Civil war and reconstruction



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CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION
I. Slavery in the South

A. Blum - “What gave the old South its special identity?...Not physical isolation..not a difference in population origin..not contrasts in religious and political philosophy...not even the economics of the North and the South were all together dissimilar...few Southern farmers benefited from the national market economy ...wealth was less evenly distributed...less money was invested in education...fewer towns and industry developed...but all of these were of secondary importance..by far the most significant difference was the presence and survival in the South of Negro slavery..”

B. Emerson - “If you put a chain around the neck of a slave, the other end fastens itself around your own.””

C. by the 1790s slavery was considered a dying institution

1. it was considered the peculiar institution - a necessary evil

2. invention of the cotton gin in 1793 made slavery profitable

3. 1800 17m # 7% of exports

1820 127m# 32%

1840 743m# 51%

1860 1.7b# 57%

4. 80% of the cotton used by Britain came from the American South

5. in fact cotton was King

D. methods of meeting increased demands

1. short staple cotton replaces long staple cotton

2. increases the area in which cotton could be profitably grown

3. extension of cotton growing regions westward as land gave out

4. expansion of slavery

a. slave trade had been banned in 1808

b. slave trade still carried on though until 1860 - though some say as few as 50,000 new slaves entered during the period

c. thus most was a natural increase - though Morison contends that slave women were poor breeders

d. slave breeding became a primary occupation for regions of the Upper South where cotton production was no longer profitable

II. Southern society

A. planter aristocracy

1. by 1850 only 254 people owned more than 200 slaves

2. planter estates of the elite ranged from 1000 to 2000 acres

3. the aristocracy, though few in number, held dominant positions in government and society

B. below the aristocracy were various levels of successful slave holders

1. 1733 owned 100 or more

2. 6196 50-99

3. 29733 20-49

4. 54595 10-19

5. 80765 5-9

6. 105683 2-4

7. 68820 1

C. 3/4 of all Southerners owned no slave (6.1.)

1. these were yeomen farmers (subsistence farmers)

2. poor white trash made up 10% of the Southern population - hook worm

D. why did non-slaveholding whites support the slave system?

1. American dream syndrome

2. somebody to kick around syndrome

III. Problems of slavery and the social system

A. public education will not be fostered because the elite don’t need it

B. excessive cultivation will lead to “soil butchery”

C. financial instability

1. one crop economy susceptible to price fluctuations and crop failures

2. constant over speculation in western lands (makes some land poor)

3. costs of slaves

a. 1830 $300-600 per field hand

b. 1839 $1300

c. 1860 $1800

d. by 1860 the south had $2 billion invested in slaves

e. “rattlin’ good breeders” brought as much as $3200

f. estimated that 8-13% of the blacks in the South were fathered by whites

IV. Treatment of slaves

A. generally well treated for fear of killing or maiming investment

B. many examples of abusive treatment however

C. slaves were given a subsistence type of life

D. worked from sunup until sundown six days a week

1. task system and gang system

2. encouraged to supplement diet with food grown in garden plots

C. increasing fear of slave uprisings

1. Prosser’s rebellion in Virginia in 1800

2. Denmark Vesey in Charleston - 1822

3. Nat Turner’s Rebellion - 1831 - Virginia - most notable

a. 57 whites killed

b. between 40-100 blacks killed

4. these led to the institution of black codes restricting the education, freedom of movement, and general freedom of blacks (not just slaves)

5. they were largely impositions on their owners requiring tighter control

D. slavery was a degrading situation

1. lack of freedom

2. greatly limited ability to advance since they were slaves for life

3. slave trade (auctions may be the most brutal symbol - families separated

E. free blacks, North and South were discriminated against too

F. Bailey’s contention - “Southerners liked blacks as individuals but despised the race. Northerners professed to like the race but despised individuals.” Why would that be so?

V. The Abolitionist movement

A. early attempts to deal with the slavery issue

1. Quaker attempts at emancipation began in the 1700s

2. partially because of them slavery was banned in the North by 1800

3. this did not ensure equal treatment

B. 1808 the slave trade is outlawed - interesting that it was done in the first year permitted under the constitution

C. Missouri Compromise the first serious attempt to resolve the issue of the extension of slavery

1. maybe an attempt to delay the day of reckoning

2. implicitly granted congress the right to control the extension of slavery into territories

D. Liberia established in 1822 by the American Colonization Society

1. partially out of fear of free blacks

2. ironically, many who returned set themselves up in the slave trade business

E. anti-slavery societies - manumission societies -103 in the South - 40 in the North

F. reasons for the development of the abolitionist movement

1. part of the general reform movement of the 1830-40s which sought to wed evil from society (Second Great Awakening)

2. growing recognition that slavery constituted the greatest evil

3. the success of British emancipation in 1833 - growing belief that the U.S., leader in democratic political thought, would be the only civilized nation permitting slavery

4. growing feeling of hypocrisy - Frederick Douglass - “slavery brands your Republicanism a sham, your humanity as base pretense, your Christianity a lie.”

5. slavery’s failure to die its expected natural death

6. general impulse of Jacksonian reform

7. highly publicized abuses of slaves by an emotional press

G. divisions of the abolitionist movement

1. the North divided 50-50 between abolitionists and non-abolitionists

2. division among non-abolitionists

a. pro-slavery 15%

b. indifferent 17%

c. neutral 20%

3. among abolitionists

a. freesoilers 35%

b. moderate abolitionists 12%

c. radical abolitionists 3%

H. free soilers

1. believed slavery should be left alone where it existed (generally believed the government lacked the constitutional right to intervene)

2. wanted to prohibit the extension of slavery into new territories - why?

a. genuine opposition to the institution

b. believed Congress has a constitutional right to regulate slavery there

c. failure to expand would lead to the ultimate death of the institution

d. prejudice - didn’t want blacks settling where they settled

e. feared increased competition for new lands - higher prices

I. radical abolitionists - the lunatic fringe

1. best characterized by William Lloyd garrison


  1. in 1831 he began publishing the Liberator - first issue - “I will be as harsh as the truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation..I am in earnest - I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard!”

  2. he characterized the U.S. Constitution as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell” because it legalized slavery - how?

4. Garrison believed in immediate, uncompensated emancipation

5. privately he would accept emancipation “promptly commenced, gradually accomplished”

6. Garrison is important far beyond the numbers of people his movement attracts - why?

a. he is boisterous and loud - he is heard



  1. the South mistakenly believes him to be the spokesman for the abolitionist movement generally - why is that significant? - possibility of compromise?

J. moderate abolitionists

1. best characterized by Theodore Dwight Weld

2. favored gradual, compensated emancipation

3. 1839 Weld published “Slavery As It Is.” - was one of the few abolitionists to travel South

4. appeal of moderates was far broader than that of the radicals - Theodore Parker - “Slavery is the blight of this nation, the curse of the North and the curse of the South...it confounds your politics. It has silenced your ablest men. It has muzzled the pulpit and stifled the press. It is robbed three million men of what is dearer than life; it has kept back the welfare of seventeen million more.”

K. Northern reaction to the abolitionist crusade

1. speakers were frequently greeted with rotten eggs, stones, voice drownings

2. abolitionist Charles Stuart was whipped out of Plainfied, Ct.

3. a school for free blacks was deposited in the middle of a swamp (Maine, NH)

4. Elijah Lovejoy - had his press destroyed four times - eventually killed (IL)

5. Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia burned after an abolitionist meeting - houses of blacks destroyed after an abolitionist rally


  1. Garrison paraded through the streets of Boston with a noose around his neck - Boston- the Broadcloth mob

  2. what do these incidents demonstrate?

  1. tactics of abolitionists

1. moral ‘sausion - believing in the rightness of their cause they thought others would too if they were informed on the issue

2. revivalist type meeting designed to emotionalize the issue and convert others

3. newspapers keep up pressure - some with stories of abuses

4. politics were less successful - why/ - look at previous chart

5. underground railroad

a. designed to move slaves to Canada

b. phony floors and walls

c. psychological impact was probably greater than the practical impact

6. courts battles

a. Nancy Jackson case - 1837 - slave brought from Georgia to Connecticut - court rules that laws of the state in which you reside apply - frees her

b. Amistad - 1839 - Spanish slave ship incurs mutiny - taken over by Cinque - drifts until finally picked up by the U.S. Navy off the coast of Long Island

1. John Quincy Adams argues for their freedom

2. a Southern judge orders them freed but returned to Africa

3. Cinque sets himself up as a slave trader

c. Prigg v Pennsylvania (1842)

1. involved the Fugitive slave Law of 1793 which urged state cooperation in the capture and return of fugitive slaves

2. ruled that states are not required to use state officials to enforce it

3. lead to the establishment of “personal liberty laws” - laws that prohibited the involvement of state officials in the capture and return of fugitive slaves

d. these moderate gains through the legal process win middle class converts

7. politics

a. abolitionists flooded Congress with petitions on the issue of slavery

b. 1840 a third party presidential attempt by James Birney - Liberal Party

c. received only 3000 votes - what does that say about the appeal of abolitionism?

M. slow continued growth of the abolitionist movement

1. they are persistent and do gain converts - nevertheless it is a slow process

2. 1840 - 3000 votes - 1844 - 62,000 - lack of popular appeal continues

3. immigrants tend to oppose abolitionists - why - fear of competition for jobs

4. manufactures and bankers tend to oppose abolitionism - they own $300m of Southern debt - what might result from abolitionism

VI. The basis and results of Southern opposition

A. the South overreacted to Garrison, thinking the he was the spokesman for the abolitionists generally - why?

1. he was vocal, visible, and he was heard

2. they failed to understand the divisions of the movement - that this was the lunatic fringe

3. Nat Turner’s rebellion occurs as the first copy of the Liberator is published

4. properly the South should have ignored him

5. what kind of position would someone like Garrison evoke from the South? - defensive

B. Southern reaction to the abolitionist movement

1. antislavery movements dried up in the South

2. major crackdown on dissent in the South

a. owners were legally prohibited from freeing slaves

b. Southern post office refused to deliver abolitionist literature (1835 - Charleston mob breaks into post office and destroys antislavery material)

c. discussion of the slavery issue was suppressed

3. introduction of the Gag Rule - 1836

a. all petitions relating to slavery were automatically tabled without discussion

b. John Quincy Adams - now a representative - is the leading opponent

c. Garrity - “The Gag Rule accomplished what can only be called a political miracle: it made a popular hero out of John Quincy Adams.”


  1. at 75 - Morison 278 - “Old nestor lifted up his voice like a trumpet: til all slaveholding, slave trading, and slavebreeding absolutely quaked and howled under his dissecting knife. Wise of Virginia, Raynor of North Carolina, W.C. Johnson of Maryland, and scores more of slaveholders, striving constantly to stop him by starting questions of order and by every now and then screaming at the top of their voices: that is false! I demand Mr. Speaker that you shut the mouth of that old harlequin. At least half of the slaveholders left their seats and gathered in the quarter of the hall where Mr. Adams stood. Whenever any one of them broke out upon him, Mr. Adams would say, “I see where the shoe pinches, Mr. Speaker, it will pinch more yet. If before I get through every slaveholder, slavetrader, and slave breeder on this floor does not get materials for bitter reflection it shall be no fault of mine - nevertheless it is not repealed until 1844

4. movement toward an “apologist’s” view of slavery

a. slavery came to be defended no longer as a peculiar institution or a necessary evil, but as a positive good

b. John C. Calhoun - 1837 - “I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two different races of different origin, and distinguished by color and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding states between the two is, instead of an evil, a good, a positive good.”

c. arguments in defense of slavery

1. scriptural defense

a. Negroes were the descendants of Canaan (Ham), a servant of servants

b. Mosaic law bound heathens to Jews as slaves

c. lack of condemnation of slavery in the Bible

2. historical defense

a. the teachings of Aristotle

b. in every organized society men of superior talents become masters over inferior talents

c. slavery was the foundation of great civilizations of the past

3. perceived black inferiority

a. pseudo science of niggerology



  1. “The animal parts of the brain predominate over the moral and intellectual...deficient in reason, judgment, and forecast....thoughtless of the future, and contented and happy in the enjoyment in mere animal pleasures of the present moment, nothing but arbitrary power can restrain the excesses of his animal nature.”

  2. relate to Mark Twain story of phrenology

4. benefits of the system to the slave

a. more content than the “wage slaves” of Northern factories

b. well fed, well housed, well clothed, well cared for in old age and in childhood

c. “A merrier being does not exist on the face f the globe, than the Negro slave in the United States.”

5. the potential of Christian conversion

a. as free in Africa, they had no hope of salvation

b. as slaves in the U.S. they had a chance for eternal life

C. results of Southern overreaction

1. transformed the issue of slavery into a broader philosophical issue

2. Morison - “Southerners played into the abolitionists hands not only by stifling criticism where they had the power, but demanding its suppression in places where they had no power. Thousands of Northerners who were indifferent to slavery valued freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and of petition.”

3. thus Northerners felt that their natural rights were threatened by the South’s stand on the issue of slavery

4. it further emotionalized the situation

5. the abolitionist movement grew from 150,000 in 1840 to 250,000 in 1850

D. results of the abolitionist movement

1. at no time were a majority of Northerners abolitionists

2. the issue became transformed into an emotional one with far broader implications than merely the slavery issue

3. thus, abolitionism and the southern reaction to it made compromise more difficult

E. was compromise possible or was the Civil War an “irrepessible conflict?”

1. early on compensated emancipation provided a possible avenue for compromise

2. quickly the issue became on of moral rightness, and moral rightness cannot be compromised

VII. The Compromise of 1850

A. 1846 - Wilmot Proviso attached to appropriation bill (including $2 M bribe for Santa Anna)

1. neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist... in territory acquired from Mexico - taken directly from the Northwest Ordinance

2. logic - since Mexico had already abolished slavery it should not be extended by U.S.acquisition

3. the rider fails to pass

B. changing views on the right of Congress to regulate slavery

1. previously, no one doubted the right of Congress to regulate slavery in the territories

a. Northwest Ordinance

b. Missouri Compromise

2. new Southern view - Congress had no constitutional power to prohibit slavery in the territories, but a constitutional duty to protect it there

a. territories belonged to the states united, not the United s States

b. federal government served as the agent of the states - compact theory

c. constitutional guarantee of property rights meant that Congress could not prohibit slaveholders from taking their property into the territories

d. thus, Southerners came to view the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional

3. Northern view

a. since slavery is a moral evil, Congress has a moral obligation to follow the “highest law” (Seward) and prohibit slavery wherever its jurisdiction extends

b. since it has the constitutional power to “make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territories,” it may prohibit slavery

C. compromise views offered

1. Polk - extend the Missouri Compromise line west to the Pacific

2. Lewis Cass - squatter sovereignty (popular sovereignty) - allow the people of the territory to decide for themselves

3. why were these unacceptable?

a. Southerners wanted the legality of slavery protected - allowing a vote on the issue might mean the dissolution of slavery by popular vote

b. Northerners who believed that slavery was morally wrong and illegal did not wish to see it legalized by popular vote

D. the election of 1848 - irony of the candidates

1. Democrats (whose strength was in the South) nominated Lewis Cass of Michigan - their platform made no mention of the issue of slavery

2. Whigs (whose primary strength was in the North) nominated Zachary Taylor of Louisiana (40 years in the military and had never voted in a Presidential election) - the Whigs offered no platform

3. Free Soilers nominated Martin Van Buren - favored the Wilmot Proviso -” free soil, free speech, free labor, free men”

4. Whigs win - Van Buren takes enough New York votes from Cass to cost him the election-10%

a. Free Soil Party elects 10 members to the House

b. literacy sidelight - Hawthorne lost his job at the Salem customs house and was forced to write for a living - Whitman was fired from his newspaper job for taking a pro-Van Buren stand and wrote Leaves of Grass

E. gold and California - January 1848

1. prior to the gold rush, Congress was in no hurry to organize the territories of California and New Mexico

2. Southern expectation was that both would enter as slave states since Minnesota and Oregon were ready to enter as free states

3. gold rush confuses things by causing a population explosion

a. 100,000 person increase in one year - San Francisco went from 0 to 25,000

b. eggs sold for $10 a dozen

c. lawlessness led to the need for civil authority - technically it was still under military rule - really under vigilante rule

4. since Congress could not or would not organize the territories, Taylor urged California to write a constitution and apply for admission



  1. September 1849 California writes and passes an anti-slavery constitution (12,000 - 800) and applies for statehood - even elects a governor and legislature

b. May 1850 New Mexico writes and passes an anti-slavery constitution

c. Southerners were angered by this - Calhoun “I trust we shall persist in our resistance to the admission

of California until the restoration of all of our rights, or disunion, one or the other is the consequence. We have borne the wrongs and the insults of the North long enough.”


  1. until this time even the most extreme Southerners acknowledged the right of states to act on the issue of slavery within their boundaries

e. now, fear begins to replace reason as it appears slavery will have no territory left to expand into

f. 1850 - Nashville Convention - Robert Toombs (fireeaters) call for immediate secession - but it adjourns without a decision



  1. Morison examines the southern complaint - “It is now difficult to grasp the reason for all this sound and fury. The Southern states had an equal vote in the Senate, a majority in the cabinet and Supreme Court, and a President who was Virginia born and Louisiana bred.” His contention is that fear for the institution of slavery and the Southern way of life cause “fear to supersede thought” - there are those who contend that the Civil War began in 1860 because the South lost control of all branches of the federal government in that year

F. Taylor’s stand (first President with NO political experience)

1. immediate admission of California with no compromises (threatened to veto any compromise)

2. vowed to “Jacksonize” the dissenters

a. crush secession wherever it appears

b. “hang the damn traitors”

3. Taylor’s position made compromise impossible

4. the House was so divided in 1849 that it took 49 ballots to elect a Speaker

G. old guard sought a compromise to preserve the Union (Clay, Calhoun, Webster) - serves as the basis for the Compromise of 1850

1. California would be admitted as a free state

2. territorial government in New Mexico would be organized without mention of slavery

3. a new, tougher fugitive slave law would be passed

4. grant of disputed territory between Texas and New Mexico to be given to New Mexico

5. assumption of the Texas debt at 77% of par (most had paid between 5-10% - most bonds were held by Northern bankers)

6. abolition of the slave trade in Washington, D.C. (slavery left alone - only applied to slave auctions


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