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the 1850s: decade of crisis

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Lily Santoro

on 27 April 2016

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Transcript of the 1850s: decade of crisis

the 1850s: decade of crisis
Uncle Tom's Cabin
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published an anti-slavery novel entitled,
Uncle Tom's Cabin
. The book was a wild success across the northern states. In fact, it was soon adapted to the stage and the show played to sold-out audiences in theaters from New York to Chicago.
Written largely to express outrage over the
1850 Fugitive Slave Act
, Stowe's book highlighted the degradations of slave life, even in the best conditions.

The Compromise of 1850
Fueled by the population growth brought about by the Gold Rush of 1849, California applied for statehood in 1850
as a free state
. The admission of California to the Union brought Congress to the brink of crisis as they wrestled with the same problem that had be the cause of the Missouri Compromise in 1820-- allowing in a single state that would create an imbalance of slave and free states in the US Senate.
Henry Clay
, who had helped cobble together the Missouri Compromise, proposed the
Compromise of 1850
as follows:
California would be allowed to enter as a free state.
The rest of the territory gained from the Mexican-American War would be organized into the territories of Utah and New Mexico.
The slave trade would be abolished in Washington DC.
A stricter
Fugitive Slave Act
would be put in place.
The question of slavery in territories west of the Louisiana Purchase would be decided by
Popular Sovereignty

While southern slaveholders applauded the new
Fugitive Slave Act
for making it easier for them to recover their lost property, many in the north feared that the act would jeopardize freedom in the north.
In 1854,
Anthony Burns
was captured in Boston and returned to Virginia. Burns was a runaway slave, but also a respected member of Boston society. His capture excited riots outside the Boston courthouse and demands for his release.

Anthony Burns & Solomon Northup
In 1853,
Solomon Northup
published his book,
Twelve Years a Slave
, recounting his experience of being captured in Washington DC and sold into slavery in Georgia. Though Northup was born a free black in New York, he was
captured under the
earlier Fugitive Slave
Both of these stories circulated widely through the north...
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
was much more stringent than the one that had preceded it.

Under the new Act, all citizens were required to assist in the recovery of runaway slaves. Those captured as fugitive slaves were not given a trial by jury. Instead, each case was heard by a special commissioner who received $10 for every returned slave, and $5 for each innocent person released. The act also provided more federal officials to help return lost slave property.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Though a work of fiction,
Uncle Tom's Cabin
proved very effective in touching the hearts of white northerners who saw the cruelty of slaveholders in the book as very realistic.
Southerners lambasted the book, describing it as slander and abolitionist propaganda. One Alabama bookseller was run out of town for selling the book in his shop.
Inspired by
Uncle Tom's Cabin
, membership in the
American Anti-Slavery Society
grew. Many even signed an oath promising not to comply with the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
In 1854 Illinois Senator, Stephan Douglas, proposed
Kansas-Nebraska Act
to organize the last territories in the Louisiana Purchase. He wanted encourage settlement and organization in those territories so that Chicago could benefit by building a transcontinental Railroad across those lands.
New England
Emigrant Aid Society
While the status of Nebraska was never up for debate, Kansas was up for grabs.
To encourage Kansas to become a free state, New Englanders raised funds to help
and "
" move to Kansas. The
New England Emigrant Aid Society
offered to help pay moving expenses for people
willing to move to Kansas and vote
for a free state.
Bleeding Kansas
People flooded into Kansas trying to establish either a free state or a slave state. New England formed groups to help people settle there and make a free state. Pro-slave groups from Missouri and the rest of the South were determined to make a slave state
In the first elections, pro-slave groups from Missouri poured into Kansas and stuffed ballot boxes 1854. The vote came out in favor of a slave state, but there were more ballots than registered voters, making the whole thing look corrupt.
Pro-slavery forces took control of the territorial government and passed laws intimidating free-soilers in 1855.
In response, free-soilers organized their own government
and outlawed slavery. Both groups wrote state
constitutions and applied for statehood in 1856.
Soon, bloody battles had broken out across Kansas. Mobs in Missouri had successfully driven out the Mormons earlier, they believed they could do the same to free-soilers in Kansas. In the "Sack of Lawrence," the pro-slavery governor ordered the arrest of prominent free-soilers. Armed Missourians served as a posse to destroy printing presses, burn the Free-Soil hotel and the home of free soil governor. Pro and anti-slavery groups ransacked homes and stores. This violence was called
Bleeding Kansas.
The violence that exploded in Kansas claimed more than 200 lives in various hit and run raids over the next few months.
Dred Scott v. Sanford 1857
As a slave to an Army physician,
Dred Scott
had traveled in various free states & territories, including Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited by the
Missouri Compromise of 1820
. Upon his master's death, Scott sued for his freedom. Claiming that he had spent years in free land, Scott's lawyer argued that he should be given his freedom.

The case came before Supreme Court 1857.

Led by Chief Justice, Roger B. Taney, the Supreme Court rejected Scott’s plea, 7-2. Two northern justices joined all 5 southerners on the court in this decision.
Dred Scott should never have been able to bring this suit (he was property, not a person or citizen).
Blacks were so inferior that they had no rights any white had to respect.
Missouri Compromise of 1820
was unconstitutional (Congress had no power to ban slavery from any territory, only states could legislate property rights).
Slaveholders argued that the Constitution protected property rights.
Abolitionists argued that Congress had the power to limit the expansion of slavery.

The decision caused a huge uproar. It reignited discussions over Congress’ ability to control slavery in the western territories.
For many, the major point of the decision was that slaveowners had right to take their slave property anywhere they wanted.
The 1857
Dred Scott decision

John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry, 1859
In the fall of 1859 a radical abolitionist named
John Brown
, leading a band of 21 followers, attacked an unguarded federal armory at
Harper's Ferry
, Virginia. Their goal was to start and arm a slave rebellion. Brown and his followers were quickly captured by federal troops under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown was hanged a month later.
Madman or Martyr?
Republican Party
, hoping for victory in the upcoming presidential election of 1860, sought to distance itself from Brown's raid, condemning him as a criminal and a

But other Northerners regarded Brown as a
to the antislavery cause and said so publicly: Henry David Thoreau described him as "an angel of light," while Ralph Waldo Emerson declared that Brown was "a saint, whose martyrdom will make the gallows as glorious as the cross." That outpouring of northern sympathy shocked the South, and it led to a widespread belief that the Republican Party was
secretly connected to Brown's raid.
How would Southerners see these events?

How would Northerners see these events?
In his "Words from the Bench," Chief Justice Taney added:
Because this land was part of the
Louisiana Purchase
, the issue of slave/free state was already decided by the
Missouri Compromise of 1820
. If either of these territories applied for statehood, they wold tip the balance of power in congress even further in favor of the free north (because both territories are north of the Missouri Compromise Line). Hoping to convince southerners to vote for his bill, Douglas proposed to overturn the Missouri Compromise and allow citizens of territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide for themselves the question of slavery, in accordance with
Popular Sovereignty
. The
Kansas-Nebraska Act
passed in 1854,
but it was very controversial and created new problems
was considered a huge victory for slavery and states’ rights.
For both Northerners and Southerners, these events fed the conspiratorial views they had begun to have of each other. These fears and issues would be at the heart of the Presidential Election of 1860.

Please read the "Real Clear History" article here: http://www.realclearhistory.com/articles/2012/09/18/lincolns_election_puts_union_on_the_brink_34.html
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