Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gold, slavery, and Colorado

Susan Schulten has another fascinating post up at the NYT's Civil War site. This one is about the interrelatedness of the slavery crisis in the East and the search for gold and silver in the West. As she notes, hundreds of thousands of prospective miners came to the western parts of the Kansas and Nebraska territories in the 1850s hoping to get rich. When southern states seceded in 1861, leaving the U.S. Congress almost devoid of Democrats, Republicans sought to quickly establish sympathetic territories and states in these newly populated regions. Enter the Colorado and Nevada territories. An interesting story and definitely worth the read.

Update: You can hear more about the intrigue surrounding Colorado's eventual statehood in Susan's interview on Colorado Public Radio. As she reports, Republicans pushed for Colorado and Nevada to gain statehood in the early 1860s as a way of assuring more Electoral College votes for Lincoln, whose reelection looked doubtful until shortly before the 1864 election. However, Colorado's own residents voted against statehood at that point, apparently concerned with the costs of self-government. Of course, Colorado became a state just in time to help Republicans rig win the presidential election of 1876.

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