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 1857, the United States Supreme Court decided one of the most controversial cases in the history of the country. Just days after James Buchanan began his term as president, Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the opinion for the Court, ruling that neither slaves nor freedmen could be citizens of the United States. The implications of this decision, and its reasoning, have been analyzed, dissected, and discussed since 1857. While many have concluded it is one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions, its impact on Antebellum America should not be overlooked.
In 1844, Asa Whitney, a merchant in New York, proposed that a transcontinental railroad be built. While he hoped to lead the construction of the railroad and reap the benefits of the ambitious project, that was not to be. However, three components of his plan captured the spirit of Americans toward the construction of the railroad: “There must be a railroad to the Pacific; it must be financed by grants of public lands along the route; and it must be built by private interests which received these grants.” David Potter, The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861, 146. Read more
During the controversy surrounding the Missouri Compromise, those who advocated for restricting slavery had been interpreted by southerners as encouraging insurrection. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 161.
With the creation of the Missouri Compromise came a second controversy for Missouri. Some northerners threatened “not to consent to the Missouri constitution when it came back to Congress for final approval.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 156. Henry Clay, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, led the effort to solving this second controversy.
By 1819, the area west of the Mississippi River, known as the Missouri Territory, had obtained a population qualifying it to be admitted to the Union. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1819-1848, 147. The only requirement to be admitted was that an enabling act be presented to Congress “authorizing Missouri voters to elect a convention to draft a state constitution.” Id. That bill was proposed, but Representative James Tallmadge proposed an amendment prohibiting further “importation of slavery” and “all children of slaves born after Missouri’s admission to the Union should become free at the age of twenty-five.” Id. This provoked great “consternation in the House of Representatives.” Id. citing Annals of Congress, 15th Cong., 2nd sess., 1170.