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Discuss the evolution of American philosophies or ideals.slave codes

Reading Assignment
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit VII
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
8. Discuss the evolution of American philosophies or ideals.
Reading Assignment
Schur, J. (n.d.). Eli Whitney’s patent for the cotton gin. Retrieved from
Whitman, W. (n.d.). Leaves of grass. Retrieved from
In order to access the articles below, you must first log into the myCSU Student Portal and access the
America: History and Life with Full Text database within the CSU Online Library.
Fountain, D. L. (2014). A broader footprint: Slavery and slaveholding households in antebellum piedmont
North Carolina. North Carolina Historical Review, 91(4), 407-444.
Rousey, D. C. (2001). Friends and foes of slavery: Foreigners and northerners in the old South. Journal Of
Social History, 35(2), 373.
Unit Lesson
Jim Crow was not a President, Senator, or Congressman; he was not even a local figure of power. Jim
Crow was a minstrel show character portrayed most famously by T.D. ?Daddy? Rice in the early
nineteenth century. However, there is absolutely no doubt that this fictional personification of racism and
subjugation ranks among the most influential icons of the American antebellum period, and it is still
recognizable today.
Western Expansion &
the Antebellum South
“I wheel about an’ turn about And do jis’ so And ebry time I wheel about I
jump Jim Crow.” ? T.D. “Daddy” Rice (as cited in ?Antebellum Period
Quotes,? 2014, para 1).
(Thomas Rice as Jim Crow, n.d.)
HY 1110, American History I 2
From the earliest days of the American colonies, amongst the feelings of unification, freedom from unlawful
taxation, and desire to self-govern, there were also feelings of great division and entitlement across the
American settlements. So far, we have discussed several of these debates, but the one that remained
constant was the question of what ?freedom? really meant.
Evils of Slavery
Even today in America, there are conflicting teachings of what the true catalysts of the Civil War were. For the
South, the ?War of Northern Aggression? was a direct attack by subjecting the Southern economy for the pure
benefit of Northern industry, which threatened the agricultural culture and virtues that Jefferson had
represented so famously. As we will review later, however, slavery was not a universal good for all
Southerners. In fact, in the years leading up to, and during, the war, there were well-established regions of
anti-slavery sentiment in every future Confederate state, save one: South Carolina.
For the North, with the exception of the few wealthy outliers who benefitted from the transport and sale of
Southern goods, slavery was being viewed more and more clearly as an unnecessary evil?one that had
already been banned in many European nations. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political observer, noted as
early as 1831 how obvious the slavery question was in the ongoing disputes between the two sides. However,
just as labor was a question in the South, so it would be in the North as well, but in a different way: what
would the immediate increase of the American population by hundreds of thousands of former slaves looking
for any kind of work do to the already overcrowded, unskilled labor pool growing daily due to immigrants?
The one major question that plagued anti-slavery advocates on both sides was straightforward enough: was
abolition beneficial to the future of the growing American citizenry? Could slavery be abolished without
jeopardizing the American dream? Pondering this question, we turn our focus to the antebellum era in the
visibly divided South. As we left off in the last unit, with the success of the Market and Transportation
Revolutions, the focus of the nation was the American West. And like almost everything, there were two clear
political agendas requiring the attention of the voting public.
Roots of the Economy
Perhaps an argument can be made, though unfairly, that
Eli Whitney should be blamed for the growth of slavery in
the nineteenth century. His 1793 cotton gin, whose
simplistic function was to comb tiny sticky green seeds
from white cotton fibers, can be considered the tool that
made cotton production profitable, so much so that the
Southeast United States (with westward expansion now
being an appropriate label) was dubbed by many as a
?cotton kingdom.? (For more information see
.) This crop was not new to the plantation owners.
Cotton was a luxury for any who could afford it, because at
one time it was too slow and labor-intensive to process to
justify using otherwise rich farm land to grow it.
Due to the cotton gin?s development, new territories emerged throughout the nation, but it was the Southern
states that caused significant concerns on the federal level. The annexation of Texas soon spread into
population development in Arkansas and other areas of prime cotton growth. Now so outrageously lucrative
because of Whitney?s invention, areas that could grow the crop, generally those below the Mason-Dixon Line,
rebounded. Many of these regions had suffered from an economic lull caused by better technologies and
exhausted soil in previous decades, and the need for inexpensive unskilled labor led to the shipment of over a
million new laborers from Africa. By 1860, these laborers more than doubled the slave population and made
up three out of four people in the South, a number that shattered the statistics from the Middle Passage. The
question quickly became whether a state would be a ?slave? or ?free? state. This is a discussion that we will
pick up again later, with the Missouri Compromise.
By the 1820s, the South had already dealt with a significant assault on the culture and labor question, most of
which were blamed exclusively on the increasing northern industrial base. In order to ensure the continued
demand and need for slave labor, the laws of many Southern states would evolve to include a series of laws
Example of an industrial-style cotton gin
(Murray, 2005)
HY 1110, American History I 3
called the ?slave codes? which, in short, legalized ideas and actions of White superiority and Black inferiority.
These laws granted owners complete and total rights to treat their slaves as nothing other than working tools,
or perhaps more appropriately, livestock. With a few exceptions, owners decided every aspect of a slave?s
life, including relationships, food, shelter, clothing, and even if the slaves would share basic commonalities
such as language. This last had become a major concern after a pattern of rebellions, such as Nat Turner?s
Raid, had ravaged slave-owning communities.
Forms of Slave Labor
Ways in which this treatment was regulated had many sides. On the farm, the three most common forms of
labor would be field labor (by a wide margin), house labor (which grew in popularity first in all colonies), and
finally artisan labor for those with a skill. Artisan roles can be somewhat misleading by name. For many, this
meant the slave had shown an exceptional talent with a skill or necessary job that benefitted their masters
financially, such as carpentry, mechanics, or working with livestock. For some, this would mean being loaned
out to people in exchange for a stipend to the master; for others, their work would remain closer to the
plantation. This position was generally Southern-focused for a few reasons, including that high migrations led
to labor needs, slaves were a threat to even low-paying opportunities, and because many of the Southern
laws concerning slaves were not followed or respected in Northern states.
House slaves may sound initially like the preferred situation of the three. These slaves stayed in the master?s
house and would generally serve as cooks, caretakers, maids, and child care, and they were fed and clothed
appropriately. This, however, was usually only a public face.
All too often, house labor was dominated by females, depending on the required skill, and, especially in
houses with many men, unique abuses were committed, varying from verbal to physical or even sexual
abuse. In houses with a master and wife, infidelity by the master could lead to negative reaction by the wife
toward the slave, causing contact unwanted by the slave to lead to additional physical harm from the master?s
wife. Perhaps the most heinous fate for these women (all too often young girls) was a complete separation
from their families and communities of support, described below. It is not so hard to believe, then, that these
house slaves were generally found to be the most likely to attempt to flee, especially in cases of chaos or
danger from the work of anti-slavery advocates.
The overwhelming majority of slaves, and the most common image associated with slavery during this period,
were in the fields. Approximately three out of four slaves would be field workers. In the Lower South, for
example, where planting would last for 9-10 months of the year, these laborers would work from daybreak to
dusk with only a break for lunch and maybe some opportunities for hydration, depending on the master. The
further south the plantation, generally the worse the conditions, and all too often the more dangerous the
situation. This was not lost on slave owners in the Chesapeake, especially, who could use the threat of
sending a slave ?down the river? (south) to literally instill fear.
The Slave Community
For most slaves, night was a time for community. Food wise, most plantation slaves were given only scraps of
unwanted meat from the master?s kitchen and either cornmeal or rice (as they were often the cheapest
available staples) to eat, but the community made sure man, woman, and child were fed. And this was
important for the master as well, who needed his labor to be fit for work to guarantee a return on investment.
These communities served other purposes as well. As a community of family, children, whether they had a
mother or father or not, would call other slaves names like brother, sister, aunt, and uncle. Some masters
even allowed slave marriages, though it was usually because it was deemed beneficial as an agent to calm
the more dangerous men and potentially breed new slaves. Individual families that were split up due to sale or
death would know that their child was in loving hands, even if not their own. The community was also a way to
ensure that important lessons were passed on about heritage and life skills. Some of the best known of the
stories survive, as spiritual hymns or folktales.
Perhaps the most famous collection of these folktales is Joel Chandler Harris?s anthology titled Uncle Remus
and Brer Rabbit (?Brother Rabbit?). These allegories were especially popular with children, White and Black,
as the main characters were general representations of outrageous attitudes personified by common animals
recognizable in the Chesapeake and Lower South. These included Br?er B?ar, the dim-witted strong man;
Br?er Fox, the devious schemer; Br?er Wolf, the overly aggressive enforcer; and finally Br?er Rabbit, the
HY 1110, American History I 4
trickster and hero. Even the narrator was painted as a jolly, soft-spoken, Uncle Tom (master apologist) type of
character who may have reminded the audience of a particular person, or persons, in the community.
Seen as harmless entertainment by masters, stories such as these were passed down as stories of survival,
quick thinking, and problem solving that were of realistic significance for children learning to survive a slave?s
life. The Harris collection retained its popularity through much of the twentieth century, even being turned into
a Disney movie called Song of the South. Both it and the book were only removed from regular circulation due
to recent advances in the removal of hate speech and growth of tolerance in the last few decades.
Slave Religion
The masters also played an important part in the spread of the Second Great Awakening. Slaves were often
dressed and brought to the master?s church, where they were segregated to the back or balcony and taught
sermons about obedience. In addition, warped views of how slavery benefitted the greatest empires, and how
even biblical heroes were slave masters, were presented. Also, this was a platform to instill the ideas of sin,
especially miscegenation, which masters hoped would protect their way of life. This helped the masters
secure a public sense of honor and chivalry, even if it was not true in private. Also appealing was that
Sundays were commonly days of rest, and sometimes even church festivals, such as Christmas, worked in
the master?s favor as reason to provide an off-season time of rest.
A separate community of faith would emerge on the plantation,
however, as slaves would develop their own practicing religion, often
in secret, and led by free men who found their ways onto the
plantation. Slave services were used to spread stories of freedom
from oppression and provide some opportunity to impart parts of the
African culture into American-born generations. Religious songs and
hymns were especially popular as they taught stories of
perseverance, such as that of Moses leading his people. Family
histories were also very popular to raise the spirit of the often
subjugated and downtrodden. It was from these secret services that
many modern traditions would emerge, including the spiritual type of
song/chant, some of the more passionate dances, and zealous
outcries that are still seen in many revivalist congregations today.
The call to these meetings was double-edged however. In the wake of rebellions and rising anti-slavery
sentiment, owners often feared large, spirited gatherings of slaves, which was why most of these plantation
Right: ?Uncle Remus and his deceitful jug?
(Church & Moser, 1881b)
Below: Illustration of Br?er Rabbit and Br?er
Wolf (Church F., & Moser, 1881a)
Illustration depicting the capture
of Nat Turner
(Shelton, ca. 1832-ca. 1876)
HY 1110, American History I 5
services were held in secret. Even then, such congregation only fueled the belief in the need for laws and
codes to arm the master against potential uprisings, such as that of Nat Turner.
The Slave Laws
Under the new slave codes, the White plantation master had all of the power that the law needed to provide
him to act on the idea of White superiority under a veil of paternalism. The following is a notable quote of the
?The slaves of a good master are his warmest, most constant, and most devoted friends.? ? Thomas
R. Dew, a Virginia planter. (as cited in Roark et. al., 2013, p. 337, para 1.)
While there are records of some slaves, especially on smaller farms, being treated with respect and kindness,
these were generally most common on poorer farms whose owners could not afford separate housing, or as a
part of a family without the luxury of numerous offspring. The horrific abuses on the significantly larger
plantations cast light on the horrors that slavery and legalized ownership of another human brought, no matter
the job, position, or location. These owners believed that the institution of slavery was a blessing that
removed class warfare, but the truth is that only elites could afford that lifestyle.
Even in the booming South, where cash crops supplied the vast majority of its exports, only one in four
families could afford slaves, and little more than one in ten actually had the means for an iconic plantation
house and assorted mills. As we will see, though slavery would be one of the essential elements of a
prosperous Southern economy, the slavery question was becoming as divided in the South as it was in the
North. There was still one big difference, however?the Southern reliance on slavery was growing, while the
mixed economy and rapid work demands shunned the practice in the North almost entirely.
As hinted at previously, as significant as the slave system was for the southern economy, and as drastic as
the population statistics politicized the voice of plantation owners, three out of four White citizens, including a
high number of farmers and those dependent on agriculture, actually did not own slaves. Some of these
farmers were lower class, others lived in terrain that was not sufficient for plantation style farming, and many
simply did not agree with the idea of ?owning? another person. In addition, even despite the rural agrarian
structure, there were growing cities in the South which echoed the same basic needs found in cities in the
North. Still, abolition was a dreadful idea to be considered by most southerners; even if not directly, the cash
crop was the life-blood of any town, and the concerns raised by abolitionists were met with great concern.
Climatic Impacts
Cotton was king in the South. But just as there had been both a
Chesapeake (Upper South) and Lower South during the tobacco
craze, again there was a geological and climatic divide in the
Southern territory. The plantation belt was just as it sounds: the
inland plains from South Carolina to Texas, which provided the most
opportune region for cotton growth. Towards the sea, other traditional
crops such as rice were still grown as well, as it was a relatively
cheap staple and would feed many of the inland slaves. The
Chesapeake region would be renamed the Upcountry, which now is
probably best recognized as the Appalachian Mountain range,
stretching along areas now known as North Kentucky, Tennessee,
North Carolina, and Virginia. It would be more geared toward the
growth of produce, and still in some areas, tobacco.
For these non-plantation southerners, separated from any large urban
areas, there was still a strong devotion and call toward the revivalist
congregations, community get-togethers, and opportunities to shop
their wares and meet neighbors. Education, although beginning to spread in areas such as Boston (as
discussed in a previous unit), was far from common in this region, so these social gatherings were important
for sharing stories, experiences, and discoveries with those of most immediate proximity. Interestingly
enough, despite the differences in perspective about the morality of slavery, Whites of all classes and walks
shared a common sense of superiority. Fear of what abolition might bring was a dangerous thought, as it was
Slaves harvesting cotton on a
(Picking cotton in the South, n.d.)
HY 1110, American History I 6
far from just the elites who had everything to lose. As the number of free Blacks strengthened throughout the
nineteenth century, this ideology of superiority was challenged, and fear grew.
In short, free Blacks were American citizens subjugated under the earliest forms of Jim Crow. The ?inalienable
rights? that Jefferson promised were not denied, but there was clear legal precedent in favor of the White man
over any claim of any other free man or woman, no matter how successful they might have been. Land,
service, opportunity, and benefit were all questionable. The elites had their wish; the law made Whites united
across class lines, even dropping class restrictions in politics, and that would be the way slavery continued
being considered a necessary evil.
Slavery?s Impact on the American West
This idea of a ?necessary evil? would gain additional traction as the Mexican-American War came to an end.
As we discussed in the previous unit, even foreign-held territories in the American West had generally been
welcoming to U.S. settlers who voluntarily pledged to abide by local customs and laws. Also, their presence
along the border regions was often of great use as a buffer with Native American tribes and potential
international threats. It was the unexpected change in policy that sparked the series of violent affairs
beginning with the Alamo.
Now, as the U.S. had successfully annexed Texas and much of the
former Spanish Southwest, and with a Gold Rush, among other
precious mineral rushes, taking place from Colorado to California,
Americans searching for their opportunity and a new life quickly
rushed to stake a claim. From the same Independence, Missouri, that
served as a starting point for the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail
would also thrive, becoming an important line of services while
transportation and communication infrastructure were built.
Briefly going back to last unit, tying up any political debate not focused on
slavery were the ongoings in the American West. With much of the former
Mexican and Spanish lands now officially in the hands of the United
States, and with the success of the Gold Rush at attracting immigrants,
the western coast was quickly growing with the same success as had
been seen in the East. The reason for debate, however, was again voting
rights. As states began to form borders, they would earn representation in
Washington D.C., but what had to be decided was the slavery question.
What emerged was a series of plans intended to settle the expansion
measure before any more states were welcomed into the union.
The 1848 Election
Looking back at the previous unit briefly, four key debate topics were at the core of Manifest Destiny:
1. Slave state vs. Free state votes
2. Whig vs. Republican platforms
3. Industry vs. Plantation economies
4. Slavery vs. Providence (religion)
From these stemmed much of the debate in regards to how these new lands would influence the political
balance in Washington D.C. To address these were a handful of political actions. The first, called the 1846
Wilmot Proviso after Pennsylvania congressman David Wilmot, said simply that because Mexico had already
forbidden slavery, that anti-slavery (free soil) is how these newly added lands should remain. Considering
how many of the most famous figures to fight in the war, from the Alamo to Santa Anna?s surrender, were
Southerners, this was a hotly contested perspective.
If the proviso passed, it meant two things: first, the remaining slave laws were essentially ?grandfathered? in.
Simply put, the standing tradition of laborers freely choosing their working conditions (free labor) received
rave support from the North and great disdain from the South, Uniquely, it was carried along geographical, not
Party, lines.
Prospector during the 1849
Gold Rush
(McClure, 1850)
HY 1110, American History I 7
The second outcome was that with this constraint in the West, ongoing anti-Southern sentiment in the North,
and a third (somewhat unexpected) support from northern segregationists who wanted lands free of other
races, the representation of slave states would quickly become the extreme minority in both chambers. For
most Southerners, slaveholders or not, this was considered a direct attack on the South?s culture, economy,
and society by a growing Northern majority with conflicting values. There was already a growing population
majority against slave states, as evidenced by the House vote. It was only by the slimmest of margins that the
slave states were able to defeat the measure in the Senate.
The next suggestion, called popular sovereignty, believed that part of a state?s application should include a
decision by popular vote of that territory?s citizens concerning which economic situation was preferred. What
killed this plan was disagreement in details. Slave states wanted the vote to be late in the process to give time
for slavery to show its economic benefit, while Northern states knew they could stuff the ballots quickly during
the first steps in statehood, and cut the head from the snake while it was still young.
In 1847, the key advocate for this plan was the Democratic Senator Lewis Cass from Michigan. Despite
its ill fate here, this is a plan that would become very instrumental over the next decade, even ironically
deciding a pivotal election as the nation was on the brink of division. There being no clear solution from
these debates, the issue would carry over to the 1848 election. Cass would be the Democratic
representative, and opposing him would be the war hero and Whig, Zachary Taylor, who had not
weighed in on the labor discussion in either direct
1848 would be representative of just how divided the nation was at this time, and the voting results made
it clear that geography was not the deciding factor. Interestingly,
because of Taylor?s silence on the matter, this would not be simply
a question of party politics. Taylor was from Mississippi and had
plantation properties in the Southeast. Southern Democrats saw
him as another Jackson: strong military tradition, planter, and
defender of agricultural rights.
The northern Democrats and Whigs feared what this could mean if he
were to be elected and decided to abdicate to form the first heavily
northern-biased party since the Federalists: the ?Free-Soil? Party. They
selected former President and Vice President Martin Van Buren to lead
them. Van Buren, like most third party candidates, did not make a dent in
the election. Winning zero electoral votes and barely ten percent of the
popular vote, if he made any waves at all, it was by taking popular votes
away from fellow northerner Cass. Many hoped that Taylor?s victory
would reunite the nation. His support ranged from Vermont to Florida,
and he scored every major state, save Virginia. What was not yet clear
was how the rise of the Free-Soil Party had hurt the two major parties.
Taylor was a man of immediate action. He felt that by striking quickly,
that there would be almost an entire four-year term to calm the fears of
the nation, giving the politics time to rebalance. As hopeful as this was, it
was not realistic. Taylor?s proactive attitude fit directly into the Northern
plan for a quick vote, denying the slave owners a chance to impact the economy. California and New Mexico
were the next likely territories to ratify, and under this plan, both would be free-soil states. Many spoke out,
including Henry Clay of Kentucky, who argued for compromise and was probably lucky to still be welcomed
home, followed by Ohio?s Salmon P. Chase, who offered an opposing perspective, and finally Mississippi?s
fiery Henry S. Foote, who would have probably started a raid against Clay had the Northern delegates not
dominated Congress. South Carolina?s John C. Calhoun, a veteran politician and former Vice President, gave
perhaps the most worrying prediction: ?As things now stand, [?the South] cannot with safety remain in the
Compromise of 1850
Almost poetically, Zachary Taylor, the hope for reunification, died in office in July 1850 before a decision was
made, and Millard Fillmore would oversee the next stages of debate. Despite his upbringing, Taylor was a
nationalist who literally confronted any secessionist talk face-to-face. He understood what it meant to
preserve the union, and his temper earned him the name ?Old Rough and Ready.? He famously said that
Characterization of the Whig
candidate, whether it be Taylor or
(Currier, 1848)
HY 1110, American History I 8
anyone ?taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang ? with less reluctance than he had hanged
deserters and spies in Mexico.? With this dedication to service, it should be no surprise that Taylor?s son,
Richard, would become a general himself. Ironically, however, Richard would be in the service of the
Confederate Army, and a brother-in-law to future Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
After a series of hot tempers and refusals, the outcome would be the Compromise of 1850. It essentially
opened California as a free-soil state, decreed that states that were already pro-slave would be grandfathered
in, and that any future territories would be given the opportunity to vote. This was essentially Clay?s original
plan, but it came from a much less imposing political presence, the relatively young Senator from Illinois,
Stephen Douglas. It included two stipulations: an end to the slave trade in Washington DC, which was
technically located between two slave states, and the Fugitive Slave Act, which guaranteed that any runaway
slaves would be returned to their rightful owners, even if caught on free soil. This act, of course, required the
willing acceptance of the law by those harboring fleeing slaves, and it did not take long for this to become a
In 1852, Fillmore would not run for reelection. Instead, the Whigs would try to once again elect a war hero in
General Winfield Scott. However, Democrat Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, with a noted sympathy for the
Southern condition, would carry the election easily, as the Free-Soil Party was still politically active, and the
deep divisions from 1848 were still quite apparent. Perhaps his most successful accomplishment was the
Gadsden Purchase in 1853, solidifying the border with Mexico and providing the necessary lands for southern
tracks through the American West, meaning the Santa Fe Trail was no longer the only safe option for
Gadsden Purchase represented by the shaded section at the bottom of Arizona and
New Mexico
(Gadsden Purchase Southern Pacific Railroad Map, n.d.)
What may have been the only saving grace for the U.S. at this time was the nationwide brand that both
major parties had. Neither wanted to relinquish their Northern or Southern bases of support, and the
Free-Soil Party?s failures had shown where the line between economics and political leadership was
drawn. Despite this apparent lull in the fighting, continued western settlement and transportation
infrastructure would also stoke the fires of the slavery question, such as with the debates to incorporate
Nebraska and Kansas in 1854.
Violent Reaction
New York?s Senator, William H. Seward, is arguably best remembered for a controversial 1867 purchase of a
patch of seemingly uninhabitable Russian tundra west of British Columbia in exchange for approximately half
the cost of the entire Louisiana Territory. What was known as ?Seward?s Folly??that is, before the discovery
of vast natural resources and precious metals approximately three decades later?we call Alaska.
In 1854, with the Kansas-Nebraska Act ink still waiting to dry, Seward challenged pro-slave advocates to
allow for the inhabitants of Kansas to decide via popular sovereignty if they would prefer slave or free-soil
HY 1110, American History I 9
To settle this, both sides had numbers pile into the territory, but the pro-slavery potential settlers clearly
dominated the election, causing Kansas to enter its statehood process with a pro-slave agenda, despite the
less than ethical means. This, of course, upset the free-soil advocates, who took the only logical action?they
set up a rival government. On May 21, 1856, began a small-scale civil conflict near the Missouri border. This
conflict would end with numerous battles, but the same result. Interestingly, among the free-soil leaders would
be one John Brown, a struggling settler who was not afraid to use violent means, and who would become a
national figure after a violent 1859 incident in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
Couple this with the violent beating of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina
congressman Preston Brooks on the Senate floor in the same month, and it became clear that the slavery
question was as hot as ever. In fact, the geographical division of the remaining Louisiana Territories and
repeal of the Missouri Compromise may have been just the spark necessary to fade that line as two new
parties emerged out of the shell of the Whigs: the Republican Party (not to be confused with Jefferson?s
earlier Democratic-Republicans) and the Know-Nothings (American Party).
The Republican Platform
The Republican origin is pretty straightforward: this was primarily a group of Northern anti-slavery advocates,
and their organization derived from the slavery debates. The Know-Nothings were less expected and
emerged out of a different labor controversy: anti-immigration. The name was essentially a playful reminder of
its origins as a secret club, but the nativist belief was quickly gaining massive support. Many who joined this
Party feared how the continued immigration numbers threatened available jobs and the American culture,
specifically Protestantism, a fear for which it was easy to recruit support in the North, East, South, and West.
The Republicans knew that they must keep the slavery question at the forefront to guarantee success. Going
into the election of 1856, their platform was that by stopping any further slavery advancement, none of the
new territories would be open for slave labor, resulting in a land of fresh opportunity. This platform was very
successful. In addition to the clear leadership of the party, it also attracted the support of groups without direct
influence, such as women, who were being highly sought after in the male-dominated northwest and saw this
as an opportunity to resurrect some of their own reforms introduced in previous units. The Democrats
remained overwhelmingly strong, especially in the now united South, and elected James Buchanan. What
should be taken from this was that the slavery question remained more of a hot button issue than immigration.
It is also important to remember that abolition was not the same as anti-slavery.
Dred Scott
Perhaps the most notable challenge to the slave laws would be the landmark case Dred Scott v. Sandford in
1857. Known simply as the ?Dred Scott decision? today, this reviewed if Dred Scott, a slave chaperoned by
his master into free-soil lands, was officially freed thereby, in accordance with recent laws.
They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of
an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race
either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no
rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro
might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.?
? Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, presenting the opinion of the
Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857 (Taney, 1857.)
In short, Scott lost, but would be freed soon after thanks to the charity of a
wealthy free-soil advocate. The importance of this decision, however, was that
it set the legal precedent that free men were only free on free-soil, which
invalidated the Missouri Compromise and provided the first true constitutional
rendering of the slavery issue, which, as we discussed in earlier units, was
consciously set aside during the heat of the Constitutional Convention. What
this also did was essentially draw the first political border between what would
become Confederate and Union territories in only a few years? time. It also
provided a necessary boost for the struggling Republican Party, which was trying to unite against the
Southern-dominated Democrats.
Portrait of Dred Scott
later in life.
(Schultze, 1888)
HY 1110, American History I 10
Leading this Republican resurgence would be former congressman and current lawyer Abraham Lincoln of
Illinois. Lincoln, outspoken and clearly anti-slavery, understood and admitted the double edge of the abolition
debate. However, he also understood that slavery had divided the union, and to survive, the nation had to
unite under one set of laws.
Church, F., & Moser, J. (1881a). Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Wolf [Illustration]. Retrieved from,_1881.jpg
Church, F., & Moser, J. (1881b). Uncle Remus and his deceitful jug [Illustration]. Retrieved from,_1881.jpg
Currier, N. (1848). Whig primary 1848 [Cartoon]. Retrieved from
Gadsden Purchase Southern Pacific Railroad [Map]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
McClure, L. (1850). California gold rush [Photograph]. Retrieved from
Murray, B. (2005, December 1). Working cotton gin [Photograph.] Retrieved from
Picking cotton in the South [Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Roark, J.L. (2013). The American promise: A concise history (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin?s.
Shelton, W. (ca. 1832-ca. 1876.). Nat Turner captured [Wood engraving]. Retrieved from
Schultze, L. (1888). Dred Scott [Painting]. Retrieved from
Taney, R. (1857). The Dred Scott decision. Retrieved from
Thomas Rice as Jim Crow [Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Suggested Reading
In order to locate the articles below, you must first log into the myCSU Student Portal and access the
America: History and Life with Full Text database within the CSU Online Library.
The following describes the Whitman Massacre account along the Oregon Trail travels.
Addis, C. (2005). The Whitman massacre. Journal Of The Early Republic, 25(2), 221-258.
The following article brings to light the struggles of slave families, specifically marriage, during plantation
DePuydt, P. J. (2011). “I bind myself”: An antebellum slave marriage. Southern Studies: An Interdisciplinary
Journal Of The South, 18(1), 46-57.
HY 1110, American History I 11
Learning Activities (Non-Graded)
Flash cards
For a review of the key terms of the unit, click here to access the interactive Unit VII Questions Game in
PowerPoint form. (Click here

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