This chapter covers the sectional split between North and South that had been slowly developing since the Missouri Compromise. Thomas Jefferson had called the question of slavery extension “a firebell in the night,” and after the Mexican-American War the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed the fear that “Mexico will poison us.” Their deep concerns were realized as people in the North and South took ever more rigid and determined positions on slavery’s extension or elimination. Many Americans in the 1850s, perhaps a majority, felt the issue of slavery had to be permanently settled and expected their political parties to reflect their will. A compromise over territorial gains in 1850 failed to hold and after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was passed, a miniature civil war broke out in Kansas. When Lincoln was elected in 1860, many southerners saw him as a purely northern president and several southern states responded by seceding from the union.
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
Explain how the North and South developed two different political perspectives that no one seemed able or willing to reconcile.
Illustrate how social issues were reflected by writers of the “American Renaissance.”
List the provisions of the Compromise of 1850 and explain how some of them, such as the Fugitive Slave Act, actually caused more problems than they solved.
Discuss the failure of the national party system to find a solution to the deepening crisis.
Trace how a series of events from “Bleeding Kansas” to “John Brown’s Raid” made the differences between North and South even greater after 1855.
Explain the impact of the election of 1860 on American unity.
Outline the process by which southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy.
Trace the development of the “states’ rights” doctrine from the Nullification Crisis to Calhoun’s reply to the Wilmot Proviso. (Review chapter 10.)