Lead up to the US Civil War

"the place of slavery in the land of liberty eventually swept all else aside, including the Union itself" -Reynolds

3 compromises

"that kept North and South in the Union despite growing sectional strains"-DR

Compromise of 1790


between Alexander Hamilton on the one hand and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison whereby Hamilton won the decision for the national government to take over and pay the state debts, while Jefferson and Madison obtained the national capital (District of Columbia) for the South

-> Reynolds said it was the firs tof the three compromises which kept the north and south together

Already conflict between north + south even at this time

Missouri Compromise


"after months of wrangling between North and South"-DR
east-west line drawn through the Louisiana Purchase, decreeding that (apart from Missouri) all new states north of 36 degrees 30 mins should be barred from slavery
admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state

Jefferson was "utterly appalled"-DR
'this momentus question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union'-Jefferson
-> he saw the compromise as 'a repreive only, not a final sentence'

Reynolds sees it as "another North-South bargain, like that over the federal capital in 1790"
=> DR agrees that the war was already inevitable + J dog's words were "prophetic"

1850 Compromise


"after ten months of bitter argument, the advocates of compromise carried the day"-DR

designed by Henry Clay w. Calhoun + Webster
steered through Congress by Stephen Douglas (popular sovereignty dude)

-admission of California as free state
-fugitive slave law gave South assurance "that its interests woulld be respected in the Union"-DR
"the rest of the West was shelved for the moment"-DR

"The South has not triumphed over the North, nor has the North achieved a victory over the South"-Stephen Douglas -> compromise

was greeted with "bonfires, canonades and wild parties in Washington"
"in Georgia and other states in the Deep South, Pro-Union Whigs cooled hothead talk about succession"-DR

"I can now sleep anights... hereafter the Union stands firm"-Webster

"the compromise of 1850 seemed to prove the resilience of America's democratic political system"-DR

Compromise of 1790 had been possible bc of small group of political leaders haggling
-> but Reynolds said couldn't work in 1850 bc USA was now a "volatile mass democracy"


US constitution


Reynolds argues that "this was in many ways an irrepressible confilct, stemming from the failur eof th eFOunders to confront the question of slavery"

"they ignored it in order to bring the South into the Union but the persistence of slavery in the empire of liberty created a fault line that would eventually break the union apart"

Invention of the Cotton Gin


By Eli Whitney/ Ogden Holmes
"the cotton gin transformed production"

-> slavery more important
"technological change helped sustain the old order"
50pounds/day vs 1 pound/day w. manual methods

"slavery provided the essential workforce bc paying wages for free white labour would have made production costs prohibitive"-DR
"so Jefferson's empire of liberty became the cotton kingdom"-DR
=> was not going away, issue


Louisiana Purchase


"as New England abolitionists feared, the Louisiana Purchase gave slavery a new lease of life" -DR

"the new southwest from South Carolina and Georgia across the Mississippi to what became Louisiana was ideal climactically, with at least twenty-three inches of rain a year and 200 frost free-days"-DR

-> far greater area to debate over
and this is what would cause debate:
"most northerners were not passionate to abolish slavery itself, but there was widespread opposition to slavery'e extension into the western lands because this would undercut free labour and increas the South's influence in Washington"-DR

Congress votes to ban slave trade within 2 years


Reynolds says this acc increased the importance of slavery
-> issue was not going to go away

Jefferson and John Adams start correspondance


Adams likened the slavery issue to "a black cloud" hanging over the country
told Jefferson that he thought a struggle over the issue might fragment the country and "produce as many Nations in North America as there are in Europe"

"Jefferson recognised the danger but had no solution"
Jefferson owned slaves himself and "did not think a biracial society could work, both sides being too locked in the master- slave relationship"-Reynolds


Only two new states enter the Union

1830 - 1839


Arkansas (Southern)
Michign (northern)
-> "thereby maintaining the sectional balance"-DR

but DR says there are "increasingly sectional politics" among all parties during this time

Nullification Crisis

1832 - 1833

involved a confrontation between South Carolina and the federal government. It ensued after South Carolina declared that the federal Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and therefore null and void within the sovereign boundaries of the state.
=> economic downturn after 1812 war + land used up in SC by slave farming

President had to compormise with a reformed tarrif in 1833 to stop SC seceding

(apparently not over slavery) => states' rights

Texas asks to be admitted to Union


But Congress didn't want to admit bc "this would reopen the old question of whether new states should be slave or free, thereby upsetting the delicate balacne between North and South in the Senate"-DR

Texas accepted to Union


When lame duck president Tylor knew Polk would do it himself -> pushed through 3 days before Polk's inauguration

Polk inaugurated - expansionist rhetoric

4 March 1845

"our system may be safely extended to the utmost bounds of our territorial limits and that, as it shall be extended, the bonds of our Union... will become stronger"
-> but slave/free expansion P boy??

Wilmot Proviso


David Wilmot demands ban in all the territories acquired from Mexico
=> tension ^

other northerners demanded extension of Missouri Compromise Line to Atlantic

"neither this motion not the Wilmot proviso was ever passed, but both aroused deep resentment in the South"

Mexican-American war

April 1846 - February 1848

Texans had declared independence 1835 -> bc they didn't want to become catholics + they were not going to accept Mexico's ban on slavery
=> after setback of Alamo, destroyed the Mexican army under Sam Houston -> independent

DR says Polk agressively provoked the war
sent envoy to Mexico city to buy California + New Mexico -> returned empty handed

Ralph Waldo Emerson would have agreed with Richard White
"The United States will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man swallows the arscenic, which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us"

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

February 1848

democrats had demanded whole of Mexico
Some Whigs wanted only Texas

Polk's legacy (died after one term)
"by war and diplomacy he had acquired more land than Jefferson's Louisiana Purhcase, roughly a quarter of the present United States" -DR
=> and all needed to be settled over slavery

"By the end of the 1840s... slavery was back on the national agenda


with a vengeance"-DR

DR says it was bc of the "vast expansion of America's continental empire"
bc of war with Mexico + near war with Britain
debate over slavery now "right across to the gold coast of California"

California Gold Rush


-> would need a governement to be part of USA
=> slave or free?

(same problem with New Mexico after Guadalupe Hidalgo)

Birgham Young applies for Deseret to be part of Union

May 1849

Slave or free?

Congress convenes w. California top of agenda

December 1849

"the omens did not look good" -DR (after Wilmot proviso)

"we are on the very verge of bloodshed in the capital"
Speech from John C. Calhoun of SC -> "Calhoun believed that this was, in essence, a matter of numbers"
-> Northern population had grown much more than south - North now had dominance in every part of union except for Senate
-> if West was barred of slavery, North would dominate everywhere
(note how he defines the South in terms of slavery)
accused the north of "many agressions" over slavery - accusd north of aiming to abolish slavery + threatened secession if they tried

"the impact of his speech was immense. It sounded like the obituary of the Union"-DR
=> Calhoun died within the month

3 days later, Daniel Webster's speech
said he wanted to speak, not as a northerner, but "as an American"
=> said no need for Congress to legislate about far west bc it was excluded from there by laws of nature
to appease south, said that in constitution north must return property (runaways salves)

"Webster considered himself the voice of reasonable compromise, but to many New Englanders, his was the voice of betrayal"-DR

4 days later William H Seward "spoke out for the Northern radicals"-DR
his maiden speech in the senate
"his words had far more impact when read rather than heard" -> read across the country
read bc his words were "utterly intransigent"-DR
California should be welcomed as free state, condemned a fugitive slavelaw
derided Seward saying there was no natural limit to slavery "sir, there is no climate uncongenial to slavery... slave labor is cheaper than free labor"
said "there is a higher law than the Constitution" over slavery

"Seward's appeal to a Higher Law ran alarm bells throughout the South"-DR



By this time, McPherson emphasises USA being the "wunderkind" of the century - sevenfold economy increase, huge population increase etc.

McPherson says that the biggest threat to the nation at this time (wasn't ethnic division/ class tension) "was sectional conflict between North and South over the future of slavery"
-> "the new states north of the Ohio river came into the Union without bondage"
"south of those boundaries, however, slavery became essential to the region's economy and culture"


"dramatic new ebents kept the political temperature near boiling point"

1850 - 1860



Uncle Tom's Cabin Published


Harriet Beecher Stowe

sold a "staggering" 300k copies first year alone

Stowe said she had "given only a faint shadow... of the anguish and despair that are... shattering thousands of families"

DR said it "became a sacred text for the growing abolitionist movement in the North"
=> appaled by fugitive slave law

Frederick Douglas independence day Oration


"What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim"

"such fiery rhetoric sparked a backlash in the south."
=> Senator James Hammond of SC claimed slaves in south treated better than workers in north
'why you meet more beggars in one day, on any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South"

"northerners, naturally, did not see this as a debate between two forms of slavery. For them the issue was slavery versus freedom"-DR
=> But DR says "what roused them wasn't the fate of slaves but the ambition of slave owners" -> slave power

Talk of a slave power is "standard talk" of the Republican party

1854 - 1855

as it was founded

Further seen as "northern progress" against "Southern decadence"
=>Carl Schurz said "you stand against a hopeful world, alone against a great century, fighting your hopeless fight

slavery kept southerners "in thrall"
and "increasingly convinced" that it was a threat to the whole country"
"since the labor was cheaper than free labour, it would squeeze out the free farmer"-DR
But also threatening politically -> ^ slave states -> southern political influence

DR says they were "an entirely northern party"
drew in former Whigs e.g. Lincoln + Seward

Whig Party dissolved


Collapsed in south bc of hostility to Compromise in 1850
collapsed in south bc of the "Know Nothing crusade against the immigrant"

-> second party system collapsed -> ^ poltiical uncertainty

Kansas-Nebraska Act


Wanting to build a trans-continental railroad, organised plains into 2 big territories
-Nebraska north
-Kansas south
=> believed in popular sovereignty, believed if Congress legislated was a violation of constitution
He didn't expect slave owners to flock into Kansas/Nebraska so for him it was an easy way to get railroad bill through congress

But Reynolds says he was "perhaps too cocky" and he "fatally miscalculated the reaction across the North"
=> breached the Missouri compromise of 1820 "a sacred principle for many northernerns that slavery would be banned north of 36 30
-> to ^ paranoid northerners was a prime example of the "slave power"

his image was burned in the streets of the north

Also undermined credibility of democratic party in the north -> triggered founding of Republicans
"Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men"

Revisionist southern historians 1930s blames poltiical ineptness, such as this, on war
Reynolds admits "mistakes were made" e.g. Dred Scott, Kansas-Nebraska act
but "it is hard to imagine the rift being healed by abler leaders or wiser policies"

Republicans win 11 states in elections


Democrats, still a nationwide party, win

Bleeding Kansas


"Kansas descended into anarchy"-DR

some say start of US civil war

"the race was on"
pro-slaver enthusiasts from Missouri got their first, heavily armed
cast fraudulent ballots to elect a pro-slaver legislature

Free-soilers created a rival assembly

John Brown first example of him killing slavery people

Caning of Charles Sumner

May 22, 1856

called "Bleeding Sumner"

senator of Massachussets
had denounced the "Crime against Kansas" in such vitriolic terms that he was attacked by Congressman Preston Brooks of SC
=> Brooks received dozens of replacement canes from south

"for foes of slavery, his empty chair was more eloquent than a million words"

"the stories of 'Bleeding Kansas' and 'Bleeding Sumner' made superb political propaganda for the Republican Party"
=> convinced northerners that slave power was the most important threat to American values (rather than immigrants)

Kansas territory submits application to join union


to admit Kansas as slave state
PResident Buchanan supported it -> Stephen Douglas came out against, "made nonsense" of popular sovereignty

stopped in the House
"but these new crises in 1857 (w. Dred Scott) added to Northern paranoia"-DR

"the Kansas constitution indicatede that (the slave power's) tentacles had... reached the White House"-DR

Dred Scott verdict


"a decisive intervention"-DR

-> Chief Justice Roger Taney saw himself as a defender of slavery

Dred Scott, suing owner for freedom on grounds that owner had taken him into a free state, was turned down
-said no Black people could become citizens bc they weren't included in the constitution
-also ruled that Congress had no consitutional authority to exclude slavery from federal territories -> slaves were property + Constitution protected them

vercict described by historian Fehrenbacher as "weak in its law, logic, history, and factual accuracy"
but still the verdict, majority

"the statement that slave owners could not be prevented from taking their human property across state lines had implications far beyond the west"-DR => could go north
"the principle laid down will enable the people of a slave state to introduce slavery into a free state"-John McLean of Ohio

"Taney was delivering a political statement dressed up in constitutional trappings but it was now the law of the land"-DR

DR says for northern radicals this confirmed that they must appeal to a "higher law" than the US constitution
=> "such talk was anathema in the South"

"the Dred Scott case suggested that the slave power controlled the Supreme Court"-DR

Lincoln-Douglas debates


Stephen Douglas running for re-election

"although Douglas eventually won, this campaign, including seven face-to-face debates, made Lincoln a national figure"-DR

'A House divided against itself cannot stand' -Lincoln
said he believed that USA couldn't continue "half slave and half free"

Douglas admitted to Lincoln that if a state voted FOR slavery with popular sovereignty then they could have it
-> northerners all hate him even more now

John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry

October 1859

DR said it roused northerners to similar fury as Bleeding Sumner, Kansas
seen by south as a "homicidal maniac"

"the raid was a fiasco" w. most of band killed within 36 hours + Brown hanged

final note "I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood"-John Brown

Many northerners "appalled" by Brown + the crazy futility of the insurrection
"But Brown's eloquence at his trial turned a fanatic into a martyr"-DR
=> Emerson (USA's foremost intellectual) called him "that new saint" even before his death who would "make the gallows glorious like the cross"

Election of 1860


Lincoln elected
"who won virtually no votes in the south"

with the pressure of Bleeding Kansas + Harper's Fery (says DR) the democrats split into north + southern wings
"the last political bridge spanning the Union"-DR

"the constitution had done a remarkable job in creating a flexible federal system for a country that now spanned a continent but ultimately its operation required an underlying social consensus and, on the meaning of liberty, this no longer existed after the Republican victory in 1860"-DR

Confederate States of America is Born

February 1861

SC secedes from union before Christmas

25 December 1861

reaction to Lincoln's election (despite not even saying he wanted to aboilsh slavery, convinced he would)