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In the 19th century, Americans sought to resolve their political disputes through

compromise, yet by 1860 this no longer seemed possible. Analyze the reasons for
this change.
Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 18201860 in constructing
your response.

Spend the first ten minutes organizing your thoughts: outline, evidence, argument.
Then write your essay.

Keifer Ludwig
CA sectionalism essay
April 2, 2014
Leading Up to The Civil War: This Time Its Personal

Between 1820 and 1860, the tone of political life changed dramatically. But
what was responsible for the change from slight sectionalist tensions to the bloodiest
war in American history? This transition can be best exemplified in newspaper and
political documents published in the North and the South during this time. These
documents go to emphasize that through 1820-1860 sectionalism became less of a
dispute of moral beliefs, and more of a dispute of sectional identity. Identity, instead
of belief, was something on which neither side was willing to compromise. And this
conflict imploded with the election of Abraham Lincoln.
Initially, compromise was a viable option because slavery was rooted in
belief, and not identity. And compromise was necessary. The expansion of American
territory effected sectionalist tensions about which ideologies would be represented.
The North was concerned that if slavery expanded with each new territory, they
would be outweighed in representation in congress, and the institution of slavery
would become national. Out of sectionalist anxieties, the North tried to stop new
states from becoming slave states. The South, in turn, felt stymied in representation
of the possibility of the new states becoming free states. Like the North, they wanted
their opinions and economy represented in congress, and so they pushed for slavery
to expand with the new states. Because this conflict was, at first, just a political
matter, compromise was feasible. William Lloyd Garrisons ideology of immediatism
was considered radical, and published documents saying that he would, strenuously
contend for the immediate enfranchisement of [the] slave population, didnt reflect
wide-held beliefs (Doc A). In fact, the majority of opinions were contrary to those of
William Lloyd Garrison and his constituents. Other than the Quakers, and several
northerners, the public only disliked the spread of slavery, the institution of slavery
itself was perfectly acceptable. In response, the Gag Rule, a react to William Lloyd
Garrison, and incipient moral suasion, was proposed, with the intention of, restoring
tranquility to the public mind, (Doc C). The Gag Rule stated that [a]ll petitions,
memorials, propositions, or papers relating in any way or to any extent whatsoever,
to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall...be laid on the table
[with]...no further action, (Doc C). Even Senator John C. Calhoun claimed that
[a]boliton and the Union cannot co-exist, (Doc D). But the treatment of abolitionist
ideas would change in the coming decade, and there would be more of a tolerance
for such arguments.
As American territory expanded, slavery was brought more and more into the
political forefront, and it began to define the distinct sectional identities of different
political parties. The Wilmot Proviso, an act proposed in 1846, called for the
immediate end of the expansion of slavery into new territory. The act stated that,
neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of [the newly
acquired] territory [from the Republic of Mexico], (Doc E). Although this proposal did
not pass, it did show that the institution of slavery was becoming a more prevalent
topic. The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrisons anti-slavery newspaper, began to
successfully release fliers and articles to the public all over America. Slavery was
becoming more of a national issue. No longer could bills like the Gag Rule stop the
conversations, the arguments became too numbered, and the topic became
increasingly pressing.
Finally, in the 1850s, ones belief about the institution of slavery became
rooted in their identity, and this conflict culminated over the reaction after the election
of Abraham Lincoln. In a speech in 1852, Frederick Douglass, an orator and former
slave, summarized the extent of Northern fears precisely in saying that, slavery has
been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form, (Doc H). The criticisms of
slavery were now everywhere, and the responses, by section of the country, differed
greatly. The South became synonymous with people who desired the expansion of
slavery, and The North became synonymous with people who desired the abolition
of the institution. If any portion of the South demands more than is granted in this
plan of settlement, the demand is preposterous, stated the Detroit Free Press about
the Kansas-Nebraska Act, an act that failed in its entirety (Doc M). Here, the paper
stated that the South was getting territory, implying that the North was losing
territory, pitting the sections against each other. No longer was this a battle between
the ideas of slave and non-slave, but the ideas of North and South. And so it
became apparent that the argument of slavery became less of a reflection of beliefs,
and more of a reflection of identity. In this way, the Civil War began far before any
actual battles took place. The violent sectionalist battle became part of the
respective sectional cultures, as J.L. Magee depicted Southern Chivalry as Rep.
Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner over the head with a cane, incapacitating him
for four years (Doc M). The North and the South were losing their eagerness to
compromise. All northern...states are devoid of society for well-bred southern
gentleman, spat the Herald in 1856 (Doc N). And finally, the division of the country
became truly apparent in the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Not a southern
state voted for him, and not a northern state voted against him (Doc S). It was quite
clear that the country was no longer in harmony. The election led to the immediate
secession of many southern states, and eventually the Civil War.