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1850s “Meeting of the Minds”
Objective: The purpose of this activity is to look at and analyze the differing view points in
regard to the ante bellum period and whether or not the Civil War was avoidable. You will select
one of the names below and with research will be able to discuss what their opinion(s) on the
events of the era would be.
On November 28th or 29th, 2012 we will discuss the time period from the various points
of view. This will be our “Meeting of the Minds.” We WILL NOT have library time, research to
be done on your own. Sign-up Tuesday November 13, 2012. In the meeting, the class will
analyze various points of view, share opinions, and discuss who has the more plausible ideas.
You are required to write a 500 - 600 word paper introducing yourself and explaining your
beliefs/ideas related to the time period. (Choose 3 of the following topics: states’ rights,
slavery, sectional discord, interpretation of the Constitution, sectional economic issues, and
territorial expansion, Compromise of 1850. Paper is due on the day of your “meeting.” You
might have to make inferences. State why you take the stand you do on the various issues.
You could also select additional issue(s) of the time period.
highlight these questions in your paper……
1) A relevant question asked to the “meeting” in general.
2) A relevant question asked to someone who holds the opposite opinion your
character holds.
3) A relevant opinion question asked about an issue your character felt strongly
MEETING OF THE MINDS = QUIZ GRADE [+ possible bonus] for contributing
to the Meeting. Each character can earn one or two points per contribution depending on
the relevance and impact of the contribution. All will be at the discretion of the moderator
John C. Calhoun
Daniel Webster
Roger B. Taney
Abraham Lincoln
Frederick Douglass
James Buchanan
Ralph Waldo Emerson
John Brown
David Wilmot
John J. Crittenden
George Fitzhugh
David Walker
Henry Ward Beecher
Henry Clay
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Tubman
Stephen Douglas
Dred Scott
Henry David Thoreau
Hinton Rowan Helper
Charles Sumner
William Henry Seward
Jefferson Davis
Franklin Pierce
John C. Fremont
Thomas Dew
John C. Calhoun senator from South Carolina. Still interested in states’ rights but has mellowed
some in his old age.
Daniel Webster senator from Massachusetts (served as Sec. of State under Harrison/ Tyler) –
wants the Union to remain together.
Roger B. Taney Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, very influential in the controversial Dred
Scott Decision.
Abraham Lincoln spokesperson for the new Republican Party – ran for Senate in 1858 against
Stephen Douglas.
Frederick Douglass former slave, ran away – became educated and then a leading abolitionist.
James Buchanan President of the US from 1857-61. Allowed South to secede without any
Ralph Waldo Emerson transcendentalist outspoken on various issues of the 1850s.
John Brown radical abolitionist, led a massacre in Kansas and tried to start a slave revolt in
Harpers Ferry, VA.
David Wilmot Democrat Congressman who introduced the Wilmot Proviso to prevent the
spread of slavery in new territory gained from Mexico.
John J. Crittenden from Kentucky, following in the foot steps of Henry Clay as a compromiser.
Offered a last ditch effort compromise to save the Union after secession began.
George Fitzhugh argued that "the Negro is but a grown up child" who needs the economic and
social protections of slavery. Fitzhugh tried his hand at pamphlets. This pamphlet was "Slavery
Justified" (1849). His first book, "Sociology in the South" (1854) was not as widely known as his
second book, "Cannibals All!" (1857).
David Walker free Black man in New England who wrote radical abolitionist pamphlets to be
distributed in the South.
Henry Ward Beecher abolitionist preacher who sent “Bibles” to Kansas during the crisis period
– these “Beecher’s Bibles” were rifles for abolitionists.
Henry Clay the last appearance of the “Great Compromiser” – authored the Compromise of
Harriet Beecher Stowe “stoked the fires” of abolitionism with the publication of Uncle Tom’s
Harriet Tubman former slave who led dozens of runaways on the Underground Railroad.
Stephen Douglas Democrat senator from Illinois, wanted to President…Union was of utmost
Dred Scott slave who was the subject of a famous Supreme Court case that ultimately led to
slaves being declared property.
Henry David Thoreau a transcendentalist…vehemently against slavery.
Hinton Rowan Helper was a Southern critic of slavery during the 1850s. In 1857, he published
a book which he dedicated to the "nonslaveholding whites" of the South. The Impending Crisis
of the South put forth the notion that slavery hurt the economic prospects of non-slaveholders,
and was an impediment to the growth of the entire region of the South. The book, which was a
combination of statistical charts and provocative prose, might have passed unnoticed if Northern
opponents of slavery had not reprinted it, leading to a furor in parts of the South, where
authorities banned its possession and distribution and burned copies that could be seized.
Charles Sumner Republican senator from Massachusetts. Outspoken opponent of slavery and
the South. Will lead the “Radical Republican” in the Senate after the Civil War.
William Henry Seward in his early career he was a radical opponent of slavery. He opposed the
expansion of slavery and resisted attempts by Southern states to hand over those who enabled
fugitive slaves to escape. Seward was an opponent of the Fugitive Slave Act, and he defended
runaway slaves in court. Seward believed that there was a "higher law" than the Constitution,
claiming that slavery was morally wrong.
Jefferson Davis was a Senator from Mississippi and the only President of the Confederacy.
Served in cabinet positions before the Civil War.
Franklin Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" (a Northerner with Southern sympathies)
who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Later, Pierce took part in the
Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general. Later served as the 14th President
signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (which nullified the Missouri Compromise). Secretly negotiated
the Ostend Manfesto (plan to buy Cuba from Spain and make it a slave state).
John C. Frémont war hero from the Mexican War, first governor of California. First candidate
for President for the Republican Party in 1856. Frémont carried several northern states making
the Republican Party a legitimate political force and killing the Whig Party.
Thomas Dew in 1832 he published a review of the celebrated slavery debate of 1831–32 in the
Virginia legislature, under the title An Essay in Favor of Slavery, which went far towards putting
a stop to a movement, then assuming considerable proportions, to proclaim the end of slavery in
Virginia. His largest work is Digest of the Laws, Customs, Manners, and Institutions of Ancient
and Modern Nations (1853). Dew was well respected in the South; his widely distributed
writings helped to confirm pro-slavery public opinion.