who were friendly to the South. In fact almost every presidential election prior to 1860 was either won by a Southerner or a Northerner who was friendly to the South.

A lot of this was perception rather than reality, but perception trumps reality everytime. Real or not, my point was that the North was getting fed up with compromising with the South. Maybe I misspoke about compromise without compensation. It would be more accurate for me to say the North was just getting fed up with compromise.
Obviously, it was the without compensation that attracted my attention. My list of compromises would have started with the Constitution; and would not list a court case as a compromise. I would also consider that often there is not an equal amount of skin in the compromise game, as the South was not trying to make the North cease and desist any integral part of its economic base activities - though the presence of slavery does drive down the value of the labor of freemen (like the ones in free states).
 
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Sep 2012
1,177
Tarkington, Texas
Cotton grows into Texas, much depends on the rainfall. If you are next to a river and can irrigate, you can have no problems. Cotton had few natural predators until the Boll Weevil entered the US.

Keep in mind that there are Barrier Dunes along the Louisiana Gulf Coast that keep the Gulf out. Once the Gulf breaks past them, the Marsh will be washed away. Louisiana may lose one quarter of its land. Texas, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi have similar areas, but are a smaller size. The Mississippi River Delta has moved back and forth across the Louisiana Coast. If you draw a line across South Louisiana from where I-10 enters and head east past Baton Rouge, everything to the South was formed by the Mississippi. About a 1000 years ago the Mississippi Delta was pointing out to about the Chandeleur Islands. St Bernard Parish is part of this old Delta. Because of Levees the Mississippi is forced to stay in its present channel. The River wants to switch its channel into the Atchafalaya River. The silt going into the Atchafalaya has turned old lakes into land. Back during the ACW it was possible for someone to sail a paddleboat from the Mississippi down to where Morgan City is now. I don't think the Yankee Navy ever learned of it.

Pruitt
 
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Jun 2017
2,996
Connecticut
How much of a factor was slavery in Southerners' desire to expand the US in the 1840s and beyond? I know that James K. Polk (the pro-expansionist candidate) won in various northern US states in 1844 as well, but I am curious specifically about Southerners' motives for supporting US territorial expansion. Was it only about slavery for them or did they also want to achieve something else as a result of US expansion, and if so, what?
Not all of it cause there's going to a motive no matter what. But most of it. The not slavery motive was mostly prior to the 1840s though in 1844 you had Polk. For example the South would never have supported the War of 1812 and expanding into Canada if the only motive for expansion was slavery. In terms of the 1840s political system, the roles should have been reversed and the North should have been all for the war and the South terrified.

Missouri had supposedly settled the whole slavery issue and Polk's campaign in 1844 was purely expansionist and involved territory that would be both free and slave under that status quo. At the same time the annexation of Texas and the hypothetical seizure was seen as pro slavery expansion by Henry Clay that would disrupt the balance and had at earlier times but Clay's fears manifested when Polk took considerably more land from Mexico than just Texas(Texas was independent but it was in rebellion from Mexico and annexation took it off the table for Mexico forever) leading to the various battles over slavery that began the march to war. In hindsight Tyler and Polk were also pretty pro slavery people and Polk was considerably more aggressive seizing land from Mexico where the slavery issue would be a question than from the UK where even if slavery advocates had wanted to expand slavery there, the climate would have made it difficult.

There also is a difference between opposing the seizure of land because it would or wouldn't have slavery and fighting over whether land you already have and whether or not it should have slavery. The final plunge towards Civil War was caused by Kansas Nebraska and SCOTUS tearing up the Missouri Compromise which involved land purchased in the Louisiana Purchase. Besides Texas(previously a country) and California(because of the rapid gold rush migration) none of the other territory from the Manifest Destiny era developed quickly enough to be relevant, the land that started the war was acquired by Thomas Jefferson. So expansion certainly contributed to the tensions that started the Kansas and Nebraska scene and the Compromise of 1850 involving popular sovereignty could be seen as a pre cursor to Douglas bringing it into the Louisiana Purchase but practically speaking the expansion of the US into other countries didn't play a role though it threatened to.
 
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