Northern Democrats in Command
This chapter examines how Northern Democrats, led by President Franklin Pierce, achieved legislative victory for the Slave Power. Pierce faced a host of formidable challenges as he tried to craft a domestic and diplomatic program that would please the Slave Power and distract Americans from divisions over slavery. While he owed his nomination and election to the South, Pierce would have to somehow bring about an expansion of slavery if he hoped for continuing support from that section. This chapter first considers Pierce's activist foreign policy before discussing the role of Attorney General Caleb Cushing in implementing Pierce's domestic policies, including the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. It then describes a bill in Congress aimed to permit the expansion of slavery into the then-free western territories, as well as the Northern Democrats' development of a policy called “popular sovereignty.” Finally, it provides an overview of the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854.
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