15-3 Slavery Dominates Politics



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15-3 Slavery Dominates Politics


  • Disagreement over slavery led to the formation of the Republican Party and heightened sectional tensions.




  • The Democrats and the Republicans are the major political parties of today

ONE AMERICAN'S STORY


Joseph Warren, editor of the Detroit Tribune, wanted the antislavery parties of Michigan to join forces. In 1854, his newspaper pushed them to unite.
A VOICE FROM THE PAST [A convention should be called] irrespective of the old party organizations, for the purpose of agreeing upon some plan of action that shall combine the whole anti-Nebraska, anti-slavery sentiment of the State, upon one ticket [set of candidates endorsed by a political party].
Detroit Tribune, quoted in The Origins of the Republican Party
By July, antislavery politicians from various parties, including the Whigs, Free-Soilers, and some Democrats, had settled their differences. On July 6, they met to form a new party "to concentrate the popular sentiment of this state against the aggression of the slave power." In memory of Thomas Jefferson, they called themselves Republicans.
The Republican Party Forms
The creation of the Republican Party grew out of the problems caused by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The law immediately caused a political crisis for the Whig Party. Southern Whigs had supported the bill for the same reason that Northern Whigs had opposed it: the bill proposed to open new territories to slavery. There was no room for compromise, so the party split. The Southern Whigs were destroyed by the split. A few joined the Democratic Party, but most searched for leaders who supported slavery and the Union.
The Northern Whigs, however, joined with other opponents of slavery and formed the Republican Party. The Republicans quickly gained strength in the North. "Bleeding Kansas" was the key to the Republican rise. Many people blamed the violence on the Democrats. With the 1856 elections nearing, the Republicans believed that they had an excellent opportunity to gain seats in Congress and win the presidency. The Republicans needed a strong presidential candidate in 1856 to strengthen their young party. They nominated John C. Frémont. Young and handsome, Frémont was a national hero for his explorations in the West, which earned him the nickname the "Pathfinder."
Republicans liked Frémont for a couple of reasons. He had spoken in favor of admitting both California and Kansas as free states. Also, he had little political experience and did not have a controversial record to defend. Even so, the Republican position on slavery was so unpopular in the South that Frémont's name did not appear on the ballot there.
The Election of 1856
The Democrats nominated James Buchanan to run for the presidency in 1856. As minister to Great Britain, he had been in England since 1853 and had spoken neither for nor against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Buchanan took advantage of his absence from the country. He said little about slavery and claimed that his goal was to maintain the Union. Buchanan appealed to Southerners, to many people in the upper South and the border states, and to Northerners who were afraid that Frémont's election could tear the nation apart. The American, or Know-Nothing, Party also nominated a presidential candidate in 1856. They chose Millard Fillmore, who had been president, following the death of Zachary Taylor, from 1850 until 1853. But the Know- Nothings were divided over slavery and had little strength.

James Buchanan

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The 1856 presidential election broke down into two separate races. In the North, it was Buchanan against Frémont. In the South, it was Buchanan against Fillmore. Buchanan won. He carried all the slave states except Maryland, where Fillmore claimed his only victory. Buchanan also won several Northern states. Although he lost the election, Frémont won 11 Northern states. These results showed two things. First, the Republican Party was a major force in the North. Second, the nation was sharply split over slavery.



The Case of Dred Scott

The split in the country was made worse by the Supreme Court decision in the case of Dred Scott. Scott had been a slave in Missouri. His owner took him to live in territories where slavery was illegal. Then they returned to Missouri. After his owner's death, Scott sued for his freedom. He argued that he was a free man because he had lived in territories where slavery was illegal. His case, Dred Scott v. Sandford, reached the Supreme Court in 1856. In 1857, the Court ruled against Scott. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney [TAWonee] delivered his opinion in the case. In it, he said that Dred Scott was not a U.S. citizen. As a result, he could not sue in U.S. courts. Taney also ruled that Scott was bound by Missouri's slave code because he lived in Missouri. As a result, Scott's time in free territory did not matter in his case. In addition, Taney argued that Congress could not ban slavery in the territories. To do so would violate the slaveholders' property rights, protected by the Constitution.

Dred Scott and Roger B. Taney

In effect, Taney declared legislation such as the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional.


Southerners cheered the Court's decision. Many Northerners were outraged and looked to the Republican Party to halt the growing power of Southern slaveholders.
Lincoln and Douglas Debate
After the Dred Scott decision, the Republicans charged that the Democrats wanted to legalize slavery not only in all U.S. territories but also in all the states. They used this charge to attack individual Democrats. Stephen A. Douglas, sponsor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was one of their main targets in 1858. That year, Illinois Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln to challenge Douglas for his U.S. Senate seat. In his first campaign speech, Lincoln expressed the Northern fear that Southerners wanted to expand slavery to the entire nation. He set the stage for his argument by using a metaphor from the Bible.
A VOICE FROM THE PAST
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved-I do not expect the house to fall-but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858
Later in the year, the two men held formal debates across Illinois. The Lincoln-Douglas debates are now seen as models of political debate. At the time, the debates allowed people to compare the short, stocky, well-dressed Douglas with the tall, thin, gawky Lincoln. The two men squarely addressed the nation's most pressing issue: the expansion of slavery. For Lincoln, slavery was "a moral, a social and a political wrong." But he did not suggest abolishing slavery where it already existed. He argued only that slavery should not be expanded. Douglas did not share Lincoln's belief that it was the national government's role to prevent the expansion of slavery. Instead, he argued that popular sovereignty was the best way to address the issue because it was the most democratic method to do so. But popular sovereignty was a problem for Douglas. The Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case had made popular sovereignty unconstitutional.
Why? It said that people could not vote to ban slavery, because doing so would take away slaveholders' property rights. In the debates, Lincoln asked Douglas if he thought people in a territory who were against slavery could legally prohibit it-despite the Dred Scott decision. Douglas replied that it did not matter what the Supreme Court might decide about slavery because "the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please." Douglas won reelection. Lincoln, despite his loss, became a national figure and strengthened his standing in the Republican Party.
John Brown Attacks Harpers Ferry
In 1859, John Brown, who had murdered proslavery Kansans three years before, added to the sectional tensions. Brown had a plan. He wanted to inspire slaves to fight for their freedom. To do this, he planned to capture the weapons in the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. On October 16, 1859, Brown and 18 followers,13 whites and 5 blacks-captured the Harpers Ferry arsenal. They killed four people in the raid. Brown then sent out the word to rally and arm local slaves. But no slaves joined the fight. The U.S. Marines attacked Brown at Harpers Ferry. Some of his men escaped. But Brown and six others were captured, and ten men were killed. Brown was then tried for murder and treason. He was convicted and sentenced to hang. On the day he was hanged, abolitionists tolled bells and fired guns in salute. Southerners were enraged by Brown's actions and horrified by Northern reactions to his death. As the nation headed toward the election of 1860, the issue of slavery had raised sectional tensions to the breaking point. In the next section, you will read about the election of 1860 and its effect on the nation.

Chapter 15-3 Quiz





  1. The creation of the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________________Party grew out of the problems caused by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

  2. The _______________________nominated James Buchanan to run for the presidency in 1856.

  3. The ________________nominated John C. Frémont the presidency in 1856.

  4. Know-Nothing Party chose __________________________who had been president, for the presidency in 1856.

  5. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney said that ____________________________was not a U.S. citizen.

  6. The ___________________________debates are now seen as models of political debate.

  7. Lincoln's belied that it was the national government's role to prevent the expansion of ________________________.

  8. Stephen A. Douglas thought that the issue of slavery should be settled by ____________________________________.

  9. Republicans nominated _________________________________to challenge Douglas for his U.S. Senate seat.

  10. On October 16, 1859, Brown and 18 followers, 13 whites and 5 blacks-captured the _______________________arsenal.



  1. The creation of the Republican Party grew out of the problems caused by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

  2. The Democrats nominated James Buchanan to run for the presidency in 1856.

  3. The Republicans nominated John C. Frémont the presidency in 1856.

  4. Know-Nothing Party chose Millard Fillmore, who had been president, for the presidency in 1856.

  5. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney said that Dred Scott was not a U.S. citizen.

  6. The Lincoln-Douglas debates are now seen as models of political debate.

  7. Lincoln's belied that it was the national government's role to prevent the expansion of slavery.

  8. Stephen A. Douglas thought that the issue of slavery should be settled by popular sovereignty.

  9. Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln to challenge Douglas for his U.S. Senate seat.

  10. On October 16, 1859, Brown and 18 followers,13 whites and 5 blacks-captured the Harpers Ferry arsenal.


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