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HIST211: Introduction to United States History - Colonial Period to Reconstruction

Unit 8: Impending Crisis   In the 1850s, the “slavery question” fomented sectional crises that threatened to destroy the very existence of the federal union. Two main questions manifested themselves in sectional disputes: The first was whether or not slavery should exist in new territories and new states; the second was whether or not the federal government had a legislative role in the formation of new western states. These questions were never fully resolved during the 1850s, despite the adoption of the idea of popular sovereignty*, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

In this unit, you will examine how this lack of resolution exacerbated Northerners’ fears of Southerners’ “slave power conspiracy,” while the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, the Dred Scott case, and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry all deepened the growing rift between the North and the South.*

Unit 8 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 12.5 hours.

☐    Subunit 8.1: 3.75 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2: 8.75 hours

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - assess the impact of slavery on American politics, including the emergence of the ideology of popular sovereignty, the emergence of the Republican Party, and the passage of laws such as the Fugitive Slave Act and the Compromise of 1850; - explain how judicial decisions such as the Dred Scott case increased tensions between Northern and Southern society; - assess the causes and impacts of events like Bleeding Kansas and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry; and - analyze and interpret primary source documents from the era, using historical research methods.

8.1 The Question of Slavery   - Lecture: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 6: Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850” Link: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 6: Expansion and Slavery: Legacies of the Mexican War and the Compromise of 1850” (YouTube)

 Also available in:  
 [HTML, Flash, MP3, or
QuickTime](http://oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-119/lecture-6)  

 Instructions: Watch this lecture to get a sense of why Northerners
and Southerners were so divided over the westward expansion of
slavery.  Professor Blight examines how the Mexican War and the
Compromise of 1850 exacerbated the question of the expansion of
slavery.  

 Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

8.1.1 The Slave Power   - Reading: Economic History Association: Roger Ransom’s “The Economics of the Civil War” Link: Economic History Association: Roger Ransom’s “The Economics of the Civil War” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the article up to the section “The Costs of the
War.” This article provides an in-depth comparison of the regional
economies of the North and South in the years before the Civil War.
While reading, please consider how these two regions compared to one
another in terms of their respective urban populations, banks,
railroads, and industry.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 45
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is hosted with the permission of EH.net
for educational, noncommercial purposes.

8.1.2 Fugitive Slaves   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 33: Decade of Crisis – The Compromise of 1850” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 33: Decade of Crisis – The Compromise of 1850” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the second topic, “The
Compromise of 1850.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all ofthe
pages. Then, click on the links under “Explore” and read the
accompanying text.   
    
 The Fugitive Slave Act was one of the most controversial parts of
the Compromise of 1850. Passage of the law incensed many
Northerners, who refused to be complicit in enforcing slaveholders’
rights above the Mason-Dixon Line, and only served to heighten
Northern fears of a slave power conspiracy. Do you believe that the
law’s supporters were caught off guard by the vocal and widespread
opposition to it?  

 Watching this presentation, reading the accompanying text, and
answering the question above should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 5: Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality” Link: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 5: Telling a Free Story: Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in Myth and Reality” (YouTube)

    Also available in:
    HTML, Flash, MP3, or QuickTime

    Instructions: Watch this lecture to get a sense of the experiences of escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.  Professor Blight examines the Underground Railroad and narratives written by slaves, including Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery in the South.  Opinions of the Underground Railroad in this era illustrate the gulf that separated abolitionists and slave owners. Whereas abolitionists viewed this enterprise as a noble crusade, slave owners considered it to be a criminal activity.

    Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight’s “Anti-Slavery Movements, Part 3” Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight’s “Anti-Slavery Movements, Part 3” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch the this video, which examines the story behind the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and how this controversial novel mobilized public opinion against slavery in the North while alienating Southerners.

    Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

8.2 Sectional Politics and Popular Sovereignty   8.2.1 The Compromise of 1850   - Reading: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “The Compromise of 1850—Trying to Save the Union” Link: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “The Compromise of 1850—Trying to Save the Union” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this section which provides an informative
overview of the bitter and divisive Congressional debates on the
passage of the Compromise of 1850.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/deed.en_US).
  • Lecture: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 7: ‘A Hell of a Storm’: The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Birth of the Republican Party, 1854–55” Link: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 7: ‘A Hell of a Storm’: The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Birth of the Republican Party, 1854–55” (YouTube)

    Also available in:
    HTML, Flash, MP3, or QuickTime

    Instructions: Watch this lecture to get a good overview of the Compromise of 1850. Professor Blight considers the implications of California’s admission into the union as a free state and the Compromise of 1850 that followed as well as the events leading to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, also covered in section 8.2.3.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.2 Nativism and the Know Nothing Party   - Reading: Wikipedia’s “Know Nothing” Link: Wikipedia’s “Know Nothing” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this article which summarizes the origin,
membership, and political beliefs of the American (“Know Nothing”)
Party in the 1850s. How did the demise of the Whigs contribute to
the emergence of this party?  

 On the eve of the American Revolution most American colonists were
descended from English, Scot, and Scots-Irish settlers and were of
the Protestant faith. Leading Americans in these times, such as
Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams, were leery of the migration of
non-English speakers into the colonies (Franklin) and viewed the
Roman Catholic faith as a dangerous superstition that should not be
tolerated in the colonies (Adams).  
    
 With the influx of large numbers of Roman Catholic Irish and German
immigrants by the mid-19th century, “native” Americans (those of
British ancestry and of the Protestant faith) became increasingly
worried about the future of the republic as they held the same
opinions and prejudices as did Franklin and Adams. This nativism was
the impetus for the emergence and foundation of the Know Nothing
Party.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/).

8.2.3 The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Issue of Popular Sovereignty   - Lecture: University of California : UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 34: The Approaching War” Link: University of California College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 34: The Approaching War” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the first topic,
“Kansas-Nebraska Act.” Click on the “Text” tab and read these pages,
using the next and previous buttons to navigate through the reading.
Then click on the link to “Kansas-Nebraska Act” under “Explore” and
read the accompanying text.   

 This resource discusses events that occurred in the aftermath of
the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Many historians point to these occasions as
emblematic of the complete breakdown in civility over the slavery
issue in the years before the Civil War.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the accompanying text should
take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 8: Dred Scott, Bleeding Kansas, and the Impending Crisis of the Union, 1855–58” Link: YouTube: Open Yale Courses: David Blight’s HIST119: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era: “Lecture 8: Dred Scott, Bleeding Kansas, and the Impending Crisis of the Union, 1855–58” (YouTube)

    Also available in:
    HTML, Flash, MP3, or QuickTime

    Instructions: Watch this lecture in which Professor Blight examines the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act – Bleeding Kansas – and the severe beating of Senator Charles Sumner as well as the election of 1856, which is also covered in subunit 8.2.4.

    Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.4 The Election of 1856   - Reading: “Republican Party Platform of 1856” Link: “Republican Party Platform of 1856” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this article. The year 1856 was the first time
the Republican Party would hold national stage with a presidential
nominee, John C. Frémont, of its own. Frémont (and the party)
condemned the Kansas-Nebraska Act and crusaded against the expansion
of slavery during his campaign. He lost, but his strong showing
would lay the foundation for Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.
  • Reading: Hinton Rowan Helper’s Compendium of the Impending Crisis of the South: “Chapter 8: Testimonies of Living Witnesses” Link: Hinton Rowan Helper’s Compendium of the Impending Crisis of the South: “Chapter 8: Testimonies of Living Witnesses” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read Chapter 8, “Testimonies of Living Witnesses” in Helper’s book.  Helper’s Compendium, originally published in 1857, quickly became a popular book among the newly established Republican Party.  This chapter includes quotations from many prominent Republicans, such as John C. Frémont, who, in the 1856 election, was the first presidential candidate of the Republican Party.  The opinions expressed by these Republicans and abolitionists reveal the party’s strong objections to the institution of slavery.  What are the common objections that they assert in this chapter?

    Reading this chapter and answering the question above should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Reading: John B. Alley’s “Principles and Purposes of the Republican Party” Link: John B. Alley’s “Principles and Purposes of the Republican Party” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read John B. Alley's speech. Alley, from Massachusetts, presented this speech on the floor of the United States House of Representatives in 1860 and laid out the principles of the Republican Party. When reading this speech, please imagine how a slave owner in the South would have reacted to the views expressed here. What is the speaker’s attitude toward slavery and the South in general?

    Reading this speech and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is in the Public Domain.

8.2.5 The Dred Scott Decision   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 34: The Approaching War – Dredd Scott Decision” Link: University of California College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 34: The Approaching War – Dredd Scott Decision” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the second topic, “Dred Scott
Decision.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the pages. Then,
click on the links under “Explore” and read the accompanying
text.   
    
 This resource will give you an overview of the Dred Scott Case –
the 1857 Supreme Court decision ruling that the federal government
had no constitutional right to prohibit slavery in the territories.
 While the decision was well-received by slaveholders in the South,
many Northernerswere outraged.  The decision greatly influenced the
nomination of Abraham Lincoln to the Republican Party and his
subsequent election, which in turn led to the South’s secession from
the Union.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the accompanying text should
take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: University of Michigan's MLibrary Digital Collections’ The Making of America: Michael Les Benedict’s “Abraham Lincoln and Federalism” Link: University of Michigan's MLibrary Digital Collections’ The Making of America: Michael Les Benedict’s “Abraham Lincoln and Federalism” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this article, which contrasts the constitutional views of the Marshall Supreme Court with those of the Taney Supreme Court, which issued the Dred Scott Decision. This article also examines the constitutional positions of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party. 
     
    Take a minute to consider the following questions:

    • Why did Southern Democrats celebrate this decision and Republicans condemn it?
    • How did this support and opposition reflect their respective interpretations of the U.S. Constitution?
    • Which of these two political parties took a position regarding the interpretation of the Constitution that was more in line with the Marshall Supreme Court?

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.6 The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858   - Reading: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “The House Dividing, 1857-1860: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln” Link: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “The House Dividing, 1857-1860: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read the sections titled “The House Dividing,
1857–1860: The Rise of Abraham Lincoln” and “Lincoln and Nebraska”.
They provide a glimpse into Lincoln’s early political philosophy
regarding the slavery issue.  

 Reading these sections and taking notes should take approximately
30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a [Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
License](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/deed.en_US).

8.2.7 John Brown’s Raid   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 34: The Approaching War – John Brown’s Raid” Link: University of California College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 34: The Approaching War – John Brown’s Raid” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and view the presentation for the fourth topic, “John
Brown’s Raid.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the pages.
Then, click on the link “John Brown” under “Explore” and read the
accompanying text.   
    
 John Brown was a failed farmer and businessman who became fiercely
opposed to slavery and believed that he was divinely inspired to
lead a slave revolt that would destroy slavery. After his
participation in Bleeding Kansas and against the advice of other
anti-slavery advocates, including Frederick Douglass, he led an
assault on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in
1859.  
    
 The intent of the plan was to seize the arsenal, arm local slaves
with weapons, and bring down the institution of slavery. The raid
failed, however, and Brown was tried and convicted of treason in
1859. His address to the jury during his trial indicates the depth
of his anti-slavery convictions.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the accompanying text should
take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.