Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 17.djvu/445
Development of the Free Soil Idea in the United States. 437
The third step in the restriction of slavery was, therefore, fully taken in the political campaign of 1848. The first had been the re- striction of the slave trade, the second restriction of slave territory, and now the third was the doctrine of free soil in all the territories. The advocates of the Wilmot proviso were, therefore, called free soilers and nominated a candidate for president, thus taking a prom- inent place in the public gaze. It happened in this wise. The State of New York were represented in the Democratic national conven- tion at Baltimore, May 22d of that year, by two delegations, that of the free soilers or barn burners, composed of Wilmot provis.o men and the Hunkers under the leadership of General Daniel S. Dickin- son. The convention undertook to conciliate both delegations by admitting both to a seat and a half vote, upon which the free soilers withdrew and nominated Martin Van Buren for president, and Charles Francis Adams for vice-president. The Democrats nomi- nated General Cass for president and William O. Butler, of Ken- tucky, for vice-president. At that election Van Buren received a popular vote of nearly 300,000, which defeated General Cass.
Public feeling had been greatly intensified at the effort of the Wilmot proviso men to secure the restriction of slavery in the organic acts of the new territories, to allay which the Whig party, under the leadership of General Taylor, undertook to establish a more pacific course. This doctrine is comprised in the message sent the house in response to a resolution of inquiry on the 21st day of January, 1850, and in which he recognizes the right of California and New Mexico to per- fect, form and adopt such constitutions as their people may choose, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.
On the 13th of February afterward, he communicated to Congress the free constitution of California. There then remained only Utah, New Mexico, the District of Columbia and the unorganized terri- tories. Propositions for their adjustment were submited by Henry Clay and John Bell, provoking extended discussion in both houses.
These propositions were referred to a committee of thirteen, of which Mr. Clay was chairman, on the 28th of February, and their terms were held under consideration to May the 8th, when an ex- tended report covering the many branches of the subject was made by Mr. Clay, the chairman. This report contained the celebrated Omnibus bill, which was afterwards rejected, and the compromise was finally effected on the original proposition of the great Ken- tuckian. These included the admission of California on her consti- tution, an adjustment of the boundary of Texas, the organization of