Compromise and Conflict-The Road to war



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Compromise and Conflict—The Road to war
In the decades following 1790, the North and South, which originally were about equal in population and wealth, grew apart. As the North became more populous, the South lost control of the House of Representatives. Then, the Compromise of 1850 cost the South control of the Senate; finally, the presidency itself seemed lost forever after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The evolution of two separate and sectional national states accompanied this political decline of the South. The wealthier north developed industry, farming, and commerce using free labor, while the South maintained its plantation agriculture resting on slave labor. This growing sectionalism threatened the very survival of the United States as one nation.
As the country added new states and abolitionists became more vocal, the South became increasingly frustrated and emotional in defense of slavery and its lifestyle. For a time, the tariff forced on the South by the North served as a convenient scapegoat for the South. However, as the North became increasingly determined to impose its moral values on the nation, the South, now a minority section, no longer felt capable of protecting its lifestyle. In the years immediately following the Compromise of 1850, the crisis between the North and South set the two sections on a collision course. The ties that had bound the nation together, including churches, families, and political parties, became unraveled under the pressure generated by crisis of the 1850s. With the election of a sectional president in 1850, differences seemed irreconcilable, and the South chose to secede.
1. Background:

  • The Northwest Ordinance of 1787: In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance as a template for settlement and eventual statehood in western territory. This area would eventually become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

  • The Constitution: Article 1: Section 2: Clause 3: “representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.”

  • The Constitution: Article 1: Section 9: “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

  • The Constitution: Article IV: Section 2: Clause 3: “No Person held to the Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such service or Labour may be due.”

Transferable Concept: This issue of states’ rights vs. the federal government will find voice in both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Abolitionists:


  • Quakers: Condemned slavery at a meeting in 1688; however, most refused to join the abolitionist movement as they are against forcing their views on others.

  • Elihu Embree: Published The Emancipator devoted to abolition; said the “freedom is the inalienable right of all men.”

  • Mennonites: Like the Quakers, they opposed slavery.

  • Benjamin Franklin: Formed an antislavery organization in Philadelphia in 1775.

  • Dr. Benjamin Rush: Formed an antislavery organization in Philadelphia in 1775; in 1780, Pennsylvania passed a law for the gradual abolition of slavery; the New England states also abolished slavery.

  • Lucretia Mott: Attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840; Quaker and mother of six; minister.

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840.

  • Henry Stanton: Was a delegate to the World’s Ant-Slavery Convention in London in 1840.

  • Sojourner Truth: Former slave who operated on the Underground Railroad.

  • John Greenleaf Whittier: Quaker; poet and writer; helped organize the Republican Party; wrote –“To us, whose boast is loud and long, Of holy Liberty and Light; Say, shall these writhing slaves of Wrong, Plead vainly for their plundered Right?”

  • William Lloyd Garrison: In 1831, he began publishing The Liberator; in 1833, he founded the American Anti-slavery Society.

  • Levi Coffin: Quaker; operated stations on the Underground Railroad.

  • Henry Ward Beecher: Sent guns to Free-Soilers in boxes labeled Bibles –“Beechers Bibles”.

  • Frederick Douglass: Born into slavery and escaped in 1837; published the North Star.

  • Sarah and Angelina Grimke: Daughters of a South Carolina slave owner.

  • Theodore Parker: Unitarian minister.

Transferable Concept: Religion can be the driving force for social, political, and economic change.

3. Missouri Compromise of 1820 –Henry Clay:


  • When the Missouri Territory applied to become a state, there were 11 free and 11 slave states. The Senate was balanced.

  • Missouri entered as a slave state; Maine entered as a free state.

  • Banned slavery north of the 36-30 parallel in the Louisiana Territory.

In 1848, the United States acquired additional territory as a result of the Mexican-American War. As a result of the Gold Rush, California increased in population and asked to become a free state in 1850.


4. Compromise of 1850 –Henry Clay and Stephan Douglas:

  • On September 9, 1850, California was admitted as a free state. Utah was not admitted because of the practice of polygamy.

  • One the same day, the Texas-New Mexico border was set and New Mexico Territory could decide the issue of slavery for themselves.

  • At the same time, the residents of Utah would decide whether to be a free or slave territory.

  • On September 18, 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. It required all citizens to return slaves to their owners even if those slaves were in free territory. Under federal law, heavy penalties were imposed on those who did not comply. The burden of proof was on the African-American.

  • On September 20, 1850, the District of Columbia outlawed the buying and selling of slaves, but not slavery itself.

In 1852, Franklin Pierce was elected president.
Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina began one of the most famous debates in history.
New York Senator William Seward spoke strongly against the institution of slavery; he was labeled a radical.
Calhoun died on March 31 and Zachary Taylor died a few months later; both had opposed the compromise. Millard Fillmore who succeeded Taylor supported the compromise
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She wrote the book from the perspective of the slave and did not attack slave owners. It was translated into many languages and helped raise tensions in the South.
The deaths of Clay and Webster allowed Senator Stephen Douglas from Illinois to fill the void. Among the issues dividing the North and South was a proposed railroad running from Chicago to California; but before this could happen, the land it was to cross had to be officially opened for settlement. In 1854, Douglas introduced a bill to open the territory west of Iowa and Missouri as the Kansas and Nebraska territory. Douglas needed southern support to get the bill passed; so they compromised. (Douglas thought the territory unsuited for cotton; he thought that Chicago would gain influence; he thought that it didn’t change anything, and he thought that it would increase his chances of being nominated for President in 1856 –he was wrong on all counts.)
In 1853, we completed the Gadsden Purchase that made a railroad through the South a viable option.
5. The Kansas-Nebraska Act:

  • Like the territories in New Mexico and Utah, the issue of slavery in Kansas and Nebraska would be decided by popular sovereignty.

  • The Missouri Compromise was repealed in its entirety.

The railroad got lost in the debate and was not approved until 1862 after the South had seceded from the Union.


This compromise would cause a “civil war” in Kansas and a shift in political parties.
6. Republican Party:

  • Many northern Democrats quit the party. Conscience Whigs in the North opposed slavery; Cotton Whigs of the North and South supported slavery. Cotton Whigs joined the southern Democrats. Conscience Whigs joined northern Democrats and the Free-Soil Party to form the new Republican Party.

  • After the Know-Nothings left the party, Seward and Lincoln –a former Whig- joined.

7. “Bleeding Kansas”:



  • Voters were to elect a legislature which would write laws for their area; later a constitution would be written which would either accept or ban slavery. It would be approved by the voters of Kansas before they became a state. The first election was held in November 1854. Kansas was invaded by 1700 Missourians demanding to vote; they elected a pro-slavery delegation. In March 1855, even more voting fraud occurred as Kansas elected its legislature. Anti-slavery voters elected their own government; so, for a time Kansas had two governments.

  • Pro-slavery groups sack the town of Lawrence –President Pierce did nothing.

  • On May 24, 1856, outraged by the sack of Lawrence, John Brown and a small group of followers, dragged five pro-slavery settlers from their homes along Pottawatomie Creek and hacked them to death.

  • Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner delivered a two-day speech which he called the “Crime against Kansas”. Two days later, South Carolina Senator Preston Brooks and nearly beat Sumner to death with a cane. Fans of Brooks sent him hundreds of replacement canes.

In 1856, James Buchanan was elected president. He supported popular sovereignty and pledged not to interfere with existing slavery. Violence in Kansas diminished. Then….


8. Dred Scott v Sanford:

  • 1820 taken from Virginia to Missouri by his owner Peter Blow

  • Blow dies

  • Scott was sold to Dr. John Emerson –Capt. In Army who moved around a lot

  • Went to Illinois; Minn. where he rents Scott out and leaves him there while he goes to Louisiana.

  • Scott marries; Emerson marries Irene Sanford.

  • Scott’s wife gives birth

  • Emerson resigns from the military and goes to the Iowa territory to live; soon dies. Now Irene owns the Scotts

  • Scott asked to buy his freedom; Irene refuses. Scott received money from the sons of Blow to buy his freedom.

  • 1846 Scott sues for freedom because he had lived for a number of years in the NW Territory where there wasn’t slavery

  • Tallmadge said he should be free; 1850 -12 white men on a jury in St. Louis said Scott should be free

  • 1850 change in Missouri law and state embraced a radical pro-slavery stance; now Missouri Supreme Court is 2/3 pro-slavery.

  • Irene sues in Missouri Supreme Court and they said Scott not free.

  • 1852 Scott looses freedom

  • Irene remarries an abolitionist Dr. from Mass. by the name of Calvin Chaffee and Irene doesn’t tell him she is a slave owner. She deeds Scott to John Sanford in Virginia, but he lives in NY most of the time.

  • Roswell Field is now Scott’s new lawyer and he has the US Supreme Court hear the case because they have original jurisdiction to hear cases from citizens of different states.

  • Taney (one of worst Chief-Justices) says that Scott can’t sue because he is not a citizen: Taney and Pres. Buchanan went to the same school so many suspect a conspiracy.

  • Taney (Tahney) says blacks’ are inferior people and have no rights that a white man is bound to respect. Note that from the Revolution to ratification of the Constitution, blacks served in the army voted etc. But Scott was probably not a citizen of Missouri.

  • Can Congress pass a law that takes property from you without DPL? So, within the context of history, this was a bad decision but not a wrong one as most felt that the Constitution protected slavery.

  • Question that it raises…. are free blacks citizens?

  • Context of case:

  • Question of Texas: Independent. Had slaves; Mexico didn’t.

  • Even balance between free and slave states

  • Footnote: those dead at the Alamo –wanted for crimes etc

  • Texas asked Gt. Britain to annex them; so US finally did and the US/Mexican War

  • CA came in as free

  • Stephan Douglas sold out the Missouri Compromise to a Senator from Missouri for a railroad from Chicago to California

  • Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed Missouri Compromise

  • Anti-Nebraska Party became the new Republican Party and slavery is banned in this territory

  • Meanwhile all the west open to slavery to California

  • It was in this context in 1856 that Scott goes to court

  • If this trial had been before the change in the Missouri Compromise; Scott would have gone free.

  • Sanford sold Scott to the Blow brothers who set him free. Has TB by now and last year of his life was spent in a hotel lobby having his picture taken with tourists.

  • 2 justices dissented -Curtis -50 page dissent; and McKlean 70 page dissent

  • Why does it matter now? Taney said that the 5th amendment in the Bill of Rights applies wherever the American flag flies. So…. If the American flag flies over Gitmo, what about the Iraqi detainees? Are they entitled to their day in court?

9. The Lecompton Constitution:



  • Pro-slavery forces controlled the writing of the state constitution in 1857; but in a supervised election free-soilers gained the majority of the seats in both houses of the state legislature. They refused to ratify the Lecompton Constitution.

  • In a special election to decide the issue of slavery in Kansas; free-soilers refused to vote so it passed. President Buchanan submitted the Lecompton Constitution to Congress; the Senate passed it, the House blocked it. Congress returned it to the state where it was rejected. Kansas entered the Union in 1861 as a free state.

9. John Brown’s Raid:



  • In 1859, Brown and a number of followers attacked the U.S. arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Va. in an attempt to start a slave rebellion.

  • U/S. marines led by Robert E. Lee squelched the rebellion killing 10, including two of Brown’s sons, and capturing 8, all of whom were hung.

  • But it was in this moment of defeat that Brown began his ascent into legend.

    • He was born in 1800 in Connecticut of modest means.

    • He went bankrupt twice; once in land speculation and then as a wool merchant.

    • His first wife died in childbirth and he buried 8 of his 20 offspring as infants or youngsters.

    • His first wife and several of his children showed signs of mental illness.

    • At age 56 he took up arms as an abolitionist; as was the leader at Pottawatomie in Kansas. He was a fervent Calvinist.

    • Was he crazy? Consider that in Kansas and Virginia he was joined by farmers, artisans, poets, Jewish shopkeepers, former slaves, and free blacks. He discussed his plan with Frederick Douglass. While standing on the gallows awaiting his death, he said, “Do not detain me any longer.”

    • Virginia governor Henry Wise said, “He is a bundle of the best nerves I ever saw cut and thrust and bleeding and in bonds.”

    • Major Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson said, “He behaved with unflinching firmness.”

    • Brown’s biographer has said that “Brown’s foot solders weren’t suicidal zealots who blindly followed a cult leader.”

    • White Southerners were unhinged by Brown.

    • Brown left a note which said, “I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with blood.” Eighteen month later we were at war.

    • Was the attack in Virginia staged for shock value? …He didn’t touch the guns? Frederick Douglass thought it was.

    • His legacy requires that reflect on many things:

          • Was Brown right in using violence and terror to bring on the Civil War, which most Americans came to regard as a just and necessary conflict?




          • Is violence in the cause of justice ever justified?

          • Was the Civil War the only way to end slavery?

          • When do citizens have the right to defy their government?

          • What is the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence, which Brown invoked in defending his actions?

          • Is God, individual conscience or society the final moral arbiter?

10. Lincoln-Douglas Debates; 1858:



  • Douglas –Democratic Senator from Illinois. Lincoln challenged him for the seat; Lincoln lost but it gave him exposure to run for president.

  • The main issue for Lincoln was the Kansas-Nebraska Act. “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.”

  • Douglas painted Lincoln as a radical. Northerners saw him as a moderate.

  • Northern Democrats nominated Stephan Douglas; Southern Democrats nominated John Breckenridge from Kentucky; Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln; and the Constitutional Union Party nominated John Bell. Lincoln was elected with 40% of the vote.

11. On December 20, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union.


12. Crittenden Compromise:

  • Proposed by Senator Crittenden of Kentucky. Amend the Constitution to make the Missouri line permanent; pay slaveholders for their monetary loose when slaves were not returned; slaveholders could move their property around; and this amendment could not be repealed.

  • Powerful people, including Lincoln, did not support it and it failed to pass.

13. Lincoln was inaugurated in March 1861 and in his address he said, “I

have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of

slavery in the states where it exists, I believe I have no lawful right to do



so.” On April 12, 1861, Confederates fired on Fort Sumter.


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