Diet. Amer. Ports. Engr. John Rogers
"A High Wall and a Deep Ditch":
Thomas Hart Benton and the Compromise of 1850
BY JOHN D. MORTON*
Privately conceding his doubts about the likelihood of a resolution of the
nation's mounting sectional crisis, Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton
wrote in January 1850 to a friend in St. Louis: "For all the purposes of beneficial legislation, we are already nearly in a state of disunion." Southern
extremists, continued Benton, had begun "organizing a Southern Convention
at Nashville, without waiting any further action of congress on the slave
question."1 During the ensuing months, Benton's policy decisions con
form D. Morton is currently a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Virginia,
Charlottesville. He received his B .A. and M.A. degrees from Williams College, Williamstown,
Massachusetts, and the University of Virginia respectively.
1 Thomas H. Benton to John O'Fallon, 17 January 1850, John O'Fallon Papers, Missouri
Historical Society, St. Louis.