National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1825-1849: We become a land of the common man, though not yet a democracy for all

February 2, 1848
The Mexican war is over, but the fight over slavery in the territories goes on

The Battle of Buena Vista

Today’s peace treaty with Mexico increases our territory by 525,000 square miles. But it does not decide the fate of slavery in the new lands.

Congress has been arguing the question for two years now.

Southern members insist the federal government must settle the lands in a way that is fair to all states. Americans who move west, they say, must be free to bring all property recognized in their home state...including slaves.

Antislavery members say Article IV of the Constitution gives the federal government the right to make rules for new territories...period. They want slavery banned from the territories outright.

This peace hardly seems peaceful.

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