“Gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill!”
It’s been two years since we heard the news. Thousands have poured into the territory, turning California from wilderness to boomtown. Towns spring up, and railroads push forward.
And again we face a thorny question. Does expanding the nation mean expanding slavery? We look to the Constitution...but find different answers.
People who oppose slavery admit that the Constitution may tolerate it as a local institution. But how, they ask, can a national government bound by the Bill of Rights push slavery further?
Meanwhile, Southern leaders say that blocking slavery’s growth is an unconstitutional attack on Southern state interests.
Today in Congress, arguments gave way to exhausted compromise. California will enter as a free state. Settlers in the New Mexico and Utah territories will decide for themselves.
Another uneasy truce. Can it last?