In the War of 1812, the United States took on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain, in a conflict that would have an immense impact on the young country's future. Causes of the war included British attempts to restrict U.S. trade, the Royal Navy's impressment of American seamen and America's desire to expand its territory. The United States suffered many costly defeats at the hands of British, Canadian and Native American troops over the course of the War of 1812, including the capture and burning of the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Nonetheless, American troops were able to repulse British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans, boosting national confidence and fostering a new spirit of patriotism. The ratification of the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, ended the war but left many of the most contentious questions unresolved. Nonetheless, many in the United States celebrated the War of 1812 as a "second war of independence," beginning an era of partisan agreement and national pride. On December 24, 1814, Great Britain and the United States signed a treaty in Ghent, Belgium that effectively ended the War of 1812. News was slow to cross the pond, however, and on January 8, 1815, the two sides met in what is remembered as one of the conflict's biggest and most decisive engagements. In the bloody Battle of New Orleans, future President Andrew Jackson and a motley assortment of militia fighters, frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and even pirates weathered a frontal assault by a superior British force, inflicting devastating casualties along the way. The victory vaulted Jackson to national stardom, and helped foil plans for a British invasion of the American frontier. Creek War, (1813-14), war that resulted in U.S. victory over Creek Indians, who were British allies during the War of 1812, resulting in vast cession of their lands in Alabama and Georgia. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who expected British help in recovering hunting grounds lost to settlers, travelled to the south to warn of dangers to native cultures posed by whites. Factions arose among the Creeks, and a group known as the Red Sticks preyed upon white settlements and fought with those Creeks who opposed them. On August 30, 1813, when the Red Sticks swept down upon 553 surprised frontiersmen at a crude fortification at Lake Tensaw, north of Mobile, the resulting Ft. Mims Massacre stirred the Southern states into a vigorous response. The main army of 5,000 militiamen was led by Gen. Andrew Jackson, who succeeded in wiping out two Indian villages that fall: Tallasahatchee and Talladega.
The following spring hundreds of Creeks gathered at what seemed an impenetrable village fortress on a peninsula on the Tallapoosa River, awaiting the Americans' attack. On March 27, 1814, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Tohopeka, Ala.), Jackson's superior numbers (3,000 to 1,000) and armaments (including cannon) demolished the Creek defenses, slaughtering more than 800 warriors and imprisoning 500 women and children. The power of the Indians of the Old Southwest was broken.
At the Treaty of Ft. Jackson (August 9) the Creeks were required to cede 23,000,000 acres of land, comprising more than half of Alabama and part of southern Georgia. Much of that territory belonged to Indians who had earlier been Jackson's allies.
In the 1820s and 30s, the Black Belt identified a strip of rich, dark, cotton-growing dirt drawing immigrants primarily from Georgia and the Carolinas in an epidemic of "Alabama Fever." Following the forced removal of Native Americans, the Black Belt emerged as the core of a rapidly expanding plantation area. Geologically, the region lies within the Gulf South's Coastal Plain in a crescent some twenty to twenty-five miles wide that stretches from eastern, south-central Alabama into northwestern Mississippi. The unusually fertile Black Belt (or Prairies) soil is produced by the weathering of an exposed limestone base known as the Selma Chalk, the remnant of an ancient ocean floor.
Half of Alabama's enslaved population was concentrated within ten Black Belt counties where the exploitation of their labor made this one of the richest regions in the antebellum United States. During the "flush times," Black Belt commerce on the Alabama, Black Warrior, and Tombigbee rivers transformed towns such as Montgomery, Selma, Demopolis, and Tuscaloosa and boosted the Gulf Coast port of Mobile.
Pro-slavery secessionist sentiment in the Black Belt led Alabama into the Confederacy in 1861. Briefly, following emancipation and the South's military defeat, African Americans first went to the state's polls in 1867 and held a variety of local, state, and national political offices.
In the years leading up to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, tensions began to rise between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions within the U.S. Congress and across the country. They reached a boiling point after Missouri's 1819 request for admission to the Union as a slave state, which threatened to upset the delicate balance between slave states and free states. To keep the peace, Congress orchestrated a two-part compromise, granting Missouri's request but also admitting Maine as a free state. It also passed an amendment that drew an imaginary line across the former Louisiana Territory, establishing a boundary between free and slave regions that remained the law of the land until it was negated by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The Missouri Compromise was an effort by Congress to defuse the sectional and political rivalries triggered by the request of Missouri late in 1819 for admission as a state in which slavery would be permitted. At the time, the United States contained twenty-two states, evenly divided between slave and free. Admission of Missouri as a slave state would upset that balance; it would also set a precedent for congressional acquiescence in the expansion of slavery. Earlier in 1819, when Missouri was being organized as a territory, Representative James Tallmadge of New York had proposed an amendment that would ultimately have ended slavery there; this effort was defeated, as was a similar effort by Representative John Taylor of New York regarding Arkansas Territory.
More than any other president (to this point), Jackson's background has been scrutinized in order to discern his thought processes as president.
• He was the first president to not be either a Virginia planter (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe), or a New England Federalist (Adams and his son John Quincy Adams—a Republican, but just barely).
• His background then, while not average, is seen as a reflection of America's growing democratic tendencies.
Born in poverty, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) had become a wealthy Tennessee lawyer and rising young politician by 1812, when war broke out between the United States and Britain. His leadership in that conflict earned Jackson national fame as a military hero, and he would become America's most influential-and polarizing-political figure during the 1820s and 1830s. After narrowly losing to John Quincy Adams in the contentious 1824 presidential election, Jackson returned four years later to win redemption, soundly defeating Adams and becoming the nation's seventh president (1829-1837). As America's political party system developed, Jackson became the leader of the new Democratic Party. A supporter of states' rights and slavery's extension into the new western territories, he opposed the Whig Party and Congress on polarizing issues such as the Bank of the United States. For some, his legacy is tarnished by his role in the forced relocation of Native American tribes living east of the Mississippi.
On this day in 1829, President Andrew Jackson defies Washington society matrons and appoints scandal-plagued John Eaton as his secretary of war.
Earlier that year, Eaton had married a former tavern maid with a supposedly lurid past. Margaret Peggy Eaton had been raised in a boardinghouse frequented by Washington politicians and became an astute observer of politics, as well as an accomplished musician and dancer. She charmed many of the boardinghouse's tenants, including then-Senator Andrew Jackson and his friend John Eaton, and was suspected of having many illicit affairs before her first marriage. She was 23 and the wife of a Navy sailor when she first met Jackson and Eaton. Eaton enjoyed Margaret's wit and intelligence and escorted her to social functions when her husband was at sea.
When Margaret's first husband died unexpectedly, rumors abounded that he had committed suicide over his wife's alleged affair with Eaton. Both Eaton and Margaret denied the affair, claiming to be nothing more than friends. In addition to Margaret's sullied reputation, her passionate nature, flirtatiousness and outspokenness irked Washington's society matrons at a time when those qualities were considered unseemly in women. When Eaton and Margaret married shortly after her first husband's death, the ladies of Washington society ostracized the new couple.
Jackson sympathized with and supported his friend Eaton. Jackson's late wife Rachel—whom he had unwittingly married before her divorce from her first husband was final-had also been the victim of social gossip when she first came to Washington. When someone advised Jackson against making Eaton his secretary of war because of Margaret's reputation, Jackson barked, do you suppose that I have been sent here by the people to consult the ladies of Washington as to the proper persons to compose my cabinet?!" Secretary of State Martin Van Buren also sided with Eaton. It was Vice President John Calhoun's wife who led Washington's elite in snubbing the Eatons at social gatherings. For the rest of Jackson's first term, his opponents used the Eaton Affair or Petticoat Affair, as it was known, to attack the president's moral judgment and, by extension, his administration's policies and appointees.
By 1831, the Eaton Affair had proved immensely divisive and politically damaging to Jackson. In response, Eaton and Van Buren resigned in order to give Jackson the opportunity to overhaul his cabinet with new members and protect his presidency from further scandal.
An ambiguous, controversial concept, Jacksonian Democracy in the strictest sense refers simply to the ascendancy of Andrew Jackson and the Democratic party after 1828. More loosely, it alludes to the entire range of democratic reforms that proceeded alongside the Jacksonians' triumph—from expanding the suffrage to restructuring federal institutions. From another angle, however, Jacksonianism appears as a political impulse tied to slavery, the subjugation of Native Americans, and the celebration of white supremacy—so much so that some scholars have dismissed the phrase "Jacksonian Democracy" as a contradiction in terms.
Such tendentious revisionism may provide a useful corrective to older enthusiastic assessments, but it fails to capture a larger historical tragedy: Jacksonian Democracy was an authentic democratic movement, dedicated to powerful, at times radical, egalitarian ideals—but mainly for white men.
Socially and intellectually, the Jacksonian movement represented not the insurgency of a specific class or region but a diverse, sometimes testy national coalition. Its origins stretch back to the democratic stirrings of the American Revolution, the Antifederalists of the 1780s and 1790s, and the Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans. More directly, it arose out of the profound social and economic changes of the early nineteenth century.
Recent historians have analyzed these changes in terms of a market revolution. In the Northeast and Old Northwest, rapid transportation improvements and immigration hastened the collapse of an older yeoman and artisan economy and its replacement by cash-crop agriculture and capitalist manufacturing. In the South, the cotton boom revived a flagging plantation slave economy, which spread to occupy the best lands of the region. In the West, the seizure of lands from Native Americans and mixed-blood Hispanics opened up fresh areas for white settlement and cultivation—and for speculation.
Not everyone benefited equally from the market revolution, least of all those nonwhites for whom it was an unmitigated disaster. Jacksonianism, however, would grow directly from the tensions it generated within white society. Mortgaged farmers and an emerging proletariat in the Northeast, nonslaveholders in the South, tenants and would-be yeomen in the West—all had reasons to think that the spread of commerce and capitalism would bring not boundless opportunities but new forms of dependence. And in all sections of the country, some of the rising entrepreneurs of the market revolution suspected that older elites would block their way and shape economic development to suit themselves.
By the 1820s, these tensions fed into a many-sided crisis of political faith. To the frustration of both self-made men and plebeians, certain eighteenth-century elitist republican assumptions remained strong, especially in the seaboard states, mandating that government be left to a natural aristocracy of virtuous, propertied gentlemen. Simultaneously, some of the looming shapes of nineteenth-century capitalism—chartered corporations, commercial banks, and other private institutions—presaged the consolidation of a new kind of moneyed aristocracy. And increasingly after the War of 1812, government policy seemed to combine the worst of both old and new, favoring the kinds of centralized, broad constructionist, top-down forms of economic development that many thought would aid men of established means while deepening inequalities among whites. Numerous events during and after the misnamed Era of Good Feelings—among them the neo-Federalist rulings of John Marshall's Supreme Court, the devastating effects of the panic of 1819, the launching of John Quincy Adams's and Henry Clay's American System—confirmed a growing impression that power was steadily flowing into the hands of a small, self-confident minority.
Proposed cures for this sickness included more democracy and a redirection of economic policy. In the older states, reformers fought to lower or abolish property requirements for voting and officeholding, and to equalize representation. A new generation of politicians broke with the old republican animus against mass political parties. Urban workers formed labor movements and demanded political reforms. Southerners sought low tariffs, greater respect for states' rights, and a return to strict constructionism. Westerners clamored for more and cheaper land and for relief from creditors, speculators, and bankers (above all, the hated Second Bank of the United States).
It has confounded some scholars that so much of this ferment eventually coalesced behind Andrew Jackson—a one-time land speculator, opponent of debtor relief, and fervent wartime nationalist. By the 1820s, however, Jackson's personal business experiences had long since altered his opinions about speculation and paper money, leaving him eternally suspicious of the credit system in general and banks in particular. His career as an Indian fighter and conqueror of the British made him a popular hero, especially among land-hungry settlers. His enthusiasm for nationalist programs had diminished after 1815, as foreign threats receded and economic difficulties multiplied. Above all, Jackson, with his own hardscrabble origins, epitomized contempt for the old republican elitism, with its hierarchical deference and its wariness of popular democracy.
After losing the "corrupt bargain" presidential election of 1824, Jackson expanded upon his political base in the lower and mid-South, pulling together many strands of disaffection from around the country. But in successfully challenging President John Quincy Adams in 1828, Jackson's supporters played mainly on his image as a manly warrior, framing the contest as one between Adams who could write and Jackson who could fight. Only after taking power did the Jacksonian Democracy refine its politics and ideology. Out of that self-definition came a fundamental shift in the terms of national political debate.
The Jacksonians' basic policy thrust, both in Washington and in the states, was to rid government of class biases and dismantle the top-down, credit-driven engines of the market revolution. The war on the Second Bank of the United States and subsequent hard-money initiatives set the tone—an unyielding effort to remove the hands of a few wealthy, unelected private bankers from the levers of the nation's economy. Under the Jacksonians, government-sponsored internal improvements generally fell into disfavor, on the grounds that they were unnecessary expansions of centralized power, beneficial mainly to men with connections. The Jacksonians defended rotation in office as a solvent to entrenched elitism. To aid hard-pressed farmers and planters, they pursued an unrelenting (some say unconstitutional) program of Indian removal, while backing cheap land prices and settlers' preemption rights.
Around these policies, Jacksonian leaders built a democratic ideology aimed primarily at voters who felt injured by or cut off from the market revolution. Updating the more democratic pieces of the republican legacy, they posited that no republic could long survive without a citizenry of economically independent men. Unfortunately, they claimed, that state of republican independence was exceedingly fragile. According to the Jacksonians, all of human history had involved a struggle between the few and the many, instigated by a greedy minority of wealth and privilege that hoped to exploit the vast majority. And this struggle, they declared, lay behind the major problems of the day, as the "associated wealth" of America sought to augment its domination.
The people's best weapons were equal rights and limited government—ensuring that the already wealthy and favored classes would not enrich themselves further by commandeering, enlarging, and then plundering public institutions. More broadly, the Jacksonians proclaimed a political culture predicated on white male equality, contrasting themselves with other self-styled reform movements. Nativism, for example, struck them as a hateful manifestation of elitist puritanism. Sabbatarians, temperance advocates, and other would-be moral uplifters, they insisted, should not impose righteousness on others. Beyond position-taking, the Jacksonians propounded a social vision in which any white man would have the chance to secure his economic independence, would be free to live as he saw fit, under a system of laws and representative government utterly cleansed of privilege.
As Jacksonian leaders developed these arguments, they roused a noisy opposition—some of it coming from elements of the coalition that originally elected Jackson president. Reactionary southern planters, centered in South Carolina, worried that the Jacksonians' egalitarianism might endanger their own prerogatives—and perhaps the institution of slavery—if southern nonslaveholders carried them too far. They also feared that Jackson, their supposed champion, lacked sufficient vigilance in protecting their interests—fears that provoked the nullification crisis in 1832-1833 and Jackson's crushing of extremist threats to federal authority. A broader southern opposition emerged in the late 1830s, mainly among wealthy planters alienated by the disastrous panic of 1837 and suspicious of Jackson's successor, the Yankee Martin Van Buren. In the rest of the country, meanwhile, the Jacksonian leadership's continuing hard-money, antibank campaigns offended more conservative men—the so-called Bank Democrats—who, whatever their displeasure with the Second Bank of the United States, did not want to see the entire paper money credit system dramatically curtailed.
The oppositionist core, however, came from a cross-class coalition, strongest in rapidly commercializing areas, that viewed the market revolution as the embodiment of civilized progress. Far from pitting the few against the many, oppositionists argued, carefully guided economic growth would provide more for everyone. Government encouragement—in the form of tariffs, internal improvements, a strong national bank, and aid to a wide range of benevolent institutions—was essential to that growth. Powerfully influenced by the evangelical Second Great Awakening, core oppositionists saw in moral reform not a threat to individual independence but an idealistic cooperative effort to relieve human degradation and further expand the store of national wealth. Eager to build up the country as it already existed, they were cool to territorial expansion. Angered by Jackson's large claims for presidential power and rotation in office, they charged that the Jacksonians had brought corruption and executive tyranny, not democracy. Above all, they believed that personal rectitude and industriousness, not alleged political inequalities, dictated men's failures or successes. The Jacksonians, with their spurious class rhetoric, menaced that natural harmony of interests between rich and poor which, if only left alone, would eventually bring widespread prosperity.
By 1840, both the Jacksonian Democracy and its opposite (now organized as the Whig party) had built formidable national followings and had turned politics into a debate over the market revolution itself. Yet less than a decade later, sectional contests linked to slavery promised to drown out that debate and fracture both major parties. In large measure, that turnabout derived from the racial exclusiveness of the Jacksonians' democratic vision.
The Jacksonian mainstream, so insistent on the equality of white men, took racism for granted. To be sure, there were key radical exceptions—people like Frances Wright and Robert Dale Owen—who were drawn to the Democracy's cause. North and South, the democratic reforms achieved by plebeian whites—especially those respecting voting and representation—came at the direct expense of free blacks. Although informed by constitutional principles and genuine paternalist concern, the Jacksonian rationale for territorial expansion assumed that Indians (and, in some areas, Hispanics) were lesser peoples. As for slavery, the Jacksonians were determined, on both practical and ideological grounds, to keep the issue out of national affairs. Few mainstream Jacksonians had moral qualms about black enslavement or any desire to meddle with it where it existed. More important, they believed that the mounting antislavery agitation would distract attention from the artificial inequalities among white men and upset the party's delicate intersectional alliances. Deep down, many suspected that the slavery issue was but a smokescreen thrown up by disgruntled elitists looking to regain the initiative from the real people's cause.
Through the 1830s and 1840s, the mainstream Jacksonian leadership, correctly confident that their views matched those of the white majority, fought to keep the United States a democracy free from the slavery question—condemning abolitionists as fomenters of rebellion, curtailing abolitionist mail campaigns, enforcing the congressional gag rule that squelched debate on abolitionist petitions, while fending off the more extremist proslavery southerners. In all of this fighting, however, the Jacksonians also began to run afoul of their professions about white egalitarianism. Opposing antislavery was one thing; silencing the heretics with gag rules amounted to tampering with white people's equal rights. More important, Jacksonian proexpansionism—what one friendly periodical, the Democratic Review boosted as "manifest destiny"—only intensified sectional rifts. Slaveholders, quite naturally, thought they were entitled to see as much new territory as legally possible opened up to slavery. But that prospect appalled northern whites who had hoped to settle in lily white areas, untroubled by that peculiar institution whose presence (they believed) would degrade the status of white free labor.
It would take until the 1850s before these contradictions fully unraveled the Jacksonian coalition. But as early as the mid-1840s, during the debates over Texas annexation, the Mexican War, and the Wilmot Proviso, sectional cleavages had grown ominous. The presidential candidacy of Martin Van Buren on the Free-Soil ticket in 1848—a protest against growing southern power within the Democracy—amply symbolized northern Democratic alienation. Southern slaveholder Democrats, for their part, began to wonder if anything short of positive federal protection for slavery would spell doom for their class—and the white man's republic. In the middle remained a battered Jacksonian mainstream, ever hopeful that by raising the old issues, avoiding slavery, and resorting to the language of popular sovereignty, the party and the nation might be held together. Led by men like Stephen A. Douglas, these mainstream compromisers held sway into the mid-1850s, but at the cost of constant appeasement of southern concerns, further exacerbating sectional turmoil. Jacksonian Democracy was buried at Fort Sumter, but it had died many years earlier.
There was a grim, ironic justice to the Jacksonians' fate. Having tapped into the disaffection of the 1820s and 1830s and molded it into an effective national party, they advanced the democratization of American politics. By denouncing the moneyed aristocracy and proclaiming the common man, they also helped politicize American life, broadening electoral participation to include an overwhelming majority of the electorate. Yet this very politicization would ultimately prove the Jacksonian Democracy's undoing. Once the slavery issue entered the concerns of even a small portion of the electorate, it proved impossible to remove without trampling on some of the very egalitarian principles the Jacksonians were pledged to uphold.
None of this, however, should be a source of self-satisfaction to modern Americans. Although the Jacksonian Democracy died in the 1850s, it left a powerful legacy, entwining egalitarian aspirations and class justice with the presumptions of white supremacy. Over the decades after the Civil War, that legacy remained a bulwark of a new Democratic party, allying debt-ridden farmers and immigrant workers with the Solid South. The Second Reconstruction of the 1950s and 1960s forced Democrats to reckon with the party's past—only to see party schismatics and Republicans pick up the theme. And at the close of the twentieth century, the tragic mix of egalitarianism and racial prejudice so central to the Jacksonian Democracy still infected American politics, poisoning some of its best impulses with some of its worst.
Leader of the Whig party and five times an unsuccessful presidential candidate, Henry Clay (1777-1852) played a central role on the stage of national politics for over forty years. He was secretary of state under John Quincy Adams, Speaker of the House of Representatives longer than anyone else in the nineteenth century, and the most influential member of the Senate during its golden age. In a parliamentary system, he would have undoubtedly become prime minister.
Clay's personal magnetism made him one of America's best-loved politicians; his elaborate scheming made him one of the most cordially hated. Through it all he displayed remarkable consistency of purpose: he was a nationalist, devoted to the economic development and political integration of the United States.
As Speaker of the House in 1812, Clay was one of the 'War Hawks,' men who believed that war with Great Britain was necessary to preserve the overseas markets of American staple producers. But Clay also served as a negotiator at the Ghent peace conference, and for the rest of his life pursued conciliation at home and abroad. Although a slaveholder, Clay disapproved of slavery as a system; he advocated gradual emancipation and the resettlement of the freed people in Africa. He defended, unsuccessfully, the right of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes of Indians to their lands. He warned that annexation of Texas would provoke war with Mexico and exacerbate tensions between North and South, and he opposed the war when it came. He consistently fostered good relations with Latin America.
The centerpiece of Clay's statecraft was an integrated economic program called 'the American System.' This envisioned a protective tariff, a national bank jointly owned by private stockholders and the federal government, and federal subsidies for transportation projects ('internal improvements'). Public lands in the West were to be sold rather than given away to homesteaders so the proceeds could be used for education and internal improvements. The program was intended to promote economic development and diversification, reduce dependence on imports, and tie together the different sections of the country.
The American System became the chief plank in the platform of Clay's Whig party, which was formed in opposition to the Democratic party of Andrew Jackson, creating 'the second party system.' Whigs were found in all parts of the country, but especially among the prosperous classes, in areas wanting government economic aid, and among Protestant religious bodies that hoped a strong government would further their agenda of moral reform.
Clay was called 'the Great Compromiser' because he played a major role in formulating the three landmark sectional compromises of his day: the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Tariff Compromise of 1833, and the Compromise of 1850. Coming from the border state of Kentucky, he was predisposed toward moderation when sectional conflicts were involved. His main objective was to avoid a civil war. But in this, as in so many of his more immediate goals, he was defeated.
Clay never became president, and his Whig party disappeared shortly after his death. But its successor, the Republican party, put many features of the American System into operation. In the long run, his economic and political vision of America was largely fulfilled.
A plan to strengthen and unify the nation, the American System was advanced by the Whig Party and a number of leading politicians including Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and John Quincy Adams. The System was a new form of federalism that included:
Support for a high tariff to protect American industries and generate revenue for the federal government
Maintenance of high public land prices to generate federal revenue
Preservation of the Bank of the United States to stabilize the currency and rein in risky state and local banks
Development of a system of internal improvements (such as roads and canals) which would knit the nation together and be financed by the tariff and land sales revenues.
Henry Clay argued that the West, which opposed the tariff, should support it since urban factory workers would be consumers of western foods. In Clay's view, the South (which also opposed high tariffs) should support them because of the ready market for cotton in northern mills. This last argument was the weak link. The South was never really on board with the American System and had access to plenty of markets for its cotton exports.
Clay first used the term "American System" in 1824, although he had been working for its specifics for many years previously.
Portions of the American System were enacted by Congress. The Second Bank of the United States was rechartered in 1816 for 20 years. High tariffs were maintained from the days of Hamilton until 1832. However, the national system of internal improvements was never adequately funded; the failure to do so was due in part to sectional jealousies and constitutional scruples about such expenditures.
Despite his uneven success in gaining passage of all aspects of the American System, Henry Clay was proud of the plan. In a speech in Cincinnati in 1830, he declared:
That system has had a wonderful success. It has more than realized all the hopes of its founders. It has completely falsified all the predictions of its opponents. It has increased the wealth, and power, and population of the nation. It has diminished the price of articles of consumption and has placed them within the reach of a far greater number of our people than could have found means to command them if they had been manufactured abroad instead of at home.
Tariffs were made possible the U.S. Constitution and the first piece of legislation ever enacted by Congress was a tariff, passed on July 4, 1789. A tariff provided both revenue to the federal government and protection for local manufacturers against low-cost imports. As a result of the Embargo and the War of 1812, more items began to be produced domestically and demand for their protection increased. Accordingly, the Tariff of 1816 gave some protection and, as demands continued, the Tariff of 1824 raised rates and extended the applicability of the list of items.
Agitation for still more protection continued, and in particular New England textile manufacturers pressed Congress and the administration for higher protective measures, arguing that British woolens were being dumped on American markets at artificially low prices. Western support for increases could be obtained only by agreeing to include an increase on duties for the importation of certain raw materials. When the West was accommodated, the New Englanders objected. The South under any circumstance was opposed to protectionism. In short, no one was really pleased with the 1828 "tariff of abominations."
John Quincy Adams reluctantly signed the tariff measure, fully realizing he was being made a scapegoat by his political enemies. This measure effectively ended his hopes for reelection. Little thought was given to vetoing the tariff; the inclination of the early presidents was to exercise that power only for matters of dubious constitutionality.
The Tariff of 1828 had been purposely drafted to make Andrew Jackson appear as a free trade advocate in the South and as a protectionist in the North.
After enactment of this measure, Southern cotton producers became deeply alarmed when they learned of British threats to seek other markets, given that the cost of American cotton had become so high. South Carolina declared the Tariff of 1828 and its more moderate successor, the Tariff of 1832, to be null and void and not binding on the state or its citizens. To placate the South, yet another tariff was adopted in 1833, calling for a gradual reduction in rates.
John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), was a prominent U.S. statesman and spokesman for the slave-plantation system of the antebellum South. As a young congressman from South Carolina, he helped steer the United States into war with Great Britain and established the Second Bank of the United States. Calhoun went on to serve as U.S. secretary of war, vice president and briefly as secretary of state. As a longtime South Carolina senator, he opposed the Mexican-American War and the admission of California as a free state, and was renowned as a leading voice for those seeking to secure the institution of slavery.
A nationalist at the outset of his political career, Calhoun was one of the leading War Hawks who maneuvered the unprepared United States into war with Great Britain in 1812. After the Treaty of Ghent that ended that conflict, Calhoun was responsible for establishing the Second Bank of the United States, and he wrote the bonus bill that would have laid the foundation for a nationwide network of roads and canals if President James Madison had not vetoed it.
A candidate for the presidency in 1824, Calhoun was the object of bitter partisan attacks from other contenders. Dropping out of the race, he settled for the vice presidency and was twice elected to that position. But after Andrew Jackson's assumption of the presidency in 1829, Calhoun found himself isolated politically in national affairs.
At first he supported the Tariff of 1828, the so-called Tariff of Abominations, but responding to his constituents' criticism of the measure and believing that the tariff was being unfairly assessed on the agrarian South for the benefit of an industrializing North, Calhoun drafted for the South Carolina legislature his Exposition and Protest. In this essay he claimed original sovereignty for the people acting through the states and advocated state veto or nullification of any national law that was held to impinge on minority interests. He later developed the argument in his two essays Disquisition on Government and Discourse on the Constitution, presenting the classic case for minority rights within the framework of majority rule. A moderate during the nullification crisis of 1832-1833, Calhoun joined with Henry Clay in working out the Compromise Tariff.
By then he had resigned from the vice presidency and had been elected a senator from South Carolina. For the rest of his life he defended the slave-plantation system against a growing antislavery stance in the free states. He continued his strident defense of slavery even after he joined the Tyler administration as secretary of state. In that position he laid the groundwork for the annexation of Texas and the settlement of the Oregon boundary with Great Britain. Reelected to the Senate in 1845, he opposed the Mexican-American War because he felt American victory would result in territorial concessions that would place the Union at jeopardy. Similarly he opposed the admission of California as a free state, and the free-soil provision in the Oregon territorial bill. In his last address to the Senate, he foretold the disruption of the Union unless the slave states were given adequate and permanent protection for their institutions.
Calhoun, along with Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson, dominated American political life from 1815 to 1850. A tall, spare individual, Calhoun was a gifted debater, an original thinker in political theory, and a person of broad learning who was especially well read in philosophy, history, and contemporary economic and social issues. His public appearance as the so-called Cast Iron Man was belied by his personal warmth and affectionate nature in private life.
Nullification is the formal suspension by a state of a federal law within its borders. The concept was first given voice by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts. The principle was accepted by the Hartford Convention of New Englanders in 1814 as well as many in the South, who saw it as protection against federal encroachment on their rights. It remained a point of contention and reached a crisis in 1832.
The Tariff of 1832, despite pleas from Southern representatives, failed to moderate the protective barriers erected in earlier legislation. The South Carolina passed an ordinance of nullification on November 24, 1832, and threatened to secede if the federal government attempted to collect those tariff duties. The ordinance stated: And we, the people of South Carolina, to the end that it may be fully understood by the Government of the United States, and the people of the co-States, that we are determined to maintain this, our Ordinance and Declaration, at every hazard, Do further Declare that we will not submit to the application of force, on the part of the Federal Government, to reduce this State to obedience; but that we will consider the passage by Congress, of any act... to coerce the State, shut up her ports, destroy or harass her commerce, or to enforce the acts hereby declared null and void, otherwise than through the civil tribunals of the country, as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union: and that the people of this state will thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other States, and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate Government, and do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent States may of right do....
Robert Hayne (of Webster-Hayne Debate fame) had resigned from the Senate to run for governor of South Carolina; John C. Calhoun resigned the vice presidency and took Hayne's seat in the Senate. These two men spearheaded the nullification drive. A real possibility of secession and war existed.
Jackson immediately offered his thought that nullification was tantamount to treason and quickly dispatched ships to Charleston harbor and began strengthening federal fortifications there. Congress supported the president and passed a Force Bill in early 1833 which authorized Jackson to use soldiers to enforce the tariff measures.
Meanwhile Henry Clay again took up his role as the Great Compromiser. On the same day the Force Bill passed, he secured passage of the Tariff of 1833. This latter measure provided for the gradual reduction of the tariff over 10 years down to the level which had existed in 1816. This compromise was acceptable to Calhoun who had not been successful with finding any other state to support him on nullification. Jackson signed both measures.
South Carolina repealed its nullification measure, but then spitefully nullified the Force Bill. Jackson wisely ignored that action. Although the issue died down, the idea did not entirely go away and gradually morphed into the principle of nullification of the union itself, leading eventually to the secession of Southern states and the formation of the Confederacy.
Nicholas Biddle was born to a prominent Pennsylvania family in 1786. A precocious child, he graduated from Princeton University at the age of fifteen. He traveled widely in Europe after completing his studies and became secretary to James Monroe, then the US minister to Great Britain and later president of the United States. Upon returning to the United States, Biddle practiced law and wrote about the fine arts, later becoming editor of the magazine Port Folio. He also prepared for publication The History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, based on the explorers' journals.
Biddle entered politics in 1811, when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He later also served in the Pennsylvania State Senate, where he argued for a new charter for the Bank of the United States. In 1816, the second Bank of the United States was chartered, and in 1819, Monroe, now president, appointed Biddle as one of its directors. In 1822, Biddle became president of the Bank.
Biddle's early tenure as president of the second Bank was generally considered successful, despite little formal or practical training in banking or monetary theory. He made an enemy of President Andrew Jackson, who sought to dramatically reform the Bank, and due to the urging of some of Jackson's opponents as well as his own intransigence, he was unwilling to reach a compromise to extend the Bank's national charter. In 1833, Jackson ordered all federal funds to be withdrawn from the Bank, and its charter expired in 1836. The institution continued on as a state-chartered bank in Pennsylvania until 1841, with Biddle as its president until 1839. Biddle briefly considered running for president on the Whig Party ticket in 1840 against Martin Van Buren, the incumbent, who also had previously served as vice president under Jackson. With his public status at a low ebb and his personal finances troubled, Biddle died in 1844.
On this day in 1833, President Andrew Jackson announces that the government will no longer use the Second Bank of the United States, the country's national bank. He then used his executive power to remove all federal funds from the bank, in the final salvo of what is referred to as the "Bank War."
A national bank had first been created by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton in 1791 to serve as a central repository for federal funds. The Second Bank of the United States was founded in 1816; five years after this first bank's charter had expired. Traditionally, the bank had been run by a board of directors with ties to industry and manufacturing, and therefore was biased toward the urban and industrial northern states. Jackson, the epitome of the frontiersman, resented the bank's lack of funding for expansion into the unsettled Western territories. Jackson also objected to the bank's unusual political and economic power and to the lack of congressional oversight over its business dealings.
Jackson, known as obstinate and brutish but a man of the common people, called for an investigation into the bank's policies and political agenda as soon as he settled in to the White House in March 1829. To Jackson, the bank symbolized how a privileged class of businessmen oppressed the will of the common people of America. He made clear that he planned to challenge the constitutionality of the bank, much to the horror of its supporters. In response, the director of the bank, Nicholas Biddle, flexed his own political power, turning to members of Congress, including the powerful Kentucky Senator Henry Clay and leading businessmen sympathetic to the bank, to fight Jackson.
Later that year, Jackson presented his case against the bank in a speech to Congress; to his chagrin, its members generally agreed that the bank was indeed constitutional. Still, controversy over the bank lingered for the next three years. In 1932, the divisiveness led to a split in Jackson's cabinet and, that same year, the obstinate president vetoed an attempt by Congress to draw up a new charter for the bank. All of this took place during Jackson's bid for re-election; the bank's future was the focal point of a bitter political campaign between the Democratic incumbent Jackson and his opponent Henry Clay. Jackson's promises to empower the "common man" of America appealed to the voters and paved the way for his victory. He felt he had received a mandate from the public to close the bank once and for all, despite Congress' objections. Biddle vowed to continue to fight the president, saying that "just because he has scalped Indians and imprisoned Judges [does not mean] he is to have his way with the bank."
On September 10, 1833, Jackson removed all federal funds from the Second Bank of the U.S., redistributing them to various state banks, which were popularly known as "pet banks." In addition, he announced that deposits to the bank would not be accepted after October 1. Finally, Jackson had succeeded in destroying the bank; its charter officially expired in 1836.
Jackson did not emerge unscathed from the scandal. In 1834, Congress censured Jackson for what they viewed as his abuse of presidential power during the Bank War.
Jackson, cognizant of the explosive nature of allowing Texas to join the union as a slave state, upsetting the sectional balance shied away from diplomatic recognition of the new republic until his final day in office.
Martin Van Buren, Jackson's successor, had no intention of annexing Texas, so the Republic began to talk of expanding westward as a separate and rival nation.
The two massacres, the Alamo and Goliad, served to bring bickering Texans together in opposition to Santa Anna. On April 21, 1836, the Mexicans were surprised by an inferior Texan force and completely routed in the Battle of San Jacinto.
Many Mexican prisoners were executed in retaliation for previous Mexican acts. Santa Anna was captured, but released when he agreed to Texan independence and the establishment of the border at the Rio Grande. Santa Anna quickly repudiated his concessions.
During the course of the Mexican revolt, the United States was far from neutral. Public opinion openly favored Texan independence and the government actually sent a military force onto Texan soil, weakly explaining that the soldiers were needed to restrain local Indians from raiding American settlements across the border.
In the fall of 1836, Samuel Houston was inaugurated as president of the independent Republic of Texas. The new administration promptly sent a representative to Washington, and repealed the prohibition on slavery. Andrew Jackson believed that Texas should be admitted to the Union as a slave state, but withheld action out of fear of the political consequences. On his final day in office, Jackson extended official diplomatic recognition to independent Texas.
Incoming president Martin Van Buren was opposed to annexation. The Panic of 1837 and the resulting depression tended to mute the issue of admitting Texas to the Union. Disappointed Texans, anxious to join the Union, began conversations with other nations. Britain was particularly attracted to the cotton supply Texas offered, but was repelled by the existence of slavery.
The short history of the independent Texan Republic was troubled. Financing the new government proved to be difficult — foreign investors were leery about loaning money and Texas residents showed little interest in paying taxes.
Perhaps the prime need of the time was to create a highly mobile armed force to protect the populace against attacks from raiding Indian parties. The Texas Rangers developed during this time to answer the need. To a lesser extent, the relationship with Mexico also was a problem because of conflicting boundary claims. Occasional skirmishes occurred between the citizens of the two nations.
A growing body of Texans came to favor annexation by the United States, as preferable to maintaining independence.
Revolution, most Texans and Americans assumed that the Republic of Texas would swiftly be annexed to the United States. Tied together by blood and business, closer to busy New Orleans than weak and disorganized Mexico, it seemed only natural that Texas would become the latest territorial expansion to a United States that had already bounded from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains in less than the span of one human lifetime.
Instead, the process of annexation took nine long and bruising years. As this exhibit will show, from the beginning Texas became part of the growing sectional debate over slavery in America. Blocked from joining the Union, Texas developed its own unique national pride and culture that persists even today. But even while coming to prize independence, Texas found itself weak and bankrupt, newly menaced by a Mexico that never recognized her right to exist. With historical repercussions that can only be guessed at today, the country's leaders seriously considered taking Texas into the British Empire.
In hindsight, Texas annexation seems inevitable. But it all could have been so different. Annexation almost never happened.
The American Colonization Society, founded in 1816 to assist free black people in emigrating to Africa, was the brainchild of the Reverend Robert Finley, a Presbyterian minister from Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Finley believed that blacks would never be fully integrated into American society and that they would only be able to fulfill their potential as human beings in Africa, the "land of their fathers." He saw colonization as a charitable work, one that would benefit American blacks and Africans alike through the spreading of Christianity to Africa. He also thought that it would prompt a gradual end to slavery.
In keeping with the popular thought of the day, Finley saw the presence of blacks in America as a threat to the national well-being and the quality of life for whites. He said that free blacks were "unfavorable to our industry and morals" and that removing them would save Americans from difficulties such as interracial marriage and having to provide for poor blacks.
In December 1816, Finley traveled to Washington, D.C. There he won the immediate support of his brother-in-law, Elias B. Caldwell, Clerk of the Supreme Court, and Caldwell's friend, Francis Scott Key (author of the Star Spangled Banner), both of whom had a reputation for being friendly to Washington's free blacks. Together, the three canvassed for support, and on December 21, 1816, called an organizational meeting for the society that included some of the most powerful and influential men in the country.
In 1831, Garrison started his own newspaper and called it the Liberator. This paper's purpose was to educate people, many of whom had never seen a slave, about the cruelty of slavery. He hoped to recruit new members to the abolition movement. Garrison continued to publish this newspaper for the next thirty-five years. He only ceased publication in 1865 after the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment ended slavery in America.
In 1833, Garrison helped establish the American Anti-Slavery Society with fellow abolitionists Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, and Theodore Dwight Weld. Garrison served as president of the American Anti-Slavery Society from 1843 to 1865. This organization sent lecturers across the North, including to Ohio, to convince people of slavery's brutality. Garrison, himself, gave several lectures in Ohio and also was instrumental in the establishment of the Western Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1840, the American Anti-Slavery Society split. Garrison and his supporters called for the creation of a new government that disallowed slavery from the very beginning. He said that the current United States Constitution was an illegal document because it denied African Americans their freedom. If the South would not agree to a new nation that outlawed slavery, Garrison argued that the North should secede from the United States and form its own country.
Other members of the American Anti-Slavery Society contended that Garrison's views were too radical. They agreed that slavery was wrong but they also thought that the United States Constitution had created a legitimate government under which the people had the right to end oppression. Rather than threatening to break apart the United States, these abolitionists hoped to elect people of their beliefs to political offices so that they could make laws outlawing slavery. To achieve this end, these abolitionists formed a political party, the Liberty Party. Over time, the Liberty Party was replaced by the Free-Soil Party and then the Republican Party. This division between abolitionists remained until the end of the American Civil War in 1865
In the decades leading up to the American Civil War, Garrison was the most well-known abolitionist in the United States. Many Southern slave owners despised him.
At the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, N.Y., a woman's rights convention-the first ever held in the United States-convenes with almost 200 women in attendance. The convention was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two abolitionists who met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. As women, Mott and Stanton were barred from the convention floor, and the common indignation that this aroused in both of them was the impetus for their founding of the women's rights movement in the United States.
In 1848, at Stanton's home near Seneca Falls, the two women, working with Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt, sent out a call for a women's conference to be held at Seneca Falls. The announcement, published in the Seneca County Courier on July 14, read, "A Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July current; commencing at 10 o'clock A.M. During the first day the meeting will be exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally are invited to be present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia, and other ladies and gentlemen, will address the Convention."
On July 19, 200 women convened at the Wesleyan Chapel, and Stanton read the "Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances," a treatise that she had drafted over the previous few days. Stanton's declaration was modeled closely on the Declaration of Independence, and its preamble featured the proclamation, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights..." The Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances then detailed the injustices inflicted upon women in the United States and called upon U.S. women to organize and petition for their rights.
On the second day of the convention, men were invited to intend-and some 40 did, including the famous African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. That day, the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances was adopted and signed by the assembly. The convention also passed 12 resolutions-11 unanimously-which called for specific equal rights for women. The ninth resolution, which declared "it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise," was the only one to meet opposition. After a lengthy debate, in which Douglass sided with Stanton in arguing the importance of female enfranchisement, the resolution was passed. For proclaiming a women's right to vote, the Seneca Falls Convention was subjected to public ridicule, and some backers of women's rights withdrew their support. However, the resolution marked the beginning of the women's suffrage movement in America.
The Five Civilized Tribes were a group of Native American nations that were officially and unofficially called such to collectively designate the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes. The term was applied by Anglo-European settlers during the colonial and early federal period because these tribes had adopted many of the colonists' customs and generally, had good relations with the white settlers.
The term appears in the reports of the Indian Office as early as 1876, when the agent reported that each tribe had a constitutional government, with legislative, judicial, and executive departments, conducted upon the same plan as our State governments, the entire expenses of which, are paid out of their own funds." However, at that time there was no court with jurisdiction to try cases where an Indian was one party and a citizen of the United States or a corporation was the other.
These five tribes differed from most others in the fact that their lands were held not on the same basis as reservations, but, by patents or deeds, with certain restrictions as to alienation and reversion, as well as other restrictions regarding timber, mining and grazing within their respective tracts. .
All of the Five Civilized Tribes lived in the Southeastern United States before the government forced their relocation under Indian Removal Act to other parts of the country, especially the future state of Oklahoma. This act, signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in May, 1830, required that all Native American tribes living east of the Mississippi River relocate to lands west of the river.
Over the next several decades the Five Civilized Tribes were relocated from their homes to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) during a series of removals, authorized by federal legislation.
The title of the Chickasaw Nation to their lands in Indian Territory was obtained from the Choctaw in accordance with treaties with the United States, while that of the Seminole was obtained from the Creek tribe. The territory assigned to these five tribes within the limits of Indian Territory, in present-day eastern Oklahoma, was approximately 30,431 square miles.
When the Civil War began in 1861, the Five Tribes were divided in politics, with the Choctaw and Chickasaw fighting on the Confederate side, the Creek and Seminole supporting the Union, and the Cherokee fighting a civil war within their own nation between the majority Confederates and the minority pro-Union men.
New Harmony represents one of the less successful American utopian experiments. Like the Shakers which it followed, and whose organization New Harmony's founder studied, and Oneida , which would follow it, New Harmony resulted from the utopian vision of one man, Robert Owen. Owen based his conception of utopian society on the belief that an individual's character was shaped by his or her environment. Owen therefore believed that by controlling the environment, superior character could be developed whi ch would result in a new utopian social order.
Born in England in 1771 as one of the younger sons in a large family, Owen was forced to conclude his formal education at the age of ten. He was lucky to be apprenticed to a prominent merchant who allowed him time to read and study. Through his study, Owen came to reject Christianity in favor of a more rational philosophy that included a belief in the need for social reform. Once he had completed his apprenticeship, he used his considerable economic skills to manage factories in Manchester. Ann Lee a nd the original Shakers had left Manchester for the United States less than twenty years before Owen arrived there, and in studying their success he became convinced that a communal utopia was possible. In 1799, Owen, with partners, was able to buy woole n mills at New Lanark , Scotland, the site of his now famous original social experiments. At New Lanark, he developed a system of life for his workers that at once improved the conditions under which they lived and fixed his control over their lives. He improved and expanded the school system, to include education for both younger children and life-long learning for adults, which also provided indoctrination into his philosophies.
A utopia (/juːˈtoʊpiə/ yoo-toh-pee-ə) is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities.
Utopian ideals often place emphasis on egalitarian principles of equality in economics, government and justice, though by no means exclusively, with the method and structure of proposed implementation varying based on ideology. According to Lyman Tower Sargent "[t]here are socialist, capitalist, monarchical, democratic, anarchist, ecological, feminist, patriarchal, egalitarian, hierarchical, racist, left-wing, right-wing, reformist, free love, nuclear family, extended family, gay, lesbian, and many more utopias".
The term has been used to describe intentional communities.
The Republican Party, also commonly called the GOP (for "Grand Old Party"), is one of the world's oldest extant political parties. It is the second oldest existing political party in the United States after its primary rival, the Democratic Party. It emerged in 1854 to combat the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which threatened to extend slavery into the territories, and to promote more vigorous modernization of the economy. The Party had almost no presence in the South, but by 1858 in the North it had enlisted former Whigs and former Free Soil Democrats to form majorities in nearly every Northern state.
With its election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and its success in guiding the Union to victory and abolishing slavery, the party came to dominate the national political scene until 1932. The Republican Party was based on northern white Protestants, businessmen, small business owners, professionals, factory workers, farmers, and African Americans. It was pro-business, supporting banks, the gold standard, railroads, and high tariffs to protect factory workers and grow industry faster. Under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, it emphasized an expansive foreign policy.
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 US 393 (1857), also known simply as the Dred Scott case, was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on US labor law and constitutional law. It held that "a negro, whose ancestors were imported into [the U.S.], and sold as slaves", whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court, and that the federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the federal territories acquired after the creation of the United States. Dred Scott, an enslaved man of "the negro African race" who had been taken by his owners to free states and territories, attempted to sue for his freedom. In a 7-2 decision written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the court denied Scott's request. The decision was only the second time that the Supreme Court had ruled an Act of Congress to be unconstitutional.
Although Taney hoped that his ruling would finally settle the slavery question, the decision immediately spurred vehement dissent from anti-slavery elements in the North, especially Republicans. Many contemporary lawyers, and most modern legal scholars, consider the ruling regarding slavery in the territories to be dictum, not binding precedent. The decision proved to be an indirect catalyst for the American Civil War. It was functionally superseded by the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave African Americans full citizenship.
The Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford is unanimously denounced by scholars. Bernard Schwartz says it "stands first in any list of the worst Supreme Court decisions—Chief Justice C.E. Hughes called it the Court's greatest self-inflicted wound". Junius P. Rodriguez says it is "universally condemned as the U.S. Supreme Court's worst decision". Historian David Thomas Konig says it was "unquestionably, our court's worst decision ever".
Abraham Lincoln, a self-taught Illinois lawyer and legislator with a reputation as an eloquent opponent of slavery, shocked many when he overcame several more prominent contenders to win the Republican Party's nomination for president in 1860. His election that November pushed several Southern states to secede by the time of his inauguration in March 1861, and the Civil War began barely a month later. Contrary to expectations, Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader during what became the costliest conflict ever fought on American soil. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states and paved the way for slavery's eventual abolition, while his Gettysburg Address later that year stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history. In April 1865, with the Union on the brink of victory, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by the Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth; his untimely death made him a martyr to the cause of liberty and Union. Over the years Lincoln's mythic stature has only grown, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents in the nation's history.
An appeal to the founding fathers was taken up by Abraham Lincoln, a prairie lawyer and former member of the House of Representatives who sought to get back into politics, first as a Whig (lost 1854 Senate race), and then a Republican (lost 1858 Senate Race to Stephen A. Douglas, won the Republican nomination for President in 1860).
"The founding fathers, said Lincoln, had opposed slavery. They adopted a Declaration of Independence that pronounced all men crated equal. They enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 banning slavery from the vast Northwest Territory. To be sure, many of the founders owned slaves. But they asserted their hostility to slavery in principle while tolerating it temporarily (as they hoped) in practice. That was why they did not mention the words 'slave' or 'slavery' in the Constitution, but referred only to 'persons held to service.'"
The Freeport Doctrine was articulated by Stephen A. Douglas at the second of the Lincoln-Douglas debates on August 27, 1858, in Freeport, Illinois. Former one-term U.S. Representative Abraham Lincoln was campaigning to take Douglas' U.S. Senate seat by strongly opposing all attempts to expand the geographic area in which slavery was practiced. Lincoln tried to force Douglas to choose between the principle of popular sovereignty proposed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act (which left the fate of slavery in a U.S. territory up to its inhabitants), and the majority decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, which stated that slavery could not legally be excluded from U.S. territories (since Douglas professed great respect for Supreme Court decisions, and accused the Republicans of disrespecting the court, yet this aspect of the Dred Scott decision was contrary to Douglas' views and politically unpopular in Illinois). Instead of making a direct choice, Douglas' response stated that despite the court's ruling, slavery could be prevented from any territory by the refusal of the people living in that territory to pass laws favorable to slavery. Likewise, if the people of the territory supported slavery, legislation would provide for its continued existence.
Douglas's actual words were:
The next question propounded to me by Mr. Lincoln is, Can the people of a Territory in any lawful way, against the wishes of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from their limits prior to the formation of a State constitution? I answer emphatically, as Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer a hundred times from every stump in Illinois, that in my opinion the people of a Territory can, by lawful means, exclude slavery from their limits prior to the formation of a State constitution. Mr Lincoln knew that I had answered that question over and over again. He heard me argue the Nebraska bill on that principle all over the State in 1854, in 1855, and in 1856, and he has no excuse for pretending to be in doubt as to my position on that question. It matters not what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into a Territory under the Constitution, the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations. Those police regulations can only be established by the local legislature; and if the people are opposed to slavery, they will elect representatives to that body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst. If, on the contrary, they are for it, their legislation will favor its extension. Hence, no matter what the decision of the Supreme Court may be on that abstract question, still the right of the people to make a Slave Territory or a Free Territory is perfect and complete under the Nebraska bill. I hope Mr. Lincoln deems my answer satisfactory on that point.
By taking this position, Douglas was defending his Popular Sovereignty or "Squatter Sovereignty" principle of 1854, which he considered to be a compromise between pro-slavery and anti-slavery positions. It was satisfactory to the legislature of Illinois, which reelected Douglas over Lincoln to the Senate (this was before the addition of the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution). However, the Freeport Doctrine alienated many Southern Democrats. Douglas had actually stated the essence of the doctrine previous to the debate at Freeport, but its prominent public assertion at Freeport contributed (along with other political disputes, such as over the Lecompton Constitution) to antagonizing those in the Southern United States who were demanding ever-increasing protections for slavery, and who subsequently insisted on the repudiation of the Freeport Doctrine (i.e. the passage of a congressional Slave Code for the territories) in order to block Douglas' presidential bid in 1860. This led to the split of the Democratic party in 1860, and Douglas' loss in the 1860 presidential election.
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry (also known as John Brown's raid or The raid on Harpers Ferry; in many books the town is called "Harper's Ferry") was an effort by white abolitionist John Brown to initiate an armed slave revolt in 1859 by taking over a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown's raid, accompanied by 21 men in his party, was defeated by a company of U.S. Marines from the Marine Barracks, 8th And I, Washington, DC, led by First Lieutenant Israel Greene, USMC. Colonel Robert E. Lee, USA, was in overall command of the operation to retake the arsenal. John Brown had originally asked Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, both of whom he had met in his formative years as an abolitionist in Springfield, Massachusetts, to join him in his raid, but Tubman was prevented by illness, and Douglass declined, as he believed Brown's plan would fail.
On the evening of October 16, 1859 John Brown, a staunch abolitionist, and a group of his supporters left their farmhouse hide-out en route to Harpers Ferry. Descending upon the town in the early hours of October 17th, Brown and his men captured prominent citizens and seized the federal armory and arsenal. Brown had hopes that the local slave population would join the raid and through the raid's success weapons would be supplied to slaves and freedom fighters throughout the country; this was not to be. First held down by the local militia in the late morning of the 17th, Brown took refuge in the arsenal's engine house. However, this sanctuary from the fire storm did not last long, when in the late afternoon US Marines under Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived and stormed the engine house, killing many of the raiders and capturing Brown. Brown was quickly placed on trial and charged with treason against the state of Virginia, murder, and slave insurrection. Brown was sentenced to death for his crimes and hanged on December 2, 1859.
Deborah Gray White, Edward L. Ayers, Jesús F. de la Teja, Robert D. Schulzinger Deborah Gray White, William Deverell