As it did before and during the war several times, the South promoted compromise to maintain peace between the sections – and had the new Republican Party been interested in true compromise and saving the Union, there might have been a Compromise of 1861. The author below traces the thread that led to war, though secession of the American South did not cause war – it did cause the North to choose war and conquest.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
War with Mexico and a Million Dead Gringos
“Even before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had been ratified, the Texas legislature on March 14, 1848, created Santa Fe County, which included almost all of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande. Military and civil officials in New Mexico were anxious to prevent the region from coming under Texas jurisdiction.
[Newly-elected President Zachary Taylor] was forthright in his statements regarding the Texas claim . . . and issued orders to the army to prevent county organization of New Mexico by the Texans. Southerners became so incensed that they were threatening to join the Lone Star State in secession if New Mexico east of the Rio Grande was not given to Texas.
Governor Peter H. Bell of Texas convened the legislature there in special session in August 1850 . . . and told [them] that they must meet the federal impediment “boldly, and fearlessly and determined. Not by further supplications or discussion . . .; not by renewed appeals to their generosity and sympathy . . . but by action . . . at all hazards and to the last extremity.”
This attitude was seconded by other Southerners; Alexander Stephens of Georgia declared in a speech before the House of Representatives that the first federal gun fired on Texas officials would be a signal for “free men” from the Delaware [River] to the Rio Grande to rise up against the Union. Taylor remained adamant, however; to such talk he crisply replied, “Disunion is treason.”
Fortunately for the nation the “Old Giants” were still active in Congress: Clay, Calhoun and Webster. Clay called for a compromise in a speech on January 29, 1850. California would enter as a free State; New Mexico would be given separate territorial status; Texas would be paid $10,000,000 for ceding its claim to New Mexico, thereby allowing it to pay its debts; and Utah would be given territorial status. Clay’s proposal met bitter debate, perhaps the most bitter in the history of Congress.
By September 5 all the measures proposed by Clay had been passed. Lumped together, these measures were called the Compromise of 1850 [and without] a doubt they preserved the Union and postponed civil war for a decade. But they killed the Whig Party . . . made . . . war almost inevitable [and led to the doctrine of popular sovereignty just four years later when the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed.
Perhaps it is cold comfort to dismembered Mexico, but the “Mexican Cession” led in the next two decades to the death of a million gringos, as well as to sectional hatreds that persist to the present.”
(North America Divided, The Mexican War, 1846-1848, Seymour V. Conner & Odie B. Faulk, Oxford University Press, 1971, excerpts, pp. 173-176)