Note: The following was one of my tasks for my U.S. history course. I received an excellence award for the paper.
Task 2 – The Early Republic and the American Civil War
Western Governors University
A. Following the American Revolution, the founders all held a great vision for the future, but differing views as to how that vision should be seen were expressed (“Partisan Politics,” 2016). Though the founders opposed political parties, so many conflicts occurred that political parties eventually developed and lingered (“First Party System,” 2016).
The conflict started with the adopting of the Constitution. First, the leaders could not agree on how representatives to Congress were to be elected, even though they did agree on a bicameral legislature (Norton, 2015). They finally agreed that three-fifths of the slaves, which made up a great population in the South, would be counted in population totals for representation (Norton, 2015). They agreed on separation of powers with the executive, legislative, and judicial branches with federalism, a division of federal and state power. They set up checks and balances with features such as presidential veto, veto overthrow with two-thirds’ majority vote in Congress, and three-fourths’ support in the states (Norton, 2015).
Some, who called themselves Federalists, pressed for adopting the Constitution, while others, the Antifederalists, feared the lack of protection against a tyrannical government and excessive taxing of land (Norton, 2015). Nearly everyone agreed that national government needed power over taxation and commerce, but plenty of the citizens were hesitant to agree on the terms of the Constitution (Norton, 2015). The Antifederalists pressed for the Constitution to include inherent rights, and the Federalists got their way in getting the states to ratify the Constitution after adding the Bill of Rights to appease the Antifederalists (Norton, 2015).
The conflicts continued up until the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and thereafter, and they have not ended. The Annapolis Convention met to discuss trade policy and caused states to be taxed, which led to protests and Shay’s Rebellion during which an armory was attacked and people were killed (Norton, 2015). Many landowning farmers would have had to sell their land in order to comply with the tax burden (Norton, 2015). Afterward, the government reduced the tax burden on landowners and instead increased import duties in order to pay for war debt (Norton, 2015).
Major players in the disagreements between Federalists and Antifederalists were Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were both Antifederalists, later known as Democratic Republicans (Norton, 2015).
According to Norton (2015), Hamilton was born somewhere in the Caribbean and was very loyal to the nation as a whole. He favored a centralized government and believed people to be motivated by personal monetary gain, rather than sacrificing for others so that all benefit better. He proposed helping industry take off with “limited use of protective tariffs” and pushing for a whiskey tax to boost the federal government’s income, preferring to tax the few western farmers over the merchants who supported him. This led to the Whiskey Rebellion.
Jefferson and Madison opposed Hamilton’s respect to wealthy merchants at the expense of farmers; they viewed Hamilton as an opposer of republican principles (Norton, 2015). They supported the French Revolution, thinking it good that French citizens loose themselves of an absolute authority, but Hamilton thought France was perverting republicanism (Norton, 2015). Republican sympathizers for the French were called traitors by the Federalists (Norton, 2015).
Republicans were optimistic in their view of the future and supported western expansion. Federalists wanted tiered order and obedience to hierarchy. Although President George Washington called for an end to partisan politics in his farewell address, it appeared to the populace that he was openly opposing Republicans and wanted everyone to unite as Federalists (Norton, 2015).
Under President John Adams, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed, which targeted immigrants who sympathized with Republicans, required immigrants to register with the federal government and caused them a longer residency period before citizenship, and made conspiracies to prevent federal law enforcement and printing or saying defamatory things about the president or government punishable crimes (Norton, 2015). Jefferson and Madison worked through state legislatures to attempt to overturn the acts, causing people to question how much power states possessed in opposing the national government (Norton, 2015).
Even after Jefferson became the third elected president with a Congress dominated by Democratic Republicans and gave an inaugural address with words of unity for Federalists and Republicans, the two parties did not see eye to eye on the way society was organized and the way government should be run (Norton, 2015). When Jefferson spoke of the first amendment supporting a “wall of separation between church and state,” the Federalists called him an atheist. Pamphlets and newspapers became very popular modes of expressing partisan views during this time (Norton, 2015). Conflicts only grew, like a blaze across droughted forests. Political parties were here to stay.
B.1. The first party system of the early U.S. republic fell away to the second party system after the election of 1824, during which time the Democrats and Republicans split, the former supporting Andrew Jackson, and the latter supporting new president John Quincy Adams (Norton, 2015). The Republicans and the short-lived Antimason Party eventually became known as Whigs (Norton, 2015).
The Democrats preferred small government and condemned the government’s favoring the rich, and thought the wealthy were so from receiving special favors. For this reason, they also reviled the central bank, corporate charters, and paper currency (Norton, 2015). They supported an agrarian society and agricultural growth in the West (Norton, 2015). They held the opinion that Whigs opposed the people’s will and that the nation was divided between those who possessed things and those who didn’t (Norton, 2015).
2. Leaders of the Democratic party included President Andrew Jackson, who supported the spoils system of sharing victory with his supporters’ loyalty rather than competency, who abused veto power to “limit government” as he saw good in his eyes; Martin Van Buren, during whose presidency a banking crisis occurred; and President James Polk, a slave-owning cotton planter from Tennessee who, through deception, had the nation go to war with Mexico (Norton, 2015). Democratic constituents consisted of non-evangelical Christians and those of other religious groups, landowning farmers, wage earners, frontier slave owners, and immigrants (Norton, 2015).
The Whigs, in contrast to the Democrats, believed in an active federal government to boost economic growth, supported commercial growth in the East with the central bank, “high protective tariffs,” corporate charters, and paper currency, opposed western expansion, supported progressive social reforms, such as public schools and bettering prisons and asylums, claimed to support bettering society as a whole, and preferred top-down rule and put forth the idea of free labor and that the wealthy had risen from hard work (Norton, 2015). President William Henry Harrison was a Whig who went straight to work in starting up a new national bank and other Whig-supported activities but died of pneumonia a month after his inauguration. His vice president, Tyler, became a president who exhibited a mix of Democratic and Whig policies (Norton, 2015). Whig constituents were made up of mostly evangelical Protestants and groups who were opposed to western expansion (Norton, 2015).
Both parties agreed from time to time, including supporting the interest-free loans to the states with excess federal income after the nation’s money was divided among state-chartered banks, Congressman and other leaders avoiding talking about slavery and not wanting to annex the Lone Star Republic (Texas) for this reason (Norton, 2015). Supporters of both parties engaged in riots and voter intimidation (Norton, 2015).
3. The Second Party System caused many disagreements among the people of the United States to come to light. It continued the ongoing debate concerning liberty and who had it and who didn’t. According to M.B. Norton, in A People and a Nation (2015), some thought the national government wielded too much power. Others thought the states kept too much power from the federal government. Some argued that slavery was necessary and that many slaves would rather stay with their owners in the South than to go free in the North and starve.
Voting rights was a hotly debated topic, and black men and women alike became more outspoken about their belief that they should have the right to vote. Native American rights and western expansion was debated, as were the several aforementioned policies such as the need for a central bank or not. People wanted to be heard more than ever. Those running for office needed a way to appeal to voters and so would campaign to get votes. Political talk became very popular during the Second Party System, and the popularity of newspapers and pamphlets continued to grow (Norton, 2015).
C.1. During the U.S. Civil War’s antebellum period, the people were divided in their beliefs concerning slavery, which mainly occurred in the South. Some were very much proslavery, while others held economical/political and/or moral /religious views against it, causing them to be referred to as abolitionists, due to their desire for the nation to abolish slavery as a practice (Norton, 2015).
Those who argued for slavery from an economical or political perspective did so mainly because it was profitable, for the more land and slaves a slaveowner possessed, the more wealth he would build (Norton, 2015). Even merchants and bankers in the North were worried about slavery being abolished, since cotton made up two-fifths of New York’s exports, and the huge cotton market relied on slavery (Norton, 2015). Some claimed slavery was absolutely necessary and that it fell under property rights protected by the Constitution (Norton, 2015). On the other side of the debate, poor white men suffered financially with slavery’s existence, because they could not work their way up working hard, because they could not compete well with slave labor (Norton, 2015).
Economics didn’t play into other citizens’ views on slavery so much as morality did. Many thought it was evil. Since most believed in the biblical god, those from both the proslavery and the antislavery sides used the bible to back their case. Among those who wanted to see slavery abolished, Quakers pointed to the scriptures saying that all are equal in God’s eyes and that Jesus taught for people to do unto others as they’d have done unto them (Norton, 2015). Evangelicals asserted that slavery kept the enslaved from being free moral agents that would allow them to freely choose what was good and what was evil; evangelicals thought this would also delay Jesus’ second coming, because they thought he would not come back until everyone chose freely to do what is good (Norton, 2015). The bible, however, was also used to back slavery. People holding to this viewpoint referenced the biblical scriptures supporting the owning of slaves and claimed that biblical hierarchy was desired by God (Norton, 2015). Many said slavery was moral because it followed the natural law in that humans are not naturally equal (Norton, 2015). Furthermore, a popular idea in society was that slave owners were paternal caretakers of their slaves, that it was their duty to keep and take care of them (Norton, 2015).
Even among abolitionists, most did not believe that African Americans, slave or free, should possess all the rights that white citizens, especially white men, did. This weighed in favor of the proslavery side, as the idea was put forth that whites are more intellectual, while blacks were much like monkeys and more physical and so “destined” for labor (Norton, 2015). It ended up taking a war to decide slavery’s fate.
2. During the late 1840s and through the 1850s, the nation became a lot more divided, not simply by location, North and South, but by thought process, all due to slavery, racism, and westward expansion. The North was generally antislavery, while the South was generally proslavery, the North having free states and the South slave states (Norton, 2015). Southerners generally desired westward expansion more so than Northerners. When those in Missouri territory wanted to be annexed as a state, a debate brewed. If Missouri became a free state, the South would be angry that the free states would have more total senators representing their interests, but if Missouri allowed slavery in their constitution, Northerners would be outnumbered by southern proslavery senators (Norton, 2015). In the end, House Speaker Henry Clay suggested a compromise, and the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was passed, which admitted Maine into the union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state (Norton, 2015).
Feathers were ruffled once more when Texas was to become annexed, which it did on March 1, 1845, with a constitution permitting slavery. In 1846, Polk urged Texans to seize land to the Rio Grande, though Mexico was insistent the national border be the Nueces River. He had his general, Zachary Taylor, provoke the Mexicans, and once Mexican militants killed a few American soldiers, Polk deceptively announced that Mexico sought war with the U.S (Norton, 2015). At the same time, Polk wanted the Oregon Territory but did not want to war with Great Britain. The U.S. was able to get the land through diplomacy, and the Oregon Treaty was signed in 1846 (Norton, 2015).
Norton (2015) wrote about this era of time, “Racism fueled the expansionist spirit.” He quoted a newspaper editor of the time calling Mexicans “reptiles in the path of progressive democracy.” He showed that some stood on the other side of thought, such as one abolitionist referring to the expansion as a “national crime” that benefitted the practice of slavery. Abolitionists and antislavery Whigs said the war was a plot to extend slavery, and abolitionists had long feared an upcoming slaveholding oligarchy. Even some proslavery people saw problems with the expansion (Norton, 2015).
In February 1848, the U.S. and Mexico signed a treaty in which the U.S. gained California and New Mexico with the Rio Grande designated as Texas’ southern border (Norton, 2015). Not everyone was happy with this. Many whites in both the North and the South worried about all the Mexicans this may have brought into the United States, and they didn’t want any non-whites who were not slaves (Norton, 2015). Most northerners, even though generally antislavery, wanted to keep blacks away as much as they wanted to prevent slavery from expanding to the West and causing free men to lose work (Norton, 2015).
Sectionalism and debates over expanding and annexing continued on when California wanted to enter as a free state. Southerners wanted it to be a slave state or for the Missouri Compromise to be extended to the Pacific territories (Norton, 2015). It was finally decided that California would enter as a free state and that the other territories could choose for themselves, but even that kept the debate brewing, especially when Kansas and Nebraska wanted to annex, since their being able to choose contradicted the agreement in the Missouri Compromise that should keep everything north from the south Missouri line up to Canada as free (Norton, 2015). As the sectionalism debate heated up, the Whig Party was eventually all but destroyed by 1952, and the formation of the Republican Party, for the purpose of going against slavery, was, and is, the quickest reorganization of party allegiance in American history (Norton, 2015).
White Americans, especially those in the South, felt superior over other races. They had already taken over most Native American lands and moved most of the remaining natives into Oklahoma during the “Trail of Tears” in the early 1830s, believing it was their duty to civilize them (Norton, 2015). They didn’t care whether Mexico had settled what is now the western United States. They didn’t care whether African Americans were fairly treated or whether they were enslaved. They believed it was their “manifest destiny” to rule over the other “races” and to expand across the continent (Norton, 2015). Westward expansion truly did seem to have racism and greed as its motivators, and Americans were very divided, mainly by North and South, causing sectionalism, as to who was on the right moral and political/economical side of the debate.
3. Many events led up to the Civil War, but the three major events I believe did the most to lead to eventual warfare are the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent secession of the South.
The nation’s people were divided on whether California, upon admittance to the union, and the territories of New Mexico and Utah, should be allowed to become a slave state or should remain free (Norton, 2015). A compromise was made, and the Compromise of 1850 became law. It stated that California was to be a free state, that Texas boundaries were set at what they are today and that Texas was to be paid compensation for losing New Mexico territory, that New Mexico and Utah territories received popular sovereignty (allowing them to choose for themselves whether slavery was permitted), that the fugitive slave law was to be strengthened in a number of ways, and that slave trade would be abolished in D.C. (Norton, 2015). During this time period, the Republican Party was born, after the Whig Party nearly extinguished after splitting in North and South sects (Norton, 2015). The Republican Party received most of the votes the Whig Party would have formerly (Norton, 2015). The new party was made up of former antislavery Whigs and Democrats, Free-Soilers, and reformers in the Northwest (Norton, 2015). The party won a “stunning victory,” in the 1854 elections, filling most of the North’s House seats (Norton, 2015). The party was morally repulsed by slavery, hailed free labor and hated slavery’s threat to such, thought the slave-blanketed, low industrious South was the antithesis of progress, and resented the South’s “Slave Power” political power. Abraham Lincoln was a symbol for the party (Norton, 2015). During 1855-1859, the opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act grew. Several Northern free states passed personal liberty laws, which provided counsel for fugitives and required jury trials, since the strengthening of the law had caused so much controversy and conflict, even leading to free blacks in the North to flee to Canada (Norton, 2015). The Northerner’s new liberty laws greatly angered Southerners (Norton, 2015).
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854, ruling in favor of popular sovereignty for the Kansas and Nebraska territories, so they could decide whether or not they wanted to permit slavery (Norton, 2015). It conflicted with the Missouri Compromise and effectively made it null; whereas slavery had been banned for thirty-four years from the southern Missouri border up to Canada, the Kansas-Nebraska Act now allowed for it (Norton, 2015). This law wrecked political parties. Worst of all, it led to what became known as “Bleeding Kansas,” terrible and violent conflicts between slaveholders and abolitionists and anti-slavery settlers (Norton, 2015). It was more or less a war zone. The LeCompton Constitution was written, making Kansas proslavery, demonstrating Slave Power working in the government, overriding the majority of Kansas’ antislavery population (Norton, 2015).
Southerners started thinking slavery would only be protected in a separate nation (Norton, 2015).
During the 1860 election, Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidency by electoral college vote, though he won only forty percent of the popular vote, with the remainder divided between three other candidates (Norton, 2015). South Carolina seceded from the U.S. on December 20, 1860. By February 1861, the states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had all seceded and formed a new government, which they named the Confederate States of America, and had elected Jefferson Davis as their president (Norton, 2015). After the war started a couple months later, the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined. Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware, though slave states, stayed loyal to the U.S. (Norton, 2015). Lincoln was inaugurated as president in March 1861 and indicated the nation must maintain power over the forts while trying to convince the other states to rejoin the union (Norton, 2015). When food supplies ran low at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, in April, Lincoln sent a ship, but Confederate forces attacked and overcame U.S. forces but allowed them to sail away after surrender (Norton, 2015). The Civil War had begun.
Norton, M.B. (2015). A people & a nation. Retrieved from https://lrps.wgu.edu/provision/53540310
WGU (2016) "First Party System." [Video] Retrieved from https://wgu.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=2ffee8e8-0522-4053-af44-ba8922ef25f4
WGU (2016) "Partisan Politics." [Video] Retrieved from https://wgu.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=b91759fe-67fe-468d-8c43-15eacbf1874d