The Second Middle Passage soon occurred, meaning that a mass forced migration of African slaves from states such VA to the Gulf Coast occurred. Planters in VA remained viable in large part because they had what planters in the Gulf Coast badly needed . . . slaves. Demand for slaves in the Gulf Coast soon became insatiable, and the value of slaves on large plantations exceeded the value of everything else on the plantation. Slaves were used as collateral for loans, which meant that any thought of freeing slaves were off the table until the debt had been paid. So, by the early-1840s, Southern states were beyond all-in in terms of keeping slavery, and also all-in with their opposition to even the hint of emancipation.
In time, the Gulf Coast would have more than enough slaves, and the value of slaves would regress to market value. However, before that point was reached, there was the issue of the Republic of Texas and other territories being added as slave states. The rising value of slaves led to Free Blacks being kidnapped if they were in a precarious situation, and it reached the point where Free Blacks just minding their own business in the North were taken against their will.
But Webster decided to step down after the Senate ratified the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, and event then Calhoun was passed over for SecState; Tyler nominated a fellow Virginian, Abel Upshur. Tyler figured he didn’t need to add to his already bulging list of political enemies by bringing Calhoun into his Cabinet. Upshur, like Tyler, was in favor of the annexation of Texas, and Upshur was quietly weaving his magic in the Senate, winning over even Thomas Hart Benton . . .and then tragedy struck. Over 400 DC dignitaries were on board the USS Princeton on an inspection cruise on the Potomac River. The ship had the largest gun on board any ship at that time, and it was nicknamed the “Peacemaker”. Two mighty blasts from the gun were ordered, and were heard from ten miles away. President Tyler and the other dignitaries, once they got their hearing back, had lunch on the deck.
The tragedy on board the Princeton was significant, in that Tyler needed to find a new SecState, and the odds were low that he would find someone as skilled as Upshur in terms of working to annex Texas quietly . . . and Tyler needed to find a new SecState quickly. Tyler’s only real ally in Congress wrote Calhoun that SecState was his, and that he just needed to head to DC to make it official. However, Tyler did not know about the letter, and was aghast when he found out what had happened. As Tyler feared, Upshur’s careful work in massaging the annexation of Texas through Congress was undone the moment Calhoun became SecState, in that now opponents of Calhoun in Congress saw conspiracy concerning Texas.
Clay still had his eyes on the White House, and he made the most of his break with Tyler in the Whigs. Clay resigned his seat in the Senate in the Spring of 1842 to rest, but also to ponder a final run for President. Clay gambled that if he was out of the spotlight for an appropriate amount of time, he might gain support and votes. Soon enough, Clay was the only Whig mentioned as a legitimate Presidential candidate.
Former President Martin Van Buren, who was pursuing the Democratic nomination, didn’t want to alienate Northerners, and Jackson abruptly rescinded his support of his first protege and swung it to his second protege, fellow Tennessean James Knox Polk. At the Democratic National Convention, the Dark Horse candidate Polk (who had only planned on pursuing VP) prevailed, and he made it clear that he was all-in on annexing Texas as well as further expansion West. Clay had expected to run against MVB, but now Clay had to restructure his stance on Texas. softening his previous statements against annexation. As before, Clay now found himself exposed and politically vulnerable by moving towards the middle. Clay’s moderate position on slavery cost him Michigan and New York, barely losing both states, and giving the very close election to Polk.