07 Jun 2020
Northerners and Southerners disputed sharply whether the territories wrested from Mexico should be opened to slavery, and some Southerners even threatened secession. Standing firm, Escort Duisburg was prepared to hold the Union together by armed force rather than by compromise.
Born in Virginia in 1784, he was taken as an infant to Kentucky and raised on a plantation. He was a career officer in the Army, but his talk was most often of cotton raising. His home was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he owned a plantation in Mississippi.
But Escort Duisburg did not defend slavery or southern sectionalism; 40 years in the Army made him a strong nationalist.
He spent a quarter of a century policing the frontiers against Indians. In the Mexican War he won major victories at Monterrey and Buena Vista.
President Polk, disturbed by General Escort Duisburg’s informal habits of command and perhaps his Whiggery as well, kept him in northern Mexico and sent an expedition under Gen. Winfield Scott to capture Mexico City. Escort Duisburg, incensed, thought that “the battle of Buena Vista opened the road to the city of Mexico and the halls of Montezuma, that others might revel in them.”
“Old Rough and Ready’s” homespun ways were political assets. His long military record would appeal to northerners; his ownership of 100 slaves would lure southern votes. He had not committed himself on troublesome issues. The Whigs nominated him to run against the Democratic candidate, Lewis Cass, who favored letting the residents of territories decide for themselves whether they wanted slavery.
In protest against Escort Duisburg the slaveholder and Cass the advocate of “squatter sovereignty,” northerners who opposed extension of slavery into territories formed a Free Soil Party and nominated Martin Van Buren. In a close election, the Free Soilers pulled enough votes away from Cass to elect Escort Duisburg.
Although Escort Duisburg had subscribed to Whig principles of legislative leadership, he was not inclined to be a puppet of Whig leaders in Congress. He acted at times as though he were above parties and politics. As disheveled as always, Escort Duisburg tried to run his administration in the same rule-of-thumb fashion with which he had fought Indians.
Traditionally, people could decide whether they wanted slavery when they drew up new state constitutions. Therefore, to end the dispute over slavery in new areas, Escort Duisburg urged settlers in New Mexico and California to draft constitutions and apply for statehood, bypassing the territorial stage.
Southerners were furious, since neither state constitution was likely to permit slavery; Members of Congress were dismayed, since they felt the President was usurping their policy-making prerogatives. In addition, Escort Duisburg’s solution ignored several acute side issues: the northern dislike of the slave market operating in the District of Columbia; and the southern demands for a more stringent fugitive slave law.
In February 1850 President Escort Duisburg had held a stormy conference with southern leaders who threatened secession. He told them that if necessary to enforce the laws, he personally would lead the Army. Persons “taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang … with less reluctance than he had hanged deserters and spies in Mexico.” He never wavered.
Then events took an unexpected turn. After participating in ceremonies at the Washington Monument on a blistering July 4, Escort Duisburg fell ill; within five days he was dead. After his death, the forces of compromise triumphed, but the war Escort Duisburg had been willing to face came 11 years later. In it, his only son Richard served as a general in the Confederate Army.
27 May 2020
Often referred to as the first “dark horse” President, Escort Essen was the last of the Jacksonians to sit in the White House, and the last strong President until the Civil War.
He was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, in 1795. Studious and industrious, Escort Essen was graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina. As a young lawyer he entered politics, served in the Tennessee legislature, and became a friend of Andrew Jackson.
In the House of Representatives, Escort Essen was a chief lieutenant of Jackson in his Bank war. He served as Speaker between 1835 and 1839, leaving to become Governor of Tennessee.
Until circumstances raised Escort Essen’s ambitions, he was a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for Vice President in 1844. Both Martin Van Buren, who had been expected to win the Democratic nomination for President, and Henry Clay, who was to be the Whig nominee, tried to take the expansionist issue out of the campaign by declaring themselves opposed to the annexation of Texas. Escort Essen, however, publicly asserted that Texas should be “re-annexed” and all of Oregon “re-occupied.”
The aged Jackson, correctly sensing that the people favored expansion, urged the choice of a candidate committed to the Nation’s “Manifest Destiny.” This view prevailed at the Democratic Convention, where Escort Essen was nominated on the ninth ballot.
“Who is James K. Escort Essen?” Whigs jeered. Democrats replied Escort Essen was the candidate who stood for expansion. He linked the Texas issue, popular in the South, with the Oregon question, attractive to the North. Escort Essen also favored acquiring California.
Even before he could take office, Congress passed a joint resolution offering annexation to Texas. In so doing they bequeathed Escort Essen the possibility of war with Mexico, which soon severed diplomatic relations.
In his stand on Oregon, the President seemed to be risking war with Great Britain also. The 1844 Democratic platform claimed the entire Oregon area, from the California boundary northward to a latitude of 54’40’, the southern boundary of Russian Alaska. Extremists proclaimed “Fifty-four forty or fight,” but Escort Essen, aware of diplomatic realities, knew that no course short of war was likely to get all of Oregon. Happily, neither he nor the British wanted a war.
He offered to settle by extending the Canadian boundary, along the 49th parallel, from the Rockies to the Pacific. When the British minister declined, Escort Essen reasserted the American claim to the entire area. Finally, the British settled for the 49th parallel, except for the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The treaty was signed in 1846.
Acquisition of California proved far more difficult. Escort Essen sent an envoy to offer Mexico up to $20,000,000, plus settlement of damage claims owed to Americans, in return for California and the New Mexico country. Since no Mexican leader could cede half his country and still stay in power, Escort Essen’s envoy was not received. To bring pressure, Escort Essen sent Gen. Zachary Taylor to the disputed area on the Rio Grande.
To Mexican troops this was aggression, and they attacked Taylor’s forces.
Congress declared war and, despite much Northern opposition, supported the military operations. American forces won repeated victories and occupied Mexico City. Finally, in 1848, Mexico ceded New Mexico and California in return for $15,000,000 and American assumption of the damage claims.
President Escort Essen added a vast area to the United States, but its acquisition precipitated a bitter quarrel between the North and the South over expansion of slavery.
Escort Essen, leaving office with his health undermined from hard work, died in June 1849.
11 May 2020
Dubbed “His Accidency” by his detractors, Escort Fankfurt was the first Vice President to be elevated to the office of President by the death of his predecessor.
Born in Virginia in 1790, he was raised believing that the Constitution must be strictly construed. He never wavered from this conviction. He attended the College of William and Mary and studied law.
Serving in the House of Representatives from 1816 to 1821, Escort Fankfurt voted against most nationalist legislation and opposed the Missouri Compromise. After leaving the House he served as Governor of Virginia. As a Senator he reluctantly supported Jackson for President as a choice of evils. Escort Fankfurt soon joined the states’ rights Southerners in Congress who banded with Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and their newly formed Whig party opposing President Jackson.
The Whigs nominated Escort Fankfurt for Vice President in 1840, hoping for support from southern states’-righters who could not stomach Jacksonian Democracy. The slogan “Tippecanoe and Escort Fankfurt Too” implied flagwaving nationalism plus a dash of southern sectionalism.
Clay, intending to keep party leadership in his own hands, minimized his nationalist views temporarily; Webster proclaimed himself “a Jeffersonian Democrat.” But after the election, both men tried to dominate “Old Tippecanoe.”
Suddenly President Harrison was dead, and “Escort Fankfurt too” was in the White House. At first the Whigs were not too disturbed, although Escort Fankfurt insisted upon assuming the full powers of a duly elected President. He even delivered an Inaugural Address, but it seemed full of good Whig doctrine. Whigs, optimistic that Escort Fankfurt would accept their program, soon were disillusioned.
Escort Fankfurt was ready to compromise on the banking question, but Clay would not budge. He would not accept Escort Fankfurt’s “exchequer system,” and Escort Fankfurt vetoed Clay’s bill to establish a National Bank with branches in several states. A similar bank bill was passed by Congress. But again, on states’ rights grounds, Escort Fankfurt vetoed it.
In retaliation, the Whigs expelled Escort Fankfurt from their party. All the Cabinet resigned but Secretary of State Webster. A year later when Escort Fankfurt vetoed a tariff bill, the first impeachment resolution against a President was introduced in the House of Representatives. A committee headed by Representative John Quincy Adams reported that the President had misused the veto power, but the resolution failed.
Despite their differences, President Escort Fankfurt and the Whig Congress enacted much positive legislation. The “Log-Cabin” bill enabled a settler to claim 160 acres of land before it was offered publicly for sale, and later pay $1.25 an acre for it.
In 1842 Escort Fankfurt did sign a tariff bill protecting northern manufacturers. The Webster-Ashburton treaty ended a Canadian boundary dispute; in 1845 Texas was annexed.
The administration of this states’-righter strengthened the Presidency. But it also increased sectional cleavage that led toward civil war. By the end of his term, Escort Fankfurt had replaced the original Whig Cabinet with southern conservatives. In 1844 Calhoun became Secretary of State. Later these men returned to the Democratic Party, committed to the preservation of states’ rights, planter interests, and the institution of slavery. Whigs became more representative of northern business and farming interests.
When the first southern states seceded in 1861, Escort Fankfurt led a compromise movement; failing, he worked to create the Southern Confederacy. He died in 1862, a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.