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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….

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the stormy 1850 s

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

A Country of Differences…

  • The “North” and the “South” had grown and divided into two separate identities well before the Civil War.
  • The North saw themselves as the more cultured and honorable society: industrial, hard working wage earners with growing cities.
  • The South also saw themselves as cultured and proper: notions of chivalry (good manners) and the ideal/values of the great farmers, the planters, saturated southern society, even if these ideals were not shared by the majority of white southerners.
  • What ultimately caused the conflict between the “North” and the “South” was the addition of new lands into the country and how politicians mixed our expansion with the issue of slavery.


Louisiana Plantation, Marie AdrienPersac, 1861

View of Harrisburg, Penn.

J. T. Williams, 1855.

the compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850

  • Attempts at Compromise during the Compromise of 1850 did not resolve whether slavery was a good thing to expand with the United States or to be stopped. The finalized compromise included attempts to please those who favored slavery and those who did not. It was a temporary solution at best.

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.

the fugitive slave act

The Fugitive Slave Act

  • The Fugitive Slave Act, a “reenergized” version of an earlier ruling gained steam with the Compromise of 1850. Should northerners be obligated to slave catch for the south? This is what many northerners were particularly outraged at.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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 & “Bleeding Kansas”

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.


Civil Warfare in Kansas

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.


Civil Warfare in Kansas

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.


Aftermath of Bleeding Kansas and Political Realignment

  • The very nature of the Kansas-Nebraska Act violated the ideas of an earlier slavery compromise known as the Missouri Compromise, which had said that a line would be drawn roughly through the middle of the country. Above that line, states would be free. Below that line, states could contain slaves. Debates over the Kansas-Nebraska Act led to the emergence of the Republican Party in the North, a party that was dedicated to “containing slavery” where it already existed.
fundamental questions

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.

Fundamental Questions

john brown s attempted slave uprising
John Brown’s Attempted Slave Uprising

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.

the dred scott decision a slave power conspiracy
The Dred Scott Decision & A Slave Power Conspiracy?!

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 election of 1860
The Election of 1860
  • Ultimately, in 1860, the Republicans got their party candidate, Abraham Lincoln, elected as President, leading to the secession—breaking away--of the South from the United States (South Carolina and Georgia leading the way). It was only a matter of time before the opening hostilities of this Civil War would happen.


The First Flag of Independence Raised in the South, R.H. Howell, 1860