The Deep South’s animating of a Second American Revolution, by seceding from the Union and laying the foundation for an operational Confederate government, forced the North to either suppress the South’s uprising or craft a resolution. The likelihood of war would deter any widespread northern suppression, leaving the question: What compromise could the North propose that appeased the South and put both sections of the country on a path of coexistence? While variations of this question had been posed in the years leading up to 1860, at no prior point were states seceding from the Union en masse to form a rival government. Read more
In the 15 years leading up to the Civil War, a wide variety of theories emerged for how the federal government should deal with slavery expanding, or not expanding, into the territories acquired by the United States.
With the communications and transportation revolution came new, unforeseeable consequences. One such consequence was the spread of cholera and other contagious diseases, which would test the mettle of Americans.
On July 4, 1826, during America’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 243. The two political rivals were two of the last three surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence, leaving only Charles Carroll of Maryland alive. Id. President John Quincy Adams, learning of his father’s death and Jefferson’s death, remarked that it was a “‘visible and palpable mark of Divine favor,’ to the nation, and most of his countrymen agreed.” Id. quoting James Morton Smith, The Republic of Letters (New York, 1995), II, 1973-74.
Not long after the election of 1820, an essentially uncontested election seeing the re-election of President James Monroe, the campaigning for the election of 1824 began. President Monroe had indicated that he would not seek an unprecedented third term as president, but that did not stop others from posturing for the election. As a journalist observed in the spring of 1822, “electioneering begins to wax hot.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 203 quoting James F. Hopkins, “Election of 1824,” in History of American Presidential Elections, ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (New York, 1985), 363.
Benjamin Lincoln wrote a series of articles in the Boston Magazine and Independent Chronicle that would touch on many of the same subjects as John Adams in his Defence of the Constitution. See Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 576.
Despite the optimism surrounding the Revolution, John Adams had taken a different tact.
“Centinel” [Samuel Bryan] I
Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia), October 5, 1787
Following are a series of excerpts: Read more
As the American Revolution approached “most Americans had become convinced that they were ‘aptly circumstanced to form the best republicks, upon the best terms that ever came to the lot of any people before us.'” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 98 quoting Phila. Pa. Packet, Feb. 12, 1776; Purdie’s Wmsbg. Va. Gazette, May 17, 1776.
Americans had a keen understanding of the idea, popularized by Montesquieu, that “only a small homogeneous society whose interests were essentially similar could properly sustain a republican government.” Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 356. This idea created a fundamental problem for America: it was not a small homogeneous society, and it was rapidly expanding.