America between 1790 and 1860
America between 1790 and 1860 was going through a transformation that later shaped the history of this nation. The country has just gained independence back in 1776 and was going through changes like any other young nation. There were several issues that were threatening to tear apart the union one of them being the thorny issue of expansion. Expansionist in the south were interested in continuation of slavery and their main aim was to gain more states so that they can have more power in the congress to enable them advance their cause which had supported their economy.
The issue of slavery drew the line between the two sections of America. There are states that wanted slavery to be abolished and proper mechanisms be put in place to free all the slaves whereas other states especially the southern part did not support this sentiment; they wanted to continue owning the slaves as their economy largely depended on their services. Slavery had started way back in 1619 in Virginia, by the time the American Revolution was ending most of the Northern states had abandoned it while the Southern states continued with the institution.
The issue of slavery dominated most part of the nineteenth century starting with the compromise of the 1820 followed by the nullification crisis and the anti slavery Gag. The debate was coming to an end with the compromise of the 1850 but the matter could not end there as it brought other issues which culminated into a full scale war which is popularly referred to as the American Civil war. This war started in 1860 and was largely as a result of the slave issue between the northern and southern states. (Foner, E 1981 56)
During the first census that was carried in United States in 1790 there were 694,207 slaves, the number increased to 887612 in 1800. Ten years later the population of the slaves had grown to 1,130,781. This showed that the number of slaves in America was increasing after the declaration of the independence. This was partly because of the natural increase of the population and the trade of slaves in the Southern states. The Southern states largely depended on slavery for their economic survival. These slaves were owned by the plantations owners who depended on their free labor for the production of different crops most dominant being cotton.
To these landowners slavery was a way of life as they played a big role in their economic wellbeing. Abolition of slavery and ultimate freeing of slaves would be a big blow to them and their states as they would be greatly affected by the shortage of labor which has been freely provided by the slaves. (Stampp, K 1990 123) John Calhoun one of the strongest proponents of slavery described this institution as positively good requiring protection as it was beneficial to all those who were involved including the slaves themselves.
Calhoums sentiments have been largely attributed to be one of the catalysts of Southerners actions and their dedication to keep their economic life line. Although he did not have any intention for America to breakaway this slavery proponent has been closely associated with the secession process as his sentiments and strong defense of the slavery institution formed the basis of its advancement In the first half the nineteenth century the southerners led by their politicians defended slavery through retaining the majority control of the federal government.
They benefited from the fact that most of the presidents were coming from the South. There was a concerted effort to balance the free and slaves states. It was a battle for power between the two sides. Each saw the other as a real threat. As more states continued to join the Union new compromises had to be made so that a balance could be maintained between the two sides. The balance kept on being upset as new states joined, once in 1820 when Maine joined as a free state and in 1850 when California came in as a free state also. (Foner, E 1981 56)
The gap continued to widen as changes continued to occur in the two regions. The Northern states which were more inclined towards the industrialization whereas the Southern counterparts embraced the agrarian plantation economy. North was experiencing a higher population growth due to the high birth rates and the coming of the European immigrants into the area. The South on the other hand was experiencing a slow economic growth. They saw this as a real threat as the balance would soon be tilted towards the Northern states giving them more power as far as the control of the federal government was concerned.
They feared that a strongly anti slavery president may be elected due to the as more free states population continued to increase threatening their economy which was largely supported by the free labor from the slave population. This political issue that is largely believed to have moved the nation into conflict was more of an economic affair. Each region wanted to have the ultimate control of the federal government so that they can be in a position to advance their causes.
The southerners could not have wanted a situation where there were more free states than those which supported slaves as this would spell doom to their economies making them vulnerable to the Northerners. Slavery was such a sensitive issue to them as they could not have supported their economy with any other economic activity apart from plantation agriculture. (Freehling, W 1991 154) The issue of slavery continued to divide the nation for a long time there were different occasion when there were attempt to solve the conflict through compromise.
All the differences were as a result of the fear that one side may yield more power and have the full control of the federal union threatening the interests of the other side. The south slave states threatened to secede if their issues were not addressed, though not all the slave states at first agreed with this idea, they eventually rallied behind the cause of secession something that led to the war which has been described as the bloodiest in the history of America. This war was as a result of a disagreement on the issue of slavery.
One side relied heavily on this institution for its economic survival where the north this institution was regarded as evil, they looked at it as a moral issue. Though not everybody was for this institution to be abolished in the south the issue had become a divisive factor as it touched on the core point of survival. (Adam, E 1959 85) When the South came to realize that their control of the federal union was slipping towards the north they began to come up with other issues that would have saved their day and continue enjoying the services offered by the slaves.
To them they were on the brink of losing out on the spirited fight by the Free states muzzling their influence so that the institution can be done away all the same. This would be a big blow to the plantation owners as they would loose out on their main economic activity or the cost of production would go up as they would be forced to pay for the services which they have enjoyed for free for so long. The Southern states brought the constitution issue into the picture.
They argued that states should be granted their right as stated in the constitution. The brought forth this argument as a method of protecting slavery. They argued that the federal government was barred by the federal constitution precisely the tenth amendment from impinging on the rights of the slaveholders. They stated that the constitution does not allow the government to interfere with the slavery especially on the states where this institution already existed. (Robinson, A 2004 67)
The South felt that through these constructive interpretation of the federal constitution there attempt to continue with the slavery in their states would protected even with a free states controlled federal government. They had other option available at their disposal in cases the issue of the constitution failed to deliver their expectation. They would apply the nullification option or opt for the secession if their interest were threatened. They were determined to keep their economy going and given the fact that the slaves were important towards this cause they could not easily let it go.
They were ready to leave the union and form their own federation which would look at their interest. They were ready to move away and install a system that would have the interests of the southerners at heart. (Meyers, D 2005 102) The abolitionist further heightened the issue of slavery when they joined the North adherents of this cause. They felt that it was morally wrong to continue with this dehumanizing institution. It just made the society unequal where people who some members of the American society considered inferior are subjected to hard labor without proper compensation.
They vehemently supported the campaign to end this evil which they referred to as peculiar institution. Upon the rise of the abolitionist there arose a nationwide debate where the southern stood to their ground basing their argument from the bible where the institution existed with the blessing of the religion. The abolitionist also based their argument from the bible where they argued that all men should be equal where no one subjected the other to unfair treatment without the due compensation.
The tension between the two sides continued to an extent where cracks started in the two major political parties. Following the Kansas crisis and the compromise that had been reached earlier in 1850 the two major political parties the democrats and the Whigs started to disintegrate along the regional lines. The Whigs in the north largely formed a new party which came to be known as the Republicans. This party which was formed in 1854 was an anti slavery party which offered the vision for the future which laid more emphasis on the education and industrialization for all.
Although the presidential candidate for this anti slavery party was defeated in the elections the party scored well in the North proving to be the future party for this region. With the division that was prevalent in the political arena the battle lines had been drawn, with the election in 1860 approaching there was no candidate who had a national appeal. This was a signal that an eminent change was on the way. The issue of slavery had divided the country further along the party lines. With the Lincoln win in the presidential election the south had a good reason to secede.
A declaration was made where South Carolina seceded followed by other southern states. This marked the beginning of the war as the local forces began to take the control of the federal forts. The stand off between the two sides on the issues among them the freeing of the slaves led to the war that has been described as the turning point for this country. This issue was so divisive such that both sides did not want to loose the glimpse. This led to a conflict that lasted the most of the first part of the nineteenth century.
Work Cited Foner, E Politics and Ideology: In the Age of Civil War, New York, Oxford University Press (1981) Stampp, K America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink, New York, Oxford University Press (1990) Robinson, A Bitter Fruits of Bondage, Charlottesville University of Virginia Press (2005) Freehling, W The Road to Disunion: Secessionist at Bay, Oxford University Press (1991) Adam, E Great Britain and the American Civil War, Plain Label Books (1959) Meyers, D And the War Came, New York, Algora Publishing (2005)Sample Essay of Custom-Writing