I do not...hesitate to avow
before this House and the country, and in the presence of the
living God, that if by your legislation you seek to drive us
from the territories of California and New Mexico, purchased
by the common blood and treasure of the whole people, and to
abolish slavery in this District, thereby attempting to fix
a national degradation upon half the States of this Confederacy,
I am for disunion.
Representative Robert Toombs
of Georgia, 1849
With the ever watchful eye that
the Slave Power has had over its own interests...with slaveholding
Presidents and Cabinets of their selection, forty-nine years
out of sixty-one....The Slave Power, like the power of the pit,
never lacks for a stratagem....The embargo [of 1807]...was levelled
at the commercial prosperity of the free North....From the beginning
of the first embargo, therefore, in Dec., 1807, until the peace
of Dec., 1814...the commerce of the free States was either totally
prohibited, or rendered of little pecuniary power....
In 1811, the charter of the
old National Bank expired, and was not permitted by the dominant
Slave Power to be renewed, on the alleged ground that a national
bank was unconstitutional....The real reason was that the South
had become bankrupt...throwing off the greater part of its indebtedness
upon its creditors in some other community....The Slave Power
now demanded a war...."Free trade and sailors' rights"
was now the southern watchword....the war party was led on by
John C. Calhoun....New England would be the sufferer by the
war and the North would be burdened with the chief expense of
the affliction...despoiling it of half its remaining wealth....
Thus Slavery controls all the leading measures of the nation
and moulds its political economy.
William Goodell, 1852
We are now far into the fifth
year since a policy was initiated with the promise of putting
an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy,
that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been
reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot
stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently
half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved--I
do not expect the house to fall--but I do expect it will cease
to be divided....Either the opponents of slavery will arrest
the further spread of it...or its advocates will push it forward
till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new, North as well as South. Have we no tendency to
the latter condition?
The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half
the States by State constitutions, and from most of the national
territory by congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced
the struggle which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition.
This opened all the national territory to slavery....While the
Nebraska bill was passing through Congress, a law case involving
the question of a Negro's freedom...was passing through the
United States Circuit Court....The Negro's name was Dred Scott....
The several points of the Dred
Scott decision...constitute the piece of machinery in its present
state of advancement....The working points of that machinery
(1) That no Negro slave, imported
as such from Africa, and no descendant of
such slave, can ever be a citizen of any State, in the sense
of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States....
(2) That, "subject to the
Constitution of the United States," neither Congress nor
a territorial legislature can exclude slavery from any United
We cannot absolutely know that
all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But
when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which
we know have been gotten out at different times and places and
by different workmen--Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for
instance--and we see these timbers joined together, and see
they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons
and mortises exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions
of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective
places, and not a piece too many or too few...in such a case
we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin
and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning,
and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the
first blow was struck.
Abraham Lincoln, 1858
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...This opinion was
at the time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of
the white race.
Chief Justice Roger Taney,
Dred Scott case
If the cotton States shall decide
that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist
on letting them go in peace. The right to secede may be a revolutionary
one, but it exists nevertheless....Whenever a considerable section
of our Union shall deliberately resolve to go out, we shall
resist all coercive measures designed to keep it in. We hope
never to live in a republic, whereof one section is pinned to
the residue by bayonets.
New York Tribune, 1860
I firmly believe that the slave-holding
South is now the controlling power of the world--that no other
power would face us in hostility. Cotton, rice, tobacco, and
naval stores command the word; and we have sense to know it,
and are sufficiently Teutonic to carry it out successfully.
The North without us would be a motherless calf, bleating about,
and die of mange and starvation.
Senator James H. Hammond of
1. Why did
sectional tensions strengthen during the 1850s?
2. Do you
see any grounds for compromise between supporters and opponents
of slavery expansion?
3. Why didn't
the United States try to solve the slavery crisis the way Britain
did in the Caribbean--by adopting compensation for slaveowners
and a system of gradual emancipation and apprenticeship for
4. Was slavery--either
as a moral issue or an economic reality--the single most important
cause of the sectional conflict?
5. Do you
think that the sectional conflict was an irrepressible conflict
or do you think it was the work of bungling politicians, fanatics,
6. Do you
find the arguments advanced in the quotations moralistic and
abstract? calm and carefully reasoned? impassioned and paranoid?