I. Effects of the Compromise of 1850 A. California
After the Compromise of 1850, Congress admitted California as a free state. Then Congress organized territorial governments for New Mexico and Utah under the popular sovereignty idea. Next, the Compromise settled the border dispute between Texas and New Mexico and gave Texas its present-day borders. Per the Compromise agreement, Congress assumed Texas’ debt and Texas gave up its claim on New Mexico’s land. Congress also abolished the slave trade in Washington, D.C. Finally, Congress approved a harsh Fugitive Slave Act.
Members of the Southern states met again, but this time, South Carolina was the only state that really wanted to secede. Radicals in Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi continued, behind the scenes, to try to gain support for secession. Over the next year, secessionists would lose steam, and the South would remain in the Union—for now.
B. Fugitive Slave Act
Perhaps the biggest
immediate impact on the nation was the effect of the Fugitive Slave Act. Here are its provisions:
It created a force of federal commissioners who could pursue escaped slaves into any state, and return them to their owners.
It denied the accused the right to a trial by jury.
The commissioners could force people to help in their effort, and would be paid.
Any one who refused to cooperate would be fined or imprisoned.
It subjected free blacks to capture and kidnapping, and to being carried off without judicial process.
C. The Response to the Fugitive Slave Act
Historians estimate that as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act, thousands of free blacks— maybe as many as 20,000, fled to Canada. Others lived in constant fear that they would be recaptured, possibly falsely, and sent back into slavery. The Underground Railroad intensified its efforts to aid runaway slaves. African Americans created organizations to patrol the streets of cities such as Chicago, to be on the lookout for slave catchers. In 1853, blacks held a national Convention organized by Frederick Douglas.
The Fugitive Slave Act fueled antislavery resistance in the North. Nine northern states passed laws stating that they would not comply with the Fugitive Slave Act. The public even resisted with force.
D. Shadrach Minkins
Shadrach Minkins, an escaped slave from Norfolk, Virginia, became the first high-profile case
of a slave captured as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Minkins, a waiter in a Boston coffee house, was seized by Federal Marshals in February, 1851 and brought to the Court House. The furious mob rushed the courtroom door, overpowering the marshals inside. About 20 black men grabbed Minkins "by the collar and feet" and ran out the door, down the hallway and stairs, and into the crowded street. The crowd was so large and so hostile that the marshals dared not pursue the rescuers.
Transferred to several safe houses and given food, clothing, and places to sleep, Minkins eventually made his way to Montreal where he lived out his life for another 25 years. Though the federal government arrested nine abolitionists, all were eventually found not guilty.
E. Anthony Burns
In a second prominent case, Anthony Burns, an escaped slave owned by Charles Suttle of Alexandria, Virginia, who had relative freedom and was actually working in Richmond, boarded a ship headed north and arrived in Boston as a fugitive in March of 1854. This new-found freedom, however, would be short-lived. Soon after his arrival he sent a letter to his brother, who was also a slave of Charles Suttle. Even though the letter was sent by way of Canada, it found its way into the hands of their master.
Suttle travelled to Boston to claim his "property," and on May 24, under the pretext of being charged for robbery, Burns was arrested. Boston abolitionists, vehemently opposed to the Slave Act, rallied to aid Burns, who was being held on the third floor of the federal courthouse. Two separate groups met at the same time to discuss Burn's recapture: a large group, consisting mainly of white abolitionists, met at Faneuil Hall; a smaller group, mostly blacks, met in the basement of the Tremont Temple. The blacks decided to march to the courthouse and rescue Burns, as they had done for Shadrach. The whites couldn’t agree upon what to do.
As the crowd gathered outside the courthouse, led by a white minister, the blacks charged the building with a battering ram, but in the confusion, a deputy was stabbed and the crowd failed to gain entry. President Franklin Pierce ordered marines and artillery to assist the guards watching over Burns. He was convicted of being a fugitive slave, and Pierce ordered a federal ship to return Burns to his master in Virginia after the trial
Newspapers published stories of bold “rescues.” In reality, 332 fugitives were captured, and over 90 percent of them, about 300, were sent back to the South. But as long as newspapers stressed Northern defiance, the South got angry.
The Fugitive Slave Act reminded the North of the cruelties of the slave-power and increased antislavery opposition. It kept slavery in the public’s attention.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #1: What was the Fugitive Slave Act and why was it controversial?
Which answer is correct?
It required fugitive slaves be returned unless they made it to a free state
It required people living in free states to help find fugitive slaves
It allowed people in free states to refuse to help find fugitive slaves
It required proof of the enslaved status for the accused fugitive slave to be found guilty of running away
II. Uncle Tom’s Cabin A. Anti-Slavery Novel
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Playing on emotions the book villainized slavery and Uncle Tom’s Cabin further worried the South.
It was further
evidence of Northern meddling, of the assault on slavery, of the unfair portrayal of the South. Between the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the end of the Civil War, a number of anti-Tom novels, parodies or rebuttals to the book came out. From defending the plantation as a good place to attacking the North for its treatment of "white slaves"1 (the working class) to depicting blacks as either happy in slavery or racially unfit for freedom, these books were wellread throughout the nation.
B. Anti-Tom Novels 1. Antifanaticism
I’d like to quote from the preface to Antifanaticism, by Martha Haines Butt, published in 1853.
Much has been said and written about the South by persons who never resided there, and who are ignorant of Southern feelings and Southern manners. Widely do these differ from those which such persons meet with in the frigid regions of the North. We greet each other, and the stranger, with warm sympathy, glowing hospitality, and a generous welcome, which makes the visitor at once feel at home under a Southern roof, and which assures him that the bosom warmed by such feelings cannot be the resting- place of cruelty and oppression.
Mrs. Stowe, and other fanatics, blinded by ignorance, and swayed by prejudice, may conjure up their "thousand and one" Uncle Tom stories, with which the imagination of novel-writers abounds, to deceive those who are as ignorant as themselves, and, perhaps, as reckless of truth; but no reasonable person, who has ever been at the South long enough to become acquainted with its usages, will give credit to the description which Mrs. Stowe, and those of her stripe, give of the treatment of slaves at the South. They are not mangled or cruelly tortured, as she represents in her work. It is not at all probable that a Southerner of refined and delicate feelings, and such are wealthy Southerners generally, would sell a much-valued slave, who had nursed him from his infancy, and also rescued the life of his child. No, no! So far from this, he would give him his freedom if he desired it, and something to begin the world with. But so attached does such a slave become to such an owner that he would not leave him on any consideration.
Many persons North are impressed with the idea that a southern plantation is a place of torture and cruelty, where slaves are driven like dogs, and never meet with a kind word or smile of approbation, however much it may be merited. On the contrary, nothing presents a more pleasing aspect than to see the respective cabins comfortably fitted up, with a little garden, or potato, or melon patch, attached. Everything around has the appearance of happiness. When the slaves have completed their daily toil, they retire to their quarters and enjoy a repast among themselves.
People of the North, who have never visited the South, should not give heed to stories which are but the figments of a worse than distempered imagination. Our slaves are infinitely better off than the white servants of the North. They have kind owners who care for them, and do all in their power to promote their happiness. When sick, they have prompt medical aid and kind nursing, as well as the counsel and prayers of humane and pious ministers. It is not the design of the author to exaggerate at all; what she states, she knows to be truth. She feels confident that the condition of slaves at the South is not what it has been represented by fanatical writers, as many a Northerner who has sojourned among us will bear witness.
The author was somewhat surprised to see what mistaken notions Mrs. Stowe has. She seems to think that our Southern people are under the impression that slaves have not immortal souls, susceptible of the sanctifying influence of grace here and glory hereafter. Could Mrs. Stowe but attend some of their religious meetings, and hear the songs of praise, the prayers, and even sermons of some of our slaves, she would think otherwise. Who taught those poor ignorant slaves the knowledge of God, and his Son, Jesus Christ? Not Northern men, but Southern masters, and Southern ministers; who, for their comfortable accommodation, as well as religious instruction, have erected suitable houses of worship, where the Sabbath, with all its high and holy delights, may be enjoyed.
The work before you is without any pretensions. It is the first attempt of a youthful author, who desires to deal justly and truly with the subject announced. She hopes her remarks will not create any unpleasant feelings among her Northern friends. She feels it her duty, as a warm-hearted Virginian, to defend the South, but, in so doing, she would not willingly offend the North.
2. The following, from Aunt Phyllis’ Cabin by Mary Eastman
Slavery, authorized by God, permitted by Jesus Christ, sanctioned by the apostles, maintained by good men of all ages, is still existing in a portion of our beloved country. How long it will continue, or whether it will ever cease, the Almighty Ruler of the universe can alone determine.
I do not intend to give a history of Abolition. Born in fanaticism, nurtured in violence and disorder, it exists too. Turning aside the institutions and commands of God, treading under foot the love of country, despising the laws of nature and the nation, it is dead to every feeling of patriotism and brotherly kindness; full of strife and pride, strewing the path of the slave with thorns and of the master with difficulties, accomplishing nothing good, forever creating disturbance.
The negroes are still slaves--"while the American slaveholders, collectively and individually, ask no favours of any man or race that treads the earth. In none of the attributes of men, mental or physical, do they acknowledge or fear superiority elsewhere. They stand in the broadest light of the knowledge, civilization, and improvement of the age, as much favored of Heaven as any other of the sons of Adam."
C. The Southern Media
A media campaign also took place, mainly in the South, to speak out against the rising tide of Northern abolitionism and to fire at Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In editorials in the Charleston Courier and the Mercury, in the New Orleans Daily Picayune, and in Southern magazines, readers could read slanted, proslavery opinions and bogus news and pro-slavery, anti-North propaganda.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #2: What was Uncle Tom’s Cabin and why was it controversial? Which answer is NOT correct?
It was a book published by an anti-slavery activist that harshly criticized slavery
It was a book that inspired a wave of pro-slavery literature in the South
It was a book that inspired a wave of anti-slavery literature in the South
It was a book that was seen by the South as more evidence of the growing assault on slavery by the North
III. More episodes in the
Presidency of Franklin
A. Changing Popular Attitudes
Thus, by the early 1850s, the newly-elected presidency of Franklin Pierce was in a wreck. But its problems would continue as two more episodes emerged in the debate over the expansion of slavery.
It reopened the debate over the expansion of slavery in two ways:
Manifest Destiny became unpopular as the North became convinced that the south was trying to spread slavery to the Caribbean.
Popular Sovereignty failed in Kansas with the Kansas-Nebraska Act
B. The Fear of Slavery Spreading to Cuba and Central America
In 1853, Manifest Destiny became unpopular. Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States should expand freedom, expand its territories, and that it was inevitable and desirable, that the U.S. do this. The Cuban government had seized an American merchant vessel without cause, and Pierce’s secretary of state sent an ambassador to Madrid (Cuba was a Spanish colony) to negotiate for the purchase of Cuba. Meanwhile, the former governor of Mississippi began planning a military invasion of Cuba, which Pierce supported. When the public learned about all this, northern opinion turned against Pierce. It was just another example of southerners trying to seize more territory for slavery. Pierce called off the invasion of Cuba.
A group of American ambassadors, all southerners, issued a document called the Ostend
Manifesto in which they advocated acquiring Cuba by any means possible. If Spain refused to sell Cuba, the ambassadors claimed “by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain.” This was a huge embarrassed for the Pierce administration, even though it quickly denounced the Manifesto.
Several American adventurers had led military expeditions to places like Baja California and Nicaragua. Though the U.S. government failed to recognize these regimes, it seemed proof to antislavery northerners that the South was planning to build a foreign empire for slavery. Manifest destiny thus became extremely embarrassing, and even undesirable.
C. Kansas and Nebraska
The need to organize the territory of Nebraska and Kansas renewed the controversy over slavery in the territories and the government’s right to regulate it. This marked the second failure of the Pierce Administration.
America needed a railroad to encourage settlement to the Pacific Coast, and to link the Midwest to the Pacific for trade and transportation.
Farmers in the Midwest had long eyed Kansas and Nebraska as a good place to set up farms.
For many years people had discussed plans to set up a national railroad to link the Midwest to the Pacific. By the 1850s it was one of the few areas in the country that had almost no white settlement and had no territorial government in place (Montana, North and South Dakota, and Oklahoma are the only other places that come to mind).
Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had arranged three surveys—one option would have the railroad begin in New Orleans or Memphis. Davis had even convinced new President Franklin Pierce to purchase the area now comprising southern Arizona and part of southern New Mexico for $10,000,000 commonly known as the Gadsden Purchase. (Gadsden was the grandson of outh Carolina’s own Christopher Gadsden, a founding father and member of the Continental Congress). Southerners hoped that the railroad would extend through slave territory. But many were suspicious that this land would be used for slavery, so it was not a popular choice.
A railroad would open up the West to settlement. Stephen Douglas, now the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Territories, wanted the railroad to start in Chicago, and through his home state of Illinois. Not only would it make tremendous profits for his constituents, Douglas owned land and could profit too. But this would never happen until the territory to the west of Illinois was organized. Douglas hoped that by establishing governments, removing the Indians and building a transcontinental railroad, he could push America to even more greatness, and maybe set himself up for a Presidential run in the future.
The only way the South would support this plan was if the railroad went through slave territories. In order to get the votes, Douglas had to please the South.
1. The Kansas-Nebraska Act
Douglas proposed a compromise that became known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Kansas and Nebraska would be organized as territories. It repealed the Missouri Compromise, and declared it “inoperative and void.” The settlers would be able to decide whether or not they wanted slavery. Douglas thought that this would be a good solution. The bill passed.
2. Criticism of Douglas and the KS-NB Act
Douglas did not realize that Northerners would be so upset. All the way back to Illinois, he encountered Northern resentment. An angry mob greeted him upon his return to Chicago.
Douglas’ critics charged him with three offenses. First, he had carelessly destroyed the peace of the Compromise of 1850, second, he had violated the sacred Missouri Compromise and the faith between the sections, and third, essentially that he was a blowhard who was trying to suck up to the South and set himself up for a presidential run.
3. Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln, still relatively unknown at this point, was furious. He spoke out against the Kansas Nebraska Act:
“It is wrong; wrong in its direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska—and wrong in its prospective principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world, where men can be found inclined to take it…”
He continued, to say that he hated slavery.
“I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world— enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites—causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty—criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but selfinterest.”
Lincoln began his rise to the Presidency, which would not come for another six years.
Nebraska was so far north
that it had no chance of becoming a slave state.
Kansas on the other hand, was right next to Missouri. Proslavery and antislavery settlers rushed into Kansas, determined to fight for control of the territory.
They were supported by
Massachusetts abolitionists, who sent guns and supplies.
D. The Response in Kansas
Many proslavery men called Border Ruffians from Missouri came into Kansas. They hoped that if they could quickly set up a proslavery government, that other southerners would join them. Then, they could quickly petition for statehood, and Missouri would have Kansas as a slave-state neighbor. Few people realized that what slave owner in his right mind would come to Kansas when he could go to Texas or Arkansas? Plus, if slavery was prohibited at any point, slavery would become illegal.
Kansas became a violent battleground over slavery. In fact, “Bleeding Kansas” became a preview of the Civil War.
In 1855, abolitionist John Brown moved to Kansas, where some of his sons had settled. Proslavery forces were using threats and violence to influence elections in an attempt to make Kansas a slave state.
At one point, both proslavery and antislavery sources had set up their own governments. The Border Ruffians and proslavery mobs rioted and destroyed the Free State hotel in Lawrence, Kansas. On May 24, 1856, seeking revenge for a proslavery attack on the town of Lawrence, Brown led a group of men that murdered five proslavery settlers in Pottawatomie Creek. They dragged five proslavery settlers from their homes along Pottawatomie Creek and hacked their bodies with swords, and dumped the corpses in to the water. Brown vowed that he could only die once, but he would fight against slavery for the rest of his life.
A motive is not clear.
All of the men his sons murdered were associated with a proslavery district court.
May have believed that he could prevent the court from acting against him by killing the justices.
May have seen himself as a prophet or instrument of God.
Taking revenge for Sack of Lawrence?
Taking revenge for the death of a son shot in an ambush?
The murder was not prosecuted. Congressional committee decided not to investigate the massacre.
The Kansas Nebraska Act did not lead to a railroad—it wasn’t built until after the war. It did not lead to the extension of slavery. It resulted in violence, division, and bloodshed over the question of slavery. The struggle in Kansas made it clear that the North and the South would fight over slavery.
With the heightening of tensions in Kansas in 1856, a number of other events occurred in rapid succession that threatened to tear the nation apart.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #3: How was the Kansas-Nebraska Act related to wider discussions about slavery? Which answer is NOT correct?
The North feared that the South would do all it could to extend slavery, even expanding to Cuba and Mexico
The location of the railroad line would either encourage the growth of slave states or the growth of free states
Stephen Douglas led the debate in favor of the Act because he needed Southern votes for his presidential run
The Act encouraged “border ruffians” to cross the border from Nebraska into Kansas and set up a pro-slavery government
IV. Deeper into Violence A. Brooks and Sumner
Charles Sumner gave a speech entitled “The Crime Against Kansas,” a carefully rehearsed 8 hour speech during May 19th and 20th, 1856. He devoted most of the speech to denouncing the lawlessness in Kansas, blaming most of it on the pro-slavery Border Ruffians.
But the acerbic Sumner began making personal attacks on his enemies, many of whom were Southerners. He attacked Andrew Pickens Butler, senator from South Carolina, comparing him to Don Quixote and making fun of Butler’s impaired abilities, the result of a stroke. Butler was sick, old and incapable of defending himself.
A relative of Butler’s, representative Preston Brooks of Edgefield, who was not in attendance, learned of the incident and was furious. He knew that the Southern code of honor required that he defend Butler. Brooks couldn’t duel Sumner—Sumner would probably refuse anyway, and he wasn’t a Southern gentleman to begin with. Brooks looked all over Washington for Sumner for a couple of days, but with no success.
On May 22nd, he entered the Senate and accosted Sumner at his desk. As Sumner rose from the desk, unable to move in any direction because of the cramped space available, Brooks began beating Sumner over the head with a metal-tipped rubber cane, until the cane shattered and Sumner was rendered unconscious.
The caning created a martyr for the abolitionist movement. Sumner was reelected to the
Senate but his chair stayed empty for three years. Northerners saw the empty chair and denounced Southern barbarism. Some biographers suggest the injuries were more psychological than physical—that Sumner was embarrassed more than he was disabled.
Brooks was censured, so he resigned. Yet, he was nearly unanimously re-elected to his seat. The pieces of the cane were displayed in Charleston, and he became a southern hero. Eventually, some of the cane was used to make rings to commemorate the incident. People from South Carolina and the South sent new canes to Brooks to praise him for his actions. This violence incensed the nation on both sides.
B. Dred Scott v. Sandford In 1856, the SCOTUS
became tangled up in the sectional conflict.
1. The Facts of the Case
Dred Scott was owned by Peter Blow, an AL farmer who moved to St. Louis and opened a hotel. When Blow died, Scott was sold to John Emerson, an army doctor. Emerson took Scott with him to the Wisconsin territory, free territory. Emerson then returned to Missouri in 1838. In 1843, Emerson died and Scott’s title passed to his widow, Irene Sanford Emerson.
Scott sued for his freedom in a Missouri Court in 1846. Scott’s lawyers argued that residence in a Free State and territory made him free. They won. The case went to the MO Supreme court on Emerson’s appeal. In 1852, the MO state Supreme Court reversed the circuit court decision, ruling Scott had returned voluntarily, with his family. In 1853, Emerson remarried a Republican antislavery congressman from Massachusetts. At this point, Irene either gave, sold or left Scott under the care of her brother JFA Sanford. Sanford moved to NY, hiring out the Scott family. Now the case entered the federal jurisdiction, because Scott was suing a resident of another state. In 1854, the US Circuit Court rejected Sanford’s plea of abatement that there was no jurisdiction and the case went into the Federal Court system.
2. The case reaches the Supreme Court
At issue was the question, did Scott’s residency in a Free State make him free? Could Congress exclude slavery from the territories?
The Court heard the case twice, with Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice, a Maryland native and a fanatical defender of slavery, presiding.
On the Court, there were a total of five Southern Democrats (3 from the Deep South), two Northern Democrats (who typically favored popular sovereignty), and a Northern Whig and a Northern Democrat who were anti-slavery.
At first, the Court was going to declare that it had no jurisdiction, but instead, the Court made an opinion. However, none of the justices could agree on their reasons for the 7-2 decision against Scott.
Taney wrote the majority opinion, one that would make you sick in how racist it sounds to us today.
Taney ruled that no black person could be a citizen of the US and could not exercise the rights of a citizen of the US that a black man had “no rights” which the white man was bound to respect” This was incorrect—Blacks had been granted citizenship in several Northern states.
Taney argued that Scott was not free, that the Missouri Compromise had been unconstitutional, and that in fact Congress could NOT legislate slavery in the territories.
This decision suggested that popular sovereignty might be invalid, and that in fact, all territories might be open to slavery.
Scott vs. Sandford discredited the SC and weakened it for years to come.
C. The Election of 1856
That fall, it was time to elect a new president. For the Democrats, Stephen Douglas wanted the nomination, but his reputation had been tarnished by his involvement in the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Instead, the Democrats chose James Buchanan, a relatively unknown bachelor, a man who was popular in the South because he was involved in the Ostend Manifesto, active in trying to acquire Cuba.
The Republicans, a political party that had only just emerged, ran western explorer
John C. Fremont, a hero of the California independence movement. Fremont, nicknamed “The Pathfinder,” had no political experience, but he was an abolitionist.
The American Party, also called the “Know-Nothing Party,” nominated former president Millard Fillmore and capitalized on anti-immigration ideas.
The Republicans campaigned on promises to repeal the Kansas-Nebraska Act, to oppose the extension of slavery, and for internal improvement projects. They blamed the Democrats for the fiasco in Kansas, and promised a better America for all Americans.
Buchanan won, though it was a close election. The rapid rise of the Republican Party and its great success certainly alarmed the South. While the Republicans did not win, their following increased, and the election of 1856 lay the groundwork for the election of 1860.
D. James Buchanan Presidency (1856-1860) and the Lecompton Constitution 1. Lecompton Constitution
In 1857, new president James Buchanan decided to get the debate over. He wanted to get slavery out of Congress and solve the Kansas problem by admitting Kansas as a state.
The proslavery faction rigged an election and chose delegates to draft a proslavery convention. The antislavery people refused to participate. The Convention, made up almost entirely of proslavery people, met in October, 1857 in Lecompton, and drafted a constitution modeled after Missouri’s. The constitution would extend slavery, it said that the constitution could not be changed for seven years, it excluded free blacks’ rights, and it guaranteed slave-owners already in the territory that they could keep their slaves.
The delegates knew that the constitution now had to be ratified. But of course, free soilers boycotted the vote, and the constitution was overwhelmingly approved. Buchanan sent the constitution to Congress, urging them to admit Kansas as a state to restore peace. Buchanan’s action set off a battle in Congress market by long-winded speeches and even violence. On one occasion, Lawrence Keitt, a half-drunk South Carolina Senator, insulted a Republican abolitionist and a brawl broke out.
2. Fall out
The administration was corrupt; it bought votes in the heavily Democratic Senate by promising bribes, patronage, commissions in the military, food, whisky and women.
Stephen Douglas broke with the administration, which forever tarnished his reputation in the eyes of the Democratic Party, and especially among the Southern Democrats. Douglas denounced the Lecompton constitution as a fraud, which angered the South. He had already proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in the first place, which angered the North. In response, Buchanan removed Douglas’s friends from government jobs.
As 1858 arrived, the discussion continued. The House defeated J.J. Crittenden’s resolution; if it had passed it would have required another election in Kansas to approve or deny the constitution, and with federal troops supervising.
Buchanan’s administration proposed the English Compromise, named after W.L. English, a free-soil settler from Kansas. The compromise would make possible the sale of large parcels of land, thus making large individual plantations impossible. Voters then defeated the land grant and rejected the constitution. Kansas remained a territory until 1861, when Abraham Lincoln made it a state.
E. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (1858)
The Battle over Kansas
destroyed Douglass’ career, yet he still beat Lincoln in the 1858 Senate election on the heels of the famous Lincoln-Douglass debates. Lincoln was opposed to any expansion of slavery into new United States territories, while Douglas supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty, believing that a territory's residents should vote on whether or not to allow slavery. Douglas could no longer support this doctrine legally, because of the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision. Instead, he stated that the people could still control slavery in the territories by not passing laws to protect slave owners and return run away slaves. Because Douglas articulated this position while he was in the debate in Freeport, this position became known as the Freeport Doctrine. These debates characterized the sectionalized political dichotomy at the time between Democrats and "new" Republicans. The Democratic Party at the time assumed a position like Douglas, in support of Popular Sovereignty, whereas the Republicans subscribed to the school of thought presented by Lincoln that supported a virtual containment of slavery.
F. John Brown
At this point it’s appropriate to discuss really what became the events that made the Civil War extremely likely, one of these is John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.
John Brown, the mentally unstable abolitionist, had contributed to the bloodshed in Kansas from 1855-1856. After Pottawatomie, he turned into a full-time abolitionist, determined to rid America of slavery. He traveled the country from 18571859 trying to raise money. Eventually, he made six friends who were willing to support him. This group, called the Secret Six, consisted of abolitionists, ministers, and reformers. How much they knew of the plan that Brown was now developing is unclear, but it seems that most knew quite a bit.
We don’t know when he began to plan for we don’t know when he began to plan Harper’s Ferry. He may have discussed it with Frederick Douglass years earlier. He may have been planning it with his family over the dinner table. In any case, he had been planning for as much as 10 years. Brown was secretive and did not trust others. Many didn’t bother to find out what he was planning. It was possible he wanted to start a slave rebellion or collect slaves and set them free. Brown drafted and presented a constitution in Ontario, Canada in the spring of 1858, describing the dictatorship he would impose on the South.
Brown planned to seize a federal weapons armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now in West Virginia). He would seize the weapons, incite the slaves to rise up, and proclaim an independent republic in the upper South. In the spring of 1859, he rented a farmhouse in Maryland, 5 miles away. He and his followers waited for more men and money, finally stopped waiting.
On October 6, 1859, Brown
left 3 men at the house on watch, and he and 18 other followers put their plan into action. He marched across the Potomac, captured the night watchman, and seized federal rifle works and armory. He sent men to capture Louis Washington, the biggest slave-owner in the area. There weren’t many slaves in the area to revolt. Ironically, the first casualty was a black man. He may have been waiting for the slaves to rise up, but they didn’t. In fact, they were too far spread out and probably didn’t receive word of what was happening quickly enough.
By the next day, there were enough militiamen to recapture the town, forcing raiders to retreat to the firehouse.
Most of the men were dead or wounded by this time. The war department sends Colonel Lee, Jeb Stuart and a unit of marines. They arrived by train on the 18th. The tried to convince Brown to surrender. They try unsuccessfully to kill Brown.
3. The Aftermath
Brown lost 10 killed, 7 captured, and 5 escaped. They killed 4 and wounded 9. Led army of 22 against state + nation. No effort to escape. Left documents and maps, incriminating friends in farmhouse. Not adequately supplied. Not well-organized; slaves didn’t cooperate. Shoddy operation. Some concluded 1) Brown was insane or 2) he failed intentionally, realizing that he could contribute more to the cause if he became a martyr for it.
Brown’s raid convinced the Southerners that northern abolitionists were trying to hatch a slave rebellion. It was proof of Northern lunacy.
Virginia’s governor, Henry Wise, ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Brown, yet called it off during 6 weeks before execution. The trial proceeded quickly; it last only a week, and Brown was found guilty of treason against the state of Virginia. However, this was bogus, because he was not a resident of Virginia. He was found guilty of inciting a slave rebellion. This too was bogus because a slave rebellion never happened. He was also found guilty of murder, but there was no proof that he himself was responsible for the murder.
Brown spoke on his behalf, and as he had been injured in the raid, actually was carried in to the court on a stretcher. This created quite a scene. He was sentenced to die in only 5 weeks. One of the secret six had a plan to rescue Brown with a hot air balloon but Brown wanted to die. “Let it be done,” he said.
Brown was hanged in Charleston, West Virginia on December 2, 1859. Witnesses included Major Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, heading a group of VMI cadets, and the determined secessionist (fire-eater) Edmund Ruffin of Virginia. He bribed a VMI cadet, got a VMI uniform, and sat up front. Ruffin supposedly fired the first or second round at Fort Sumter, he rode into Manassas, fired the round that hit the Bull Run bridge, exploded, blocked the area, and started the retreat, and next time we’ll learn what happened to him after Appomattox.
The execution of John Brown set off an explosion in the North. Moderates in North America tried to convince the South that the radicals did not speak for the North as a whole. Lincoln and Seward criticized the attack. On the other hand, many of the leading abolitionists, including Emerson, Thoreau and Garrison, praised him.
The South panicked and became united behind slavery. In late 1859-early 1860, the crisis of fear resulted. Mobs seized supposed abolitionists, lynchings, blacklisting occurred. Fire-eaters crusaded.
G. The Election of 1860
In April 1860, the Democratic Party divided at the convention in Charleston. This guaranteed a
Republican victory and made secession and civil war inevitable. The Convention was initially held in Charleston from April 23 to May 3, 1860. The southern wing of the party demanded the adoption of a platform which explicitly protected the institution; however, the north refused to acquiesce. As a result, many southern delegations stormed out of the convention hall in protest. As a result of Convention President Caleb Cushing's ruling that two-thirds of the entire convention's vote (rather than of the vote of those actually voting), after 57 ballots, Stephen A. Douglas, the frontrunner, failed to capture the two-thirds majority needed for the nomination. Douglas was opposed by the south because he continued to support popular sovereignty, instead of explicitly supporting slavery.
The failure to nominate a candidate in Charleston required the convention to be reconvened in Baltimore, Maryland on June 18. Upon reassembling new battles were fought on credentials, as replacement delegates were seated to replace those that had walked out. This led to another round of walk-outs; the northern delegates selected Douglas and the Southern delegates, meeting in a different place, chose John C. Breckinridge.
In the election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln won on a Northern platform that did not deny southerners the right to own slaves but did deny the right of slavery to spread into the territories. Capturing every single northern and western state but not winning a single state south of Pennsylvania, Lincoln easily won the election. The election of Lincoln seemed a threat to the rights of the South. With slavery confined to the South and denied the right to expand, the region would soon be surrounded by abolitionist Yankees who wanted to destroy the Southern way of life.
Next, we’ll see the South’s response, the outbreak of war, and will discuss the Civil War itself, focusing especially on soldiers’ lives and their motivations to fight.
Pause for 60-second Quiz #4: What are some of the events of the 1850s that seemed to foreshadow the American Civil War? Which answer is correct?
Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts, beat Preston Brooks, Representative from South
Carolina, nearly to death on the floor of the Senate
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford that blacks had no rights and that slavery could proceed everywhere in the United States
Abraham Lincoln won the Lincoln-Douglas debates and was elected President of the United States in 1858
John Brown successfully provoked a large-scale slave rebellion in Virginia in 1859
KEY for 60-second Quizzes
By the way, “white slaves,” meaning hereditary, race-based, chattel slavery, did not exist in the United States. See
Jamelle Bouie and Rebecca Onion, “Slavery Myths Debunked: The Irish were slaves too; slaves had it better than Northern factory workers; black people fought for the Confederacy; and other lies, half-truths, and irrelevancies,” Slate (September 29, 2015), https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2015/09/slavery-myths-seven-lies-half-truths-and-irrelevanciespeople-trot-out-about-slavery-debunked.html↩