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Chapter 33: the national election of 1848.—the Free Soil Party.— 1848-1849.

The invasion of Mexico proceeded with uninterrupted success, and in less than two years from its beginning ended —as such a war between two such powers was sure to end in the acquisition of an immense territory by the conquering power. During the hostilities tills extension had appeared inevitable to men of political foresight; it would spread our empire on the continent, always an American aspiration; and territory was all that the conquered nation could give as an indemnity. In February, 1848, Mexico ceded to the United States Upper California and New Mexico, a region extending from Texas to the Pacific Ocean.1 It was a domain which, even without its hidden treasures, might well be coveted, and it has wonderfully promoted national development. At the same time its acquisition aggravated a sectional controversy which was to close in blood. The question of its future condition—whether to be free or slave, to increase the number of free or slave States— was one of transcendent import, involving the welfare of the whole nation for generations to come. It appealed to moral as well as political interests. It could not, from its nature, be excluded from politics until it was settled, and settled justly. It pressed upon the attention of large masses of citizens, thoughtful and sober-minded, who had hitherto regarded the conflict with slavery as one of sentimental and speculative rather than practical interest, and who now recognized the supreme importance of electing a Congress and President who could be trusted to exclude slavery forever from the newly acquired territory.

It had been long a scheme of the slaveholders to extend their power to the Pacific Ocean, though the wiser heads among them

1 Ratified by the Senate, March 10, 1848, by a vote of thirty-eight to fifteen. The proposition made by Mexico, for a guaranty against the introduction of slavery into the ceded territory, was peremptorily rejected by our commissioner. Von Holst, vol. III p. 334.

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