Presidency of Zachary Taylor


Election of 1848

  • Democrats and Whigs split over whether to limit expansion of slavery
  • Free-Soil Party emerged in support of Wilmot Proviso

o   Martin Van Buren candidate

o   Free soil, free speech, free labor, free men

o   Main goal to keep slavery out of western territories

presidential election of 1848

  • Whigs and Democrats had avoided slavery question

o   Free-soilers forced them to take stand

o   Both chose popular sovereignty

  • Voters in territory…NOT Congress…would decide slavery
  • Wide appeal
  • True democracy!!

o   Allowed to focus on each candidate – NOT slavery

  • Whigs nominated Zachary Taylor

o   Mexican War General

o   Did not reveal political opinions…but people made assumptions

o   Slave holder from Louisiana- assumed he supported slavery  HD_1848ElectionTopic

  • Democrats nominated Lewis Cass of Michigan

o   Opposed Wilmot Proviso

o   Supported popular sovereignty

  • Taylor won by slim majority in North and South

o   Van Buren drew 10% of vote away from Cass causing him to lose

o   Free-Soil now on public radar

Zachary Taylor’s presidency was consumed by the conflict over the newly acquired Mexican Territory and the proposed “Compromise”

  • Taylor refused to support the provisions of compromise.

Taylor suddenly died while in office in 1850 which made his Vice President, Millard Fillmore, the new President.

  • Fillmore signed the compromise into law that was engineered by Whig leaders Henry Clay and Daniel Webster along with the Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.
  • This became known as the Compromise of 1850 which was meant to solve the territorial expansion conflict and preserve the Union– at least it did so temporarily.