Before public opinion was well consolidated, the war of 1812 produced new complaints and new opposition, out of which grew the famous Hartford Convention. It has been charged and denied that this was a movement of disunion and rebellion. The exact fact is not important in our day; it is enough that it was a sign of deep political unrest and of shallow public faith. Passing by lesser manifestations of the same character, we come to the eventful nullification proceeding in South Carolina in the year 1832. Here was a formal legislative repudiation of Federal authority with a reserved threat of forcible resistance. At this point disunion was in full flower, and the terms nullification, secession, treason, rebellion, revolution, coercion, constitute the current political vocabulary. Take up a political speech of that period, change the names and dates, and the reader can easily imagine himself among the angry controversies of the winter of 1860.
Nullification was half-throttled by Jackson’s proclamation, half-quieted by Clay’s compromise. But from that time forward the phraseology and the spirit of disunion became constant factors in Congressional debate and legislation. In 1850, it broke out to an extent and with an intensity never before reached. This time it enveloped the whole country, and many of the wisest and best statesmen believed civil war at hand. The compromise measures of 1850 finally subdued the storm; but not till the serious beginning of a secession movement had been developed and put down, both by the general condemnation of the whole country, and the direct vote of a union majority in the localities where it took its rise.
Among these compromise acts of 1850 was the admission of California as a free-State. The gold discoveries had suddenly filled it with population, making the usual probation as a Territory altogether needless. A considerable part of the State lay south of the line of 36, 30’, and the pro-slavery extremists had demanded that it should be divided into two States—one to be a free and the other to be a slave-State—in order to preserve the political balance between the sections, in the United States Senate. This being refused, they not only violently opposed the compromise measures, but organized a movement for resistance in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi, demanding redress, and threatening secession if it were not accorded. A popular contest on this issue followed in 1851 in