The Constitution in Jeopardy The American Civil War
The American Civil War Political, economic, and social differences between North and South fueled sectional tension, threatening the existence of the Union.
Great Constitutional DebatesThe Slavery Issue Until the Civil War, the Constitution recognized and protected slavery • the Three-Fifths Compromise, provided that three-fifths of a state’s population of enslaved people would be counted for both the purpose of determining representation in the House and the amount of taxes owed by each state to the national government • Article I, Sect. 9, Clause 1, a clause which denied to Congress the power to prohibit the slave trade until the year 1808 • the fugitive slave clause (Article IV, Sect. 2, Clause 3) which stated that “no person held to service or labor 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 labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
Great Constitutional DebatesThe Slavery Issue • These provisions were included in the Constitution as a result of compromises that had been made by northern and southern delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. • The compromises had been made in order to satisfy the interests of both northern and southern states in an effort to encourage adoption and ratification of the new Federal Constitution. • With westward expansion and the acquisition of new territories, sectional controversy brewed over the spread of slavery.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Missouri Compromise • When Washington took office the North and South were roughly equal in wealth and population. • However, with each passing decade the North steadily outgained the South in population growth. • As a result, by 1819 the free states in the North had 105 representatives in the House while the slave states in the South had just 81 representatives.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Missouri Compromise • While the North controlled a solid majority in the House of Representatives, with the admission of Alabama to the Union as a slave state in 1819, the Senate was evenly balanced between 11 free states and 11 slave states. Because each state has two votes in the Senate regardless of population, southerners had maintained equality. • As long as Southerners preserved the equilibrium of power in the Senate, the South would be in position to thwart northern attempts to interfere with the institution of slavery. • Southerners therefore became increasingly committed to maintaining the sectional balance between free states and slaves states.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Missouri Compromise • In 1819, sectional tension over the issue of slavery was ignited when the territory of Missouri applied for statehood as a slave state. • Missouri was the first territory located wholly west of the Mississippi to apply for statehood. • The House, with its majority of representatives from northern states, responded by passing the Tallmadge Amendment. • The Tallmadge Amendment called for a prohibition on the further introduction of slaves into Missouri. The measure also called for gradual emancipation in Missouri by freeing all children born to Missouri slaves when they reached the age of twenty-five.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Missouri Compromise • Voting on the Tallmadge amendment registered sectional polarization as outraged representatives from southern states vehemently voiced their disapproval. Nevertheless, the House, with its northern majority, approved gradual emancipation. • The Senate, however, refused to accept any restriction on slavery. • With the two houses deadlocked, the prospects for Missouri statehood looked bleak.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Missouri Compromise • President Monroe, Henry Clay, and Senate leaders worked behind the scenes to devise a compromise and break the deadlock. • It would center on what is now the state of Maine, which had been part of Massachusetts since colonial times.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Missouri Compromise The resulting Missouri Compromise preserved the balance of sections in the Senate and included the following provisions: • Maine would be admitted into the Union as a free state • Missouri would be admitted to the Union as a slave state • Slavery would be prohibited in all the rest of the Louisiana Purchase lying north of 36 degrees and 30 minutes of latitude, that is, the southern boundary of Missouri.
The Missouri CompromiseImpact • By defusing the immediate political crisis over slavery, the Missouri Compromise helped to stabilize sectional competition for 34 years. • However, the divisive debate over the admission of Missouri to the Union and the resulting Missouri Compromise foreshadowed the bitter conflict over the expansion of slavery that would resurface during the 1840s and 1850s. “I take for granted that the present question is a mere preamble-a title page to a great, tragic volume.” John Quincy Adams
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Compromise of 1850 • Until 1850, with an equal number of slave and free states in the Union, the South maintained a balance of power in the Senate. • The territory ceded to the United States by Mexico at the end of the Mexican War , however, reawakened dormant sectional tensions on the issue of slavery. • In 1850, California, having experienced rapid population growth as a result of the Gold Rush, applied for admission to the Union as a free state. • California’s admission threatened to upset the delicate equilibrium of power between North and South.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Compromise of 1850 • The admission of California sparked heated debate in the Senate. • Henry Clay, now in the twilight of his long and illustrious political career, put forth a number of compromise resolutions to defuse the mounting sectional crisis.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Compromise of 1850 Clay’s proposals included the following: • the admission of California to the Union as a free state • the remainder of the territories of the Mexican Cession to be formed into the territories of New Mexico and Utah, without restriction on slavery, hence the territories would be open to slavery under the principle of popular sovereignty (a vote of the settlers in those territories to determine whether the territories will be slave or free) • The abolition of the slave trade (but not slavery) within the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) • The passage of a strict fugitive slave law
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Compromise of 1850 • Clay’s resolutions produced months of rancorous debate on the floor of the United States Senate. • The debates featured dramatic speeches by Clay, Webster, and Calhoun. • Calhoun, sixty-eight and dying of tuberculosis, issued a final statement in defense of southern rights (delivered by a younger colleague). • Webster delivered, in one of the finest speeches of his long political career, an impassioned plea for passage of the compromise measures and preservation of the Union. • After months of debate, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois successfully maneuvered Clay’s proposals through the Senate as separate bills.
The Compromise of 1850Impact • Although the Compromise of 1850 seemed to soothe immediate sectional tensions over the issue of slavery, the reprieve proved fleeting as fierce Northern opposition to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act reignited sectional tension between North and South.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryUncle Tom’s Cabin • The controversial Fugitive Slave Act angered Harriet Beecher Stowe, a noted abolitionist and sister of the famed antislavery preacher Henry Ward Beecher. • Dismayed by the passage of the law, Stowe was determined to awaken the North to the wickedness and inhumanity of slavery, especially the cruel splitting of families.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryUncle Tom’s Cabin • In 1852, Stowe’s gut wrenching novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in book form. • Her passionate work of literature relied on powerful imagery to appeal to the emotions of her readers. • The success of the novel at home and abroad was sensational. Several hundred thousand copies were sold in the first year of publication alone. The book would go to sell more than two million copies worldwide.
Uncle Tom’s CabinImpact • Uncle’s Tom’s Cabinmade a profound impression on the North. • Countless Northern readers, moved by Stowe’s monstrous depiction of slave owners and slavery, mounted fierce resistance to the “filthy” Fugitive Slave Act. • Southerners were deeply embittered by what they characterized as the novel’s “wicked lies.” As a result, they became increasingly committed to the defense of slavery.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Fugitive Slave Act • The Fugitive Slave Act stirred up a storm of opposition in the North. • Under this stringent law, blacks suspected being of fugitive slaves could not testify on their own behalf and were denied jury trials. • Abolitionists were further outraged because the federal commissioners who handled the cases would receive five dollars if the runaway were freed and ten dollars if not- an arrangement that bred deep suspicion and resentment. • The law also made individuals who aided and abetted fugitive slaves liable to severe penalties.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Fugitive Slave Act • Opposition to the law was widespread throughout the North, especially in hotbeds of abolitionism such as Boston. • In response to passage of the law, infuriated northern mobs rescued runaway slaves from jail cells. • Massachusetts made it unlawful for any state official to enforce the new federal statute. • Some northern states passed “personal liberty laws” which denied local jails to federal officials and otherwise hampered enforcement.
Fugitive Slave ActImpact Northern View Southern View • The Fugitive Slave Act was the single most controversial provision of the bundle of measures known as the Compromise of 1850 • Arguably, no other single controversy of the 1850s did more to arouse in the North a spirit of antagonism against the South and slavery. • The Southerners in turn were deeply angered because the northerners would not in good faith execute the law- the one real and immediate southern “gain” from the Compromise of 1850.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Kansas-Nebraska Act • In January 1854, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois introduced a fateful piece of legislation in Congress. In doing so, Douglas unwittingly reopened sectional debate on the issue of slavery. • To fulfill its Manifest Destiny, especially following the discovery of gold in California, America was making plans to build a transcontinental railroad from east to west. The big question was where to locate the eastern terminal -- to the north, in Chicago, or to the south, in St. Louis. Douglas was firmly committed to ensuring that the terminal would be in Chicago, but he knew that it could not be unless the Nebraska territory was organized. • In order to get the votes he needed, Douglas had to please Southerners. He therefore bowed to Southern wishes and proposed a bill for organizing Nebraska-Kansas which stated that the slavery question would be decided by popular sovereignty. This bill, if made into law, would repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which said that slavery could not extend above the 36' 30" line. • In short, it would open the North to slavery. Northerners were outraged; Southerners were overjoyed.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Kansas-Nebraska Act • Douglas assumed that settlers there would never choose slavery, but did not anticipate the vehemence of the Northern response. • Douglas, however, was stubborn. Ignoring the anger of his own party, he got President Pierce's approval and pushed his bill through both houses of Congress. The bill became law on May 30, 1854.
The Kansas-Nebraska ActImpact • Nebraska was so far north that its future as a free state was never in question. But Kansas was next to the slave state of Missouri. • The reaction from the North was immediate. Eli Thayer organized the New England Emigrant Aid Company, which sent settlers to Kansas to secure it as a free territory. • By the summer of 1855, approximately 1,200 New Englanders had made the journey to the new territory, armed to fight for freedom. The abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher furnished settlers with Sharps rifles, which came to be known as "Beecher's Bibles."
The Kansas-Nebraska ActImpact • Rumors had spread through the South that 20,000 Northerners were descending on Kansas, and in November 1854, thousands of armed Southerners, mostly from Missouri, poured over the line to vote for a proslavery congressional delegate. Only half the ballots were cast by registered voters, and at one location, only 20 of over 600 voters were legal residents. The proslavery forces won the election. • On March 30, 1855, another election was held to choose members of the territorial legislature. The Missourians, or "Border Ruffians," as they were called, again poured over the line. This time, they swelled the numbers from 2,905 registered voters to 6,307 actual ballots cast. Only 791 voted against slavery. • The new state legislature enacted what Northerners called the "Bogus Laws," which incorporated the Missouri slave code. These laws leveled severe penalties against anyone who spoke or wrote against slaveholding; those who assisted fugitives would be put to death or sentenced to ten years hard labor. (Statutes of Kansas) • The Northerners were outraged, and set up their own Free State legislature at Topeka. Now there were two governments established in Kansas, each outlawing the other. President Pierce only recognized the proslavery legislature.
Sectional Discord Over Slavery“Bleeding Kansas” • Most settlers who had come to Kansas from the North and the South only wanted to homestead in peace. They were not interested in the conflict over slavery, but they found themselves in the midst of a battleground. • Violence erupted throughout the territory. Southerners were driven by the rhetoric of leaders such as David Atchison, a Missouri senator. Atchison proclaimed the Northerners to be "negro thieves" and "abolitionist tyrants." He encouraged Missourians to defend their institution "with the bayonet and with blood" and, if necessary, "to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district.” • The northerners, however, were not all abolitionists as Atchison claimed. In fact, abolitionists were in the minority. Most of the Free State settlers were part of a movement called Free Soil, which demanded free territory for free white people. They hated slavery, but not out of concern for the slaves themselves. They hated it because plantations took over the land and prevented white working people from having their own homesteads. They hated it because it brought large numbers of black people wherever it went. The Free Staters voted 1,287 to 453 to outlaw black people, slave or free, from Kansas. Their territory would be white.
Sectional Discord Over Slavery“Bleeding Kansas” • As the two factions struggled for control of the territory, tensions increased. In 1856 the proslavery territorial capital was moved to Lecompton, a town only 12 miles from Lawrence, a Free State stronghold. In April of that year a three-man congressional investigating committee arrived in Lecompton to look into the Kansas troubles. • The majority report of the committee found the elections to be fraudulent, and said that the free state government represented the will of the majority. • The federal government refused to follow its recommendations, however, and continued to recognized the proslavery legislature as the legitimate government of Kansas.
Sectional Discord Over Slavery“Bleeding Kansas” • There had been several attacks during this time, primarily of proslavery against Free State men. People were tarred and feathered, kidnapped, killed. But now the violence escalated. • On May 21, 1856, a group of proslavery men entered Lawrence, where they burned the Free State Hotel, destroyed two printing presses, and ransacked homes and stores. • In retaliation, the fiery abolitionist John Brown led a group of men on an attack at Pottawatomie Creek. The group, which included four of Brown's sons, dragged five proslavery men from their homes and hacked them to death.
Sectional Discord Over Slavery“Brooks Sumner Affair” • The abolitionist senator Charles Sumner delivered a fiery speech called "The Crime Against Kansas," in which he accused proslavery senators, particularly Atchison and Andrew Butler of South Carolina, of [cavorting with the] "harlot, Slavery.“ • In retaliation, Butler's nephew, Congressman Preston Brooks, attacked Sumner at his Senate desk and beat him senseless with a cane
Sectional Discord Over Slavery“Brooks-Sumner Affair” • Reactions to the attack on Sumner showed how badly divided the country had become. Many Southerners applauded Brooks. From all over the South, Brooks received new canes to replace the one he had broken on Sumner’s head. • Most Northerners viewed the beating as yet another example of Southern brutality. • “Bleeding Kansas” and the Brooks-Sumner Affair demonstrated that people were no longer content just to argue over slavery. One Connecticut school girl wrote to Sumner saying: “I don’t think it is of very much use to stay any longer in the high school. The boys would be better learning to hold muskets, and the girls to make bullets."
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Rise of the Republican Party • The Democrats and Whigs formed a tw0-party system that dominated American politics from the 1830s to the early 1850s. • The furor over the Kansas-Nebraska Act dealt the Whigs a fatal blow by leading to the formation of the Republican Party. • Kansas marked the first important test of popular sovereignty. The outbreak of violence between proslavery and antislavery settlers badly strained the Whig party which collapsed.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Rise of the Republican Party • In response to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a new party, known as the Republican Party, sprang up in the Middle West, most notably in Wisconsin and Michigan. • Made up of disgruntled Whigs, anti-slavery northern Democrats, Free-Soilers, and other opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the party quickly gained popularity and spread eastward.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Rise of the Republican Party • Virtually unknown at the beginning of 1854, the party elected a Republican Speaker of the House within two years and a president within six. • Never really a third-party movement, it erupted with such force as to become almost overnight the second major political party. • The Republican Party platform of 1854 called for the repeal of both the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Law. • Although abolitionists would later join the party, its leaders were mainly northern and western moderates who were united by their opposition to the extension of slavery into the territories.
The Rise of the Republican Party Impact • The rise of the Republican Party further fueled political divisions within the United States. • As a purely sectional party made up entirely of northerners, its growing success only alienated and threatened southerners. • The birth of the Republican party, therefore, served as a harbinger of the growing sectionalization of national politics in an increasingly polarized nation.
The Presidential Election of 1856 • The Republicans held their first national nominating convention in 1856 • The party nominated John C. Freemont, the explorer and adventurer known as The Pathfinder. • The Republicans adopted a platform opposing the expansion of slavery into the territories.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Dred Scott Case • In 1857 the Supreme Court gave its ruling on the question of slavery in the territories. • The case before the court was that of Dred Scott v. Sanford. • Dred Scott, a slave who had lived in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin before moving back to the slave state of Missouri. • Scott, aided by abolitionist supporters, sued in hopes of being granted his freedom on the grounds that living in a free state and a free territory made him a freeman.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Dred Scott Decision • The decision of the court was read in March of 1857. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney -- a staunch supporter of slavery -- wrote the "majority opinion" for the court. • The decision stated that because Scott was "a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves," he was therefore "[not] a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution.” • In short, Scott was not a citizen and had no right to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Dred Scott Decision • In addition, the Court argued that Scott could not be defined as free by virtue of his residency in the Wisconsin Territory. • A majority of the Court ruled that because a slave was "property,” he or she could be taken into any territory and legally held there in slavery. The reasoning was that the Fifth Amendment forbade Congress from depriving individuals of their property without due process of law. • Although the Missouri Compromise had already been repealed prior to the case (with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act), the Dred Scott Decision struck down the law as unconstitutional because Congress had no authority to limit the spread of slavery into the territories.
The Dred Scott DecisionImpact • The decision marked the first time the Supreme Court struck down an act of Congress as unconstitutional since the court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. • Far from settling the slave question, the decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford further exacerbated rising sectional tensions between the North and South.
The Dred Scott DecisionImpact Southern View Northern View • To the delight of Southerners, the decision appeared to validate the Southern version of national power and would serve to embolden pro-slavery Southerners to expand slavery to all reaches of the nation. • Unsurprisingly, antislavery forces were outraged by the decision, which empowered the newly formed Republican Party and helped to fuel violence between slaveowners and abolitionists on the frontier.
The Dred Scott DecisionImpact • Following the Civil War, the Reconstruction Congress passed, and the states ratified, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, all of which directly overturned the Dred Scott decision. Today, all people born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens who may bring suit in federal court.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Lincoln-Douglas Debates • The Dred Scott decision played a key role in a series of debates between Stephen A. Douglas, United States Senator from Illinois, and his Republican challenger Abraham Lincoln in the Senate race of 1858.
Sectional Discord Over SlaveryThe Lincoln-Douglas Debates • Upon accepting the Republican Party nomination to challenge Douglas for his Senate seat, Lincoln delivered his powerful “House Divided” speech. • Lincoln believed that the recent Supreme Court decision on the Dred Scott case was part of a Democratic conspiracy that would lead to the legalization of slavery in all states. • Referring to the court's decision which permitted Dred Scott to live in a free state and yet remain a slave, he said, "what Dred's Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free state." “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. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.” Abraham Lincoln, 1858