How and why compromises preserved the union until the southern states decided to leave the union in 1861?
Civil war within the United States was inevitable; the question was when it was going to happen. The issue of slavery was big enough to separate the country culturally and politically, civil war was bound to happen, in fact, it’s amazing it was avoided for so long. The single most important reason war was averted for so long was the many compromises made in the years prior that attempted to keep the southerns and northerns content in the house and senate.
However, with a country in the midst of major territory expansion, population increase, and technological advancements, the days of a united nation were numbered. Conflicts over slavery will intensify with expansion, abolitionism, sectionalism, and issues over states rights. To settle these conflicts, compromises such as the 3/5 compromise, Missouri compromise, compromise of 1850 and the fugitive slave act, and the Kansas-Nebraska act were made. Daniel Webster speaks on behalf of a united nation that succession will destroy our country (doc B).
When the compromise of 1850 is issued to settle the dispute over California being admitted as a free of slave state, The Fugitive Slave Act accompanies it to make sure that the southerns get something out of it too and don’t feel cheated (doc O). This act states “That when a person held to service or labor… shall escape into another state… may pursue and reclaim such fugitive person…” (doc C) This allowed peace to be held between the northern and southerns. Abolitionists were extremists who believed slavery should be abolished.
Among those, the very famous and feared John Brown is probably most recognizable. He went on a killing streak, handing out weapons to slaves and hated by the southerns and most northerns as well (doc P). He believed that war was the only answer to keeping a united nation as evident in his last words, “ I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land: will never be purged away; but by blood. ” (doc F). An attempt by a northern named David Wilmot to keep slavery out of the newly acquired territories from Mexico was presented to the House and Senate in the Wilmot Proviso.
It states “ Acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico by the United States… neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever in any part of said territory…” (doc M). However it never passes the Senate, which was heavily dominated by southerns. Many states pass laws that prevent any persons from speaking out or publishing anything against slavery or the abolition of slavery or any thing that would spark rebellion in slaves. The federal government over looked this even though it was in contrast to the constitution because it was thought to help keep the southerns from succession (doc L).
In 1860, shortly before the war started, the Republicans dominated the House and Senate (doc Q). This obviously was a key reason for the democrats to escape the union and start the confederate states. Plus, the southerns believed is states’ rights and that they should be able to do with their states what they wanted, a evident in Franklin Pierce’s speech when he says, “ I believe that the constituted authorities of this Repubic are bound to regard the rights of the South in this respect as they would view any other legal and constitutional right.” (doc H). In 1861, of course, is the beginning of the civil war.
With too much tension and hatred between the northerns and southerns, it was time for it to happen. The compromises could only hold for so long, the population differences between the north and south were too big to never interfere with the sides.