THE DEBATES IN THE PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION OVER THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW

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1 Era Overview The California Gold Rush of brought the issues raised by the Wilmot Proviso to the forefront of discussion. The admission of California into the Union was settled by the Compromise of 1850 whereby the status of the rest of the territory acquired from the Mexican-American War was to be determined by popular sovereignty. Debates over the Fugitive Slave Law and Sectionalism dominated the day. In 1854, the proposed Kansas-Nebraska Act abrogated the Missouri Compromise i by providing that each new state of the Union would decide its stance on slavery. The settlement of Kansas by pro- and anti-slavery factions, and eventual victory of the anti-slavery camp, was fuelled by convictions signaled by the birth of the Lincoln is often considered America s most celebrated president. Republican Party. ii By 1861, the admission of Kansas to the Union signaled a break in the balance of power. It also gave rise to various sundry movements which occasioned many anti-abolitionist and pro-slavery sentiments that still exist to this day. After the election of Abraham Lincoln 2, eleven Southern states seceded from the union between late 1860 and 1861, establishing a rebel government, the Confederate States of America (See for a comprehensive history).on February 9, The Civil War began when Confederate General Pierre Beauregard opened fire upon Fort Sumter. The next four years were the darkest in American history, as the nation tore itself apart over the long and bitter issues of slavery and states' rights. 3 The increasingly urban and industrialized Northern states (the Union) eventually defeated the mainly rural and agricultural Southern states (the Confederacy), but between 600,000 and 700,000 Americans on both sides were killed and much of the land in the South was devastated. In the end, however, slavery was abolished, and the Union was restored. The Impending Crisis Different Societies, Different Cultures THE DEBATES IN THE PHILADELPHIA CONVENTION OVER THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW 1 Brought a lot of Okies West. 2 Lincoln did not carry a single southern state in this election. In fact, his name didn t even appear on some states ballots. 3 In the beginning, the Civil War was more over states rights. As the war went on, slavery became the single and most dominant issue. 1

2 COUNTRY OF AMERICA SEEMED TO SUGGEST THAT THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF AMERICA BELIEVED THAT THE MAJOR STRAIN ON THE NEW COUNTRY WOULD BE BETWEEN LARGE STATES SUCH AS NEW YORK AND VIRGINIA AND SMALL STATES SUCH AS DELAWARE AND RHODE ISLAND. BY 1820, HOWEVER, IT WAS APPARENT THAT THE DIVISIONS WITHIN AMERICA WOULD BE NORTH-SOUTH. THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST MEASURES TO EXPOSE THESE SECTIONAL DIVISIONS. IN A FAMOUS LETTER TO JOHN HOLMES, THOMAS JEFFERSON WROTE: "I HAD FOR A LONG TIME CEASED TO READ NEWSPAPERS, OR PAY ANY ATTENTION TO PUBLIC AFFAIRS, CONFIDENT THEY WERE IN GOOD HANDS, AND CONTENT TO BE A PASSENGER IN OUR BANK TO THE SHORE FROM WHICH I AM NOT DISTANT. BUT THIS MOMENTOUS QUESTION, LIKE A FIREBELL IN THE NIGHT, AWAKENED ME AND SEIZED ME WITH TERROR. I CONSIDERED IT AT ONCE TO BE THE DEATH KNELL OF THE UNION." WHEN MISSOURI APPLIED FOR STATEHOOD IN 1819, SLAVERY HAD ALREADY BEEN A FACT OF LIFE IN THE TERRITORY. THE REPRESENTATIVE FROM NEW YORK, JAMES TALLMADGE PROPOSED THAT MISSOURI SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO ENTER THE UNION AS A SLAVE STATE. A WAY OUT WAS OFFERED BY THE APPLICATION OF STATEHOOD MADE BY MAINE LATER THAT YEAR. THE SENATE AGGREED TO COMBINE THE MAINE AND MISSOURI PROPOSALS FOR ADMISSION INTO A SINGLE BILL. MOREOVER THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE ALSO PROHIBITED SLAVERY NORTH OF THE 36 30' BOUNDARY OF ARKANSAS. WHILE THE CRISIS WAS AVERTED, THE DEBATES IT TRIGGERED EXPOSED SECTIONAL TENSIONS ALREADY PRESENT IN THE NEW UNION. THE NORTH AND SOUTH WERE FOUNDED IN DIFFERENT MANNERS AND DEVELOPED QUITE DIFFERENTLY OVER THE YEARS. A TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTION CREATED AS A RESULT OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE ERIE CANAL SPURRED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INDUSTRIALIZATION IN THE NORTH. THE DEVELOPMENT OF STEAMBOATS AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, RAILROADS HELPED FURTHER THIS ECONOMIC EXPANSION. THIS PROCESS OF INDUSTRIALIZATION LARGELY IGNORED THE SOUTH WHICH REMAINED PRIMARILY BASED IN AGRICULTURE. SLAVERY DROVE SOUTHERN ECONOMIC LIFE. AS A RESULT, THE TWO GEOGRAPHIC REGIONS WERE CONSTANTLY AT ODDS IN THE SENATE AND HOUSE. 2

3 The Mexican War and the Wilmot Proviso The administration of President Polk iii expanded the country by two thirds despite being a one-term president. Texas was annexed on March 1, 1845 and the Oregon boundary was settled at the 49th parallel. Moreover, America went to war with Mexico in The official causus belli was Mexico's refusal to sell the United States the Mexican provinces of California and New Mexico. Acquisition of Mexican territory was Polk's war aim and what he could not buy, he conquered. The war lasted two years and resulted in the loss of over half of Mexico's territory. The acquisition of new territory renewed the sectional debate that had gripped the nation during the admittance of Missouri. Congressmen either feared (if they were Northern) or hoped (if they were Southern) that slavery would be extended into the new territories. Soon after the war had begun, Representative David Wilmot proposed that the territory that would be won from Mexico should be free from the institution of slavery. Wilmot's Proviso was as much about the extension of slavery as it was about party politics within the Democratic Party. Northern Democrats were upset that Martin Van Buren was not given the presidential nomination because he would not endorse the annexation of Texas. They were also fed up with Southern domination of the Democratic Party. The bill was never passed, but Southerners were upset at what they saw as an attack upon their social system. Embedded spreadsheet from Excel with presidents of the period FIRST NAME LAST NAME IN OFFICE ORDER State Age elected Martin Van Buren NY 54 John Tyler VA 51 James K. Polk NC 49 Zachary Taylor VA 64 Millard Fillmore NY 50 Franklin Pierce NH 48 James Buchanan PA 65 Abraham Lincoln KY 52 Andrew Johnson NC 56 The California Gold Rush and the Compromise of 1850 THE ELECTION OF 1848 PRODUCED A NEW PRESIDENT FROM THE WHIG PARTY, ZACHARY TAYLOR. PRESIDENT POLK, DUE TO DECLINING HEALTH AND, HAVING GAINED ALL HIS 3

4 OBJECTIVES IN HIS FIRST TERM DID NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION. THE ELECTION WAS SIGNIFICANT BECAUSE IT SAW THE EMERGENCE OF THE FREE SOIL PARTY, A GROUP OF ABOLITIONISTS WHO SUPPORTED WILMOT'S PROVISO. THE CREATION OF THE FREE SOIL PARTY FORESHADOWED THE COLLAPSE OF THE SECOND PARTY SYSTEM IN THE 1850'S; THE EXISTING PARTIES COULD NOT CONTAIN THE DEBATE OVER SLAVERY FOR MUCH LONGER. THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY BECAME ALL THE MORE URGENT WITH THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN CALIFORNIA IN THE NEXT YEAR SAW A MASSIVE INFLUX OF PROSPECTORS AND MINERS LOOKING TO STRIKE IT RICH. MOST MIGRANTS TO CALIFORNIA (SO-CALLED 'FORTY-NINERS') ABANDONED THEIR JOBS, HOMES, AND FAMILIES LOOKING FOR GOLD. IT ALSO ATTRACTED SOME OF THE FIRST CHINESE AMERICANS TO THE WEST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES. MOST FORTY-NINERS NEVER FOUND GOLD, BUT INSTEAD SETTLED IN THE NEW STATE AND FLOCKED TO THE URBAN CENTER OF SAN FRANCISCO. THE INFLUX OF POPULATION LED TO CALIFORNIA'S APPLICATION OF STATEHOOD IN John Brown led the raid on Harper s Ferry hoping to stimulate a slave revolt. THIS CREATED A RENEWAL OF SECTIONAL TENSION AS CALIFORNIA'S ADMISSION INTO THE UNION THREATENED TO UPSET THE BALANCE OF POWER IN CONGRESS. THE IMMINENT ADMISSION OF OREGON, NEW MEXICO, AND UTAH ALSO THREATENED TO UPSET THE BALANCE. MANY SOUTHERNERS ALSO REALIZED THAT THE CLIMATE OF THOSE TERRITORIES DID NOT LEND THEMSELVES TO THE EXTENSION OF SLAVERY. DEBATE RAGED IN CONGRESS UNTIL A RESOLUTION WAS FOUND IN THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 WAS BROKERED BY ILLINOIS SENATOR STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS AND SUPPORTED BY "THE GREAT COMPROMISER," HENRY CLAY. IT ADMITTED CALIFORNIA AS A FREE STATE, TEXAS WAS FINANCIALLY COMPENSATED FOR THE LOSS OF ITS WESTERN TERRITORIES, THE SLAVE TRADE (NOT SLAVERY)WAS ABOLISHED IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW WAS PASSED AS A CONCESSION TO THE SOUTH, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, THE NEW MEXICO TERRITORY (INCLUDING MODERN DAY ARIZONA AND THE UTAH TERRITORY WOULD 4

5 DETERMINE THEIR STATUS (EITHER FREE OR SLAVE) BY POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY. THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 TEMPORARILY DIFFUSED THE DIVISIVE ISSUE BUT THE PEACE WAS NOT TO LAST LONG. 1830s 1840s 1850s 1860s 1870s Effects of Missouri Compromise. Mexican War. California admitted to the Union. Lincoln wins first term. Rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Andrew Jackson s presidency. Acquisition of Oregon. Kansas- Nebraska Act. Confederacy born. Indian Wars. The Trail of Tears or fight Compromise of Civil War. The Gilded Age begins. Nullification Crisis. Compromise reached with England. Stowe s Uncle Tom s Cabin read by a wide audience. Reconstruction begins. Huge waves of immigration from Europe. Embedded spreadsheet from Excel with presidents of the period FIRST NAME LAST NAME IN OFFICE ORDER State Age elected Martin Van Buren NY 54 John Tyler VA 51 James K. Polk NC 49 Zachary Taylor VA 64 Millard Fillmore NY 50 Franklin Pierce NH 48 James Buchanan PA 65 Abraham Lincoln KY 52 Andrew Johnson NC 56 Abolitionism and the Cryptic Nature of the Debate Over Slavery The debate over slavery in antebellum America has several sides. Abolitionists grew directly out of the Second Great Awakening and the European Enlightenment and 5

6 saw slavery as an affront to God and/or reason. Abolitionism has similar roots as the temperance movement. The publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852 galvanized the abolitionist movement. Slave "patrollers," mostly poor whites, were given the authority to stop, search, whip, maim, and even kill any slave who violated the slave codes. Abolitionists cited the slave codes as example of the barbarism of Southern society. Most debates over slavery, however, had to do with the constitutionality of the extension of slavery rather than its morality. The debates took the form of arguments over the powers of Congress rather than the merit of slavery. This was the so-called "Free Soil Movement." Free-soilers believed that slavery was dangerous because of what it did to whites. The "peculiar institution" ensured that landed elites controlled most of the land, property, and capital in the South. The Southern United States was, by this definition completely undemocratic. In order to fight the "slave power conspiracy," the nation's democratic ideals had to be spread to the new territories and the South. In the South, however, slavery was justified in a number of ways. The Nat Turner Uprising of 1831 had terrified Southern whites. Moreover, the expansion of "King Cotton" into the Deep South further entrenched the institution into Southern society. John Calhoun's treatise, The Pro-Slavery Argument wrote that slavery was not simply a necessary evil, but a positive good. Slavery was a blessing to so-called African savages. It civilized them and provided them with the lifelong security that they needed. Under this argument, the pro-slavery proponents believed that the African Americans were unable to take care of themselves because they were biologically inferior. Furthermore, white Southerners looked upon the North and Britain as soulless industrial societies with little culture. Whereas the North was dirty, dangerous, industrial, fast-paced, and greedy, pro-slavery proponents believed that the South was civilized, stable, orderly, and moved at a 'human pace. Public domain text courtesy of 6

7 This document contains: A spelling and grammar check. A readibility level that is at the 12 th grade level. A data table. Different styles to format text. Scanned graphics. An embedded spreadsheet from Excel. A speech. Labeled text boxes. Sections with different formats. Footnotes, endnotes and automatic pagination. Several hyperlinks. i The Missouri Compromise was one of the first attempts at appeasing both the North and the South. Many other forms of legislation were attempted later. ii The Republican Party s birth began with Thomas Jefferson who appealed to farmers and the working class. The original name of the party was the Democratic-Republicans. iii Polk s presidency was highlighted by his strong drive for western expansion and his belief in Manifest Destiny. 7

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