THE 1850S

Learning Objectives:

Explain how acquisition of new territories turned slavery into a major constitutional standoff between 1848-1861.

Debate. As a citizen of a slave state: arguments for/against leaving the Union. As a northern politician: what response to take to the threat of secession, to separation itself, and to the creation of the Confederacy.

Put these in below where appropriate

Use this Library of Congress exhibition for this entire module
African American Odyssey: Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy [2 parts]

How best to make use of this EDSITEment lesson plan:
The Growing Crisis of Sectionalism in Antebellum America: A House Dividing

The Long History of Political Idiocy

Shifting Political Landscape
Three great maps: Missouri Compromise, Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act

Missouri Compromise (Ohio History online)

Missouri Compromise interactive

Do more with "The Great Triumvirate"

Stephen Douglas (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Henry Clay (Today in History, Library of Congress)

John C. Calhoun (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Crucial interplay of several factors

Slavery's existence and territorial expansion

Should new states be slave or free?
"If slavery was the sore spot in the body politic, territorial disputes were salt rubbed into the wound."

Frames of reference of North and South toward each other:

Northerners: feared an evil Southern Slave Power wanting to take over U.S.
Southerners: felt that northerners were all abolitionists--wanting to oppress the South

A North–South division was deepening
Slavery in the territories colored every other national issue
The first sectional battle of the decade involved California
California's request to enter Union as free state caused political conflict
Compromise of 1850 became a temporary armistice in the slavery issue

Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850 for Dummies - YouTube

Major provisions of the Compromise of 1850:

Compromise of 1850 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Compromise of 1850 (Sound Smart)

Struggles over Slavery: The Compromise of 1850

a. California entered the Union as a free state

California becomes the 31st state in record time ( This Day in History | 9/9/1850)

b. Popular sovereignty allowed in Utah & New Mexico Territories

Popular Sovereignty (US

Popular Sovereignty (EDSITEment)

c. Trading and auction of slaves abolished in Washington, D.C.

Slavery itself was still permitted

d. Fugitive Slave Act

Stronger than past ones
Citizens must help capture and return runaway slaves
Suspected runaways denied trial by jury

Results of the Fugitive Slave Act

Anthony Burns

African American Odyssey: Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy (Part 2)
Fugitive Slave Act

Fugitive Slave Mentality (New York Times)

Daniel Webster Endorses Compromise of 1850 (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

Compromise of 1850 (Primary Documents in American History)

Compromise of 1850 (Ohio History online)

Fugitive Slave Law (Ohio History online)

The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act (Africans in America)

Professor Eric Foner discusses the Fugitive Slave Act (Africans in America)

Prior Compromise on slavery issue: Missouri Compromise

Interactive Map The Missouri Compromise, 1820-1821

Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)

Uncle Tom's Cabin (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Harriet Beecher Stowe's portrait of slave suffering made southerners mad

Video: [this is good; use it]
Who is Harriet Beecher Stowe?

Harriet Beecher Stowe (God in America)

Slave narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Underground Railroad

Harriet Beecher Stowe obituary (New York Times)

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe (Ohio History online)

Harriet Beecher Stowe (Finding Dulcinea)

Her book a reaction to Fugitive Slave Act (Ohio History online)

Influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin (History Now)

Website Spotlight: Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture (University of Virginia)

Church & Camp Meeting Hymns

Uncle Tom's Cabin


Hymns for Infant Minds

Hymns in Uncle Tom's Cabin website

Minstrel Playbills

Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture (University of Virginia)
My Website Spotlight blog post

Southern defense of slavery:

George Fitzhugh

Southern slaves better off than northern workers
Northern workers were "wage" slaves
Worked harder than Southern slaves
Were laid off if they got sick or too old

George Fitzhugh (Africans in America)

George Fitzhugh (Documenting the American South)

Excerpts from Fitzhugh's Slaves without Masters (American Experience)

Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)


The Kansas-Nebraska Act Explained: US History Review Keith Hughes

Kansas-Nebraska Act

Interactive Map The Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854
Kansas-Nebraska Act interactive

Kansas-Nebraska Act (Ohio History online)

Kansas-Nebraska Act (EDSITEment)

Lesson 3: The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization
over Slavery | EDSITEment

Parts of this essay on Westward Expansion (Africans in America)

Bleeding Kansas

Bleeding Kansas (Africans in America)

Bleeding Kansas (Ohio History online)

Bleeding Kansas

Bleeding Kansas (Sound Smart)

Pottowatomie massacre John Brown

Republican party (1854)

New party—not connected to the earlier Jeffersonian Republican party
A purely sectional third party based in the North
Dedicated to keeping slavery out of the territories

The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Rise of the Republican Party
[find a good source for this]

American Party
Know Nothings

Know-Nothing Party

Sumner–Brooks incident (1856)

The Caning of Senator Charles Sumner (US Senate)

Canefight (US

Charles Sumner (American Experience)

Sen. Charles Sumner (Mass.) an abolitionist
His antislavery remarks an insult to Rep. Preston Brooks (S.C.)
Brooks beat Sumner with a cane—in Senate chamber

South seemed to condone violence to have its way
South sent Brooks more canes
Northerners shocked at this southern assault on free speech

Dred Scott decision (1857)

Dred Scott decision by the United States Supreme Court (1857) (New York Times)

Dred Scott decision (New York Times)

Supreme Court attempted to decide issue of slavery in the territories
Five of the nine Supreme Court justices were southerners

The case ruled as follows:
  • Blacks could not be U.S. citizens
  • Congress could not prohibit slavery in a territory
  • This implied a repeal of the Missouri Compromise
  • South delighted; North outraged

Compare to Supreme Court involvement in 2000 presidential election

See also:

Dred Scott case (Sound Smart)

Dred Scott (D'Army Bailey)

Supreme Court Rules Against Dred Scott (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

Dred Scott's fight for freedom (Africans in America)
Portrait of Dred Scott
Dred Scott case: the Supreme Court decision

Panic of 1857 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Begin (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

Lincoln-Douglass Debates

Map of debate locations
Text of Debates: from Teaching American
Re-enactments from C-SPAN


See also:

Stephen Douglas bio sketch (Ohio History online)

Stephen Douglas (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Stephen Douglas obituary (New York Times)

John Brown at Harpers Ferry (1859)

Harper's Ferry (Today in History, Library of Congress)

John Brown had slain proslavery settlers in Bleeding Kansas
Using both whites & blacks, John Brown attacked federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry
Brown hoped to arm slaves and trigger a slave rebellion
Brown failed: captured, tried, and executed
Northern abolitionists saw him as a Jesus figure
South bothered by this adulation; thought all northerners endorsed him

See also:

John Brown Bio Sketch (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

"He Knew How to Die": John Brown on the Gallows, December 2, 1859
Article from History News Network:

John Brown (Africans in America)
The raid on Harpers Ferry
John Brown's black raiders
"Harpers Ferry" headline
John Brown's address to the court

John Brown and the Underground Railroad (National Geographic)

John Brown: America's First Terrorist? (National Archives magazine)

John Brown's Holy War (American Experience)
My Website Spotlight blog post

John Brown's Holy War

Selected Images Relating to the the Trial of John Brown

John Brown Trial (Famous Trials)
My Website Spotlight blog post

Election of 1860

Abraham Lincoln Elected President (Finding Dulcinea, On This Day)

United States presidential election, 1860

Lincoln got no southern electoral votes but still won the election.,_1860

Lincoln got no southern electoral votes (split between Douglas, Breckenridge, and Bell) but still won the election.
He was only on the ballot in Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri

Lincoln's analysis
"You in the south think slavery is right and ought to be expanded. We think it is wrong and ought to be restricted."

Precedents to the notion of secession

Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions

Nullification Controversy

Nullification Crisis (Today in History, LOC)

Nullification Proclamation


Interactive Map: America on the Eve of the Civil War

Map of secession:

Secession of South Carolina (December 20, 1860)

The secession of South Carolina led other southern states to secede

Distinguish the two waves of secession

a) Deep South: Miss., Fla., Ala., Ga., La., Tx.

b) Upper South: Ark., Tn., N.C., Va.

Several slave states remained committed to the North: Mo., Ky., Md., Del.

Confederate States of America

Confederacy was a separate country
Problems similar to those of the Articles of Confederation

Jefferson Davis chosen as President

Jefferson Davis Elected (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Jefferson Davis bio sketch (Encyclopedia of Virginia)

Capital of the Confederacy was initially in Montgomery, Alabama
Capital for remainder of war in Richmond, Virginia
Each side tried to take the enemy's capital city

Fort Sumter (South Carolina)

Lincoln decided to resupply the federal fort in Charleston harbor
Confederates fired on the fort and thereby began the Civil War