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The Debate Over Slavery

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1 The Debate Over Slavery

2 The Expansion of Slavery
Victory for the U.S. in the Mexican War added approx. 500,000 square miles to the U.S. It also caused the debate over slavery to begin again. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had settled the debate until now.

3 The Missouri Compromise had divided the Louisiana Purchase into free and slave territory. Slavery was not allowed north of latitude 36,30. President Polk and others now wanted to extend this line all the way to the Pacific Coast, which would divide the Mexican Cession into slave and free territories.

4 Some northerners wanted to prohibit slavery in all parts of the Mexican Cession.
During the war, Representative David Wilmot had proposed the Wilmot Proviso. It stated that “neither slavery no involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of the territory.” The Proviso did not pass through Congress, it’s impact was felt in the growing sectionalism of the country.

5 Another idea on how to solve the issue of slavery in the territories was through popular sovereignty. This would allow voters in the territory to decide whether or not they wanted to allow slavery. The issue of slavery in the Mexican Cession dominated the election of Neither the Whigs nor the Democrats took a clear stand on the issue, so antislavery northerners formed a new party called the Free-Soil Party.

6 The members of the Free Soil Party supported the Wilmot Proviso and chose former president Martin Van Buren as their candidate. Van Buren won 10% of the popular vote in the election which helped the Whig candidate Zachary Taylor narrowly defeat Democrat Lewis Cass.

7 The California Gold Rush had allowed California to skip the territorial stage and apply for statehood. This raised the question as to whether California would enter as a free or slave state. Most Californians did not want slavery and hoped to enter as a free state; however, this would upset the balance in Congress of free and slave states.

8 The Compromise of 1850 Henry Clay had helped settle the issue of slavery in Missouri with his proposal of the Missouri Compromise. He now stepped forward with a plan that had five main parts: 1. He urged Congress to allow California to enter the Union as a free state. 2. The rest of the Mexican Cession would be organized into a federal territory. In this territory, popular sovereignty would decide the status of slavery.

9 He called on Texas to give up its claim to all land east of the upper Rio Grande. In exchange, the federal government would pay Texas’s old debts. An end to the slave trade-but not slavery-in Washington D.C. New, more effective fugitive slave law.

10 Immediately, Clay’s plan was criticized
Immediately, Clay’s plan was criticized. Senator William Seward of New York spoke for antislavery northerners. He demanded the admission of California without conditions or compromise. Senator John C. Calhoun spoke for the South. Near death, he was very weak and had to have another senator read his speech. He argued that letting CA enter as a free state would destroy the balance between the two sections of the country. He said the slave states would not be able to live with that decision and should be allowed to “separate and part in peace.”

11 Senator Daniel Webster (Mass. ) was in favor of Clay’s plan
Senator Daniel Webster (Mass.) was in favor of Clay’s plan. He was opposed to the expansion of slavery, but he thought that preserving the Union was more important than regional differences. He criticized northern abolitionists and scolded southerners who spoke of breaking away from the Union. Webster also argued that fighting over slavery in the west was unnecessary b/c the climate and soil in that region would not grow the crops needed for slave labor.

12 The Compromise of 1850 became law in September
The Compromise of 1850 became law in September. It accomplished most of what Clay had wanted: 1. CA entered as a free state 2. The rest of the Mexican Cession was divided into two territories-the states of slavery would be decided by popular sovereignty. 3. Texas agreed to give up its claims in NM and the fed. Gov’t would pay their debts. 4. The slave trade was banned in D.C. and a new fugitive slave law was added.


14 The Fugitive Slave Act The Fugitive Slave Act that was made part of the Compromise of 1850 made it illegal to help runaway slaves. The act even let officials arrest runaways in areas where slavery was illegal. Slaveholders and their agents could take suspected fugitive slaves before U.S. commissioners to try to prove ownership. Slaves were not allowed to testify in their own defense.

15 Commissioners received $5 for their services, those who returned a suspected fugitive to a slaveholder received $10. Anyone who helped a runaway slave faced 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.

16 Anti-Slavery Literature
No anti-slavery literature had the impact that Uncle Tom’s Cabin had. This story, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, told the story of a kind, older slave named Tom. He is separated from his wife and sold. He becomes the slave of a cruel cotton planter who treats him terribly. The book was published in 1852 and sold nearly 2 million copies within 10 years.

17 After the Civil War had started, Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham Lincoln. When he met her he said, “So this is the little lady who started this big war.” This shows the impact Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on the U.S.

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