Week 10. American Studies. 21 April 2014 The 1850’s: Bleeding Kansas, Dred Scott,Young Abe Lincoln.
1854—The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed these territories to vote on whether to have slavery or not. This policy was called “Popular Sovereignty.”
“Border Ruffians” from Missouri crossed into Kansas to vote for slavery . With 1,500 eligible voters in the territory, 6,000 votes were cast. They set up their own government at Lecompton.
Free Soil settlers from the East poured into Kansas. They set up their own government at Topeka. They outnumbered thle slavers 10:1. President Franklin Pierce chose to recognize the pro-slavery government.
The result was “Bleeding Kansas”—a civil war that started before the Civil War.
In the ante-bellum South most of the work was done by slaves. There were few manufacturing jobs, and most of the good farm land was owned by a few wealthy individuals. This meant there were a lot of under-employed white men with time on their hands. They tended to occupy themselves with drinking, gambling, dueling and abusing the slaves. They were very quick to take offence.
Mass. Sen. Charles Sumner was beaten nearly to death on the floor of the Senate. His assailant, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, felt that Sumner’s anti-slavery speech had offended the honor of the South. Brooks was hailed as a hero throughout the South.
Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia in 1795. In 1820 he was sold to an army doctor who had to move frequently. When the doctor was stationed in Wisconsin Territory, Scott accompanied him even though slavery was illegal there. Later, after he had been taken to Missouri-- a slave state-- Scott became acquainted with some abolitionists who helped him sue for his freedom on the basis of his stay in Wisconsin. The case eventually wound up in the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Dred Scott Decision, 1857. • Chief Justice Roger Taney spent months preparing a 400+ page decision. • Scott’s suit was denied because: • “Persons of African descent cannot be, nor were ever intended to be, citizens under the U.S. Const. “ • Blacks “…had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” • Furthermore: “Congress cannot ban slavery in the territories.” This meant that the Missouri Compromise was dead and slavery was legal anywhere in the U.S. • Generally considered the worst Supreme Court decision ever. When Taney died, Pres. Lincoln replaced him with an anti-slavery justice. Roger B. Taney
Abraham Lincoln1809-1865 Born in Kentucky. His father was a poor, uneducated frontiersman. Grew up in Indiana. Moved to Illinois when he was 21. Worked various jobs. Educated himself and became a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois.
It was no accident that planted Lincoln on a Kentucky farm, half way between the lakes and the Gulf. The association there had substance in it. Lincoln belonged just where he was put. If the Union was to be saved, it had to be a man of such an origin that should save it. No wintry New England Brahmin could have done it, or any torrid cotton planter, regarding the distant Yankee as a species of obnoxious foreigner. It needed a man of the border, where civil war meant the grapple of brother and brother and disunion a raw and gaping wound. It needed one who knew slavery not from books only, but as a living thing, knew the good that was mixed with its evil, and knew the evil not merely as it affected the negroes, but in its hardly less baneful influence upon the poor whites. It needed one who knew how human all the parties to the quarrel were, how much alike they were at bottom, who saw them all reflected in himself, and felt their dissensions like the tearing apart of his own soul. When the war came Georgia sent an army in gray and Massachusetts an army in blue, but Kentucky raised armies for both sides. And this man, sprung from Southern poor whites, born on a Kentucky farm and transplanted to an Illinois village, this man, in whose heart knowledge and charity had left no room for malice, was marked by Providence as the one to "bind up the Nation's wounds." Mark Twain - quoted in New York Times, January 13, 1907
Lincoln never had more than 2 years of actual school. Like many self-made men he instinctively understood the importance of books. There were not many books on the frontier, but, if there was a book within 10 miles of where he was, Lincoln would find it and read it. He was fortunate to have a stepmother who recognized his gifts and made sure he had spare time from hs farm chores to read and write.
Between 1828 & 1831 Lincoln took two flatboats filled with farm products down the Mississippi to New Orleans. What he witnessed of slavery on these trips made a lasting negative impression.
Lincoln’s first claim to fame was as a wrestler. He was very tall and his strength was legendary. He never lost a match until he was in the army. On the frontier wrestling often involved biting, eye-gouging and knives. Lincoln’s favorite tactic was to simply pick his opponent up and throw him a considerable distance. There is no record of Lincoln ever seriously injuring an opponent. In fact, he bacame life-long friends with some of them.
In 1832 Lincoln joined the Illinois Militia to fight against Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk Nation in Illinois and Wisconsin. Lincoln’s one notable act in this war came when he prevented his fellow soldiers from murdering some Sauk prisoners.
Lincoln’s Politics Lincoln was in the Whig Party before he was a Republican. This meant he wanted the government to help create a modern industrial economy. He was in favor of government aid for roads, bridges, canals, railroads and schools. He didn’t want to live the way his father lived—working hard all his life and never getting anywhere. And he didn’t want other people to have to live that way either. He favored developing the land we had rather than taking land from other countries. He was not an abolitionist, but he was firmly against allowing slavery to spread. The Democrats, on the other hand, favored an economy based on farming and slavery with a very weak central government. Although he considered himself a Southerner, he did not have the Southern habit of taking offence and looking for a fight. His main concern was to keep the Union together at all costs.