The “Stormy” 1850’s. SUMNER AND BROOKS, 1856. Congressman Preston S. Brooks attacks Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate chamber, 22 May 1856. Contemporary American cartoon. A Country of Differences….
SUMNER AND BROOKS, 1856. Congressman Preston S. Brooks attacks Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate chamber, 22 May 1856. Contemporary American cartoon.
Louisiana Plantation, Marie AdrienPersac, 1861
View of Harrisburg, Penn.
J. T. Williams, 1855.
In 1850, the three men who had
long represented America’s three
regions attempted to resolve the
political crisis brought on by the
applications of California and Utah
for statehood. Henry Clay is
speaking; John C. Calhoun stands
second from right; and Daniel
Webster is seated at the left, with
his head in his hand.
These passions, already flaring, also had other outlets. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a widely popular book, created divisions with its portrayal of the evils of the slave system.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act. Should newly forming territories within the United States, and the people who lived in these territories decide for themselves whether or not they should have slaves? Some believed this should be so and they used the term “popular sovereignty” to advance this claim.
The confrontation between North and South in Kansas took many forms. In the spring of 1859, Dr. John Doy (seated) slipped across the border into Missouri and tried to lead thirteen escaped slaves to freedom in Kansas, only be captured and jailed in St. Joseph, Missouri. The serious-looking men standing behind Doy, well armed with guns and Bowie knives, Attacked the jail and carried Doy back to Kansas. The photograph celebrated—and memorialized—their successful exploit.
This lithograph shows the Battle of Hickory Point, 1856, one of the many battles between proslavery fighters and free-soilers that gave the territory its dreadful nickname, Bleeding Kansas.
Should the United States allow for the extension of slavery or should it be preserved for honest, wage-earning white folks? This was another fundamental question Americans grappled with over the legacy and direction their country should take.
Was there an effort by the north and its “radical” abolitionists to deny the South of their very existence and way of life, especially through violence? The events of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry and his attempted slave uprising convinced many Southerners that the North was trying to destroy their way of life.
Or was there a “slave power conspiracy” being hatched by Southerners to enslave the whole United States under the “peculiar institution” of slavery? The Dred Scott case angered many Northerners, especially by its ruling that black people were not citizens and that it was un-Constitutional for the government to make laws to regulate and monitor the slave system.
The First Flag of Independence Raised in the South, R.H. Howell, 1860