The American Story

Divine, Robert A. The American Story. 3rd ed. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007.
Source Type
Secondary
Year
2007
Publication Type
Book
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story, 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 355.
Body Summary:
Clay's compromise plan, proposed in February 1850, took several months to get through Congress. One obstacle was President Taylor's firm resistance to the proposal; another was the difficulty of getting congressmen to vote for it in the form of a single package or "omnibus bill." Few politicians from either section were willing to go on record as supporting the key concessions to the other section. The logjam was broken in July by two crucial developments: President Taylor died and was succeeded by Millard Fillmore, who favored the compromise; and a decision was made to abandon the omnibus strategy in favor of a series of measures that could be voted on separately.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York:  Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 364-365.
Body Summary:
The Republican nominating convention revealed the strictly sectional nature of the new party. Only a handful of the delegates from the slave states attended, and all of these were from the upper South. The platform called for liberation of Kansas from the slave power and for congressional prohibition of slavery in all territories. The nominee was John C. Frémont, explorer of the West and participant in the conquest of California during the Mexican-American War.  

The Democrats nominated James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, who had a long career in public service. Their platform endorsed popular sovereignty in the territories. The American party, a Know-Nothing remnant that survived mainly as the rallying point for anti-Democratic conservatives in the border states and parts of the South, chose ex-President Millard Fillmore as its standard-bearer and received the backing of those northern Whigs who hoped to revive the tradition of sectional compromise.

The election was really two separate races – one in the North, where the main contest was between Frémont and Buchanan, and the other in the South, which pitted Fillmore against Buchanan, and the other in the South, which pitted Fillmore against Buchanan. With strong southern support and narrow victories in four crucial northern states – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, and Illinois – Buchanan won the election. But the Republicans did remarkably well for a party that was scarcely more than a year old. Frémont won eleven of the sixteen free states, sweeping the upper North with substantial majorities and winning a larger proportion of the northern popular vote than either of his opponents.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story, 3rd ed., vol. 1. (New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 373.
Body Summary:
The Republican platform, like the nominee, was meant to broaden the party’s appeal in the North. Although a commitment to halt the expansion slavery remained, economic matters received more attention than they had in 1856.The platform called for a high protective tariff, endorsed free homesteads, and supported federal aid for internal improvements, especially a transcontinental railroad. The platform was cleverly designed to attract ex-Whigs to the Republican camp and accommodate enough renegade Democrats to give the party a solid majority in the northern states.

The Democrats failed to present a united front against this formidable challenge. When the party first met in Charleston in late April, Douglas commanded a majority of the delegates but was unable to win the two-thirds required for nomination because of unyielding southern opposition. He did succeed in getting the convention to endorse popular sovereignty as its slavery platform, but the price was a walkout by Deep South delegates who favored a federal slave code.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine et al., eds., The American Story, 3rd ed. (2 vols., New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 1: 371.
Body Summary:
A chain of events in late 1859 and early 1860 turned southern anxiety about northern attitudes and policies into a 'crisis of fear.'  The first of these incidents was John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859.  Brown, who had the appearance and manner of an Old Testament prophet, thought of himself as God's chosen instrument 'to purge this land with blood' and eradicate the sin of slaveholding.  On October 16, he led a small band of men, including five free blacks, across the Potomac River from his base in Maryland and seized the federal arsenal and armory in Harpers Ferry.  Brown's aim was to launch a guerilla war from havens in the Appalachians that would eventually extend to the plantation regions of the lower South.  But the neighboring slaves did not rise up to join him, and Brown's raiders were driven out of the armory and arsenal by the local militia and forced to take refuge in a fire-engine house.  There they held out until a force of U.S. marines commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee stormed their bastion.  In the course of the fighting, ten of Brown's men were killed or mortally wounded, along with seven of the townspeople and soldiers who opposed them.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 348.
Body Summary:
Between 1820 and 1840, an estimated 700,000 immigrants arrived in the United States, mainly from the British Isles and German-speaking areas of continental Europe. During the 1840s, this substantial flow suddenly became a flood. The largest single source of the new mass immigration was Ireland, but Germany was not far behind. Smaller contingents came from Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

The massive transatlantic movement had many causes; some people were “pushed” out of their homes while others were “pulled” toward America. The great push factor that caused 1.5 million Irish to forsake the Emerald Isle between 1845 and 1854 was the great potato blight, which brought famine to a population that subsisted on this single crop. Escape to America was made possible by the low fares then prevailing on sailing ships bound from England to North America. Ships involved in the timber trade carried their bulky cargoes from Boston or Halifax to Liverpool; as an alternative to returning to America partly in ballast, they packed Irish immigrants into their holds. The squalor and misery in these steerage accommodations were almost beyond belief.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story, 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York:  Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 368.
Body Summary:
While the Dred Scott case was being decided, leaders of the proslavery faction in Kansas concluded that the time was ripe to draft a constitution and seek admission to the Union as a slave state.  Since settlers with free-state views were now an overwhelming majority in the territory, the success of the plan required a rigged, gerrymandered election for convention delegates.  When it became clear the election was fixed, the free-staters boycotted it.  The resulting constitution, drawn up at Lecompton, was certain to be voted down if submitted to the voters in a fair election and sure to be rejected by Congress if no referendum of any kind was held.  To resolve this dilemma, supports of the constitution decided to permit a vote on the slavery proposition alone, giving the electorate the narrow choice of allowing or forbidding the future importation of slaves.  Since there was no way to vote for total abolition, the free-state majority again boycotted, thus allowing ratification of a constitution that protected existing slave property and placed no restriction on importations.  Meanwhile, the free-staters, who had finally gained control of the territorial legislature, authorized a second referendum on the constitution as a whole.  This time, the proslavery party boycotted the election, and the Lecompton constitution was overwhelmingly rejected.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story, 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York:  Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 369-370.
Body Summary:
In the series of debates that focused national attention on the Illinois senatorial contest, Lincoln hammered away at the theme that Douglas a covert defender of slavery because he was not a principled opponent of it. Douglas responded by accusing Lincoln of endangering the Union by his talk of putting slavery on the path to extinction. Denying that he was an abolitionist, Lincoln made a distinction between tolerating slavery in the South, where it was protected by the Constitution and allowing it to expand to places where it could legally be prohibited.  Restriction of slavery, he argued, had been the policy of the Founders, and it was Douglas and the Democrats who had departed from the great tradition of containing an evil that could not be immediately eliminated.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story, 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York:  Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 344.
Body Summary:
During the 1840s, rails extended beyond the northern eastern and Middle Atlantic states, and mileage increased more than threefold, reaching a total of more than 9000 miles by 1850. Expansion was even greater in the following decade, and by 1860, all the states east of the Mississippi had rail service. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, railroads cut deeply into the freight business of the canals and drove many of them out of business. The cost of hauling goods by rail decreased dramatically because of improved track construction and the introduction of powerful locomotives that could haul more cars.  

The development of railroads had an enormous effect on the economy as a whole. Although the burgeoning demand for iron rails was initially met mainly be importation from England, it eventually spurred development of the domestic iron industry. Since railroads required an enormous outlay of capital, their promoters pioneered new methods for financing business enterprise. At a time when most manufacturing and mercantile concerns were s still owned by families or partnerships, the railroad companies sold stock to the general public and helped to set the pattern for the separation of ownership and control that characterizes the modern corporation.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 359.
Body Summary:
Yet the Compromise of 1850 did serve for a short time as a basis for sectional peace. Southern moderate coalitions won out over radicals, but southern nationalism remained strong. Southerners demanded strict northern adherence to the compromise, especially to the Fugitive Slave Law, as the price for suppressing threats of secession. In the North, the compromise received greater support. The Fugitive Slave Law was unpopular in areas where abolitionism was particularly strong, and there were a few sensational rescues or attempted rescues of escaped slaves. But for the most part, the northern states adhered to the law during the next few years. When the Democrats and the Whigs approved or condoned the compromise in their 1852 platforms, it seemed that sharp differences on the slave issue had once again been banished from national politics.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine et al., eds., The American Story, 3rd ed. (2 vols., New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 1: 380-381.
Body Summary:
South Carolina, which had long been in the forefront of southern rights and proslavery agitation, was the first state to secede, doing so on December 20, 1860, at a convention meeting in Charleston. The constitutional theory behind secession was that the Union was a "compact" among sovereign states, each of which could withdraw from the Union by the vote of a convention similar to the one that had ratified the Constitution in the first place. The south Carolinians justified seceding at that time by charging that “a sectional party” had elected a president “whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.”

In other states of the Cotton Kingdom, there was similar outrage at Lincoln’s election but less certainty about how to respond to it. Those who advocated immediate secession by each state individually were opposed by the “cooperationists,” who believed the slave states should act as a unit. If the cooperationists had triumphed, secession would have been delayed until a southern convention had agreed on it. Some of these moderates hoped a delay would provide time to extort major concessions from the North and thus remove the need for dissolving the Union. But South Carolina’s unilateral action set a precedent that weakened the cooperationists’ cause.
Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story, 3rd ed. (2 vols., New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 1: 323-324.
Body Summary:
The battle to participate equally in the antislavery crusade made a number of women abolitionists acutely aware of male dominance and oppression. For them, the same principles that justified the liberation of the slaves also applied to the emancipation of women from all restrictions on their rights as citizens. In 1840, Garrison’s American followers withdrew from the first World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London because the sponsors refused to seat the women in their delegation. Among the women thus excluded were Lucretia  Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Wounded by men's reluctance to extend the cause of emancipation to include women, Stanton and Mott organized a new and independent movement for women's rights. The high point of their campaign was the famous convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. The Declaration of Sentiments issued by this first national gathering of feminists charged that the history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her." It went on to demand that all women be given the right to vote and that married women be freed from unjust laws giving husbands control of their property, persons, and children.

Citation:
Robert A. Divine, et al., The American Story 3rd ed., vol. 1 (New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 325-326.
Body Summary:
It was a literary and philosophical movement known a transcendentalism that inspired the era’s most memorable experiments in thinking and living on a higher plane. The main idea was that the individual could transcend material reality and ordinary understanding, attaining through a higher form of reason – or intuition – a oneness with the universe as a whole and with the spiritual forces that lay behind it. Transcendentalism was the major American version of the romantic and idealist thought that emerged in the early nineteenth century. Throughout the Western world, romanticism was challenging the rationalism and materialism of the Enlightenment. Most American transcendentalists were Unitarians or ex-Unitarians who were dissatisfied with the sober rationalism of their denomination and sought a more intense kind of spiritual experience.

Their prophet was Ralph Waldo Emerson, a brilliant essayist and lecturer who preached that each individual could commune directly with a benign spiritual force that animated nature and the universe, which he called the “oversoul.” A radical individualist committed to “self-culture” and “the sufficiency of the private man,” Emerson avoided all involvement in organized movements or associations because he believed they limited the freedom of the individual to develop inner resources and find a personal path to spiritual illumination. In the vicinity of Emerson’s home in Concord, Massachusetts, a group of like-minded seekers of truth and spiritual fulfillment gathered during the 1830s and 1840s.

Citation:
Robert A. Divine et al., eds., The American Story, 3rd ed. (2 vols., New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007), 1: 398.
Body Summary:
In the West, however, a major Union triumph was taking shape. For more than a year, General Ulysses S. Grant had been trying to put his forces in position to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, the almost inaccessible Confederate bastion that kept the North from controlling the Mississippi River. Finally, in late March 1863, he crossed to the west bank north of the city and moved his forces to a point south of it, where he joined up with naval forces that had run the Confederate batteries mounted on Vicksburg’s high bluffs. In one of the boldest campaigns of the war, Grant crossed the river, deliberately cutting himself off from his sources of supply, and marched into the interior of Mississippi. Living off the land and out of communication with an anxious and perplexed Lincoln, his troops won a series of victories over two separate Confederate armies and advanced on Vicksburg from the east. After unsuccessfully assaulting the city’s defenses, Grant settled down for a siege on May 22.
How to Cite This Page: "The American Story," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/18949.