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A.P. U.S. History Notes
Chapter 19: “Drifting Toward Disunion”
~ 1854 – 1861 ~
Stowe and Helper: Literary Incendiaries
1. In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stow published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a popular book that awakened the
passions of the North toward the evils of slavery.
2. The book sold millions of copies, and overseas, British people were charmed by it.
i. The book helped Britain stay out of the Civil War because its people, who had read the book and
had now denounced slavery, wouldn’t allow intervention on behalf of the South.
3. Another book, The Impending Crisis of the South, was written by Hinton R. Helper, a non-aristocratic
white North Carolinian who tried to prove, by an array of stats, that the non-slave-holding Southern
whites were really the ones most hurt by slavery.
i. Published in the North, this book and Uncle Tom’s Cabin were both banned in the South but
widely read in the North.
The North-South Contest for Kansas
1. Northerners began to pour into Kansas, and Southerners were outraged, since they had supported the Compromise
of 1850 under the impression that Kansas would become slave.
2. Thus, on election day in 1855, hordes of Southerners from Missouri flooded the polls and elected Kansas to be a
slave state; free soilers unable to stomach this set up their own government in Topeka.
i. Thus, confused Kansans had to chose between two governments: one illegal (in Topeka) and the other
fraudulent (in Shawnee).
3. In 1856, a group of proslavery raiders shot up and burned part of Lawrence, thus starting violence.
Kansas in Convulsion
1. John Brown, a crazy man (literally), led a band of followers to Pottawatomie Creek in May of 1856 and hacked to
death five presumable proslaveryites.
i. This brutal violence surprised even the most ardent abolitionists and brought swift retaliation from
2. By 1857, Kansas had enough people to apply for statehood, and those for slavery devised the Lecompton
Constitution, which provided that the people were only allowed to vote for the constitution “with slavery” or
“without slavery.”
i. If the constitution was passed “without slavery,” then those slaveholders already in the state would still be
ii. Angry free soilers boycotted the polls and Kansas approved the constitution with slavery.
3. In Washington, James Buchanan had succeeded Franklin Pierce, but like the former prez, Buchanan was more
towards the South, and firmly supported the Lecompton Constitution.
4. Senator Stephen Douglas, refusing to have this fraudulency, threw away his Southern support when he fought for a
fair election, and the result was the Lecompton Constitution voted on as a whole.
5. Thus, the Democratic Party was hopelessly divided, ending the last remaining national party for years to come (the
Whigs were dead and the Republicans were sectional).
“Bully” Brooks and His Bludgeon
1. “Bleeding Kansas” was an issue that spilled into Congress: Senator Charles Sumner was a vocal antislaveryite,
and his blistering speeches condemned all slavery supporters.
2. Congressman Preston S. Brooks decided that since he couldn’t challenge Sumner to a duel, he’d beat the senator
with a cane like a dog, which is just what he did until his cane broke; nearby senators did nothing but watched, and
Brooks was cheered on by the South.
3. However, the incident touched off fireworks, as Sumner’s “The Crime Against Kansas” speech was reprinted by the
thousands, and it put Brooks and the South in the wrong.
“Old Buck” versus “The Pathfinder”
1. In 1856, the Democrats had chosen James Buchanan, someone untainted by the Kansas-Nebraska Act and a person
with lots of political experience, to be their nomination for presidency against Republican John C. Fremont, a
fighter in the Mexican-American War.
2. Another party, the American Party, also called the “Know-Nothing Party” because of its secrecy, was organized by
“nativists,” old-stock Protestants, who nominated Millard Fillmore.
i. These people were anti-Catholic and anti-foreign and also included old Whigs.
3. The campaign was full of mudslinging, which allegations of scandal and conspiracy.
4. Fremont was hurt by the rumor that he was a Roman-Catholic.
The Electoral Fruits of 1856
Buchanan won because there were doubts about Fremont’s honesty, capacity, and sound judgment.
Perhaps it was better that Buchanan won, since Fremont was not as strong as Lincoln, and in 1856, many people
were still apathetic about slavery, and the South could have seceded more easily.
The Dred Scot Bombshell
1. On March 6, 1857, the Dred Scot decision was handed down by the Supreme Court.
i. Dred Scot had been a slave whose master had taken him north into free territory, where he had lived for
many years. After his master’s death, he sued for his freedom from his new master, claiming that he had
been in free territory. The Missouri Supreme Court agreed, freeing him, but his new master appealed to the
U.S. Supreme Court, which overruled the decision.
2. Chief Justice Taney said that no slave could be a citizen of the U.S. in his justification
3. The case inflamed millions of abolitionists against slavery and even though who didn’t care against it.
i. In effect, he ruled that the Missouri Compromise had been unconstitutional: Congress had no right to ban
slavery from the territories.
4. Northerners complained; Southerners were inflamed by northern defiance, and more tension built.
The Financial Crash of 1857
1. Psychologically, the Panic of 1857 was the worst of the 19th century, though it really wasn’t as bad as the Panic of
2. The panic was caused by inflation and overgrowth of grain and nowhere to export it.
3. The North was especially hard hit, but the South rode it out with flying colors, seemingly proving that cotton was
king and raising their egos.
4. Also, in 1860, Congress passed a homestead act that would provide 160 acres of land at a cheap price for those who
were less fortunate, but it was vetoed by Buchanan.
i. This plan, though, was opposed by the northeast, which had long been unfriendly to extension of land and
had feared that it would drain its population even more, and the south, which knew that it would provide an
easy way for more free soilers to fill the territories.
5. The panic also brought calls for a higher tariff rate, which had been lowered to about 20% only months before.
An Illinois Rail-Splitter Emerges
1. In 1858, Senator Stephen Douglas’ term was about to expire, and against him was Republican Abraham Lincoln,
an ugly fellow who had risen up the political ladder slowly but was a good lawyer and a pretty decent debater.
The Great Debate: Lincoln versus Douglas
1. Lincoln rashly challenged Douglas, the nation’s most devastating debater, to a series of seven debates, which the
senator accepted, and despite expectations of failure, Lincoln held his own.
2. The most famous debate came at Freeport, Illinois, where Lincoln brought this scenario: if the people had a territory
voted slavery down, would they be right, despite the Supreme Court saying that they could not do so?
i. Douglas replied with his “Freeport Doctrine,” which said that no matter how the Supreme Court ruled,
slavery would stay down if the people voted it down; the people had the power.
3. Douglas won, but more people voted for Abe, so he won the moral victory.
John Brown: Murderer or Martyr?
1. John Brown now had a plan to invade the South, seize its arms, call up on the slaves to rise up and revolt, and take
over the South and free it of slaves, but in his raid of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, the slaves didn’t revolt, and he was
captured and convicted of treason and sentenced to death.
2. Brown, though insane, was not stupid, and he portrayed himself as a martyr against slavery, and when he was hung,
he instantly became a martyr for abolitionists; northerners rallied around his memory.
3. The South was happy, but abolitionists were infuriated by his execution (they conveniently forgot about his violent
The Disruption of the Democrats
1. After failing to nominate a candidate in Charleston, South Carolina, the Democrats split into North and South, and at
Baltimore, the Northern Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas for president while the Southern Democrats chose
John C. Breckinridge.
2. Meanwhile, the “Know-Nothings” chose John Bell of Tennessee.
A Rail-Splitter Splits the Union
1. The Republicans, sensing victory against their split opponents, nominating Abraham Lincoln, not William Seward.
2. Their platform had an appeal to every important non-southern group: for free soilers it proposed non-extension of
slavery; for northern manufacturers, a protective tariff; for the immigrants, no abridgement of rights; for the West,
internal improvements at federal expense; and for the farmers, free homesteads.
3. Southerners threatened that Lincolns election would result in Southern secession.
4. Lincoln wasn’t an outright abolitionist, since as late as February 1865, he had still favored cash compensation for
free slaves.
5. Abe Lincoln won despite not even being on the ballot in the South.
The Electoral Upheaval of 1860
1. Lincoln won with only 40% of the popular vote, and had the Democratic Party been more organized and energetic,
they might have won.
The Republicans did not control the House or the Senate, and the South still had a five to four majority in the
Supreme Court, but the South still decided to secede.
The Secessionist Exodus
1. South Carolina had threatened to secede if Lincoln was elected president, and now it went good on its word,
seceding in December of 1860.
i. Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed in the next six weeks.
2. The seven seceders met in Montgomery, Alabama in February of 1861 and created the Confederate States of
America, and they chose Jefferson Davis as president.
3. President Buchanan did nothing to force the confederacy back into the Union, partly because the Union troops were
needed in the West and because the North was still apathetic toward secession; they felt that it was better that the
South had seceded.
The Collapse of Compromise
1. In an attempt at compromise (again), James Henry Crittenden of Kentucky proposed the Crittenden
amendments, which would ban slavery north of the 36°30’ line and would leave the issue in territories south of the
line up to the people; also, existing slavery south of the line would be protected.
2. Lincoln opposed the compromise, which might have worked, because his party had preached against the extension
of slavery, and he had to stick to principle.
3. It also seems that Buchanan couldn’t have saved the Union no matter what he could have done.
Farewell to Union
1. The seceding states did so because they feared that their rights as a slaveholding minority were being threatened, and
were alarmed at the growing power of the Republicans, plus, they believed that they would be unopposed despite
what the Northerners claimed.
2. The South also hoped to develop its own banking and shipping, and to prosper.
3. Besides, in 1776, the 13 colonies had seceded from Britain and had won; now the South could do the same thing.
Freeport Doctrine
The Freeport Doctrine occurred in Freeport, Illinois during the debates of Lincoln and Douglas for senator. This
was a question that Lincoln asked Douglas that made Douglas answer in such a way that the South would know
that he was not truly supporting them.
Harper's Ferry Raid
Occurred in October of 1859. John Brown of Kansas attempted to create a major revolt among the slaves. He
wanted to ride down the river and provide the slaves with arms from the North, but he failed to get the slaves
organized. Brown was captured. The effects of Harper's Ferry Raid were as such: the South saw the act as one
of treason and were encouraged to separate from the North, and Brown became a martyr to the northern
abolitionist cause.
Constitutional Union Party
also known as the "do-nothings" or "Old Gentlemen's" party; 1860 election; it was a middle of the road group
that feared for the Union- consisted mostly of Whigs and Know-Nothings, met in Baltimore and nominated
John Bell from Tennessee as candidate for presidency-the slogan for this candidate was "The Union, the
Constitution, and the Enforcement of the laws."
American Know Nothing Party
Developed from the order of the Star Spangled Banner and was made up of nativists. This party was organized
due to its secretiveness and in 1865 nominated the ex-president Fillmore. These super-patriots were antiforeign
and anti-Catholic and adopted the slogan "American's must rule America!" Remaining members of the Whig
party also backed Fillmore for President.
Panic of 1857
The California gold rush increased inflation; speculation in land and railroads "ripped economic fabric"; hit the
North harder than South because the South had cotton as a staple source of income; the North wanted free land
from the government; drove Southerners closer to a showdown; caused an increase in tariffs; gave Republicans
an issue for the election of 1860.
Lincoln-Douglas Debate 1858
Lincoln challenged Stephen Douglas to a series of 7 debates. Though Douglas won the senate seat, these
debates gave Lincoln fame and helped him to later on win the presidency. These debates were a foreshadowing
of the Civil War.
The Impending Crisis of the South
A book written by Hinton Helper. Helper hated both slavery and blacks and used this book to try to prove that
non-slave owning whites were the ones who suffered the most from slavery. The non-aristocrat from N.C. had
to go to the North to find a publisher that would publish his book.
Bleeding Kansas
Kansas was being disputed for free or slave soil during 1854-1857, by popular sovereignty. In 1857, there were
enough free-soilers to overrule the slave-soilers. So many people were feuding that disagreements eventually
led to killing in Kansas between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces.
Roger Taney
He was Chief Justice for the Dred Scott case. A decision was made on March 6, 1857. Roger Taney ruled
against Dred Scott. Scott was suing for freedom because of his long residence in free territory. He was denied
freedom because he was property and his owner could take him into any territory and legally hold him as a
slave. This court ruling was major cause in starting the Civil War.
John Breckinridge
John Breckinridge was the vice-president elected in 1856. Breckinridge was nominated for the presidential
election of 1860 for the Southern Democrats. After Democrats split, the Northern Democrats would no longer
support him. Breckenridge favored the extension of slavery, but was not a Disunionist. Breckinridge also
wanted to keep the Union together, but when the polls started he couldn't even get the votes of his own party.
John Bell
Nominated for presidency in 1860 by the Constitutional Union Party, which formed a split in the Union. He was
a compromise candidate.
Abraham Lincoln
nicknamed "Old Abe" and "Honest Abe"; born in Kentucky to impoverished parents and mainly self-educated;
a Springfield lawyer. Republicans chose him to run against Senator Douglas (a Democrat) in the senatorial
elections of 1858. Although he loss victory to senatorship that year, Lincoln came to be one of the most
prominent northern politicians and emerged as a Republican nominee for president. Although he won the
presidential elections of 1860, he was a minority and sectional president (he was not allowed on the ballot in ten
southern states).
John Crittenden
A Senator of Kentucky, that fathered two sons: one became a general in the Union Army, the other a general in
the Confederate Army. He is responsible for the Crittenden Compromise. This augments the fact that the war
was often between families, and its absurdity. Kentucky and other states were split up between the Union and
Confederacy, and both in the North and South sent people to the other side. This makes it clear that the war is
primarily over slavery.
Hinton Helper 1875
book entitled 'Impending Crisis of the South' that stirred trouble. Attempted to prove that indirectly the nonslave holding whites were the ones who suffered the most from slavery; the book was banned in the South but
countless copies were distributed as campaign material for republicans
John Brown
John Brown was a militant abolitionist that took radical extremes to make his views clear. In May of 1856,
Brown led a group of his followers to Pottawattamie Creek and launched a bloody attack against pro-slavery
men killing five people. This began violent retaliation against Brown and his followers. This violent attack
against slavery helped give Kansas its nick name, "bleeding Kansas".
Charles Sumner
He was an unpopular senator from Mass., and a leading abolitionist. In 1856, he made an assault in the proslavery of South Carolina and the South in his coarse speech, "The Crime Against Kansas." The insult angered
Congressmen Brooks of South Carolina. Brooks walked up to Sumner's desk and beat him unconscious. This
violent incident helped touch off the war between the North and the South.
Dred Scott
Scott was a black slave who had lived with his master for five years in Illinois and Wisconsin territory. He sued
for his freedom on the basis of his long residence in free territory. The Dred Scott court decision was handed
down by the Supreme Court on March 6,1857. The Supreme Court ruled that Dred Scott was a black slave and
not a citizen. Hence, he could not sue in a federal court.