Perhaps instead of a straight line, the border could follow the course of a river further south in OTL Mexico? The US seemed keen on using rivers as borders in OTL Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo, and the only reason the Arizona and New Mexico borders are straight is due to a need for railroad land in the future. Looking at this map, the Conchos and Maya rivers form a natural border in the West, only needing connecting with a short line (as in OTL occurred between the Gila and Rio Grande). If you want the border further North, you could use the Yaqui river as well. Just a suggestion, of course! I'm enjoying the timeline so far.
That’s a great idea! The only thing is that places the port of Guaymas in American hands, which I dont see the Americans needing given that they now have practically every port on the Pacific Coast. So what I'm thinking is the border goes like so:
mexican cession.png
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That’s a great idea! The only thing is that places the port of Guaymas in American hands, which I see the Americans needing given that they now have practically every port on the Pacific Coast. So what I'm thinking is the border goes like so:

That looks good, could you clarify what you mean about Guaymas? Does the border go straight at the end of the Yaqui to keep it in Mexican hands? The wording's a bit unclear for me.
The Center Cannot Hold

From “The House of Freedom: A Story of America’s Oldest Party” by Leander Morris
Published 1987

“The Whig Party suffered from the same streak of bad luck as its predecessors, the National Republicans and the Federalists. The defeat in 1852 caused the party to completely collapse as the sectional cracks could no longer be papered over. Slavery was not the only woe that destroyed the Whigs – the old guards, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, were dead and the party had no charismatic preachers of unity to rally around. Instead, the abolitionist wing and the southern wing inexorably drifted apart.

But in even in the ashes of the Whigs, a new party took shape. Initially a coalition of anti-slavery politicians and former Northern Whigs tentatively called the Opposition Party rose to take up the mantle of the Whigs and abolitionists in the aftermath of the 1854 annexation of Cuba, which angered anti-slavery forces for expanding southern representation in Congress. However, it became clear that more permanent arrangements should be made to ensure the survival of a united, anti-slavery force in national politics, lest this new organization go the way of the Federalists, National Republicans, or Whigs. To this end, a formal convention was called in Milwaukee [1], organized, and attended by abolitionists, both Whig and Democrat (including Rep. David Wilmot), and former northern Whigs. The July Milwaukee convention was held to simply establish the principles and name of this new party – the Freedom Party would formally nominate candidates only in 1856.

The delegates had two choices for the new party. Either they could claim the mantle of the old Jeffersonian Republicans and call themselves the Republican Party, or they could instead channel the greatest American value: Freedom. The decision was rapidly reached: the new party would be named the Freedom Party. In terms of a national platform, a resolution was passed unanimously declaring that, “the spread of the morally corrupt institution of Slavery must be arrested.” The other pillars of the platform were standard Whig issue: high tariffs to grow American industry, a central banking system to regulate money, and Federal spending on internal improvements such as railroads. Shortly after the formal establishment of the Freedom Party, the 75 Representatives and 22 Senators of the Opposition Party switched their affiliations to the Freedom Party. Though the party was not yet fully united, the November midterm elections saw the Freedom Party win 94 House seats and 27 Senate seats on a wave of Northern anger over the annexation of Cuba [2] and unpopular enforcement of the Escaped Slave Act. This majority was, while not entirely unified, a formidable obstacle to Sam Houston’s agenda and ultimately one of the causes of the South’s descent into paranoia and fear that sparked the Civil War.”

From “The Westward March” by Nehemiah Jones
Published 2008

“Sam Houston had accomplished one of his great aims as President when he forced the Cuban annexation treaty through the Senate. Now, to complete his legacy, Houston turned to another matter entirely – the construction of a transcontinental railroad. Initially, Congress quietly approved surveying missions and other preliminary measures. It was when the surveyors came back with two recommended routes – one northern and one southern, that the sectional rift opened wide once more.

The first route began in Chicago and went through St. Louis and Kansas City, then Denver City and San Francisco, California. The second went from Philadelphia to Richmond, Raleigh, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, and New Orleans. From Jackson and New Orleans, the route turned north up the Mississippi to St. Louis and Kansas City. The two routes met at Denver City, but the second option then turned south to San Diego in unincorporated territory. immediately, the two routes sparked a firestorm of controversy. Naturally, Northerners and Midwesterners overwhelmingly favored the northern route, while the south, to a man, backed the southern route. In his ongoing attempts to make a name for himself as the Second Coming of Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas proposed a compromise to resolve the issue: two railroad routes, one through the upper south and Louisiana, and one through the Midwest. At St. Louis, the routes would merge, and San Francisco would be established as the Pacific terminus, while Chicago and Atlanta would be the eastern termini.

While Douglas’ Railroad Compromise was easily passed, the issue of the vast unincorporated territories was once again raised. The question was raised not by a Freedomite, but by Representative Henry Winter Davis of the Native American Party (before their northern base collapsed). Davis spoke at length that, “when discussing the question of a railroad through the cities of Denver City and Kansas City, we must also discuss the status of those two settlements. Currently, no formal territorial legislature governs these vast tracts of land. It is my view that it is dangerous to the security of any prospective railroad, and dangerous to the residents of these cities, to leave them unprotected by territorial government. I do not think any member of this Body would wish the Indians of the Great Plains and the Mountains to raid and pillage trains and towns, with no Territorial militias and sheriffs to protect them.”

As Representative Davis pointed out, building a railroad through unincorporated territory without centralized government practically invited banditry and Indian raids. However, raising the previously ignored issue of the division of these tracts of land opened a whole other can of worms: the question of slavery. The south was prepared to fight tooth and nail over any incorporation of Utah (the Wilmot Amendment banned slavery in all lands taken from Mexico). Senator Jefferson Davis also prepared a crusade to force the incorporation of Kansas as slave territory (remarking to Alexander Stephens that, “we’ll get Kansas through, by hook or by crook”.) Crusade is in fact an apt term for the fights planned simultaneously by the Freedom Party and the southerners. Charles Sumner and John Fremont led the Freedomite charge in the Senate to incorporate Kansas as a free territory, while Jefferson Davis was at the helm of the southern push for the permittance of slavery. Seemingly not learning from his altercation with Preston Brooks, Sumner once again went on the offensive and once again attacked southern senators for raping a virgin territory by introducing slavery and comparing them to pimps to a prostitute slavery. This time, Sumner avoided a severe caning, but his speech did nothing to heal the rapidly growing rift.

Between the two Pillars of Hercules that were the South and the Freedom Party stood Senator Stephen Douglas. Douglas subscribed to a different method of solving slavery and criticized the Freedomite and Fire-Eaters for “spreading destabilizing Radical ideologies, one of radical abolitionism, and the other of radical slavery.” Douglas believed that rather than having Congress decide one way or the other, the residents of the soon-to-be territory should hold a constitutional convention, through free and fair elections, to determine the status of slavery. Douglas used his connections within the northern Democrats and upper south, as well as his oratory skill, to introduce the Kansas-Utah Bill on May 6th, 1855 and table other discussions over Kansas. The bill incorporated Utah as a free territory, while Kansas would hold elections for a constitutional convention that would determine the territory’s status. Douglas was opposed by both Sumner and Fremont and Jefferson Davis and David Rice Atchison. However, a good third of the Senate backed the proposal, and a heated debate began. Sumner’s opposition was clear: as previously stated, he compared forcing slavery upon Kansas to rape. Davis and Atchison came from a different angle: they suspected that the North would use their superior population to flood Kansas with Free Soilers and rig the election. Ironically, this was also the fear of Sumner and Fremont, who thought that southerners would pour in from Missouri and rig the election to implement slavery. Fremont, the Senator from California, condemned proposals to invalidate the Wilmot Amendment, and called for, “Federal law to be upheld and not tossed out to cater to the demands of the minority [i.e. the South]”.

It was critical for the bill’s passage for President Houston to lend his support. Without the pressure of the Administration, the Freedom Party and the South would kill the bill in the Senate. However, the Kansas-Utah Bill had the possibility that slavery would exist north of the 36 30’ line, and the line established by the Missouri Compromise was still technically valid. Douglas’ argument that such a law was vital for the construction of a transcontinental railroad won the President over, and Houston reluctantly agreed, as it had become quite clear that the Missouri Compromise was as good as dead. With his support, enough of the south and the upper south, as well as most of the Northern democrats, voted to pass the bill, 32-30.

It was in the House that the Kansas-Utah Bill needed Houston’s support the most. Fire-Eaters, led by Robert Rhett, aligned with the forces of Stephen Douglas (who they generally opposed as “Yankee Stooges”) However, the House had a Freedomite majority, and even a Freedomite Speaker (Nathaniel P. Banks [3]). And to a man, the Freedom Party was opposed to popular sovereignty and the Kansas-Utah Bill. The man who started the debate, Henry Winter Davis, took to the podium to speak on the issue once more, and declared: “It has become apparent to myself that the men of the South would sooner have no railroad than a railroad, that would greatly enhance Southern economic strength, and a free territory, with the possibility of a second free territory. Unfortunately, the coalition of southerners and northern Democrats was not enough, even with Houston’s (lukewarm) support. The Freedomite majority voted almost to a man to table the Kansas-Utah Bill, sending it to the purgatory of the Ways and Means Committee, where it would languish. Douglas lamented the defeat of his bill, telling the Senate, “has Compromise, a tool wielded by such great men as Henry Clay, fallen to the wayside? Has negotiation and cordial settlement been cast aside and abandoned? There is no room in America for the middle path, it seems. All around, we see the evidence that moderation is out of favor, and that the center cannot hold in the face of concerted assault by the forces of Radicalism.”

It was also at this time that the public began to weigh in on the swirling debate. Northern newspapers, led by Horace Greeley, attacked Stephen Douglas as a southern stooge and the South as attempting to manipulate the President and bully the north. One political cartoon displayed a short man in a coat and tails (representing Southern planters and politicians) swinging a club at the ankles of a giant in workingman’s clothes (representing the North).

Stephen Douglas’s attempt to bridge the ever-widening gap between north and south had failed spectacularly. Rather than mending ties and reuniting the nation with compromise, the battle over the Kansas-Utah Bill deepened the divide. The Democratic Party emerged from the debate divided between the Northern Democrats, furious at President Houston, and the Fire-Eaters, who were angry at Douglas for “selling out to Yankee interests”. The Freedom Party left the fracas hardened in their resolve to end the perceived southern stranglehold on politics and stop the spread of slavery. And trapped in the middle, lay the moderates, fast outpaced by a world no longer open to compromise.”

From “AMERICA: A Textbook for Middle-Schoolers” by Reginald Douglas

Published 1991

“Kansas experienced a flood of immigration in 1855 in anticipation of a territorial constitutional convention. Even after the Kansas-Utah Bill was killed, Northern and Southern immigrants continued to settle the area in the hopes of blocking the other from forming the majority. Northerners established towns like Lawrence and Manhattan and generally settled north of the Kansas River. The Southerners, termed Border Vagabonds by Horace Greeley’s paper, settled south of the Kansas River and clustered close to the Missouri border, where most of them were from.

Almost immediately, there was fighting. It began with Free-Soilers who settled south of the unofficial boundary being unceremoniously ridden out of town by the Border Vagabonds, with many, at least a hundred, killed in the process. Free-Soilers responded by raiding the Vagabond settlement of Dixon. Meanwhile, radical Free-Soilers, led by John Brown and his sons, massacred pro-slavery settlers with broadswords at Pottawatomie and defeated a pro-slavery militia in battle at Osawatomie. Two provisional governments were formed, one by the Free-Soilers and one by the Vagabonds. the Free-Staters established a capital at Manhattan and the Vagabonds retained their capital at Lecompton. Then, the two governments established militias and drafted their own constitutions.

The Free-Soil faction tasked John Brown, who had risen to prominence for his victories in a string of border skirmishes in Douglas County (neatly bisected by the two factions – Lawrence was a Free-Soil town and Lecompton was pro-Vagabond) and at Osawatomie, with heading their militia. Brown was a fiery abolitionist who had previously pledged, “I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery”. Brown ultimately commanded 1,000 militiamen and attacked Vagabond settlements all along the border between the two factions. Brown was a mediocre commander, but his talent resided in his fervor. His men, when they advanced into battle, “fought like men possessed. Their yells chilled our very blood to ice [4]. Surrender was no option for such zealots of Yankee abolitionism. Any southerner they came across was maimed or killed,” as one Border Vagabond wrote in his journal. The Vagabonds struck back, sacking border settlements and killing Free-Soilers, but they could not match the energy and zeal of Brown’s men.

Meanwhile, the two factions were busy petitioning the Senate for aid and recognition. President Houston attempted to broker a compromise, but the time for compromise was long over. The Freedom Party, led once more in their efforts by Sumner and Fremont, loudly called for the recognition of the Manhattan legislature and demanded that that legislature be incorporated by an act of Congress as the legitimate government of a (free) Kansan territory. The Fire-Eaters demanded the converse: that the Lecompton legislature be enshrined by Congress as a legitimate governing body of a slave-permitting Kansas Territory. The deadlock in Congress, and the uneasiness of the remaining moderates to side with radicals, prevented any action to quell the bloodshed from being taken.

Historians have agreed that the war in Kansas was the prelude to, and a microcosm of, the American Civil War that would break out in just over a year. The debate over slavery had turned the plains of Kansas red with blood, and unfortunately this was a portent of the coming storm.”

From “Prelude to Tragedy” by Abraham Lincoln
Abridged Edition, Published 1967 (Original, 1876)

“The march to civil war sped up with a Supreme Court decision regarded today as the worst in history. In the February 1856 Jacinto v. Sherwood, a slave, Hipolito Jacinto, claimed that his Freedom Papers, issued to all Cuban free blacks during the treaty ratification, had been ignored and his enslavement by slavecatchers while traveling through the south was illegal and unconstitutional.

Jacinto had departed Havana, with his papers in hand, to travel to New York City to visit an abolitionist conference. While traveling through Georgia, however, he was apprehended and, despite presenting his Freedom Papers, was sold into slavery in Missouri. Jacinto, with the help of a lawyer he met while running errands in town, sued for his freedom. He argued that his Freedom Papers should preclude his enslavement, as they clearly denoted his status as a free black. His master, Samuel Sherwood, claimed that such documents held no legal standing outside of Cuba, seizing upon the vagueness of the article establishing the Freedom Papers. Initially, the district court found for Sherwood, while the Court of Appeals found for Jacinto. Sherwood appealed to the Supreme Court, and his appeal was granted.

The Supreme Court, with only two outliers, issued a decision that would upend the political landscape. Chief Justice Roger Taney, in his majority opinion, decreed that not only were the Freedom Papers not legal tender outside of Cuba, but “the Negro, whose ancestors were not of this Land, is not a member of this Union, and is not entitled to the rights and protections of the Constitution. The Negro is not a citizen of these United States, and therefore are not entitled to even petition the fair and just courts of the Union. The Negro has, ever since the first one stepped onto this land, been the subordinate and inferior class of beings, subjugated, as is their rightful position, by the dominant race.” Not only did Taney rule that the Freedom Papers lacked jurisdiction and that Jacinto remained in bondage, but he also ruled that Jacinto was, even if he was free, not a citizen on account of his race, and was therefore unable to bring a suit in a court of law. [5]. Taney also ruled that Congress had no jurisdiction or right to impose restrictions in the Territories, which invalidated the Wilmot Proviso [6]. Associate Justices John McLean and Benjamin Robbins Curtis attacked Taney for his decision. In particular, they objected to Taney’s concept that Blacks were not citizens and could not ever be citizens. Curtis stated, “the Chief Justice’s decision that Mr. Jacinto is not to be considered a citizen is a matter of taste and not of the law. Free men of all races and colors have voted in American elections, state and federal, since the time of Washington.” McLean wrote similar attacks and called Taney’s opinion “unfounded in any precedent or law on the books past or present.” McLean also argued that if Jacinto’s suit was actually illegitimate, “then the Court should have decided it did not have jurisdiction and should have dismissed it. by accepting it and rendering judgement, the Court has, by simply hearing this case, decreed that Jacinto’s suit has merit and that he is a citizen.”

McLean and Curtis were not the only Americans expressing disgust. President Houston told Stephen Douglas and a group of representatives, “What kind of nation are we when free men are snatched off the street and sold? Americans have a right to own slaves, not enslave free men with the papers to prove it!” In his anger, Houston was joined by an outraged Freedom Party. The New-York Tribune’s fury was palpable when an editorial declared, “This is what our great Democracy has come to – Southern slavocrats and planters dictating the law to the Supreme Court! This despicable ruling has cheapened the Supreme Court’s power and turned it into yet another partisan battleground. The South has gone a bridge too far.” Senator Charles Sumner was furious as well, telling the Senate, “I have never felt such anger. This decision is a sham. It appears that slavery has seduced even the last bastion of fairness in this nation – the Supreme Court.” Historians have described Jacinto v. Sherwood as the worst Supreme Court decision ever, but the decision is undoubtedly the moment when the north’s patience had run thin – the South had crossed the Rubicon, and the Freedom Party was determined to punish such a transgression. It was in the aftermath of Jacinto v. Sherwood that the United States of America took its final lurches towards Civil War.”

[1] OTL, it was only informal meetings in 1854, and the first official meeting was in 1856. TTL, with an earlier polarization, the Republicans solidify their membership and party structure earlier.
[2] A little less than OTL in the House, where the Opposition Party had 100 seats in total, but better in the Senate. Keep in mind that the Freedom Party is able to do more with 94 seats than the Opposition Party was able to do with 100.
[3] Banks is elected as Speaker in a less contentious election due to the earlier unification of anti-Democrat forces.
[4] Sort of like the “Rebel Yell”, TTL called a Yankee Scream.
[5] Basically Taney’s OTL opinion for Scott v. Sanford
[6] OTL, Scott v. Sanford also declared the Federal government could not restrict slavery, but OTL this invalidated the Kansas-Nebraska Act. TTL, it invalidates the Wilmot Amendment.

Next Up on NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM: The Revolution of 1856 and the Union Torn Asunder
While this update is a bit boring for the most part, it is necessary to set up the political shifts of the next chapter.
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That was a fascinating chapter. Watching the Supreme Court kneecap itself is regrettable, but also completely in line with OTL. With how things went in Kansas, I fully expect it and the western territories to feature a bit more in the ACW. I wouldn't be surprised if some radical fire eater demands that the rebel government sponsors some sort of expedition to Kansas to control the territory.
That was a fascinating chapter. Watching the Supreme Court kneecap itself is regrettable, but also completely in line with OTL. With how things went in Kansas, I fully expect it and the western territories to feature a bit more in the ACW. I wouldn't be surprised if some radical fire eater demands that the rebel government sponsors some sort of expedition to Kansas to control the territory.
Y’know, I hadnt thought about that. A Confederate expedition to Kansas would be very interesting. I’ll work that in, thanks for the suggestion!
Here's a map of the states and territories of the United States of America in 1856:
USA states and territories 1856.png

Dark Purple: Slave states. Light Purple: Slave territories. Dark Green: Free states. Light Green: Free territories. Brown/Green Striped: Unorganized territory where slavery is abolished by the Wilmot Amendment. Brown: Unorganized Territory. Light Green/Light Purple Stripes: Conflicting Free and Slave Provisional Legislatures in Kansas.
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