A House Divided, 1840-1861

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Transcript A House Divided, 1840-1861

Chapter 13
A House Divided, 1840–1861
The original and final designs for (1855) Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom for the dome of the
Capitol building. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis of Mississippi insisted that the liberty cap in the
first design, a symbol of the emancipated slave in ancient Rome, be replaced.
Fruits of Manifest Destiny
Continental Expansion
Territorial Expansion resulted in the Expansion of Slavery; which raised the question of whether
new lands should be free or slave.
1840’s – Nearly all land east of the Mississippi was in white hands
Indian Removal Act *1830) – forced American Indians west
The United States and Great Britain jointly administered Oregon and Utah was part of Mexico. National boundaries
mattered little to Americans who settled these regions.
1840s- Americans settled the West due to:
– 1837 Depression - economic crisis pushed many settlers west
– Manifest Destiny - The idea that Americans had a divine mission to settle the continent,
known by the end of the 1840s as “manifest destiny,” intensified in these years.
America’s acquisition of part of Mexico directly raised the issue of slavery.
– When Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821, it was almost as large as the
United States in territory and population.
– Mexico’s northern provinces of California, New Mexico, and Texas were remote, sparsely
populated, and bordered by Indian country
– By the 1840s, California was linked to the United States by American ships that traded in
the region.
Map 13.1 The Trans-Mississippi West, 1830s – 1840s
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Copyright © 2011 W.W. Norton & Company
The Mexican Frontier: New Mexico and California
• 1821 Mexico Independence from Spain
• Mexico’s Northern Provinces: California, Texas, New Mexico
• Westward Expansion led to the expansion of slavery to the
• It brought slavery back to the political arena, raising the
question of what states would be slave and free.
• Santa Fe Trail: link Independence, MO with New Mexico
created a commercial roadway
Santa Fe Trail (detailed) http://www.santafetrail.org/the-trail/history/history-of-the-sft/
Santa Fe Trail (map) http://www.santafetrail.org/interactive-trail-map/
• 1821, the opening of the Santa Fe Trail between Santa Fe and
Independence, Missouri led to the reorientation of New Mexico's
commerce from the rest of Mexico to the US
Californio background http://www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/themed_collections/subtopic0a.html
1821 Mexico Independence from Spain
• Mexican Cattle Ranchers
• Attracted to Mexican owned California
• They dissolved missionaries, freed Indians working for friars, reduced
influence of Catholic church to attract settlement in California
• California's social hierarchy:
1. Californios - Mexican cattle ranchers, acquire land in California
gente de razon (people capable of reason)
2. Indios - Indians emancipated from friars end up working for Californios
gente sin razon (people without reason)
Video – Californios (4:18) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yijygrActfg
The Texas Revolt (1835 – 1836)
Americans move to Texas:
1820, Moses Austin (CT born farmer) received land grant for American colonization, but died so Stephen
Austin assumed land - sold smaller plots to Americans (including Slaveholders)
Mexico wants to stop Americans from colonizing Texas:
1830 - population of Americans (35,000) exceeds local Tejanos (7,000) -->
- MX government concerned about American dominance, annulled land contracts and ended further
immigration to TX
- Mexico abolished slavery, yet Americans bringing in slaves
1835 Siege of San Antonio - Texans won
General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (Mexico's ruler) sent army to control Texans and
Texans call for Independence from Mexico
March 6, 1836 Santa Anna's army stormed Alamo (Catholic Mission in San Antonio)
The Alamo - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/alamo/peopleevents/index.html
"Remember the Alamo" - this Texan rally cry reflected the heroics of the rebels who held the Alamo for 13
days against a much bigger force, Texans lost
Goliad - Texans lost
Texas Independence:
1836 - Battle of San Jacinto won Texas Independence from Mexico
- Texan General Sam Houston surprise attacked General Santa Anna
- Santa Anna signs papers freeing Texas
Republic of Texas:
- Sam Houston is the President
- Andrew Jackson denies statehood into Union due to slavery issue
The Election of 1844
• President John Tyler revived the annexation of Texas as a means of
saving his failed administration and winning southern support for his renomination in 1844. His push to get Texas and the issue of slavery
• When a letter from John C. Calhoun, then Tyler’s secretary of state, linked
annexation to the strengthening of slavery, Henry Clay and Martin Van
Buren, prospective presidential candidates for the Whig and Democratic
parties, met and agreed to reject annexation, fearing it might spark war with
Mexico. They were trying to keep slavery out of national politics.
• Clay received the Whig nomination
• Democratic convention southerners bent on annexation dumped Van Buren
for James K. Polk, a former Tennessee governor and ardent annexationist.
Polk was a slaveholder.
• Democrats’ platform called for the “reannexation” of Texas, which wrongly
implied that Texas had been part of the Louisiana Purchase, and the
reoccupation of Oregon.
• Polk narrowly defeated Clay in the election.
• If Liberty Party candidate James G. Birney had not received 16,000 votes
in New York, Clay would have been elected.
• In March 1845, right after Polk’s inauguration, Congress annexed Texas.
Election of 1844
Video: (5:33) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1MSEmP0_JM
DEMOCRAT – James Polk
• Dark Horse – was an
unexpected candidate
(Martin Van Buren had been the expected
candidate, but didn’t support annexation of Texas)
• Support annexation of Texas
• “Fifty-four Forty or Fight” –
take Oregon Territory
• Support Manifest Destiny and
the American desire for
• Many support slavery
WHIG – Henry Clay
• Great Compromiser –
negotiated the Missouri
• Oppose annexation of Texas
• Support government funding
of internal improvements
• Support Tariffs
• Many oppose slavery
Fruits of Manifest Destiny
President Polk’s accomplishments
• Polk had four goals: (Young Hickory)
– reduce the tariff
– reestablish the Independent Treasury
– settle the Oregon dispute (54 40’ or Fight)
– bring California into the United States
Polk accomplished his objectives and promised to serve
only one term:
• Congress enacted the first two goals
• Oregon was secured through an agreement with
Britain dividing up Oregon
• California would be gained through war
EXPANSION –Oregon (1846)
• OREGON – 54* 40’ or Fight
Latitude line at which Polk and expansionists claimed
as American territory despite claims by Great Britain
• British sent a warship to the disputed territory
• Polk claimed that America’s ownership was “clear and
unquestionable” and “If we do have war, it will not be
our fault”
• 1846 Buchanan – Pakenham Treaty – US gained
title to land up to 49th parallel;
Britain was not prepared to go to war over a remote wilderness
territory and valued the US as a trading partner
• Most American happy with compromise and avoid war, yet
some extreme expansionists were unhappy
• Polk’s Dream http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008661461/
EXPANSION – Texas (1845)
• March, 1845 TEXAS Annexed – (28th state)
President Tyler negotiated the addition of Texas to the union of
the US in his last months in office; election of Polk reflected a
“mandate to act” and Congress agreed in a narrow vote
• Mexico Outraged by Annexation Texas –
seen as “an act of aggression”, Mexican troops dispatched to
Rio Grande River border and cut off diplomatic relations with
the US
• Population: Americans & Slaves quickly populate Texas 1845
white: 100,000
1850 white: 150,000
slaves: about 38,000
slaves: 58,000
EXPANSION and War with Mexico (1846)
March, 1846
MX rejects Polk’s offer for California
Polk offered $30 million to buy California from Mexico,
but Mexico refused to negotiate
April, 1846
Polk’s War
• U.S. soldiers sent into the disputed area between
Texas and Mexico inevitably came to blows with
Mexican troops.
• General Zachary Taylor led troops to Corpus Christi
• Polk claimed that Mexicans had shed blood on
American soil, and he called for a declaration of war.
Disputed Area: between the Rio Grande River and the
Nueces River (map)
EXPANSION and War with Mexico
Outbreak of War: May 9, 1846
• Mexico attacked US troops killing
(11 Americans, 5 wounded, rest taken prisoner)
• Polk successfully provoked a war
• Polk told Congress that Mexico
“has invaded our territory, and shed American
blood upon the American soil”
• Congress declared war with Whig opposition
Mexican War
1846 – 1848
US Troops
• grew from 7,000 to 78,000
• Regular army, marines, and mostly state militias
• State Militias lacked discipline (plunder, rape, murder)
Mexican Troops
• 32,000 from the beginning
• Lacked training, discipline, morale, supplies
• Many soldiers were forced to serve or recruited from
• Artillery obsolete, bad gunpowder (cannonballs fell
Mexican War
1846 –1848
June, 1846
Bear Flag Republic - California
American rebels in California declared independence from Mexico.
American troops soon occupied that region. Mexican Cession of 1848 gave
the US California and became the 31st state in 1850.
War Fronts – Battles
Most of the fighting occurred in central Mexico.
Early 1847 American forces marched to and captured the capital, Mexico City
Southern Texas
Central Mexico
New Mexico
Battles VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft3bIpOVoow
Mexican-American war in 5 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7AXuxcUleY
Map 13.2 The Mexican War, 1846 - 1848
Give Me Liberty!: An American history, 3rd Edition
Copyright © 2011 W.W. Norton & Company
American Opinion:
War with Mexico & Manifest Destiny
Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/mexicanwar/
• 1st American war fought largely on foreign soil
• Most Americans supported the war
• Large minority of northerners opposed it,
believed Polk administration hoped to secure
new lands for slavery
American Opinion – supports Expansionist
Democrats (South), Manifest Destiny: John L.
O’Sullivan claimed God wanted Americans to
take over lands of Mexico
American Opinion:
War with Mexico & Manifest Destiny
Support War
• Southern Democrats , Western States
• West Mississippi River valley celebrated with bonfires,
parades, patriot songs, poems, speeches
Oppose War
• Northern Whigs , New England saw war as a plot to
expand slavery
• Congressman (Illinois) Abraham Lincoln requested
President Polk to specify the spot where American
blood had been shed on American soil. He felt that
American troops may have been in Mexican territory
when they were attacked.
American Opinion:
War with Mexico & Manifest Destiny
Oppose War
Daniel Webster – Mass. Senator
believed it was a scheme by pro-slavery
Southerners seeking territory
He worried that “an expensive and bloody war”
would end up fragmenting the Union
William Lloyd Garrison
believed the unjust war was one of “aggression,
of invasion, of conquest, and rapine – marked
by ruffianism, perfidy, and every other feature of
national depravity.”
American Opinion:
War with Mexico & Manifest Destiny
Oppose War
Henry David Thoreau
• jailed in Massachusetts for refusing to pay
• wrote an essay, “On Civil Disobedience,”
defending his actions
• later inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King,
Jr. Abraham Lincoln, a Whig representative
from Illinois, also opposed the war.
War with Mexico & Manifest Destiny
• US Army Officer in Texas wrote in his
“We have not one particle of right to
be here. It looks as if the government
sent a small force on purpose to bring
on a war, so as to have a pretext for
taking California and as much of this
country (Mexico) as it chooses.”
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
February 2, 1848
• Mexican Cession – ceded California and
present-day New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and
Utah to the United States.
• Texas –Mexico gave up its claims
• US paid $15 million to Mexico
• This established the nation’s present territorial
boundaries, except for the Gadsden Purchase,
bought from Mexico in 1852, and Alaska,
purchased from Russia in 1867.
Gadsden Purchase (Jimmy Fallon) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn2FzuPyFlY
Fruits of Manifest Destiny
America’s absorption of one-third of Mexico’s total territory split in two a region that had been
united for centuries, and incorporated into the nation nearly 100,000 Spanish-speaking Mexicans
and even more Indians. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed male citizens their liberty,
property, and all the rights of American citizens, while regarding Indians only as “savage tribes.”
Manifest destiny invigorated American notions of white racial supremacy. In the 1840s, territorial
expansion began to be seen as showing the inherent superiority of the “Anglo-Saxon race,” a
mythical identity defined by its opposites: blacks, Indians, Hispanics, and Catholics. Nineteenthcentury concepts of race drew together ideas about color, culture, national origin, class, and
religion. American writers linked American freedom and the allegedly natural freedom-loving
characteristics of Anglo-Saxon Protestants. For many Americans, Texas’s annexation and the
conquest of Mexico were victories of civilization, progress, and liberty over the Catholic Church’s
tyranny and the natural incapacity of “mongrel races.” Some opposed expansion because they
feared the nation could not assimilate the large non-white Catholic population, whom they
believed unfit for citizenship in a republic.
American racial relations harmed many in the new American territories. While Mexico had
abolished slavery, Texas gave it constitutional protections and denied civil rights to Indians and
blacks. In Texas, only whites could buy land, and free blacks were barred from entering the state.
Residents of Indian and Mexican origin in New Mexico were held to be “too Mexican” to be
allowed democratic self-government; the territory was not allowed to become a state until it had
enough whites, in 1912.
Fruits of Manifest Destiny
Gold-Rush California
California had few non-Indians and Americans in the 1840s until 1848, when gold was discovered
in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A gold craze spread throughout the world, and
tens of thousands of migrants swarmed to California by sea and land. By 1860, California’s nonIndian population had risen to 360,000. The gold-rush population was very diverse, with migrants
coming from Mexico, South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, including 25,000 Chinese who
signed long-term labor contracts and were hired out to mining, railroad, and other employers. San
Francisco became a boomtown and one of the world’s most racially and ethnically diverse cities.
The transition from surface mining to underground mining required large capital investments and
exacerbated conflicts between diverse California gold-hunting groups. Occasionally vigilantes
seized San Francisco, established courts, and executed accused criminals. White miners
organized extralegal groups that expelled “foreign miners,” such as Mexicans, Chileans Chinese,
French, and American Indians. While California long symbolized opportunity, for many the state
restricted freedoms. The state constitution limited rights to vote and testify in court to whites. The
Indian population was devastated by the miners, ranchers, and vigilantes of the gold rush era, and
the state government paid bounties to private militias to attack the natives. Although California
was a free state, thousands of Indian children were bought and sold into slavery.
The Other Gold Rush
A simultaneous gold rush occurred in Australia in the 1850s, bringing many of the same
dynamics, and Australian whites even modeled their racial policies on those of California.
Map 13.3 Gold – Rush California
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Copyright © 2011 W.W. Norton & Company
Fruits of Manifest Destiny
Opening Japan
Through the Mexican War, the United States gained possession of San Diego and San Francisco
harbors, excellent ports to facilitate trade with the Far East. In the 1850s, the United States
initiated the opening of Japan, which for two centuries had closed itself to almost all foreign
contact. In 1853 and 1854, American warships commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry sailed
into Tokyo harbor. Perry had been sent to negotiate a trade treaty, and he demanded that the
Japanese deal with him. Alarmed by European intrusions into China and impressed by Perry’s
armaments, they opened two ports to American shipping. American diplomats persuaded Japan to
open more ports to U.S. ships and establish full diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Thus, the United States acquired refueling stops on the way to China, seen as the most important
trading partner in Asia. Japan soon launched a modernization process that made it Asia’s major
military power.
A Dose of Arsenic
The Wilmot Proviso
The acquisition of the vast Mexico territory raised a fatal issue that would disrupt America’s political
system and drive the nation to Civil War —whether slavery would expand into the West. Ralph Waldo
Emerson predicted that if the United States took part of Mexico, “it will be as the man who swallows
arsenic. . . . Mexico will poison us.” Events proved him right.
Before 1846, the status of slavery throughout the United States had been settled by state law or the
Missouri Compromise. But the conquest of Mexico reignited the question of slavery’s expansion. In
1846, Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot introduced a bill prohibiting slavery from the territory
acquired from Mexico. Party lines collapsed. Every northerner, Whig and Democrat, supported the
Wilmot Proviso. Almost all southerners opposed it. The measure passed the House, which had a
northern majority, but stalled in the Senate, which was evenly split between free and slave states. In
1848, opponents of slave expansion organized the Free Soil Party and nominated Martin Van Buren for
president. Democrats that year nominated Lewis Cass, who suggested that settlers in new territories be
allowed to vote on the slavery question (an idea later called “popular sovereignty”). Van Buren received
14 percent of the North’s total votes. Whig candidate and Mexican War hero Zachary Taylor won the
presidential election. But the Free Soil Party made anti-slavery a political force to be reckoned with.
Wilmot Proviso: (page 5)
Map 13.4 Continental Expansion through 1853
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Copyright © 2011 W.W. Norton & Company
A Dose of Arsenic
• The Free Soil Appeal
The Free Soil position was far more popular in the North than abolitionist demands for immediate
emancipation and equal rights for blacks. While Congress had no constitutional power to abolish
slavery within a state, precedents existed for keeping territories free of slavery, such as the
Northwest Ordinance and the Missouri Compromise. Many in the North long resented what they
saw as southern domination of the federal government. Preventing the creation of new slave
states appealed to those who wanted policies, such as the tariff and government aid to internal
improvements, which most southern political leaders opposed.
For many northerners, western territories promised economic advancement and prosperity.
Economic crisis in the 1840s reinforced the old link between land ownership and economic
freedom. Some in the labor movement saw access to western land as a means of fighting
unemployment and low wages in the East. If slave plantations took up western lands, free
northern migration would be blocked. “Free soil” had a double meaning. The Free Soil platform of
1848 called on the federal government to both bar slavery from western lands and offer free
homesteads to settlers in the new territories. Unlike abolitionism, “free soil” did not challenge
widespread northern racism.
To many in the white south, barring slavery from the territories seemed a violation of the equal
rights of southerners, some of whom had fought and died in the Mexican War. They complained
that the federal government had no right to keep them from bringing one kind of property—their
human property—into the territories. With older slave states suffering from soil exhaustion,
southern leaders believed that slavery needed to expand to survive. They opposed the admission
of new free states that would overturn the balance between sections in Congress and make free
states a permanent majority.
A Dose of Arsenic
Crisis and Compromise
In world history, 1848 is remembered as the “springtime of nations,” a moment of democratic uprisings
against Europe’s monarchies and demands by ethnic minorities for national independence. American
principles of liberty and self-government seemed to triumph in Great Britain, France, Hungary, Italy, and
Germany, where people rebelled against monarchy and clamored for national unification and republican
rights and constitutions. But, in most places, these uprisings were defeated. Many Americans wondered
if their republic would survive.
The Great Debate
Party leaders tried to resolve the sectional differences over slavery threatening to tear the nation apart.
In 1850, California applied for statehood as a free state. Many southerners opposed it, fearing that its
admission would upset the sectional balance in Congress. Henry Clay offered a plan with four
provisions that came to be known as the Compromise of 1850: California would enter as a free state;
the slave trade, but not slavery, would be abolished in Washington, D.C.; a new law would allow
southerners to reclaim fugitive slaves; and slavery’s status in the rest of the territories taken from
Mexico would be decided by local white inhabitants.
Clay’s plan prompted one of the greatest debates in Congress’s history. While notable senators from
both North and South denounced compromise, Milliard Fillmore, who became president when an ill
President Taylor died, helped secure the Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850: (page 5)
Map 13.5 The Compromise of 1850
Give Me Liberty!: An American history, 3rd Edition
Copyright © 2011 W.W. Norton & Company
A Dose of Arsenic
The Fugitive Slave Issue
Though it seemed that national leaders had again succeeded in removing slavery from national
politics, the new Fugitive Slave Act made further controversy inevitable. It allowed special federal
commissioners to determine the fate of alleged fugitives without jury trials or testimony from
accused individuals. It prohibited local authorities from interfering with fugitive slaves’ capture and
required individual citizens to assist in such capture when called on by federal agents. Thus
southern leaders, usually committed to states’ rights and local autonomy, supported a law that
brought federal agents into northern communities and allowed them to override local law
enforcement and local judicial procedure.
The fugitive slave issue affected all free states, not just states bordering the South. The issue
drew into politics many who had been anti-slavery but now feared that the South was forcing them
to act against their own consciences. In the 1850s, federal tribunals heard more than 300 cases
and ordered the return of 157 fugitive slaves to the South. But the law exacerbated sectional
enmity. In dramatic confrontations, fugitives, helped by abolitionists, violently resisted recapture,
sometimes killing slaveowners and attacking federal authorities. Several thousand northern
blacks, free and fugitive, fled to safety in Canada.
A Dose of Arsenic
Douglas and Popular Sovereignty
The Compromise of 1850 seemed to restore sectional peace and party unity. Democrat Franklin Pierce bested
Whig Winfield Scott in the 1852 presidential race on a platform recognizing the Compromise as having settled the
slavery question. But under Pierce the party system established in the era of Jackson collapsed.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act
In early 1854, Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas introduced a bill to provide territorial governments for Kansas
and Nebraska, part of the Louisiana Purchase. Douglas desired western economic development, and while he
hoped a transcontinental railroad could be built through Kansas or Nebraska, he did not think this would happen
unless formal governments existed in these territories. Southerners did not want these new territories to be free
states, which might upset the sectional balance. Douglas tried to mollify them by proposing that slavery’s status
would be settled by popular sovereignty—by local voters, not Congress.
Yet, slavery was prohibited in the Kansas and Nebraska territories by the Missouri Compromise, which Douglas’s
bill would repeal. Anti-slavery Democrats protested Douglas’s bill as a plot to convert free territory to slavery, and
helped convince many in the North that southerners wanted to extend slavery throughout the entire West. Though
Douglas secured the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the law shattered the Democratic Party. Many
northern Democrats voted against the bill. In the bill’s aftermath, the Whig Party, unable to forge a response,
dissolved. The South become almost entirely Democratic. Most northern Whigs, joined by many disaffected
northern Democrats, joined a new organization dedicated to ending slavery’s expansion—the Republican Party.
Kansas Nebraska Act – (page 9)
Map 13.6 The Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854
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Copyright © 2011 W.W. Norton & Company
The Rise of the Republican Party
The Northern Economy
Although slavery’s disruption of the political system was an immediate cause of the
Republican Party’s creation, the party also reflected basic economic and social
changes in American society, namely, the market revolution’s completion and the
beginning of mass immigration from Europe. The American economy grew rapidly in
the late 1840s and early 1850s. The expansion of a national railroad network did
much to hasten economic growth. By 1860, railroads, and no longer water, carried
most of the crops and goods in the nation. Rail helped integrate the old Northwest
and the Northeast, laying the basis for political unity in the form of the Republican
By 1860, the North was a complex, integrated economy, with eastern industrialists
marketing manufacturing goods to the West’s commercial farmers, while these
farmers produced the food urban easterners consumed. The majority of the North’s
population still lived in rural areas and small towns, in which the ideal of economic
independence, of owning a farm or shop, was still possible. But the majority of
northern workers no longer worked in agriculture. The industrial revolution had
produced two great areas of industrial production, one on the Atlantic Coast from
Boston to Baltimore, and one around the Great Lakes, from Chicago and Pittsburgh
to Buffalo. New York became the nation’s preeminent financial, commercial, and
manufacturing center. Although the southern economy grew and cotton’s expansion
made great profits for the planters, the South did not develop a diverse and dynamic
economy as did the North.
The Rise of the Republican Party
The Rise and Fall of the Know-Nothings
Nativism found expression in national politics in the midst of the political system’s implosion over
slavery in the mid-1850s. This was through the American Know-Nothing Party, a name deriving
from its origins as a secret organization whose members, when asked about it existence, were
supposed to reply, “I know nothing.” The Know-Nothings wanted to restrict political office to the
native born and resist the Catholic Church’s influence in politics.
In 1854 they gained many seats in Massachusetts state elections, electing the governor, all the
state’s congressmen and most members of the state legislature. They also won mayoral races in
Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. In many places, nativist candidates were a major part
of the “anti-Nebraska” coalition of voters opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In the North, the
Know-Nothings combined anti-Catholicism, anti-slavery, and a strong dose of temperance
sentiment. Despite the strength of nativism in this period, relatively little was changed in public
policy. All European immigrants benefited from their whiteness, compared to free blacks in the
North, who faced worsening discrimination and job opportunities. White immigrants could in a few
years become naturalized and voting citizens, while most American-born blacks could not.
The Rise of the Republican Party
• The Free Labor Ideology
By 1856, the Republican Party, a coalition of anti-slavery Democrats, northern Whigs, Free
Soilers, and Know-Nothings opposed to slavery’s expansion, was clearly the major alternative to
the Democratic Party in the North. Republicans convinced most northerners that the Slave Power,
as they called the South’s pro-slavery political leadership, was more dangerous to their liberties
and hopes than Catholicism and immigrants. The Republican appeal rested on the idea of “free
labor” which was at the core of a vision that celebrated the North as the basis of progress,
opportunity, and freedom in America.
The defining quality of the North, they argued, was the opportunity each laborer had to become a
farmer or independent craftsman, thus gaining the economic independence essential to freedom.
Slavery, by contrast, created a social order of degraded slaves, poor whites with no hope of social
advance, and slaveholding aristocrats. They saw the struggle over the West as a struggle
between two antagonistic labor systems, and believed that slavery, if dominating the West, would
prevent northern free labor from emigrating and thus would diminish economic opportunity for
northerners. They insisted slavery had to prohibited from the territories.
They further argued that the federal government could end its complicity with slavery. But they
were not abolitionists, since they only wanted to stop slavery’s expansion, not attack it where it
already existed. Yet many party leaders viewed the nation’s split into incompatible free and slave
societies as an “irrepressible conflict” that would have to be resolved.
The Rise of the Republican Party
Bleeding Kansas and the Election of 1856
Dramatic events in 1855 and 1856 fueled the Republican Party’s growth. Although pro-slavery
Missourians cast fraudulent ballots in Kansas elections in 1854 and 1855, President Pierce
recognized the legitimacy of the resulting pro-slavery legislature and replaced the territorial
governor, a northerner. Settlers from free states soon established their own rival government, and
civil war erupted. Eventually, 200 people died in “Bleeding Kansas.” The conflict seemed to
discredit Douglas’s policy of popular sovereignty on the slavery question. In 1856, South Carolina
representative Preston Brooks beat anti-slavery senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts
unconscious with a cane after Sumner denounced “The Crime against Kansas.”
In the 1856 election, the Republican Party nominated John C. Fremont and wrote a platform that
strongly opposed slavery’s further expansion. The Democrats chose James Buchanan, who had
no association with any position on the slavery issue, and endorsed the principle of popular
sovereignty. Fremont won more votes than Buchanan in the North, but Buchanan won all southern
states and Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, ensuring victory over Fremont. The 1856 elections
showed that parties had reorganized along sectional lines. The Whigs had disappeared, the
Democrats were seriously weakened, and a new party had arrived that was devoted completely to
northern interests.
Map 13.7 The railroad network, 1850s
Give Me Liberty!: An American history, 3rd Edition
Copyright © 2011 W.W. Norton & Company
The Emergence of Lincoln
The Dred Scott Decision
President James Buchanan, while a staunch defender of the Union, failed settle the growing sectional
tensions. He hoped that a Supreme Court case would finally resolve the slavery controversy. During the
1830s, Dred Scott, a Missouri slave, had accompanied his owner to both Illinois, where slavery was prohibited
by the Northwest Ordinance and state law, and Wisconsin, where it was barred by the Missouri Compromise.
After returning to Missouri, Scott sued for his freedom, arguing that residence on free soil had freed him. The
Dred Scott decision was announced in March,1857, shortly after Buchanan was inaugurated.
The court essentially divided 6–3, with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney speaking for the majority. Taney
declared that only white persons could be citizens of the United States, since the founders believed blacks
“had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. Blacks, having different ancestors and lacking a
heritage of freedom, could never join the nation’s political family. Taney and the Court majority ruled that Scott
remained a slave. They ruled that Illinois state law had no effect on Scott once he returned to Missouri, and
that in regards to Wisconsin, Congress had no constitutional power to bar slavery from a territory.
The Decision’s Aftermath
This effectively made the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, as was any law that interfered with
southerners’ right to bring slave property into the territories. The decision effectively made unconstitutional the
Republican platform for restricting slavery and undermined the policy of popular sovereignty: if Congress
could not prohibit slavery in a territory, how could a territorial legislature created by Congress do so?
In the North, the Dred Scott decision sank the reputation of the Supreme Court, which many now regarded as
beholden to the Slave Power. President Buchanan declared that slavery would from then on be legal and
constitutional in all western territories. In 1858, Buchanan tried to admit Kansas as a slave state under the
Leocompton Constitution, which had been drafted by a pro-southern convention and never ratified by popular
vote. Douglas, outraged by this violation of popular sovereignty, blocked the attempt with Republicans, and
Kansas remained a territory.
• Dred Scott Decision: (page 2)
The Emergence of Lincoln
Lincoln and Slavery
Americans’ deepening divisions over slavery were captured in the Illinois senatorial
election in 1858 between Stephen Douglas, the champion of popular sovereignty, and
Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer of modest origins and Whig, who had served four terms in
the state legislature and one term as a representative in Congress from 1847 to
1849. Lincoln reentered national politics in 1854 as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska
Act. While Lincoln hated slavery, unlike the abolitionists, Lincoln was willing to
compromise with the South to preserve the Union. But he was adamant on halting the
expansion of slavery. Lincoln’s critique of slavery and its expansion articulated the
basic values of the Republican Party and the millions of Northerners who voted for it.
His life embodied the free labor ideology and the promise northern society offered to
working men. In 1850s Illinois, property-owning farmers, artisans, and shopkeepers
vastly outnumbered wage earners. Lincoln believed blacks should own their own
labor and have every opportunity to improve themselves through their labor as
The Emergence of Lincoln
The Lincoln-Douglas Campaign
The 1858 campaign against Douglas made Lincoln nationally known. Lincoln insisted that the
nation would not survive forever half-slave and half-free, and that Americans would have to make
a choice as a nation and reject the idea of popular sovereignty Douglas advocated. The LincolnDouglas debates are classics of American political oratory. Conflicting definitions of freedom were
at their center. Lincoln argued that freedom meant opposing slavery, and that the founding fathers
had set the nation on the road to eventual abolition of slavery. Douglas argued that freedom
resided in local self-government and self-determination, and that each locality had the right to
determine its institutions.
Douglas tried, in the debates, to portray Lincoln as a dangerous radical whose positions would
degrade white Americans by reducing them to equality with blacks. Douglas argued that the
United States had been created “by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity for
ever.” Lincoln shared many of the racial prejudices of his day, opposed giving Illinois blacks the
right to vote, and endorsed colonization. But Lincoln did not appeal to racism to gain votes, and he
insisted that blacks were part of the human family, entitled to the same natural rights the
Declaration of Independence offered to all men everywhere.
Douglas was only narrowly re-elected to the U.S. Senate. Elsewhere in the North, many
Republicans won elections.
The Emergence of Lincoln
John Brown at Harpers Ferry
The attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia led by John Brown also increased sectional tensions. Brown,
a deeply religious man, had long been involved in anti-slavery activities. Highly influenced by the Old Testament of the
Bible, Brown avenged an 1856 attack on Lawrence, Kansas, by pro-slavery southerners by murdering five pro-slavery
settlers. In October, 1859, Brown led an interracial group of nearly two dozen men in the attack at Harpers Ferry. Brown
and his men were soon surrounded and all of them killed or captured by federal soldiers commanded by Colonel Robert
E. Lee. Brown faced a trial for treason and behaved admirably, earning through his trial the admiration of millions of
northerners, who nonetheless disapproved of his violent actions. Brown’s execution made him a martyr of northern
abolitionists, while northern praise for Brown outraged and further alienated southerners.
John Brown, Harpers Ferry: http://cms.gavirtualschool.org/Shared/SocialStudies/USHistory/05_CivilWar/index.html
The Rise of Southern Nationalism
A growing number of southerners began to think their region’s future looked more favorable outside the Union than within
it. Southerners had many complaints. The increasing price for slaves made it much harder for small farmers to become
planters and thus economically independent. These secessionists argued that the North was benefiting from the cotton
trade while southern planters fell deeper into debt. An independent South, they argued, could build a slave empire
incorporating Cuba, other West Indian islands, Mexico, and parts of Central America. Some southern planters openly
called on the United States to buy or conquer Cuba to expand slavery, while other southerners like William Walker led
“filibuster” expeditions, in which they tried and failed to capture Nicaragua and other parts of Central America in hopes of
securing more territory for American slaveowners. Some slaveowners called for the reopening of the foreign slave trade.
By early 1860, seven Deep South states were demanding that the Democratic Platform promise to protect slavery in all
territories not yet made states.
The Emergence of Lincoln
The Democratic Split
Even though Stephen Douglas and his supporters had a majority at the Democratic convention of
1860, they did not have the two-thirds needed for the presidential nomination, and Douglas’s
position on Kansas alienated pro-slavery southerners, who wanted to make Kansas a slave state.
Delegates from seven states walked out when the platform reaffirmed support for popular
sovereignty, and the remaining Democrats nominated Douglas. Those who bolted nominated
John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky, who insisted that slavery be protected in western territories.
The Democratic Party had been shattered. Southern Democrats no longer trusted northern
Democrats, and northern Democrats refused to accept a pro-slavery platform that would doom
their party’s chances in the North.
The Nomination of Lincoln
The Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln for president. Lincoln’s commitment to preserving
the Union appealed to moderate Republicans, and his moral opposition to slavery appealed to
abolitionists. He wasn’t associated with the nativist, Know-Nothing wing of the party, so he could
win immigrant votes. And he could ensure Illinois’s votes. The Republicans’ platform declared
Dred Scott decision invalid, reaffirmed their opposition to slavery’s expansion, and added
economic plans to appeal to different northern voters—free homesteads in the West, a protective
tariff, and government aid for a building a transcontinental railroad.
The Emergence of Lincoln
• The Election of 1860
In effect, two presidential campaigns occurred in 1860. In the North, Lincoln faced off against
Douglas. In the South, the Republicans had no support, and three candidates ran against each
other—Douglas, Breckenridge, and John Bell of Tennessee, the candidate of the Constitutional
Union Party, made of Unionist former Whigs who pledged only to preserve a Constitution with
existing protections for slavery and to prevent sectionalism.
The election results were highly sectional. Lincoln won all the North except New Jersey, receiving
54 percent of the North’s total votes, 40 percent of the national vote, and 180 electoral college
votes, a clear majority. Breckenridge won most of the slave states, although Bell carried three
Upper South states and about 40 percent of the South’s total votes. Douglas was second in the
popular vote, behind Lincoln, but he was the only candidate with votes in all parts of the nation.
But his failure to carry either section showed that a devotion to a Union with slavery was no longer
tenable politically. Lincoln was elected president without a majority of the national popular vote.
The Impending Crisis
The Secession Movement
For many white southerners, Lincoln’s triumph placed their future in the
hands of a party hostile to their region’s values and interests. Those who
wanted the South to secede did not believe Lincoln would interfere with
slavery in the states, but worried that his election indicated that Republican
administrations in the future might do so. Southerners in the Deep South,
fearing they would become a permanent minority in a nation ruled by their
political enemies, instead decided to secede from the Union to save slavery,
the basis of their society.
The Impending Crisis
The Secession Crisis
In the months after Lincoln’s election, seven states stretching from South Carolina to Texas
seceded from the United States. These were the states of the Cotton Kingdom, in which slaves
were a much larger part of the population than in the Upper South. South Carolina, long extreme
in its defense of slavery and states’ rights, seceded first, claiming it was necessary to defend
slavery against Lincoln and the Republicans. Secessionists equated their actions with those of the
American revolutionaries, as a blow for liberty against tyranny.
President Buchanan did not confront the crisis. He denied that a state could secede, but he also
declared that the federal government had no right to use force against states that seceded.
Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky, a slave state, offered a widely supported compromise plan
of constitutional amendments that would protect slavery in the states where it existed and extend
the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean. Seceding southern states rejected it, as did
Lincoln. Lincoln insisted on no further expansion of slavery. Before Lincoln assumed office on
March 4, 1861, seven seceding southern states formed the Confederate States of America (CSA),
adopted a constitution, and chose as their president Jefferson Davis of Mississippi. The
Confederate constitution followed the U.S. Constitution, with some exceptions. Unlike the U.S.
Constitution, however, the CSA’s constitution explicitly guaranteed slave property in its own states
and any new territories it might acquire. Davis’s vice president stated that the “cornerstone” of the
Confederacy was the “great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man” and that slavery “is
his natural and normal condition.”
Map 13.8 The Presidential Election of 1856
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The Impending Crisis
And the War Came
Lincoln did not think war was inevitable. When inaugurated, eight slave states of the Upper South,
where slaves and slaveholders were fewer in number than in the Deep South and where fewer
whites thought Lincoln’s election justified secession, were still in the Union. Southern whites were
divided over secession. Lincoln believed secession might collapse from within. In his inaugural
address, Lincoln tried to conciliate the South. He rejected the right of states to secede, but denied
any plan to interfere with slavery in states where it existed. Although Confederate forces had
already seized federal forts and arsenals in the South, Lincoln promised only to “hold” remaining
federal property in the South. But he suggested that the southern states risked “civil war.”
In his first month as president, Lincoln tried to avoid doing anything to encourage more states to
secede, encouraged southern Unionists to combat secession within the South, and tried to quiet
growing calls in the North for forceful action. Lincoln hoped to ensure that if war broke out, the
South would initiate it. This happened when Confederate forces in South Carolina fired on Fort
Sumner in Charleston harbor. Lincoln quickly proclaimed that an insurrection existed in the South
and called for 75,000 troops to suppress it. Within weeks, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee,
and Arkansas seceded and joined the Confederacy. The Union created by the American
Revolution was shattered, and the war to rebuild it would introduce a new birth of American
Abraham Lincoln’s nick name, “The Railsplitter,”
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A rare photograph of wagons on their
way to Oregon during the 1840s.
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American Progress.
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A watercolor of a scene on a ranch near
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A flag carried at the Battle of San Jacinto
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The plaza in San Antonio not long after the
United States annexed Texas in 1845.
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War News from Mexico
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A map of the United States from 1848
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A contemporary depiction of mining operations
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Transportation of Cargo by Westerners
at the Port of Yokohama
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Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts
in a daguerreotype from 1850
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An 1855 broadside depicting the life of Anthony Burns
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An 1853 broadside for one section of the
Illinois Central Railroad.
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The Lackawanna Valley
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George Catlin’s 1827 painting Five Points
depicts a working-class immigrant
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Political Chart of the United States
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A contemporary print denounces
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Liberty, the Fair Maid of Kansas, in the Hands
of the “Border Ruffians,”
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Dred Scott as painted in 1857
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Abraham Lincoln in 1858, the year of the
Lincoln-Douglas debates.
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Stephen A. Douglas in a daguerreotype from around 1853.
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John Brown in an 1847
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An 1835 painting of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry
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An 1860 engraving of a mass meeting in Savannah
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A Richmond, Virginia
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Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln
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Bombardment of Fort Sumter
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Norton Lecture Slides
Independent and Employee-Owned
This concludes the Norton Lecture Slides
Slide Set for Chapter 13
Give Me Liberty!
Eric Foner