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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

Dimmed his Presidential prospects


[Sidenote: American filibusters in Cuba]

[Sidenote: Bulwer-Clayton treaty]

[Sidenote: Friction with Portugal]

In the meanwhile trouble had arisen with Spain and Portugal. On May 19, General Narcisso Lopez, with 600 American filibusters, landed at Cardenas to liberate Cuba from the dominion of Spain. He was defeated and his expedition dispersed. Another Cuban expedition was agitated in America. On April 25, President Taylor felt constrained to issue a second proclamation against filibusters. In May, the United States, in conjunction with Great Britain, recognized the independence of the Dominican Republic. Both countries at the same time agreed not to interfere in the affairs of Central America. In accordance with this agreement the famous Bulwer-Clayton Treaty was completed. It provided that neither country should obtain exclusive control over any inter-oceanic canal in Central America, nor erect fortifications along its line. In June an American squadron was sent to Portugal to support the United States demand for American war claims of 1812. The claims were refused and the American Minister was recalled from Lisbon. The American fleet was withdrawn without further hostile demonstrations. The American President, in pursuance of his policy of peace, proclaimed neutrality in the civil war which had arisen in Mexico.

[Sidenote: Shields' prophecy]

[Sidenote: Webster scourged]

The furious slavery debate was resumed when Clay's so-called "Omnibus Bill" was offered for final consideration. It was during this debate that Senator Shields of California uttered his famous prophecy that the United States, so far from dissolving, would within a few generations send its soldiers to Asia and into China. On July 9, Webster soothed the angry passions of the legislators when he announced that President Taylor was dying. Webster's support of the Compromise Act of 1850, with its fugitive slave bill, dimmed his Presidential prospects. It was then that Whittier wrote the scathing lines entitled "Ichabod":

So fallen! so lost! the light withdrawn Which once he wore! The glory from his gray hairs gone For evermore!

Revile him not! the tempter hath A snare for all; And pitying tears, not scorn and wrath, Befit his fall.

Oh, dumb be passion's stormy rage, When he who might Have lighted up and led his age Falls back in night!

Scorn! would the angels laugh to mark A bright soul driven, Fiend-goaded, down the endless dark, From hope and heaven?

Let not the land once proud of him Insult him now, Nor brand with deeper shame his dim Dishonor'd brow!

But let its humbled sons, instead, From sea to lake, A long lament, as for the dead, In sadness make!


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