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Never Too Late

March 11, 2014

Thomas Hart Benton was one of Missouri’s first U.S. Senators.  He served almost thirty years and retired less than one year after the Compromise of 1850 was signed by President Fillmore.  When Massachusetts abolitionist Charles Sumner came to the Senate in 1851, Benton informed him: “You have come upon the scene too late, sir.  There is nothing left to settle except petty, sectional disturbances over slavery.”

On November 2, 1852 Democrat Franklin Pierce defeated Whig candidate Winfield Scott for the presidency.  The overwhelming Electoral College landslide and the recent deaths of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster seemed to announce the impending doom of the Whig Party.  President-elect Pierce expected a period of calm that would enable him to pursue peaceful territorial expansion and consolidation of recent political gains, but 1852 was also the year Harriet Beecher Stowe published the antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Mrs. Stowe and many other Northerners held a very dim view of the Compromise of 1850.

By 1854 the Democrats were voted out of the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The Whigs were still in decline, but a new political party had emerged, the Republican Party.  Within six years their nominee would become the 16th President of the United States.

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