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Before his home state of Mississippi seceded, Davis served in the United States Senate for eight years, interrupted by his stint as Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce from 1853-1857. During this time, Davis was an ardent expansionist, and opposed to any restrictions on the spread of slavery to western territories. This was consistent with his view of himself as a protector of slaveholding interests, even supporting expansion into Cuba for this reason. He argued against the Compromise of 1850 on the grounds that it prohibited slavery in California. When he returned to the Senate in 1857, he positioned himself as a strong supporter of states rights, though he opposed secession to the very last. On the other hand, he also supported vigorous enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, denying the rights of individual northern states to limit its effectiveness through the passage of "personal liberty laws." Again, as a politician, Davis was primarily a supporter and a protector of slaveholding planters in the South. Even his opposition to secession was not based on political principle as much as it was his conviction (entirely correct, in retrospect) that it would lead to ruin for the South.
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