On The Brink of War Fall 2013


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On The Brink of War Fall 2013

  1. 1. Unit 4 – Goal 1, Objective 1
  2. 2.  Territories acquired after the Mexican War forced an old question back into politics about whether or not slavery would be permitted in new territories.  Each new state that was admitted to the Union could tip the balance for or against slavery. Both sides wanted to establish their practices in the new territories before these territories became states.  The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had stated that any new states created north of 36° 30' N latitude had to be free states. Much of the new territory, however, was south of this line.  Some members of both parties who opposed slavery in the territories formed the Free Soil Party. The Free Soil Party did not win any states in the presidential election of 1848, but it did tip the balance in favor of Whig candidate Zachary Taylor.
  3. 3.  In 1849, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky proposed what would become known as the Compromise of 1850 as a middle ground on the slavery debate.  Terms of the Compromise  California would become a free state,  New Mexico and Utah would decide their own slavery status,  A Fugitive Slave Act would order United States citizens to help return enslaved people who had escaped.
  4. 4.  Four issues in the last years of the 1850’s and into 1860, further polarized the nation over the issue of slavery and pushed the North and South toward open conflict.  Kansas-Nebraska Act  The Dred Scott Case  John Brown’s Raid  The Election of 1860
  5. 5.  The rich farm lands west of Missouri beckoned families and investors. In 1852 and 1853, Congress considered creating the territories of Kansas and Nebraska for settlement.  The legislation caught the attention of southern Congressmen who refused to consider the creation of the new territories unless the provisions were made for southerners to bring slaves into the territories.  Northern representatives argued that the expansion of slavery into the new territories was a violation of the Missouri Compromise. In 1854, Congress again took up the issue of slavery in new U.S. states and territories.
  6. 6.  Stephen A. Douglas included a provision using popular sovereignty (rule by the people), which would allow the citizens of the territory to decide whether or not slavery would be allowed.  Southerners hoped that by allowing the people to decide the issue that more slave states could be added. After a great deal of rancorous debate in both Houses, the bill was approved.  The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act had several effects.  First, the Kansas-Nebraska Act virtually repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850. Settlers in all new territories would have the right to decide for themselves whether their new home would be a free or a slave state.
  7. 7.  Second, pro- and antislavery groups hurried into Kansas in an attempt to create voting majorities there. Antislavery abolitionists came from eastern states; proslavery settlers came mainly from neighboring Missouri.  Some of these Missourians settled in Kansas, but many more stayed there only long enough to vote for slavery and then returned to Missouri.  Proslavery voters elected a legislature ready to make Kansas a slave state.  Abolitionists then elected a rival Kansas government with an antislavery constitution, established a different capital city, and raised an army.
  8. 8.  Proslavery Kansans reacted by raising their own army. Violence between the two sides created warlike conditions that lead to the territory being referred to as “Bleeding Kansas.”  Ultimately, in 1859, a constitution reflecting an abolitionist point of view was approved by both citizens in Kansas and the Congress. Popular sovereignty, excepting voter fraud, proved a failure for pro-slavery forces.
  9. 9.  Third, politically, the passage of the act split the existent political parties and gave rise to the Republican Party.  President Pierce’s inability to control the violence in Kansas led to his defeat in the election of 1856.  Abraham Lincoln made his initial national reputation in a failed attempt at Douglas’ Illinois Congressional seat by debating the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
  10. 10.  In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Dred Scott decision, settling a lawsuit in which a slave named Dred Scott claimed he should be a free man because he had lived with his master in slave states and in free states.  The Court rejected Scott’s claim, ruling that no African American–even if free–could be a U.S. citizen. The Court said Congress could not prohibit slavery in federal territories.  Thus, the Court found that popular sovereignty and the Missouri Compromise of 1820 were unconstitutional.
  11. 11.  The Dred Scott decision gave slavery the protection of the U.S. Constitution.  In essence, nothing short of a constitutional amendment could end slavery—an event not likely to occur.  Proslavery Americans welcomed the Court’s ruling as proof they had been right during the previous few decades’ struggles against abolitionists.
  12. 12.  In contrast, abolitionists convinced many state legislatures to declare the Dred Scott decision not binding within their state borders.  The new Republican Party said that if its candidate were elected president in 1860, he would appoint a new Supreme Court that would reverse Dred Scott.
  13. 13.  The third issue was John Brown’s Raid.  John Brown, an ardent abolitionist, decided to fight slavery with violence and killing.  In 1856, believing he was chosen by God to end slavery, Brown commanded family members and other abolitionists to attack proslavery settlers in Kansas, killing five men.  Leaving Kansas, Brown decided to begin a slave war in the east by seizing arms and munitions and leading slaves in rebellion.
  14. 14.  In 1859, he led a group of white and black men in a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (in modern-day West Virginia) in hopes of arming slaves for a rebellion.  The raid failed and Brown was captured by U.S. Marines led by U.S. Army Colonel Robert E. Lee.  Eventually, Brown was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia and executed by hanging.
  15. 15.  At first, many northerners and southerners were horrified by Brown’s actions. Eventually, many northerners came to respect what Brown had done, viewing him as a martyr for the abolitionist movement.  Southerners were angered. Many in the South viewed Brown as a terrorist killer, a man that sought to incite a slave insurrection that would have led to the slaughter of hundreds of men, women, and children.  Vocal northern support of Brown’s actions did little to calm an anxious south. Invoking the specter of the Nat Turner Rebellion nearly 20 years earlier, Southern states began to strengthen and train their state militias.
  16. 16.  The presidential election of 1860 further demonstrated the division between the North and the South.  National political parties no longer existed. Voters in the North chose between Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas and Republican Abraham Lincoln, while Southerners voted for Southern Democrat J.C. Breckinridge or John Bell of the newly formed Constitutional Union Party.  While votes in the Border States (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri) were mixed, many in the Lower South (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) supported Breckinridge.  Abraham Lincoln won the election without winning a single electoral from a southern state.
  17. 17.  Southerners were outraged that a President had been elected without any southern electoral votes. They were also worried that the Republican Party would ruin the southern way of life.  Secessionists, or those who wanted the South to secede, argued that since the states had voluntarily joined the Union, they could also voluntarily leave it.  On December 20, 1860, South Carolina officially seceded. Six other states of the Lower South followed.  In early February 1861, these states proclaimed themselves a new nation, the Confederate States of America, or Confederacy. Jefferson Davis, a former senator from Mississippi, became president of the Confederacy.