In 1890, on this day the first President of the divided United States John Charles Frémont died in New York City; he was seventy-seven years old.
Death of the Great PathfinderA renowned American military officer and explorer, during the 1840s that era's penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet "The Great Pathfinder". But he retired from the military and moved to the new territory California, after leading a fourth expedition which cost ten lives seeking a rail route over the mountains around the 38th parallel in the winter of 1849.
He became one of the first two U.S. Senators elected from the new state in 1850. He was soon bogged down with lawsuits over land claims between the dispossessions of various land owners during the Mexican-American War, and the explosion of Forty-Niners immigrating during the California Gold Rush.
As the first Presidential candidate of the anti-slavery Republican Party, he narrowly won the 1856 election against the odds. His Democrat opponent James Buchanan warned that his election would lead to civil war. Unfortunately for Buchanan, Beckinridge et al. public opinion had swung dramatically after the release of the Dred Scott v. Sandford judgement. This was no great surprise to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney who had wanted to postpone the decision until after the election.
And sure enough in combination the two linked events triggered the secession of southern states. But President Pierce was not only more decisive than his Chief Justice, he was also sympathetic to the South. He made the historic decision to give the separation force of law.