May 13

Mexican War Begins

May 13, 1846 - statewide

The Mexican War in 1848 triggered new and thorny issues in a country already beset with divisions between North and South.

The war added 500,000 square miles of new western territory. Would the new territory be slave or free, and who would decide? Could Congress ban slavery from new territories or would settlers decide for themselves?

Georgia Whigs, led by Governor George Crawford, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs, criticized the war for raising divisive questions about slavery in the territories. Georgia Democrats, led by Howell Cobb and Herschel Johnson, staunchly supported the war and states’ rights afterward. Because Whigs, nationally, appeared to be antislavery, Georgia Whigs lost the governorship in 1847. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily settled the slavery question in the territories, but the moderating influence of Georgia’s Whigs dissolved in the heated rhetoric of states’ rights in the 1850s. The next war would find Americans fighting Americans.

Georgia’s political landscape—like the nation’s–would be forever altered by the war that began on May 13, 1846, Today in Georgia History.