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Changes in manufacturing arose from the nation's
land-rich, labor-poor economy. European countries
had land-poor, labor-rich economies; there, meager
opportunities in agriculture kept factory laborers
plentiful and wages low. In the United States, western expansion and government land policies
buoyed agriculture, keeping millions of people on the farm — 80 percent of the nation's 31 million
people lived in rural areas in 1860 — and thereby
limiting the supply of workers for manufacturing
and elevating wages. Because of this relative
shortage of workers, American manufacturers
searched constantly for ways to save labor. Mechanization allowed manufacturers to
produce more with less labor. In general, factory
workers produced twice as much (per unit of
labor) as agricultural workers. The practice of
manufacturing and thenassembling interchangeable
parts spread from gun making to other
industries and became known as the American
system.Standardized parts produced by machine
allowed manufacturers to employ unskilled workers,
who were much cheaper and more readily
available than highly trained craftsmen. A visitor
to a Springfield, Massachusetts, gun factory
in 1842 noted, for example, that standardized
parts made the trained gunsmith's "skill of the
eye and the hand, [previously] acquired by practice
alone . . . no longer indispensable." Even in heavily mechanized industries, few factories had
more than twenty or thirty employees.
Manufacturing and agriculture meshed into
a dynamic national economy. New England led
the nation in manufacturing, shipping goods
such as guns, clocks, plows, and axes west and
south, while southern and western states sent
commodities such as wheat, pork, whiskey,
tobacco, and cotton north and east. In the 1840s,
mines in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere
began to produce millions of tons of coal for
industrial fuel, accelerating the shift to steam
power. Between 1840 and 1860, coal production
multiplied eightfold, cutting prices in half and
permitting coal-fired steam engines to power
ever more factories, railroads, and ships. Even
so, by 1860 coal accounted for less than a fifth
of the nation's energy consumption while, in
manufacturing, people and work animals provided
thirty times more energy than steam did.
American manufacturers specialized in producing
for the gigantic domestic market rather
than for export. British goods dominated the
international market and, on the whole, were
cheaper and better than American-made products.
U.S. manufacturers supported tariffs to minimize
British competition, but their best protection
from British competitors was to strive harder to
please their American customers, most of them
farmers. The burgeoning national economy was further fueled by the growth of the railroads,
which served to link farmers and factories in
new ways.
During the 1840s and 1850s, leaders throughout
the North and West emphasized a set of ideas
that seemed to explain why the changes under
way in their society benefited some people more
than others. They referred again and again to
the advantages of what they termed free labor.
(The word free referred to laborers who were not
slaves. It did not mean laborers who worked for nothing.) By the 1850s,free-labor ideas described
a social and economic ideal that accounted for
both the successes and the shortcomings of the
economy and society taking shape in the North
and West. Spokesmenfor the free-labor ideal celebrated
hard work, self-reliance, and independence. They
proclaimed that the door to success was open
not just to those who inherited wealth or status
but also to self-made men such as Abraham
Lincoln. Free labor, Lincoln argued, was "the
just and generous, and prosperous system, which
opens the way for all — gives hope to all, and
energy, and progress, and improvement of condition
to all." Free labor permitted farmers and
artisans to enjoy the products oftheir own labor,
and it also benefited wageworkers."The prudent,
penniless beginner intheworld,"Lincolnasserted,
"labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with
which to buy tools or land, for himself; then
labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him."
Wage labor, he claimed, was the first rung on
the ladder toward self-employment and eventually
hiring others.
The free-labor ideal affirmed an egalitarian
vision of human potential. Lincoln and other
spokesmen stressed the importance of universal
education to permit"heads and hands [to] cooperate
as friends" (Figure 12.1). Throughout the
North and West, communities supported public
schools to make the rudiments of learning available
to young children. By 1860, many cities and
towns had public schools that boasted that up
to 80 percent of children ages seven to thirteen
attended school at least for a few weeks each
year. In rural areas, where the labor of children
was more difficult to spare, schools typically
enrolled no more than half the school-age children.
Lessons included more than arithmetic,
penmanship, and a smattering of other subjects.
Textbooks and teachers — most of whom were young women — drummed into students the
lessons of the free-labor system: self-reliance,
discipline, and, above all else, hard work.
"Remember that all the ignorance, degradation,
and misery in the world is the result of indolence
and vice," one textbook intoned. Both in and
outside school, free-labor ideology emphasized
labor as much as freedom
The risks and uncertainties of free labor did not
deter millions of immigrants from entering the
UnitedStates during the 1840s and 1850s. Almost
4.5 million immigrants arrived between 1840
and 1860, six times more than had come during
the previous two decades (Figure 12.2). By 1860,
foreign-born residents made up about one-eighth
ofthe U.S. population, a fraction that held steady
well into the twentieth century. Nearly three-fourths of the immigrants
who arrived in the United States between 1840
and 1860 came from either Germany or Ireland.
The majority of the 1.4 million Germans who entered during these years were skilled
tradesmen and their families. Roughly
a quarter were farmers, some of whom
settled in Texas. German butchers,
bakers, beer makers, carpenters, shopkeepers,
and machinists settled mostly
in the Midwest, often congregating
in cities. On the whole, German
Americans were often Protestants
and occupied the middle stratum of
independent producers celebrated by
free-labor spokesmen; relatively few
worked as wage laborers or domestic
Irish immigrants, in contrast,
entered at the bottom of the free-labor
ladder and struggled to climb up.
Nearly 1.7 million Irish immigrants
arrived between 1840 and 1860, nearly
all of them desperately poor and often
weakened by hunger and disease.
Potato blight struck Ireland in 1845
and returned repeatedly in subsequent
years, spreading a catastrophic famine
throughout the island. Many of the
lucky ones crowded into the holds of
ships and set out for America, where they congregated in northeastern cities. As one
immigrant group declared, "All we want is to
get out of Ireland; we must be better anywhere
than here." Death trailed after them.
So many died crossing the Atlantic that
ships from Ireland were often termed
"coffin ships."
Roughly three out of four Irish immigrants
worked as laborers or domestic
servants. Irish men dug canals, loaded
ships, laid railroad track, and did odd jobs
while Irish women worked in the homes of others — cooking, washing and ironing, minding
children, and cleaning house. Almost all
Irish immigrants were Catholic, a fact that
set them apart from the overwhelmingly
Protestant native-born residents. Many natives
regarded the Irish as hard-drinking, unruly,
half-civilized folk. Such views lay behind the
discrimination reflected in job announcements
that commonly stated, "No Irish need apply."
Despite such prejudices, native residents hired
Irish immigrants because they accepted low
pay and worked hard In America's labor-poor economy, Irish
laborers could earn more in one day than in
several weeks in Ireland, where opportunities
were often scarce. In America, one immigrant
explained in 1853, there was "plenty of work
and plenty of wages plenty to eat and no land
lords thats enough what more does a man
want." But some immigrants wanted more,
especially respect and decent working conditions.
One immigrant complained that he was
"a slave for the Americans as the generality
of the Irish . . . are."Such testimony illustrates that the freelabor
system, whether for immigrants or nativeborn
laborers, often did not live up to the optimistic
vision outlined by Abraham Lincoln and
others. Many wage laborers could not realistically
aspire to become independent, self-sufficient
property holders, despite the claims of free-labor
1. John O'Sullivan, 1845
"Our manifest destiny [is] to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions"

Most Americans believed that the superiority of
their institutions and white culture bestowed on
them a God-given right to spread their civilization
across the continent. They imagined the
West as a howling wilderness, empty and undeveloped.
Ifthey recognized Indians and Mexicans
at all, they dismissed them as primitive drags
on progress who would have to be redeemed,
shoved aside, or exterminated.TheWest provided
young men especially an arena in which to "show
their manhood." The sense of uniqueness and
mission was as old as the Puritans, but by the
1840s the conviction of superiority had been
bolstered by the United States' amazing success.
Most Americans believed that the West needed
the civilizing power ofthe hammer and the plow,
the ballot box and the pulpit, which had transformed
the East.
In 1845, a New York political journal edited
by John L. O'Sullivan coined the term manifest
destiny as the latestjustificationforwhite settlers
to take the land they coveted. O'Sullivan called on
Americans to resist any foreign power — British, French, or Mexican — that attempted to thwart
"the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread
the continent allotted by Providence for
the free development of our yearly multiplying
millions . . . [and] for the development of the
great experiment of liberty and federative selfgovernment
entrusted to us." Almost overnight,
the magic phrase manifest destiny swept the
nation and provided an ideological shield for
conquering the West

As important as national pride and racial
arrogance were to manifest destiny, economic
gain made up its core. Land hunger drew hundreds
of thousands of average Americans westward.
Some politicians, moreover, had become
convinced that national prosperity depended on
capturing the rich trade ofthe Far East. To trade
with Asia, the United States needed the Pacific
coast ports that stretched from San Diego to
Puget Sound."The sun of civilization must shine
across the sea: socially and commercially,"
Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton declared.
The United States and Asia must"talk together,
and trade together. Commerce is a great civilizer."
In the 1840s, American economic expansion came
wrapped in the rhetoric of uplift and civilization.
1. Joseph Smith:
-Exodus and Brigham Young
-Annexation of Utah, 1850

Not every wagon train heading west was bound
for the Pacific Slope. One remarkable group of
religious emigrants halted near the Great Salt
Lake in what was then Mexican territory. The
Mormons deliberately chose the remote site as
a refuge. After years of persecution in the East,
they fled west to find religious freedom and
communal security.

In 1820, an upstate New York farm boy
named Joseph Smith Jr. had begun to experience
revelations that were followed, he said, by a visit
from an angel who led him to golden tablets
buried near his home. With the aid of magic stones, he translated the mysterious language
on the tablets to produce The Book of Mormon,
which he published in 1830. It told the story of
an ancient Hebrew civilization in the New World
and predicted the appearance of an American
prophet who would reestablish Jesus Christ's
to the promise of a pure faith in the midst of
antebellum America's socialturmoil and rampant
materialism, flocked to the new Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).

Neighbors branded Mormons heretics and
drove Smith and his followers from New York
to Ohio, then to Missouri, and finally in 1839 to
Nauvoo, Illinois, where they built a prosperous community. But a rift in the church developed
after Smith sanctioned "plural marriage"(polygamy).
Non-Mormons caught wind of the controversy
and eventually arrested Smith and his
brother. On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the
jail and shot both men dead.
The embattled church turned to an extraordinary
newleader,Brigham Young,who oversaw
a great exodus. In 1846, traveling in 3,700 wagons,
12,000 Mormons made their way to eastern
Iowa, then the following year to their new home
beside the Great Salt Lake. Young described the
region as a barren waste, "the paradise of the
lizard, the cricket and the rattlesnake." Within
ten years, however, the Mormons developed an
irrigation system that made the desert bloom.
Under Young's stern leadership, the Mormons
built a thriving community using cooperative
labor, not the individualistic and competitive
enterprise common among most emigrants.
In 1850, the Mormon kingdom was annexed
to the United States as Utah Territory. The
nation's attention focused on Utah in 1852 when
Brigham Young announced that many Mormons
practiced polygamy. Although only one Mormon
man in five had more than one wife (Young had
twenty-three), Young's statement caused a popular
outcry that forced the U.S. government to
establish its authority in Utah. In 1857, 2,500
U.S. troops invaded Salt Lake City in what was
known as the Mormon War. The bloodless occupation
illustrated that most Americans viewed the Mormons as a threat to American morality,
law, and institutions. The invasion did not dislodge
the Mormon Church from its central place
in Utah, however, and for years to come, most
Americans perceived the Mormon settlement as
strange and suitably isolated.
Another consequence of the Mexican defeat was
that California gold poured into American, not
Mexican, pockets. In January 1848, just weeks
before the formal transfer of territory, James
Marshall discovered gold in the American River
in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Marshall's discovery set off the California gold rush, one
of the wildest mining stampedes in the world's
"forty-niners,"as thewould-beminerswereknown,
descended on the Golden State. In less than two
from foreign territory to statehood.

Gold fever quickly spread around the world.
A stream of men of various races and nationalities,
all bent on getting rich, remade the quiet
California world of Mexican ranches into a raucous,
roaring mining and town economy. Only a
few struck it rich, and life in the goldfields was
nasty, brutish, and often short. Men faced miserable
living conditions, sometimes sheltering
in holes and brush lean-tos. They also faced
cholera and scurvy, exorbitant prices for food
(eggs cost a dollar apiece), deadly encounters with claim jumpers, and endless backbreaking
labor. An individual with gold in his pocket could
find only temporary relief in the saloons, card
games, dogfights, gambling dens, and brothels
that flourished in the mining camps.

By 1853, San Francisco had grown into a
raw, booming city of 50,000 that depended as
much on gold as did the mining camps inland.
Like the towns that dotted the San Joaquin and
Sacramento valleys, it suffered from overcrowding,
fire, crime, and violence. But enterprising
individuals had learned that there was money
to be made tending to the needs of the miners.
Hotels, saloons, restaurants,laundries, and stores
of all kinds exchanged services and goods for
miners' gold

In 1851, the Committee of Vigilance determined
to bring order to the city. Members pledged
that "no thief, burglar, incendiary or assassin
shall escape punishment, either by the quibbles
ofthe law,the insecurity of prisons,the carelessness
or corruption of the police, or a laxity of
those who pretended to administer justice."
Lynchings proved that the committee meant
business. In time, merchants, tradesmen, and
professionalsmade the citytheirhomeandbrought
their families from back east. Gunfights declined,
but many years would pass before anyone pacified
San Francisco.

Establishing civic order was made more
difficult by California's diversity and Anglo
bigotry. The Chinese attracted special scrutiny.
By 1851, 25,000 Chinese lived in California,
and their religion, language, dress, queues (long
pigtails), eating habits, and recreational use of
opium convinced many Anglos that they were
not fit citizens of the Golden State. In 1850,
the California legislature passed the Foreign
Miners' Tax Law, which levied high taxes on
non-Americans to drive them from the goldfields,
except as hired laborers working on claims
owned by Americans. The Chinese were segregated
residentially and occupationally and made
ineligible for citizenship. Along with blacks and
Indians, Chinese were denied public education
and the right to testify in court.

As early as 1852, opponents demanded a
halt to Chinese immigration. Chinese leaders
in San Francisco fought back. Admitting deep
cultural differences, they insisted that "in
the important matters we are good men. We
honor our parents; we take care of our children;
we are industrious and peaceable; we
trade much; we are trusted for small and
large sums; we pay our debts; and are honest, and of course must tell the truth." Their protestations
offered little protection, however,
and racial violence grew.

Anglo-American prospectors asserted their
dominance over other groups, especially Native
Americans and the Californios, Spanish and
Mexican settlers who had lived in California for
decades. Despite the U.S. government's pledge
to protect Mexican and Spanish land titles after
the cession of 1848, Americans took the land of
the rancheros and through discriminatory legislationpushedHispanicprofessionals,merchants,
and artisans into the ranks of unskilled labor.
Mariano Vallejo, a leading Californio, said ofthe
forty-niners, "The good ones were few and the
wicked many."

For Indians,the gold rush was catastrophic.
Numbering about 150,000 in 1848, the Indian
population of California fell to 25,000 by 1854.
Starvation, disease, and a declining birthrate
took a heavy toll. Indians also fell victim to
wholesale murder. The nineteenth-century
historian Hubert Howe Bancroft described of plains, deserts, and almost impossible mountains"
from the rest of the Union. Some dreamers
imagined a railroad that would someday
connect the Golden State with the thriving
agriculture and industry of the East. Others
imagined a country transformed not by transportation
but by progressive individual and
institutional reform.
While manifest destiny, the Mexican-American
War, and the California gold rush transformed
the nation's boundaries, many Americans sought
personal and social reform. The emphasis on
self-discipline and individual effort at the core
of the free-labor ideal led Americans to believe
that insufficient self-control caused the major
socia l prob lems o f the era. Evange l ica l
Protestants struggled to control individuals'
propensity to sin. Temperance advocates
exhorted drinkers to control their urge for
alcohol. In the midst of the worldly disruptions
of geographic expansion and economic change,
about one-third of Americans belonged to a
church in 1850. Although many — like Abraham
Lincoln — remained outside churches, the
influence of evangelical religion reached far
beyond church members.
The evangelicaltemperament—a conviction
of righteousness coupled with energy, self-
discipline, and faith that the world could be
improved — animated most reformers. However,
a few activists pointed out that certain fundamental
injustices lay beyond the reach of individual
self-control. Transcendentalists and utopians
believed that perfection could be attained
only by rejecting the competitive, individualistic
values of mainstream society. Woman's rights
activists and abolitionists sought to reverse the
subordination of women and to eliminate the
enslavement of blacks by changing laws and
social institutions as well as attitudes and customs.
They confronted the daunting challenge
of repudiating widespread assumptions about
male supremacy and white supremacy and somehow
challenging the entrenched institutions
that reinforced those assumptions: the family
and slavery

A group of New England writers who came to
be known as transcendentalists believed that
individuals should conform neither to the dictates
of the materialistic world nor to the dogma of
formal religion. Instead, people should look within
themselves for truth and guidance. The leading
transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson — an
essayist, poet, and lecturer — proclaimed that
the power of the solitary individual was nearly
limitless. Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller,
and other transcendentalists agreed with Emerson
that "if the single man plant himself indomitably
on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world
will come round to him." In many ways, the inward gaze and confident egoism of transcendentalism
represented less an alternative to
mainstream values than an exaggerated form
of the rampant individualism of the age.
Unlike transcendentalists who sought to
turn inward, a few reformers tried to change the
world by organizing utopian communities as
alternatives to prevailing social arrangements.
Although these communities never attracted
more than a few thousand people, the activities
of their members demonstrated both dissatisfaction
with the larger society and their efforts to
realize their visions of perfection.
Some communities set out to become models
of perfection whose success would point the way
toward a better life for everyone. During the
1840s, more than two dozen communities organized
themselves around the ideas of Charles Fourier, a French critic of contemporary society.
Members of Fourierist phalanxes, as these communities
were called, believed thatindividualism
and competition were evils that denied the basic
truth that "men . . . are brothers and not competitors."
Phalanxes aspired to replace competition
with harmonious cooperation based on communal
ownership of property. But Fourierist
communities failed to realize their lofty goals,
and few survived more than two or three years.
The Oneida community went beyond the
Noyes,the charismatic leader of Oneida, believed
that American society's commitment to private
property made people greedy and selfish. Noyes
claimed that the root of private property lay in
marriage, in men's conviction that their wives
were their exclusive property. Drawing from a
substantial inheritance, Noyes organized the
Oneida community in New York in 1848 to abolish
marital property rights through the practice of what he called "complex marriage." Sexual
intercourse was not restricted to married couples
but was permitted between any consenting man
andwomaninthe community. Noyes also required
all members to relinquish their economic property
to the community, which developed a lucrative
business manufacturing animal traps. Oneida's
sexual and economic communalism attracted
several hundred members, but most of their
neighbors considered Oneidans adulterers, blasphemers,
and worse. Yet the practices that set
Oneida apart from its mainstream neighbors
strengthened the community, and it survived
long after the Civil War.
Women participated in the many reform activities
that grewout of evangelical churches.Women
church members outnumbered men two to one
and worked to put their religious ideas into
practice by joining peace, temperance, antislavery,
and other societies. Involvement in reform
organizations gave a few women activists practical
experience in such political arts as speaking
in public, running a meeting, drafting resolutions,
and circulating petitions. Along with such
experience came confidence. The abolitionist
Lydia Maria Child pointed outin 1841 that"those
who urged women to become missionaries and
form tract societies . . . have changed the household
utensil to a living energetic being and they
have no spell to turn it into a broom again."

In 1848, about three hundred reformers
led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia
Mott gathered at Seneca Falls, New York, for
the first national woman's rights convention
in the United States. As Stanton recalled, "The
general discontent I felt with women's portion
as wife, mother, housekeeper, physician, and
spiritual guide, [and] the wearied anxious look
of the majority of women impressed me with
a strong feeling that some active measure should
be taken to right the wrongs of society in general,
and of women in particular." The Seneca
Falls Declaration of Sentiments set an ambitious
agenda to demand civil liberties for women
and to right the wrongs of society. The declaration
proclaimed that "the history of mankind
is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations
on the part of man toward woman, having
in direct object the establishment of an
absolute tyranny over her." In the style of the
Declaration of Independence (see appendix I,
page A-1), the Seneca Falls declaration
demanded that women "have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong
to them as citizens of the United States," particularly
the "inalienable right to the elective

Nearly two dozen other woman's rights conventions
assembled before 1860, repeatedly calling
for suffrage and an end to discrimination
against women. But women had difficulty receiving
a respectful hearing, much less achieving
legislative action. Even so, the Seneca Falls
declaration served as a pathbreaking manifesto
of dissent against male supremacy and of support
for woman suffrage, and it inspired many
women to challenge the barriers that limited
their opportunities

eir opportunities.
Stanton and other activists sought fair pay
by appealing to free-labor ideology. Woman's
rights advocate Paula Wright Davis urged
Americans to stop discriminating against able
and enterprising women: "Let [women] . . . open
a Store, . . . plant and tend an Orchard, . . . learn
any of the lighter mechanical Trades, . . . study
for a Profession, . . . be called to the lecture-room,
[and] . . . the Temperance rostrum . . . [and] let
her be appointed [to serve in the Post Office]."
Some women pioneered in these and many other
occupations during the 1840s and 1850s.Woman's
rights activists also succeeded in protecting married
women's rights to their own wages and property
in New York in 1860. But discrimination
against women persisted, as most men believed
that free-labor ideology required no compromise
of male supremacy
Nat Turner was born a slave in Southampton County, Virginia,
in October 1800. People in his neighborhood claimed that he had always
been different. His parents noticed special marks on his body, which they
said were signs that he was "intended for some great purpose." His master
said that he learned to read without being taught. As an adolescent, he
adopted an austere lifestyle of Christian devotion and fasting. In his twenties,
he received visits from the "Spirit," the same spirit, he believed, that
had spoken to the ancient prophets. In time, Nat Turner began to interpret
these things to mean that God had appointed him an instrument of divine
vengeance for the sin of slaveholding. In the early morning of August 22, 1831, he set out with six trusted
friends — Hark, Henry, Sam, Nelson, Will, and Jack — to punish slave
owners. Turner struck the first blow, an ax to the head of his master,
Joseph Travis. The rebels killed all of the white men, women, and children
they encountered. By noon, they had visited eleven farms and slaughtered
fifty-seven whites. Along the way, they had added fifty or sixty men to
their army. Word spread quickly, and soon the militia and hundreds of
local whites gathered. By the next day, whites had captured or killed all of
the rebels except Turner, who hid out for about ten weeks before being
captured in nearby woods. Within a week, he was tried, convicted, and
executed. By then, forty-five slaves had stood trial, twenty had been convicted
and hanged, and another ten had been banished from Virginia.
Frenzied whites had killed another hundred or more blacks — insurgents
and innocent bystanders — in their counterattack against the rebellion.

Virginia's bewildered governor, John Floyd, struggled to understand
why Turner's band of "assassins and murderers" assaulted the "unsuspecting
and defenseless" citizens of "one of the fairest counties" of the state.
White Virginians prided themselves on having the "mildest" slavery in the
South, but sixty black rebels on a rampage challenged the comforting theory
of the contented slave. Nonetheless, whites found explanations that
allowed them to feel safer. They placed the blame on outside agitators. In
1829, David Walker, a freeborn black man living in Boston, had published
his Appeal . . . to the Coloured Citizens of the World, an invitation to slaves
to rise up in bloody rebellion, and copies had fallen into the hands of
Virginia slaves. Moreover, on January 1, 1831, in Boston, the Massachusetts abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison had published the first issue of the
Liberator, his fiery newspaper (see chapter 11). White Virginians also
dismissed the rebellion's leader, Nat Turner, as insane. "He is a complete
fanatic, or plays his part admirably," wrote Thomas R. Gray, the lawyer
who was assigned to defend Turner.

In the months following the insurrection, the Virginia legislature reaffirmed
the state's determination to preserve black bondage by passing
laws that strengthened the institution of slavery and further restricted
free blacks. A professor at the College of William and Mary, Thomas R.
Dew, published a vigorous defense of slavery that became the bible of
Southerners' proslavery arguments. More than ever, the nation was
divided along the Mason-Dixon line, the surveyors' mark that in colonial
times had established the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania
but half a century later divided the free North and the slave South.

Black slavery increasingly molded the South into a distinctive region.
In the decades after 1820, Southerners, like Northerners, raced westward,
but unlike Northerners who spread small farms, manufacturing, and free
labor, Southerners spread slavery, cotton, and plantations. Geographic
expansion meant that slavery became more vigorous and more profitable
than ever, embraced more people, and increased the South's political
power. Antebellum Southerners included diverse people who at times
found themselves at odds with one another — not only slaves and free
people but also women and men; Indians, Africans, and Europeans; and
aristocrats and common folk. Nevertheless, beneath this diversity, a distinctively
southern society and culture were forming. The South became
a slave society, and most white Southerners were proud of it.

Slaves did not suffer slavery passively. They
were, as whites said, "troublesome property."
Slaves understood that accommodation to what
they could not change was the price of survival,
butin a hundred ways they protested their bondage.
Theoretically, the master was all-powerful
and the slave powerless. But sustained by their
families, religion, and community, slaves engaged
in day-to-day resistance againsttheir enslavers.
The spectrum of slave resistance ranged
from mild to extreme. Telling a pointed story by
the fireside in a slave cabin was probably the
mildest form of protest. But when the weak got
the better of the strong, as they did in tales of
Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Fox (Br'er is a contraction
of Brother), listeners could enjoy the thrill of a vicarious victory over their masters. Protest in
the fields was riskier and included putting rocks
in their cotton bags before having them weighed,
feigning illness, and pretending to be so thickheaded
that they could not understand the simplest
instruction. Slaves broke so many hoes
that owners outfitted the tools with oversized
handles. Slaves so mistreated the work animals
that masters switched from horses to mules,
which could absorb more abuse. Although slaves
worked hard in the master's fields, they also
sabotaged his interests Running away was a common form of protest,
but except along the borders with northern states
and with Mexico, escape to freedom was almost
impossible. Most runaways could hope only to
escape for a few days. Seeking temporary respite
from hard labor or avoiding punishment, they
usually stayed close to their plantations, keeping
to the deep woods or swamps and slipping back
into the quarter at night to get food. "Lying out,"
as it was known, usually ended when the runaway,
worn-out and ragged, gave up or was
finally chased down by slave-hunting dogs.

Although resistance was common, outright
rebellion — a violent assault on slavery by large
numbers of slaves — was very rare. The scarcity
of revolts in the South is not evidence of the
slaves' contentedness, however. Rather, conditions
gave rebels almost no chance of success.
By 1860, whites in the South outnumbered blacks
two to one and were heavily armed. Moreover,
communication between plantations was difficult,
and the South provided little protective wilderness
into which rebels could retreat and defend
themselves. Rebellion, as Nat Turner's experience
showed (see pages 393-394), was virtual suicide.
By 1860, one in every three Southerners was
black (approximately 4 million blacks to 8 million
whites). In the Lower South states of
Mississippi and South Carolina, blacks constituted
the majority (Figure 13.1). The contrast
with the North was striking: In 1860, only one Northerner in seventy-six was black (about
250,000 blacks to 19 million whites).
The presence of large numbers of African
Americans had profound consequences for the
South. Southern culture — language, food, music,
religion, and even accents — was in part shaped
by blacks. But the most direct consequence of the
South's biracialism was southern whites' commit menttowhitesupremacy.Northernwhitesbelieved
in racial superiority, too, but their dedication to
white supremacy lackedthe intensity andurgency
increasingly felt by white Southerners who lived
among millions of blacks who had every reason to
hate them and to strike back, as Nat Turner had.
After 1820, attacks on slavery — from blacks
and a handful of white Southerners opposed to
slavery and from Northern abolitionists — jolted
southern slaveholders into a distressing awareness
that they lived in a dangerous world. As
the only slave society embedded in an egalitarian,
democratic republic,theSouth made extraordinary
efforts to strengthen slavery. In the 1820s
and 1830s, state legislatures constructed slave
codes (laws) that required the total submission
of slaves. As the Louisiana code stated, a slave
"owes his master . . . a respect without bounds,
and an absolute obedience." The laws also underlined
the authority of all whites, notjust masters.
Any white could "correct" slaves who did not
stay "in their place."

Intellectuals joined legislators in the campaign
to strengthen slavery.The South's academics,
writers, and clergy employed every imaginable
defense. They argued that in the South
slaves were legal property, and wasn't the protection
of property the bedrock of American liberty?
History also endorsed slavery,they claimed.
Weren't the great civilizations — such as those
of the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans — slave
societies? They claimed that the Bible, properly
interpreted, also sanctioned slavery. Old
Testamentpatriarchs ownedslaves,theyobserved,
and in the New Testament, Paul returned the
runaway slaveOnesimus tohismaster.Proslavery
spokesmen played on the fears of Northerners
and Southerners alike by charging that giving
blacks equal rights would lead to the sexual
mixing of the races, or miscegenation.

Another of slavery's champions, George
Fitzhugh of Virginia, attacked the North's freelabor
economy and society. He claimed that
behind the North's grand slogans lay a heartless philosophy: "Every man for himself, and the
devil take the hindmost." Gouging capitalists
exploited wageworkers unmercifully, Fitzhugh
declared, and he contrasted the North's vicious
free-labor system with the humane relations
that he said prevailed between masters and
slaves because slaves were valuable capitalthat
masters sought to protect.

But at the heart of the defense of slavery
lay the claim of black inferiority. Black enslavement
was both necessary and proper, slavery's
defenders argued, because Africans were lesser beings. Rather than exploitative, slavery was a
mass civilizing effort that lifted lowly blacks
from barbarism and savagery, taught them disciplined
work, and converted them to soul-saving
Christianity. According to Virginian Thomas R.
Dew, most slaves were grateful. He declared that "the slaves of a good master are his warmest,
most constant, and most devoted friends."
Whites gradually moved away from defending
slavery as a "necessary evil"—thehalfhearted
argument popular at the time of the American
Revolution — and toward an aggressive defense

25% slave owners
-Half own 5 or less

1% of slave owners
-own 200 slaves
By 1830 supplied the world's cotton

In the first half of the nineteenth century, millions
of Americans migrated west. In the South,
the stampede began after the Creek War of
1813-1814, which divested the Creek Indians of
24 million acres and initiated the government
campaign to remove Indian
p eop l e l iv ing eas t o f the
Mississippi River to the West
(see chapters 10 and 11). Harddriving
slaveholders seeking
virgin acreage for new plantations,
striving farmers looking
forpatches of cheaplandfor small
farms,herders and drovers pushing
their hogs and cattle toward
fresh pastures — anyone who
was restless and ambitious felt
the pull of Indian land.

But more than anything it was cotton that
propelled Southerners westward. South of the
Mason-Dixon line, climate and geography were
ideally suited for the cultivationof cotton. Cotton's
requirements are minimal: two hundred frostfree
days from planting to picking, and plentiful
rain, conditions found in much of the South. By
the 1830s, cottonfields stretched fromtheAtlantic
seaboard to central Texas. Heavy migration led
to statehood for Arkansas in 1836 and for Texas
and Florida in 1845. Production soared from
300,000 bales in 1830 to nearly 5 million in 1860,
when the South produced three-fourths of the
world's supply. The South — especially that tier
of states from South Carolina west to Texas
called the Lower South — had become the cotton
kingdom (Map 13.1).

The cotton kingdom was also a slave empire.
The South's cotton boom rested on the backs of
slaves, most of whom toiled in gangs under the
direct supervision of whites. As cotton agriculture
expanded westward, whites shipped more than
a million enslaved men and women from the
Atlantic coast across the continent in what has
been called the "Second Middle Passage," a massive
deportation that dwarfed the transatlantic
slave trade to North America. Victims of this
brutal domestic slave trade marched hundreds
of miles southwest to new plantations in the
Lower South. The earliest arrivals faced the
hardest work, literally cutting plantations from
forests. One observer noted that young male
slaves in Alabama who were no more than nineteen
or twenty looked twice their age. Cotton,
slaves, and plantations moved west together.

The slave population grew enormously.
Southern slaves numbered fewer than 700,000
in 1790, about 2 million in 1830, and almost
4 million by 1860. By 1860, the South contained
more slaves than all the other slave societies in
the New World combined. The extraordinary
growth was not the result of the
importation of slaves, which the
federal government outlawed
in 1808. Instead, the slave population
grew through natural
reproduction; by midcentury,
mostU.S. slaveswerenative-born
Southerners. In comparison,
Cuba and Brazil, slave societies
that kepttheir slave trades open
had more African-born slaves
and thus stronger ties to Africa.

As important as slavery was in unifying white
Southerners, only about a quarter of the white
population lived in slaveholding families. Most slaveholders owned fewer than five slaves.
Only about 12 percent of slave owners owned
twenty or more, the number of slaves that historians
consider necessary to distinguish a planter
fromafarmer.Despite their smallnumbers,planters
dominated the southern economy. In 1860,
52 percent ofthe South's slaves lived and worked
on plantations.Plantation slaves produced more
than 75 percent of the South's export crops, the
backbone of the region's economy. Slavery was
dying elsewhere in the New World (only Brazil
and Cuba still defended slavery at midcentury),
but slave plantations increasingly dominated
southern agriculture

The South's major cash crops — tobacco,
sugar, rice, and cotton — grew on plantations
(Map 13.2). Tobacco, the original plantation crop
in North America, had shifted westward in the
nineteenth century from the Chesapeake to
Tennessee and Kentucky. Large-scale sugar production
began in 1795, when Étienne de Boré
built a modern sugar mill in what is today New
Orleans, and sugar plantations were confined
almost entirely to Louisiana. Commercial rice
production began in the seventeenth century,
and like sugar, rice was confined to a small geographic
area, a narrow strip of coast stretching
from the Carolinas into Georgia

Tobacco, sugar, and rice were labor-intensive
crops that relied on large numbers of slaves to
do the backbreaking work. Most phases
oftobacco cultivation—planting,transporting,thinning,pickingoff
cutting, drying, packing — required
laborers to stoop or bend down. Work
on sugarcane plantations was particularly
physically demanding. During the
harvest, slaves worked eighteen hours
a day, and so hard was the slaves' task
that one visitor concluded that"nothing
but 'involuntary servitude' could go
through the toil and suffering required
to produce sugar." Working in water
and mud in the heat of a Carolina summer
regularly threatenedslaves engaged
in rice production with malaria, yellow
fever, and other diseases.

But by the nineteenth century, cotton
was king of the South's plantation
crops. Cotton became commercially significantin
the 1790s after the invention
of a new cotton gin by Eli Whitney dramatically
increased the production of
raw cotton (see chapter 9). Cotton was
relatively easy to grow and took little
capital to get started — just enough to purchase land, seed, and simple tools. Thus,
small farmers as well as planters grew cotton.
But planters, whose fields were worked by gangs
of slaves, produced three-quarters
of the South's cotton, and cotton
made planters rich.

P lantat ion s lavery a lso
enriched the nation. By 1840, cotton
accounted for more than 60
percent ofAmericanexports.Most
ofthe cotton was shipped to Great
Britain, the world's largest manufacturer
of cotton textiles. Much
of the profit from the sale of cotton
overseas returned to planters,
but somewenttonorthernmiddlemen
who bought, sold, insured, warehoused, and
shipped cotton to the mills in Great Britain and P lantat ion s lavery a lso
enriched the nation. By 1840, cotton
accounted for more than 60
percent ofAmericanexports.Most
ofthe cotton was shipped to Great
Britain, the world's largest manufacturer
of cotton textiles. Much
of the profit from the sale of cotton
overseas returned to planters,
but somewenttonorthernmiddlemen
who bought, sold, insured, warehoused, and
shipped cotton to the mills in Great Britain andP lantat ion s lavery a lso
enriched the nation. By 1840, cotton
accounted for more than 60
percent ofAmericanexports.Most
ofthe cotton was shipped to Great
Britain, the world's largest manufacturer
of cotton textiles. Much
of the profit from the sale of cotton
overseas returned to planters,
but somewenttonorthernmiddlemen
who bought, sold, insured, warehoused, and
shipped cotton to the mills in Great Britain and elsewhere. As one New York merchant observed,
"Cotton has enriched all through whose hands
it has passed." As middlemen invested their
profits in the booming northern economy, industrialdevelopment
receiveda burst ofmuch-needed
capital. Furthermore, southern plantations benefited
northern industry by providing an important
market for textiles, agricultural tools, and
other manufactured goods.

The economies oftheNorthandSouthsteadily
diverged. While the North developed a mixed
economy — agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing
—the South remained overwhelmingly
agricultural. Year after year, planters funneled
the profits they earned from land and slaves
back into more land and more slaves. With its
capital flowing into agriculture, the South did
not develop many factories. By 1860, only 10 percent of the nation's industrial workers lived
in the South. Some cotton mills sprang up, but
the regionthatproduced100percent ofthenation's
cotton manufactured less than 7 percent of its
cotton textiles..

Without significant economic
diversification, the South developed
fewer cities than the North
and West (Map 13.3). In 1860, it
was the least urban region in the
country. Whereas nearly 37 percent
of New England's population
lived incities,less than12 percent
of Southerners were urban dwellers.
Southern cities were mostly
port cities and were busy principally
with exporting the agricultural
products of plantations in
the interior. Urban merchants
provided agriculture with indispensable services,
such as hauling,
insuring, and selling cotton, rice,
and sugar, but they were the tail
on the plantation dog.

Because theSouthhadso fewcitiesandindustrial
jobs, it attracted small numbers of European
immigrants. Seeking economic opportunity, not
competition with slaves (whose labor would keep
wages low), immigrants steered northward. In
1860, 13 percent of all Americans
were born abroad. But in nine of
the fifteen slave states, only
2 percent or less ofthe population
was foreign-born

Not every Southerner celebrated
the region's commitment
to cotton and slaves. Critics
bemoaned what one called the
"deplorable scarcity" of factories.
Diversification, reformers promised,
would make the South economically
independent and more
prosperous. State governments
encouraged economic development
by helping to create banking
systems that supplied credit
for a wide range of projects and
by constructing railroads, but they failed to create some of the essential services
modern economies required. By the mid-
nineteenth century, for example, no southern
legislature had created a statewide public school
system. Planters failed to see any benefit in
educating the childrenof smallfarmers, especially
with their tax money. Despite the flurry of railroad
building, the South's mileage in 1860 was
less thanhalfthat oftheNorth.Moreover,whereas
railroads crisscrossed the North carrying manufactured
goods and agricultural products, most
railroads in the South were short stretches of
track that ran from port cities back into farming
areas in order to transport cotton.

Northerners claimed that slavery was a
backward labor system, and compared with
Northerners, Southerners invested less of their
capital in industry, transportation, and public
education. But planters' pockets were never fuller
than in the 1850s. Planters' decisions to reinvest
in agriculture ensured the momentum of the
plantation economy and the political and social
relationships rooted in it.
Elderly - When slave boys and girls reached the age of
eleven or twelve, masters sent most of them to
the fields, where they learned farmwork by laboring
alongside their parents. After a lifetime of
labor, old women left the fields to care for the
small children and spin yarn, and old men moved
on to mind livestock and clean stables.

The overwhelming majority of plantation
slaves worked as field hands, and most grew
cotton. Cotton had a long growing season,
and work never stopped, from the clearing of
the fields in January and February to the planting
and cultivating in the spring and summer
until the picking in the fall. Planters sometimes
assigned men and women to separate gangs, the
women working at lighter tasks and the men
doing the heavy work of clearing and breaking
the land. But women also did heavy work. "I had
to work hard," Nancy Boudry remembered, and
"plow and go and split wood just like a man."
The backbreaking labor and the monotonous
routines caused one ex-slave to observe that the
"history of one day is the history of every day."

A few slaves (about one in ten) became house
servants. Nearly all ofthose (nine out often) were
women. They cooked, cleaned, babysat, washed
clothes, and did the dozens of other tasks the master and mistress required. House servants
than field hands, butthey were constantly on call,
with no time that was entirely their own. Since
no servant could please constantly, most bore the
brunt ofwhite frustrationandrage.Ex-slaveJacob
Branch of Texas remembered, "My poor mama!
Every washday old Missy give her a beating."

Rarest of all slave occupations was that of
slave driver. Probably no more than one male
slave in a hundred worked in this capacity. These
men were well named, for their primary task
was driving other slaves to work harder in the
fields. In some drivers' hands, the whip never
rested. Ex-slave Jane Johnson of South Carolina
called her driver the "meanest man, white or
black, I ever see." But other drivers showed all
the restraint they could. "Ole Gabe didn't like
that whippin' business," West Turner of Virginia
remembered. "When Marsa was there, he would
lay it on 'cause he had to. But when old Marsa
wasn'tlookin', he never would beatthem slaves."

Running away was a common form of protest,
but except along the borders with northern states
and with Mexico, escape to freedom was almost
impossible. Most runaways could hope only to
escape for a few days. Seeking temporary respite
from hard labor or avoiding punishment, they
usually stayed close to their plantations, keeping
to the deep woods or swamps and slipping back
into the quarter at night to get food. "Lying out,"
as it was known, usually ended when the runaway,
worn-out and ragged, gave up or was
finally chased down by slave-hunting dogs.

1. hide in crates being shipped off
2. Pose as an owner/slave
Southern slaveholder Zachary Taylor entered
the White House in March 1849 and almost
immediately shocked the nation by championing
a free-soil solution to the Mexican cession.
Believing that he could avoid further sectional
strife if California and New Mexico skipped the territorial stage, the new president encouraged
the settlers to apply for admission to the Union
as states.Predominantly antislavery,the settlers
began writing free-state constitutions. "For the
first time," Mississippian Jefferson Davis
lamented, "we are about permanently to destroy
the balance of power between the sections."

Congress convened in December 1849, beginning
one of the most contentious and most significant
sessions in its history. President Taylor
urged Congress to admit California as a free
state immediately and to admit New Mexico,
which lagged behind a few months, as soon as
it applied. Southerners exploded. A North
Carolinian declared that Southerners who would
"consentto be thus degraded and enslaved, ought
to be whipped through their fields by their own

Into this rancorous scene stepped Senator
Henry Clay of Kentucky, the architect of Unionsaving
compromises in the Missouri and nullification
crises (see chapters 10 and 11). Clay offered
a series of resolutions meant to answer and balance
"all questions in controversy between the
free and slave states, growing out of the subject
of slavery." Admit California as a free state, he
proposed, but organize the rest of the Southwest
without restrictions on slavery. Require Texas to
abandon its claim to parts of New Mexico, but
compensate itbyassuming itspreannexationdebt.
Abolish the domestic slave trade in Washington,
D.C., but confirm slavery itself in the nation's
capital. Reassert Congress's lack of authority to
interferewiththe interstate slave trade, andenact
a more effective fugitive slave law.

Both antislavery advocates and "fire-eaters"
(as radical Southerners who urged secession from
theUnionwerecalled) savagedClay'splan.Senator
SalmonP. Chase ofOhio ridiculed it as "sentiment
for the North, substance for the South." Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi denounced it as
more offensive to the South than the speeches of
abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell
Phillips, and Frederick Douglass combined. The
who charged that unending northern agitation
on the slavery question had "snapped" many of
the "cords which bind these states together in one
common union." He argued that the fragile political
unity of North and South depended on continued
equal representation in the Senate, which
Clay's plan for a free California destroyed. "As
things now stand," he said in February 1850, the
South "cannot with safety remain in the Union."
After Clay and Calhoun had spoken, it was
time for the third member of the "great triumvirate,"
Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts toaddress theSenate.LikeClay,Websterdefended
compromise. He told Northerners that the South
hadlegitimate complaints,buthe toldSoutherners
that secession from the Union would mean civil
war. He appealed for an end to reckless proposals
by name the Wilmot Proviso. A legal ban on slavery
in the territories was unnecessary, he said,
because the harsh climate effectively prohibited
the expansion of cotton and slaves into the new
American Southwest."I would nottake pains uselessly
to reaffirm an ordinance of nature, nor to
reenact the will of God," Webster declared

Free-soil forces recoiled from what they saw
as Webster's desertion. Boston clergyman and
abolitionist Theodore Parker could only conclude
that "Southern men" must have
offered Webster the presidency.
York responded that Webster's
and Clay's compromise with slavery
was "radically wrong and
essentially vicious." He flatly
rejected Calhoun's argumentthat
Congress lacked the constitutional authority to
exclude slavery from the territories. In any case,
Seward said, in the most sensational moment in
his address, there was a "higher law than the
Constitution" — the law of God — to ensure freedom
in all the public domain. Claiming that God
was a Free-Soiler did nothing to cool the superheated
political atmosphere..

In May 1850, the Senate considered a bill
that joined Clay's resolutions into a single comprehensive
package, known as the Omnibus Bill
because it was a vehicle on which "every sort of
passenger" could ride. Clay bet that a majority
of Congress wanted compromise and that the
memberswould vote for the package, even though
it might contain provisions they disliked. But
the omnibus strategy backfired. Free-Soilers and
proslavery Southerners voted down the comprehensive

Fortunately for those who favored a settlement,
Senator Stephen A. Douglas, a rising
Democratic star from Illinois, broke the bill into
its parts and skillfully ushered each through
Congress. The agreement Douglas won in
September 1850 was very much the one Clay
had proposed in January. California entered the
Union as a free state. New Mexico and Utah
became territorieswhere slaverywouldbedecided
by popular sovereignty.Texas accepted its boundary
with New Mexico and received $10 million
from the federal government. Congress ended
the slave trade in the District of Columbia but enacted a more stringent fugitive slave law.
In September, Millard Fillmore, who had become
president when Zachary Taylor died in July,
signed into law each bill, collectively known as
the Compromise of 1850 (Map 14.2). Actually, the Compromise of 1850 was not a
true compromise at all. Douglas's parliamentary
skill, not a spirit of conciliation, was responsible
for the legislativesuccess.Still,thenationbreathed
a sigh of relief, for the Compromise preserved the
Unionandpeace for themoment.Some recognized,
however, that the Compromise scarcely touched
thedeeper conflict over slavery.Free-SoilerSalmon
Chase observed, "The question of slavery in the
territories has been avoided. It has not been
The issue of runaway slaves was as old as the
Constitution, which contained a provision for
the return of any "person held to service or labor
in one state" who escaped to another. In 1793,
a federal law gave muscle to the provision by
authorizing slave owners to enter other states
to recapture their slave property. Proclaiming
the 1793 law a license to kidnap free blacks,
northern states in the 1830s began passing "personal
liberty laws" that provided fugitives with
some protection.
Some northern communities also formed
vigilance committees to help runaways. Each
year, a few hundred slaves escaped into free
states and found friendly northern "conductors"
who putthem aboard the underground railroad,
which was not a railroad at all
but a series of secret "stations"(hideouts)
t o C a n a d a. H a r r i e t
from Maryland, returned
to the South more than a
dozen times and guided
more than three hundred
slaves to freedom in this way.
Furious about northern interference,
Southerners in 1850 insisted on the stricter
fugitive slave law that was passed as part of the
Compromise. According to the Fugitive Slave
Act, to seize an alleged slave, a slaveholder simply
had to appear before a commissioner and
swear that therun away was his.The commissioner
earned $10 for every individual returned to slavery
but only $5 for those set free. Most galling to Northerners,the law stipulated that all citizens
were expected to assist officials in apprehending
Abolitionist Theodore Parker denounced the
law as "a hateful statute of kidnappers." In
Boston in February 1851, an angry crowd overpowered
federal marshals and snatched a runaway
named Shadrach from a courtroom, put
him on the underground railroad, and whisked
him off to Canada. Three years later, when
another Boston crowd rushed the courthouse in
a failed attempt to rescue Anthony Burns, who had recently fled slavery in Richmond, a guard
was shot dead. Martha Russell, a writer for the
antislavery journal National Era, was among
the angry crowd that watched Burns being
escorted to the ship that would return him to
Virginia. "Did you ever feel every drop of blood
in you boiling and seething,throbbing and burning,
until it seemed you should suffocate?" she
asked. "I have felt all this today. I have seen
that poor slave, Anthony Burns, carried back
to slavery!"

To white Southerners, it seemed that fanatics
of the "higher law" creed had whipped
Northerners into a frenzy of
massive resistance. Actually,
the overwhelming majority of
fugitives claimed by slaveholders
were re enslaved peacefully.
But brutal enforcement of the
unpopular law had a radicalizing
effect in the North, particularly
in New England. To Southerners
it seemed that Northerners had
betrayed the Compromise. "The
continued existence of the United
States as one nation," warned the
Southern Literary Messenger,
"depends upon the full and faithful execution of
the Fugitive Slave Bill."
The Compromise of 1850 began to come apart
almost immediately. The thread that unraveled
it was not slavery in the Southwest, the crux of
the disagreement, but runaway slaves in New
England, a part of the settlement that had previously received little attention. Instead of restoring
calm, the Compromise brought the horrors
of slavery into the North.

Millions of Northerners who had never seen
a runaway slave confronted slavery in the early
1850s. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's
Cabin, a novel that vividly depicts the brutality
of the South's "peculiar institution," aroused
passions so deep that many found good will toward
white Southerners nearly impossible. But no
groundswell of antislavery sentiment compelled
Congress to reopen the slavery controversy.
Politicians did it themselves. Four years after
Congress stitched the sectional compromise
together, it ripped the threads out. With the
Kansas-Nebraska Act, it again posed the question
of slavery in the territories, the deadliest
of all sectional issues.

The spectacle of shackled African Americans
being herded south seared the conscience of
every Northerner who witnessed such a scene.
But even more Northerners were turned against
slavery by a novel. Harriet Beecher Stowe,
a white Northerner who had never set foot
on a plantation, made the South's slaves into
flesh-and-blood human beings almost more
real than life...

A member of a famous clan of preachers,
teachers, and reformers, Stowe despised the
slave catchers and wrote to expose the sin of
slavery. Published as a book in 1852, Uncle
Tom's Cabin, or Life among the Lowly became
a blockbuster hit, selling 300,000 copies in its
first year and more than 2 million copies within
ten years. Stowe's characters leaped from the
page. Here was the gentle slave Uncle Tom, a
Christian saint who forgave those who beat him
to death; the courageous slave Eliza, who fled
with her child across the frozen Ohio River; and
the fiendish overseer Simon Legree, whose
Louisiana plantation was a nightmare of torture
and death.

Mother of seven children, Stowe aimed her
most powerful blows at slavery's destructive
impact on the family. Her character Eliza succeeds
in keeping her son from being sold away,
but other mothers are not so fortunate. When
told that her infant has been sold, Lucy drowns
herself. Driven half mad by the sale of a son and
daughter, Cassy decides "never again [to] let a
child live to grow up!" She gives her third child
an opiate and watches as "he slept to death."
Northerners shed tears and sang praises to
Uncle Tom's Cabin. The poet Henry Wadsworth
Long fellow judged it"one of the greatest triumphs
recorded in literary history." What Northerners
accepted as truth, Southerners denounced as
slander. The Virginian George F. Holmes proclaimed
Stowe a member ofthe "Woman's Rights"
and "Higher Law" schools and dismissed the
novel as a work of"intense fanaticism." Although

it is impossible to measure precisely the impact
of a novel on public opinion, Uncle Tom's Cabin
clearly helped to crystallize northern sentiment
against slavery and to confirm white Southerners'
suspicion that they no longer received any sympathy
in the free states.
Other writers — ex-slaves who knew life in
slave cabins firsthand — also produced stinging
indictments of slavery. Solomon Northup's compelling
Twelve Years a Slave (1853) sold 27,000
copies in two years, and the powerful Narrative
of the Life of Frederick Douglass, as Told by
Himself (1845) eventually sold more than 30,000
copies. But no work touched the North's conscience
as did the novel by a free white woman. A decade
after its publication,when Stowe visited Abraham
Lincoln at the White House, he reportedly said,
"So you are the little woman who wrote the book
that made this great war."

Uncle Tom's Cabin Poster
After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850,
Harriet Beecher Stowe's outraged sister-in-law told her,
"Now Hattie, if I could use a pen as you can, I would
write something that will make this whole nation feel
what an accursed thing slavery is." This poster advertising
the novel Stowe wrote calls it "The Greatest Book of
the Age." The novel's vivid characters gripped readers'
imaginations and fueled the growing antislavery
Political debate over slavery in the territories
became so heated in part because the Constitution
lacked precision on the issue. In 1857, in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme
Court announced its understanding of the meaning
of the Constitution regarding slavery in the
territories. The Court's decision demonstrated
that it enjoyed no special immunity from the
sectional and partisan passions that were convulsing
the land.
In 1833, an army doctor bought the slave
Dred Scott in St. Louis, Missouri, and took him
as his personal servant to Fort Armstrong,
Illinois, and then to Fort Snelling in Wisconsin
Territory. Back in St. Louis in 1846, Scott, with
the help of white friends, sued to prove that he
and his family were legally entitled to their
freedom. Scott based his claim on his travels
and residences. He argued thatliving in Illinois,
a free state, and Wisconsin, a free territory,
had made his family free and thatthey remained free even after returning to Missouri, a slave

In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
the case. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who
hated Republicans and detested racial equality,
wrote the Court's decision. First, the Court
ruled in the Dred Scott decision that Scott
could not legally claim violation of his constitutional
rights because he was not a citizen of
the United States. When the Constitution was
written, Taney said, blacks "were regarded as
beings of an inferior order . . . so far inferior,
that they had no rights which the white man
was bound to respect." Second, the laws of
Dred Scott's home state, Missouri, determined
his status, and thus his travels in free areas
did not make him free. Third, Congress's power
to make "all needful rules and regulations" for
the territories did not include the right to
prohibit slavery. The Court explicitly declared
the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional,
even though it had already been voided by the
Kansas-Nebraska Act.

The Taney Court's extreme proslavery decision
outraged Republicans. By denying the federal
government the right to exclude slavery in
the territories, it cut the legs out from under the
Republican Party. Moreover, as the New York
Tribune lamented, the decision cleared the way
for "all our Territories . . . to be ripened into
Slave States." Particularly frightening to African
Americans in the North was the Court's declaration
that free blacks were not citizens and had
no rights.

The Republican rebuttal to the Dred Scott
ruling relied heavily on the dissenting opinion
of Justice Benjamin R. Curtis. Scott was a citizen
of the United States, Curtis argued. At the time
ofthe writing ofthe Constitution, free black men
could vote in five states and participated in the
ratification process. Scott was free. Because slavery
was prohibited inWisconsin,the "involuntary
servitude of a slave, coming into the Territory
with his master, should cease to exist." The
Missouri Compromise was constitutional.
The Founders had meant exactly whatthey said:

Congress had the power to make "all needful
rules and regulations" for the territories, including
barring slavery

In a seven-to-two decision,the Court rejected
Curtis'sarguments,thereby validatinganextreme
statement of the South's territorial rights. John
C. Calhoun's claim that Congress had no authority
to exclude slavery became the law ofthe land.
White Southerners cheered, but the Dred Scott
decision actually strengthened the young
Republican Party. Indeed, that "outrageous"
decision, one Republican argued, was "the best
thing that could have happened," for it provided
dramatic evidence ofthe Republicans' claim that
a hostile "Slave Power" conspired against northern
*1850 tighter regulation over fugitive slave act
*dred scott decision
*fighting in kansas over slavery
-Slavery is the main cause of civil war

For all their differences, southern whites
agreed that they had to defend slavery. John
Smith Preston of South Carolina spoke for the
overwhelming majority when he declared, "The South cannot exist without slavery." They disagreed
about whether the mere presence of a
Republican in the White House made it necessary
to exercise what they considered a legitimate
right to secede.

The debate about what to do was briefest in
South Carolina; it seceded from the Union on
December 20, 1860. By February 1861, the six
other Lower South states marched in South
Carolina's footsteps. In some states, the vote
was close. In general, slaveholders spearheaded
secession, while nonslaveholders in thePiedmont
and mountain counties, where slaves were relatively
few, displayed the greatest attachment to
the Union. In February, representatives from
South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas met in
Montgomery, Alabama, where they celebrated
the birth ofthe Confederate States of America.
Mississippi senator Jefferson Davis became
president, and Alexander Stephens of Georgia,
who had spoken so eloquently aboutthe dangers
of revolution, became vice president. In March
1861, Stephens declared that the Confederacy's
"cornerstone" was "the greattruth thatthe negro
is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination
to the superior race, is his natural
and moral condition."
Major Robert Anderson and some eighty U.S.
soldiers occupied Fort Sumter, which was perched
on a tiny island at the entrance to Charleston
harbor in South Carolina. The fort with its
American flag became a hated symbol of the
nation that Southerners had abandoned, and
they wanted federal troops out. Sumter was also
a symbol to Northerners, a beacon affirming
federal sovereignty in the seceded states. ..

Lincoln decided to hold Fort Sumter, but
to do so, he had to provision it, for Anderson
was running dangerously short of food. In the
first week of April 1861, Lincoln authorized a
peaceful expedition to bring supplies, but not
military reinforcements, to the fort. The president
understood that he risked war, but his
plan honored his inaugural promises to defend
federal property and to avoid using military
force unless first attacked. Masterfully, Lincoln had shifted the fateful decision of war or peace
to Jefferson Davis...

On April 9, Davis and his cabinet met to
consider the situation in Charleston harbor.
The territorial integrity of the Confederacy
demanded the end of the federal presence,
Davis argued. But his secretary of state, Robert
Toombs of Georgia, pleaded against military
action. "Mr. President," he declared, "at this
time it is suicide, murder, and will lose us every
friend at the North. You will wantonly strike
a hornet's nest which extends from mountain
to ocean, and legions now quiet will swarm out
and sting us to death." But Davis sent word to
Confederate troops in Charleston to take the
fort before the relief expedition arrived. Thirtythree
hours of bombardment on April 12 and
13 reduced the fort to rubble. Miraculously,
not a single Union soldier died. On April 14,
with the fort ablaze, Major Anderson offered his surrender and lowered the U.S. flag. The
Confederates had Fort Sumter, but they also
had war.

On April 15, when Lincoln called for 75,000
militiamen to serve for ninety days to put down
the rebellion, several times that number rushed
to defend the flag. Democrats
responded as fervently as Republicans.
Stephen A. Douglas,
the recently defeated Democratic
candidate for president, pledged
his support. "There are only two
sides to the question," he said.
"Everymanmustbe for theUnited
States or against it. There can be
noneutrals inthiswar, only patriots
— or traitors." But the people
of the Upper South found themselves
The Upper South faced a horrendous choice:
either to fight against the Lower South or to
fight against the Union. Many who only months
earlier had rejected secession now embraced
the Confederacy. To vote against southern independence
was one thing, to fight fellow
Southerners quite another. Thousands felt betrayed, believing that Lincoln had promised
to achieve a peaceful reunion by waiting patiently
for Unionists to retake power in the seceding
states. It was a "politician's war," one man
declared, but he conceded that "this is no time
now to discuss the causes, but it is the duty of
all who regard Southern institutions of value
to side with the South, make common cause
with the Confederate States and sink or swim
with them."

One by one, the states of the Upper South
jumped off the fence. Virginia, Arkansas,
Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the
Confederacy (Map 15.1).

But in the border states
of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri,
Unionism triumphed.

Only in Delaware, where
slaves accounted for less than 2 percent of the
population, was the victory easy. In Maryland,
Unionism needed a helping hand. Rather than
allow the state to secede and make Washington,
D.C., a federalisland ina Confederate sea,Lincoln
suspended the writ of habeas corpus, essentially
setting aside constitutional guarantees that protect
citizens from arbitrary arrest and detention,
and he ordered U.S. troops into Baltimore.
Maryland's legislature rejected secession.

The struggle turned violent in the West. In
Missouri, Unionists won a narrow victory, but
southern-sympathizing guerrilla bands roamed
the state for the duration of the war, terrorizing
civilians and soldiers alike. In Kentucky,
Unionists also narrowly defeated secession, but
the prosouthern minority claimed otherwise.
The Confederacy, not especially careful about
counting votes, eagerly made Missouri and
Kentucky the twelfth and thirteenth stars on
the Confederate flag

Throughoutthe border states, but especially
in Kentucky, the Civil War divided families.
Seven of Senator Henry Clay's grandsons fought:
four for the Confederacy and three for the Union.
Lincoln understood that the border states —
particularlyKentucky—contained indispensable
resources, population, and wealth and also controlled
major rivers and railroads. "I think to
lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the
whole game," Lincoln said. "Kentucky gone, we
can not hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland.
These all against us, . . . we would as well consent
to separation at once."

In the end, only eleven of the fifteen slave
states joined the Confederate States of America.
Moreover, the four seceding Upper South states
contained significant numbers of people who felt
little affectionfor theConfederacy.Dissatisfaction
was so rife in the western counties of Virginia that in 1863 citizens there voted to create the
separate state of West Virginia, loyal to the
Union. Still, the acquisition of four new states
greatly strengthened the Confederacy's drive for
national independence.
While most eyes focused on events in the East,
the decisive early encounters of the war were
taking place betweenthe AppalachianMountains
and the Ozarks (see Map 15.2). Confederates
wanted Missouri and Kentucky, states they
claimed but did not control. Federals wanted to
split Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas from the
Confederacy by taking control of the Mississippi
River and to occupy Tennessee, one of the
Confederacy's main producers of food, mules,
and iron — all vital resources

BeforeUnionforces couldmarchonTennessee,
they needed to secure Missourito the west. Union
troops swept across Missouri to the border of
Arkansas,where inMarch 1862 they encountered
a 16,000-man Confederate army, which included
three regiments of Indians from the so-calledFive
Seminole, and Cherokee. AlthoughIndians fought
on both sides during the war, Native Americans
who sided with the South hoped that the Confederacy
would grant them more independence than had
the United States. The Union victory at the battle of Pea Ridge left Missouri free
of Confederate troops, but Missouri
was notfree of Confederate fighters.
Guerrilla bands led by the notorious
Bill" Anderson burned, tortured,
scalped, and murdered Union civilians
and soldiers untilthe final year
of the war.

Even farther west, Confederate
armies sought to fulfill Jefferson
Davis's vision of a slaveholding
empire stretching all the way to the
Pacific. Both sides recognized the
immense value ofthe gold and silver
mines of California, Nevada, and
Colorado. And both sides bolstered
their armies in the Southwest with
Mexican Americans, some 2,500
fighting for the Confederacy and
1,000 joining Union forces. A quick
strike by Texas troops took Santa
Fe, New Mexico, in the winter of
1861-62. Then in March 1862, a
band of Colorado miners ambushed
and crushed southern forces at
Glorieta Pass, outside Santa Fe.
Confederate military failures in the
far West meant that there would be no Confederate
empire beyond Texas

The principal western battles took place in
Tennessee, where General Ulysses S. Grant
emerged as the key northern commander. Grant
in Mexico. When the Civil War began, he was a
thirty-nine-year-old dry-goods clerk in Galena,
Illinois. Gentle at home, he became pugnacious
on the battlefield. "The art of war is simple," he
said. "Find out where your enemy is, get at him
as soon as you can and strike him as hard as
you can, and keep moving on." Grant's philosophy
of war as attrition would take a huge toll in
human life, but it played to the
North's superiority in manpower.
In his private's uniform
and slouch hat, Grant did not
look much like a general. But
Lincoln, who did not look much
like a president, learned his
worth. Later, to critics who
wanted the president to sack
Grant because of his drinking,
Lincoln would say,"I can't spare
this man. He fights."

Both the Union and the Confederacy enrolled Indian soldiers. Here, a Union
recruiter swears in two recruits. The Confederates promised to assume the
financial obligations of the old treaties with the United States, guarantee
slavery, respect tribal independence, and permit the tribes to send
delegates to Richmond. Cherokee chief John Ross, who signed with
the Confederacy, likened his difficult choice to that of a man in a
flood who sees a log floating by: "By refusing [the log] he is a
doomed man. By seizing hold of it he has a chance for his life."
Approximately 20,000 Indians fought in the Civil War, sometimes
against each other gunboats, Grant captured Fort Henry on the
Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the
Cumberland (see Map 15.2). Defeat forced the
Confederates to withdraw from all of Kentucky
and most of Tennessee, but Grant followed gunboats, Grant captured Fort Henry on the
Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the
Cumberland (see Map 15.2). Defeat forced the
Confederates to withdraw from all of Kentucky
and most of Tennessee, but Grant followed.

Slaves, not politicians, became the most
insistent force for emancipation. By escaping
their masters by the tens of thousands and
running away to Union lines, they forced slavery
on the North's wartime agenda. Runaways
made Northerners answer a crucial question:
Were the runaways now free, or were they still
slaves who, according to the fugitive slave law,
had to be returned to their masters? At first,
Yankee military officers sentthe
fugitives back. But Union armies
needed laborers. At Fort Monroe,
Virginia, General Benjamin F.
Butler refused to turn them over
to their owners, calling them
contraband of war, meaning
"confiscated property," and put
them to work. Congress made
Butler's practice national policy
in March 1862 when it forbade returning fugitive
slaves to their masters. Slaves were still
not legally free, but there was a tilt toward

Lincoln had, too. In July 1862, the president
told twomembers ofhis cabinetthathehad "about
come to the conclusionthatwemustfree the slaves
or be ourselves subdued." A few days later, before
the entire cabinet, he read a draft of a preliminary
emancipation proclamation that promised to free
all the slaves in the seceding states on January 1,
1863. Lincoln described emancipation as an "act
ofjustice," butitwas the lengthening casualty lists
that finally brought him around. Emancipation,
he declared, was "a military necessity, absolutely
essential to the preservation of the Union." Only
freeing the slaves would "strike atthe heart ofthe
rebellion." On September 22, Lincoln issued his
preliminary Emancipation Proclamation promising
freedom to slaves in areas still in rebellion on
January 1, 1863.

The limitations of the proclamation — it
exempted the loyal border states and the Unionoccupied
areas of the Confederacy — caused
some to ridicule the act. The Times (London)
observed cynically, "Where he has no power Mr.
Lincoln will set the negroes free, where he retains power he will consider them as slaves." But
Lincoln had no power to free slaves in loyal
states, and invading Union armies would liberate
slaves in the Confederacy as they advanced.

By presenting emancipation as a "military
necessity," Lincoln hoped he had disarmed his
conservative critics. Emancipation would deprive
the Confederacy of valuable slave laborers, shorten
thewar, and thus save lives.Democrats, however,
fumed thatthe "shrieking and howling abolitionist
faction" had captured the White House and
made it "a n**ger war." Democrats made political
hay out of Lincoln's action in the November
1862 elections, gaining thirty-four congressional
seats. House Democrats quickly proposed a
resolution branding emancipation "a high crime
againstthe Constitution." The Republicans, who
maintained narrow majorities in both houses of
Congress, barely beat it back

Aspromised, on NewYear'sDay1863,Lincoln
issued the final Emancipation Proclamation.
Later in 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,
Lincoln famously confirmed the war's new purpose:
"that this nation, under God, shall have a
new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall
not perish from the earth." In addition to freeing
the slaves in the rebel states, the Emancipation
Proclamation also committed the federal government
to the fullest use of African Americans to
defeat the Confederate enemy.
When the Republican-dominated Congress
enacted the draft law in March 1863, Democrats
had another grievance. The law required that
all men between the ages oftwenty and forty-five
enroll and make themselves available for a lottery
that would decide who went to war. What
poor men found particularly galling were provisions that allowed a draftee to hire a substitute
or simply to pay a $300 fee and get out of his
military obligation. As in the South, common
folk could be heard chanting, "A rich man's war
and a poor man's fight."

Linking the draft and emancipation,Democrats
argued that Republicans employed an unconstitutional
means (the draft) to achieve an unconstitutional
end (emancipation). In the summer of
1863, antidraft, antiblackmobswent onrampages
in northern cities. In July in New York City,
Democratic Irish workingmen — crowded into
filthy tenements, gouged by inflation, enraged by
the draft, and dead set against fighting to free
blacks — erupted in four days of rioting. The New
York City draft riots killed at least 105 people,
most of them black, and left the Colored Orphan
Asylum a smoking ruin.

Lincoln called Democratic opposition to the
war "the fire in the rear" and believed that it was
evenmore threatening tonational
survival than were Confederate
armies. The antiwar wing of the
Democratic Party, the Peace
Democrats — whom some called
"Copperheads,"after thepoisonous
snake—found their chief spokes man in Ohio congress man Clement
Vallan digham.
He argued that the Confederacy could never be
conquered and that Lincoln's attempt had "made
this country one oftheworst despotisms onearth."
Vallandigham demanded: "Stop fighting. Make
an armistice. . . . Withdraw your army from the
seceding States."

In September 1862, in an effort to stifle
opposition to the war, Lincoln placed under
military arrest any person who discouraged
enlistments, resisted the draft, or engaged in
"disloyal" practices. Before the war ended, his
administration imprisoned nearly 14,000 individuals,
most in the border states. The administration's
heavy-handed tactics suppressed free
speech, but the campaign fell short of a reign
of terror, for the majority of the prisoners were
not northern Democrat ic opponents but
Confederates, blockade runners, and citizens of
foreign countries, and most of those arrested
gained quick release. Still, Lincoln's net did
capture Vallandigham, who was arrested, convicted
of treason, and eventually banished. In
May 1863, Union soldiers escorted the Ohioan
to Confederate lines in Tennessee.

African americans, no matter if they are free or slaves, are not citizens of the united states
In Washington, General Grantimplemented
his grand strategy for a war of attrition. He
ordered a series of simultaneous assaults from
Virginia all the way to Louisiana. Two actions
proved particularly significant. In one, General
William Tecumseh Sherman, whom Grant
appointed his successor to command the western
armies, plunged southeast toward Atlanta. In
the other, Grant, who took control of the Army
of the Potomac, went head-to-head with Lee in
Virginia for almost four straight weeks

Simultaneously, Sherman invaded Georgia.
Grant instructed Sherman to "get into the
interior of the enemy's country as far as you
can, inflicting all the damage you can against
their War resources." In May, Sherman moved
100,000 men south against 65,000 rebels.
Skillful maneuvering, constant skirmishing,
and one pitched battle, at Kennesaw Mountain,
brought Sherman to Atlanta, which fell on
September 2

Intending to "make Georgia howl," Sherman
marched out of Atlanta on November 15 with
62,000 battle-hardened veterans, heading for
Savannah, 285 miles away on the Atlantic coast.
One veteran remembered, "[We] destroyed all
we could not eat, stole their n****rs, burned their cotton & gins, spilled their sorghum, burned
& twisted their R. Roads and raised Hell generally."
Sherman's March to the Sea aimed at
destroying the will of the southern people. A
few weeks earlier, General Philip H. Sheridan
had carried out his own scorched-earth campaign
in the Shenandoah Valley, complying with
Grant's order to turn the valley into "a barren
waste . . . so that crows flying over it for the
balance of this season will have to carry their
provender [food] with them." When Sherman's
troops entered an undefended Savannah in
mid-December, the general telegraphed Lincoln
that he had "a Christmas gift" for him. A month
earlier, Union voters had bestowed on the president
an even greater gift.

The capture of Atlanta in September turned
the political tide in favor of the Republicans.
Lincoln received 55 percent of the popular vote,
but his electoral margin was a whopping 212 to
McClellan's 21(Map 15.4). Lincoln's party won a
resounding victory, one that gave him a mandate
to continue the war until slavery and the
Confederacy were dead.