The American Spirit

Bailey, Thomas A. and David M. Kennedy. The American Spirit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
Source Type
Secondary
Year
1998
Publication Type
Book
Citation:
Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, eds., The American Spirit, 9th ed., vol.1 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), 421-22.
Body Summary:
Dred Scott, an illiterate Missouri slave, was taken by his master for several years (1834-1838) to the free state of Illinois and then to a portion of Wisconsin Territory now located in the state of Minnesota. The Minnesota area was then free territory, since it lay north of the line of 36 30’ established by the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (subsequently repealed in 1854). Scott, taken in hand by interested abolitionists, sued for his freedom on the grounds of residence on free soil. The case was appealed from the circuit court to the Supreme Court, which grappled with several basic questions: Was a slave a citizen under the Constitution? (If not, he was not entitled to sue in federal courts.) Was Dred Scott rendered free by residence in Wisconsin Territory, under the terms of the Missouri Compromise? The Court, headed by the pro-Southern Chief Justice Roger Taney of the slaveholding state of Maryland, ruled as follows.
Citation:
Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, eds., The American Spirit, 9th ed. (2 vols., Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), 1: 426-27.
Body Summary:
The fanatical abolitionist John Brown plotted a large slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry in western Virginia.  Purchasing arms with about $3,000 provided by sympathetic Northern abolitionists, he launched his abortive enterprise with a score of men, including two of his own sons.  Wounded and captured, after the loss of several innocent lives, he was given every opportunity to pose as a martyr while being tried.  he was found guilty of three capital offenses: conspiracy with slaves, murder, and treason.  Most of the abolitionists who had financed his enterprise ran for cover, although many of them had evidently not known of his desperate plan to attack a federal arsenal and bring down on himself the Washington government.  The Southerners were angered by the widespread expressions of sympathy for Brown in the North.  A week after the raid, the influential Richmond Enquirer wrote…”the Harper’s Ferry invasion has advanced the cause of Disunion more than any other event…since the formation of the government; it has rallied to that standard men who formerly looked upon it with horror; it has revived, with tenfold strength, the desire of a Southern Confederacy.”
Citation:
Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, eds., The American Spirit, 9th ed., vol.1 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), 422-433.
Body Summary:
Yet by 1857 Kansas had enough people, chiefly free-soilers, to apply for statehood on a popular sovereignty basis. The proslavery forces, then in the saddle, devised a tricky document known at the Lecompton Constitution. The people were not allowed to vote for or against the constitution as a whole, but for the constitution either "with slavery" or "with no slavery." If they voted against slavery, one of the remaining provisions of the constitution would protect the owners of slaves already in Kansas. So whatever the outcome, there would still be black bondage in Kansas. Many free-soilers, infuriated by this trick, boycotted the polls. Left to themselves, the slaveryites approved the constitution with slavery late in 1857.

The scene next shifted to Washington. President Pierce had been succeeded by the no-less-pliable James Buchanan, who was also strongly under southern influence. Blind to sharp divisions within his own Democratic Party, Buchanan threw the weight of his administration behind the notorious Lecompton Constitution. But Senator Douglas, who had championed true popular sovereignty, would have none of this semipopular fraudulency. Deliberately tossing away his strong support in the south for the presidency, he fought courageously for fair play and democratic principles. The outcome was a compromise that, in effect, submitted the entire Lecompton Constitution to a popular vote. The free-soil voters thereupon thronged to the polls and snowed it under. Kansas remained a territory until 1861, when the southern secessionists left Congress.
Citation:
Clarence L. Ver Steeg, American Spirit: A History of the United States (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1985), 387.
Body Summary:
Despite promising signs that the Compromise of 1850 would be accepted, differences over slavery did not end.  In 1851 an escaped salve named Shadrach was arrested in Boston.  He was rescued by a group of fellow blacks.  "The rescue of Shadrach" wrote antislavery supporter Wendell Phillips, "has set the whole public afire."  A Maryland slave owner, reclaiming two of his runaway slaves in Pennsylvania, was killed by a mob.  In New York, a well known black named James Hamlet was captured.  A Maryland woman claimed that he was a runaway.  Hamlet was taken directly to Maryland without a court hearing and without being allowed to see his wife and children.  These acts touched off public outcries.
How to Cite This Page: "The American Spirit," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/18940.