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Advanced Higher History America Pupil Study Guide Number 3 The Compromise of 1850 Largs Academy History Department
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 This Study Guide is about ‘the politics of Slavery’. It aims to help you to understand: the reasons behind the political & constitutional crisis of 1850 the difficulties involved in finding a compromise solution to the crisis the views of the political parties the roles of individuals the process whereby the 1850 COMPROMISE was finally agreed the terms of the 1850 Compromise an evaluation of the 1850 Compromise the existence or not, of the ‘slave power conspiracy’ Study Guide Number Three This study Guide concentrates on the national political scene from the 1848 Presidential election to the Presidential election in During this time, Slavery, or more correctly, the debate about the possible expansion of slaveholding territory in America, dominated the political scene. Also during this time, ‘national politics’ became much more clearly ‘sectional’ in character and both of the existing national political parties were to feel the effects of this trend. One of them, the Whigs, was destined to be so badly split, it could not long survive. Reading ‘Origins..’ Chapter 4, Pp ‘BCOF’ Chapter 2, Pp & Chapter 3, Pp page 1 Study Guide 3 deals with the issues arising from: the annexation of Texas by America the subsequent war against Mexico the simultaneous admission of California the ‘Wilmot Proviso’ the concept of ‘popular’ or ‘squatter’ sovereignty changing national Party policies & alignments the Presidential elections of 1848 and 1852 the threat to the Union in 1850 the search for Compromise in 1850 All of the above issues were connected to the divided opinions in America at this time about whether to allow Slavery into the new western territories. James Knox Polk (left) was President at the time of the war against Mexico – indeed opponents of the war referred to it as ‘Mr Polk’s War’. Opposition to the war came mainly from Northern ‘Free Soilers’ who viewed the aims of the war with disquiet. They feared that the real aim of the war, (which some felt was an ‘unjust war’), was to gain more territory for Slavery. These fears form part of the growing feeling in some parts of the North that the country was in the grip of a ‘slave power conspiracy’.
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 2 Introduction Conflict between ‘North’ & ‘South’ in America was almost as old as the Republic itself. At the heart of this conflict lay the issues surrounding whether the new Western territories acquired by America should be admitted to the Union as ‘slave’ or ‘non-slave’ states. This issues was tackled first in the North West Ordinance of 1778, but the first occasion on which the issue appeared to threaten the Union took place in 1819 and centred on the admission of Missouri to the Union. At this time there were 22 States in the Union, 11 of which were ‘slave’ states and 11 which were not. Missouri fulfilled all the qualifications for ‘statehood’ and if admitted, would, since most of her population was from the South, be a ‘slave’ state. This would clearly upset the delicate balance of power in Washington between the sections. The House of Representatives and the Senate were deadlocked for weeks on the Missouri issue. Eventually in early 1820, the Missouri Compromise was agreed. The Missouri Compromise allowed for: the admission of Missouri as a ‘slave’ state; the admission of Maine as a ‘non-slave’ state; all future admissions of territories acquired as a result of the Louisiana Purchase would permit slavery below the line of latitude 36 degrees, 30 minutes North and ban slavery North of that line. Henry Clay of Kentucky, Speaker of the House Of Representatives is credited with assembling this Compromise (though Senator Thomas of Illinois was also heavily involved). The Missouri Compromise established a pattern of admission of new states in that they were often admitted in ‘pairs’ so that the sectional balance in Washington could be maintained. Although a period of relative calm followed the Missouri Compromise, it was a deceptive calm. All of the arguments which were to dominate the politics of Slavery in the 1850s & 1860s were heard in Most perceptive politicians could see then, that Slavery had the potential to disrupt traditional national Party lines and create sectional strife. Sectional differences did not disappear however e.g. the ‘Nullification Affair’ of 1832/3 in which John C Calhoun of South Carolina led a ‘revolt’ against high tariffs. Sectional issues relating to Slavery did not disappear either e.g. there were disputes over the Fugitive Slave Laws, Abolitionist and pro-Slavery propaganda escalated etc. Despite this, both the Whigs and the Democrats seemed to abide by some ‘unspoken rule’ to exclude Slavery from national political debate for much of the 1830’s and ‘40s. Such an ‘ostrich’ approach to the burning issue of Slavery and the expansion of slaveholding territory could not withstand the pressures of the late 1840s when vast new tracts of land and many potential new states were seeking entry into the Union. The crisis came in the late 1840’s and centred on; the annexation of the Texas Republic; the war against Mexico; the admission of California. “ This momentous question, like a fireball in the night awakened me and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed indeed for the moment, but this is only a reprieve, not a final sentence.” This was how Thomas Jefferson felt about the 1820 Compromise. As you will see, other people had much the same reaction to the 1850 Compromise. The ‘Missouri Compromise line’ ran east to West roughly along the borderline between Missouri and Arkansas. Southerners were quick to realise that the vast bulk of America’s potential new states lay North of that line. That meant that Southern power and influence within the Federal government were at risk if these new states entered the Union as ‘Free Soil’ states. Many Southerners felt that by preventing Slavery North of this line, their ‘rights’ were infringed by the Missouri Compromise
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 3 Task 1, Heading: The Annexation of Texas Read ‘Origins’, Pp Briefly describe how Texas gained its independence from Mexico in the 1830s. 2. Why did most Southerners support and many Northerners oppose, the inclusion of Texas as a state within the Union? 3. What lay behind the allegation made in the North that the Texas issue was part of a, ‘Slave Power Conspiracy’? 4. When and why did the annexation of Texas become a serious political issue for America? 5. How was the annexation actually achieved; how did Mexico react and why? ( include the development of ‘Manifest Destiny’ in this answer.) 6. Democrat and Southern slave owner James Polk became President in Describe his ‘expansionist policies and say why you think many Northern Whigs were ‘cynical’ about them. Task 2, Heading: The Mexican War, Read ‘Origins’, Pp The events of the Mexican war itself are outwith our period. Our interests are in the effects of the war and its settlement, on the future of the sectional conflict over Slavery and slaveholding territories in America. 1. Some Northerners called this war, “Mr Polk’s War.” What is the significance of this fact, in terms of the sectional conflict in America? 2. Why did the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo heighten the fears of many Northerners about the ‘Slave Power Conspiracy’? Reaction to the War Against Mexico The war against Mexico was strongly supported by the majority of Americans. Support was strongest among Southerners and opposition greatest among some groups of Northern Whigs. However, even some Northern Democrats who had voted for Polk, were uneasy about the possible repercussions of the war - especially with regard to the question whether the vast new tracts of land, which were below the Missouri line, would swell the ranks of slave states and increase Southern domination both of the Democrat Party and of national, Federal politics. The ‘sectional’ nature of the opposition to the war is clearly shown in the controversy which surrounded the ‘Wilmot Proviso’. At this distance from the events, it is hard to imagine the depth of feeling stirred up by the outcomes of this ‘small war’. Despite these difficulties, we need to remind ourselves that 1850 was indeed a time of very severe constitutional crisis for America. Talk of Southern secession from the Union was in the air for months on end.
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 4 Task 3, Heading: The Wilmot Proviso In 1846, Congressman David Wilmot, an otherwise fairly obscure Pennsylvanian Democrat, added an amendment to an otherwise routine Bill to the effect that Slavery should be excluded from any territory gained by America as a result of the war against Mexico. This seemingly minor ‘detail’ caused uproar in the Federal government and throughout the country. Irrespective of Wilmot’s motives for introducing his ‘Proviso’, it had the effect of polarising political debate in Washington into ‘North’ v. ‘South’. Northern politicians of all ‘shades’ rallied in support of the proviso ( for a whole variety of reasons) whilst the majority of Southern politicians opposed the Proviso - for the same reason - i.e. that the Proviso seemed to threaten the potential expansion of slaveholding territory. This polarisation was a fore taste of what was to come in the rest of the 1850s. It also forms the heart of a key question in the course. I.e. Why was it possible to find a Compromise in 1850, but impossible in 1860? Use this as an introduction to your notes on this task Read ‘Origins’, Pp To what extent is it true to say that David Wilmot’s motives for introducing his Proviso had more to do with internal wrangles within the Democrat Party than with any concerns he may have had about the plight of slaves? 2. Why do you think that Northern politicians of all shades would have supported the Wilmot Proviso? 3. Why did the Proviso pass the House of Representatives but fail in the Senate? What do the voting returns illustrate? 4. What prompted Robert Toombs to declare that if Congress passed the Proviso, he would favour disunion rather than degradation? Calhoun, States Rights & ‘Nullification The South in particular had always emphasised their commitment to States Rights, seeing this doctrine as a strong constitutional safeguard for the ‘Southern way of life’. For the most part, Northern politicians had been content to allow the South to use States Rights as a means of preventing Federal interference in Slavery as it existed in the Southern states. Instead, Northern politicians had increasingly turned their attention to the process of preventing the expansion of slaveholding states by ‘interfering’ in and seeking to prevent the expansion of slaveholding in the new territories. ( Newly acquired land was firstly a ‘Territory’, then a ‘State’). John C Calhoun challenged the right of the Federal government to seek to influence what happened in the territories. Despite his setback over the Nullification Affair, Calhoun’s influence was still strong in the South. In 1847 he issued his ‘Platform of the South’ in which he claimed that the territories were the property of all the states, people from all the states had the right to migrate there and take with them whatever ‘property’ they saw fit. If a Southerner included slaves within his property, then the Federal government had no right to interfere in this. Any Federal law which sought to do so was, in Calhoun’s word, ‘nullified’. If the Federal government ( prompted he claimed by the Northern majority) continued to deny Southerners their rights, then the South might have no option but to secede and if they did, the South would have ‘right’ on their side. Calhoun’s speeches and writings on the South’s views on States Rights, formed the basis for the secessionist cause later in the decade. Calhoun, the Senator from South Carolina, though he feared for the future of the Union in 1850 and though he was a passionate defender of the Southern case, never-the-less retained a faith in the Union. Unlike some of the Southern ‘Fire Eaters’ ( a group, still in a minority even in South Carolina, who believed in Southern nationalism and who pressed for Southern secession from the Union), Calhoun was prepared to throw his weight behind “ some timely and effective measure” which might allow the South to remain within the Union. Calhoun’s stance on this crisis is an important factor in the brokering of the 1850 Compromise. “ The United States will conquer Mexico but it will be as the man who swallows the dose of arsenic which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson “As things now stand the South cannot with safety remain in the Union…and there is little or no prospect of any change for the better.” Calhoun in a private letter of February Fortunately for the Union at this time, his pessimism also contained an ‘escape clause’, see right.
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 5 The 1848 Presidential Election The Wilmot Proviso ensured that the 1848 Presidential election would be dominated by the politics of Slavery. Within both the Whig & Democrat parties, powerful groups of Northerners had emerged and these groups supported the Wilmot Proviso. Within the Democrat party this group was known as the ‘Barnburners’ whilst the Whig group were known as ‘Conscience Whigs’. Both parties knew that to win the election, they had to appeal to voters in both North & South and both parties worked hard to coax these groups ‘back to the fold’ and to diffuse the Slavery issue. The Whigs found this easier than the Democrats. They united on the slogan of ‘No Territory’ i.e. if the war with Mexico ended without territorial gains from Mexico then the issue of the expansion of Slavery would not arise. The Democrats found the task of reconciling the Barnburners more difficult since the Democrats had supported the war and the whole idea of territorial gain. The problem for the Democrats was to reconcile those Southerner Democrats who increasingly agreed with Calhoun, with those Northern Democrats who supported the Wilmot Proviso. For the two positions to co-exist within the same Party appeared to be incompatible. The solution which the Democrats came up with was called ‘popular’ or ‘squatter sovereignty’. Dreamed up by Lewis Cass (who was keen to be Democrat candidate for President) it basically meant that the decision about whether a new territory should be slave or non-slave should be left up to the people living in that territory. This was a deceptively simple solution and worked for many Democrats in the North. The concept of ‘popular sovereignty’ was revived a few years later by Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois who tried to use it to solve the problems of western expansion / slavery expansion later in the decade.(The question about WHEN the population could make this decision comes to haunt the territories of Kansas & Nebraska in the mid 1850s.) The 1848 Presidential Election - The Candidates The Democrats selected Cass and the Whigs selected a Mexican war hero, Zachary Taylor, who was a Southerner. Neither choice satisfied the anti-Slavery groups. Barnburners (I.e. some Northern democrats) met and nominated Martin Van Buren whilst Conscience Whigs met and denounced the choice of Taylor. Another Northern group called the Liberty Party also met and were led by Salmon P Chase who called for a general meeting of all Northern ‘Free Soilers’ in the town of Buffalo in New York state. The three anti-Slavery groups combined at this meeting attended by 15,000 wildly enthusiastic delegates. The Free Soil Party was formed. Van Buren would be its Presidential candidate with the Whig, Charles Francis Adams, as his running mate on a ‘platform’ written by Chase. The Platform combined restrictions on the spread of slave states and other purely sectional interests such as a plea for cheap land and internal improvements. This was the first occasion on which a sectional Party had sought electoral support and to do so, the Free Soil Party made it clear that their opposition to the expansion of slave states was NOT the same as a fight for the rights of black people, free or slave. This allowed the Free Soil Party to seek support from Northerners who had no sympathy at all for the notion of that black people had rights. Zachary Taylor won a rare and close victory for the Whigs whilst the Free Soil party gained a very respectable 10% share of the vote. The election was a momentous one in that for the first time, its focus was the issue of the expansion of slave territories. It also raised the whole business of Southern domination of the Presidency and the Senate. It meant that in future, political debates could no longer completely ignore Slavery itself, but above all it showed that US politics centred on sectional conflict. “Old Rough and Ready”. Zachary Taylor (right) was well into his 60s when he was elected President. He died 16 months into his Presidency.
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 6 Task 4, Heading: The 1848 Presidential Election - The Aftermath Read ‘Origins’, Pp How did Calhoun heighten sectional tension in December 1848? 2. Why did events, especially in California, add still further to this tension? 3. President Taylor is often described as a man of ‘surprising contrasts’, one of which was his reliance on Senator William Seward for advice. What is surprising about that and why was this fact disliked in the South? 4. Given his background, why were Taylor’s actions in relation to California also surprising? How did he seek to re-assure the South that his actions on California were not an attack on Southern rights? 5. Why did the proposal to admit both California and New Mexico appear to increase sectional tension? 6. Describe Southern reaction to Taylor’s plans for California and New Mexico - especially the reaction of those Southern Whigs who had stayed loyal to Taylor rather than join Calhoun. Crisis in 1850: The Key Points of Conflict In early 1850 America was in the grip of a serious political and constitutional crisis. No business could be done in Congress - it took 63 ballots to chose the Speaker and fist fights among politicians on the floor of the House were common. The nation was stymied by a series of issues all of which had sectional roots: What to do about about the status of California, & the other territory gained from Mexico What to do about about the status of Slavery in all of these new territories What to do about about the boundaries of Texas and the debt owed to many of its citizens What to do about about the continued slave trade within Washington DC What to do about about the Fugitive Slave laws v. the Personal Liberty laws
America : Study Guide Number Three – The Compromise of 1850 page 7 Task 5, Heading: The 1850 Compromise: The Key Personnel 1. Write a ‘potted biography’ of each of these men 2. In the first stage of finding a compromise, Henry Clay’s ‘omnibus’ proposals were the basis of months of debate. Look at Pp 58/9 of ‘Origins’ and write out the contents of Clay’s proposals. 3. Read the extract from the three main speeches ( Clay, Calhoun & Webster). Outline the main points made by each man in these extracts. 4. What did Clay mean when he claimed that ‘nature would check the spread of Slavery more effectively than a thousand Wilmot Provisos’? 5. For what reason did Calhoun claim that the solution to the present crisis lay with the North? 6. Why did Webster’s speech ‘offend many of his constituents’? 7. For what reasons were the voices of conciliation such as Clay & Webster, unsuccessful? Should President Taylor shoulder some of the blame for maintaining the crisis? 8. Why did the Nashville Convention of Southern states have relatively little impact? Which event in the summer of 1850 had a far bigger impact on the 1850 crisis & why? The 1850 Compromise: The Final Outcomes Henry Clay’s omnibus Bill ultimately failed and Clay retired from the political scene, exhausted. Calhoun died soon after. Webster too was soon to pass. These men, though they were of opposing views and were strong advocates of their section’s politics, were also of the generation who had strong personal connections to the Revolution and who had passionate faith in the Union. Their passing ushered in a new generation of politicians, some of whom had neither the connection nor the faith. This is one factor in the growing polarisation of American politics in the 1850s and also a factor in why Compromise was much harder to find in Strangely however, the circumstances were such that Stephen Douglas felt able to pick up Clay’s compromise proposals and get them passed in Congress. There was one significant difference between the approach taken by Clay and that adopted by Douglas. Where Clay had put together an all-embracing set of proposals, and politicians from both sections had to accept them all, Douglas split them up and each proposal (or often, a pair of proposals) was passed separately using different political alliances skilfully put together by Douglas. We now need to look at why Douglas was able to get his version of Clay’s proposals accepted and what exactly these proposals were. The 1850 crisis marked the entry onto the national political stage of Stephen Douglas, the Democrat Senator from Illinois, of whom, much more later.
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 8 The 1850 Compromise: The Final Outcomes [continued] As we discussed earlier in this Study Guide, one of the most commonly asked questions about the build up to the Civil War is concerned with why it was possible to achieve a Compromise in 1850, but impossible ten years later on. As we have seen, Henry Clay found it impossible to repeat his feat of 1820 and achieve a Compromise in However, using essentially the same proposals as Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas did manage to secure a series of Compromise agreements. Some of the factors which helped him were: President Taylor, who was opposed to Compromise, died & was replaced by Millard Fillmore who threw his weight behind Douglas’ proposals Politicians such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, who were the voices of moderation and of conciliation, had enormous prestige, status & influence in both sections where they promoted the cause of the Union. Even John C Calhoun, the arch proponent of ‘states rights’ and ‘justice for the South’ saw the possibility of Compromise and was part of the generation whose reverence for the Union was very strong indeed. In both North & South, the ‘radical’ voices were not as powerful as they were to become. e.g. Daniel Webster felt able to ignore the Abolitionists in his home state of Massachusetts and give his support to the Compromise despite the inclusion in it, of harsher Fugitive Slave Laws. Similarly, the Nashville Convention of Southern states failed to attract the support for Secession which the ‘Fire Eaters’ had hoped - there was still, in 1850, a powerful group of Southern politicians who were moderates and supporters of the Union. Despite the bitterness of the sectional conflict, in 1850 the two main political parties, Whigs & Democrats, were still very much ‘national’ political parties and able to influence their supporters in both sections. This situation was to change dramatically by 1860 The 1850 Compromise: The Final Outcomes [continued] Stephen Douglas secured the passing of these separate measures: California was admitted as a ‘free’ state New Mexico & Utah were to be ‘territories’ without Slavery restrictions The slave trade was abolished in Washington DC, though Slavery was still allowed 10 million dollars was set aside to settle the debt owed to Texas citizens Border disputes between Texas & New Mexico were settled A stronger Fugitive Slave Law was to be put in place
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 9 The 1850 Compromise: An Evaluation Politicians from both sections realised that in 1850, sectional -based conflict rooted in Slavery had reached the stage that the Union was genuinely threatened. Although on each vote relating to Douglas’ proposals the divisions were firmly ‘sectional’, the Compromise was finally agreed and both of the major political parties hoped that the Compromise would signal a return to ‘normal, i.e. that the unspoken agreement to avoid discussion of the issues relating to Slavery on the national political stage, would continue. There is no doubt that the 1850 Compromise did succeed in avoiding the threat of Secession - however ‘real’ that threat was. There is also no doubt that a period of relative political calm ensued - aided perhaps by a period of economic prosperity. The bulk of the population seemed to welcome the Compromise and looked forward to enjoying the fruits of the prosperity. The period of calm lasted well into the 1852 Presidential Election campaign. Severe sectional conflict continued however just under the surface of this calm. At the centre of this conflict lay the much tougher Fugitive Slave Laws which were part of the Compromise deal. Task 6, Heading: The 1850 Fugitive Slave Laws Use this as an introduction to the task: Oddly, the revised Fugitive Slave Law was the part of Douglas’s proposals which was little debated in Congress at the time. Almost immediately after the Compromise was agreed the Fugitive Slave Laws came to be seen by both Southern fire eaters and Northern abolitionists as not only the weakest part of the compromise, but as the source of even greater sectional friction. Read ‘Origins’ Pp In an extended answer, explain why the Fugitive Slave Laws… [a] horrified the Abolitionists; [b] caused great resentment among many Southerners. 2. To what extent did the publication in 1852 of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ make an impact on sectional conflict over the Slavery issue? (a special publication on this book is appended) Read ‘BCoF’ pp 78 to 89.’ This contains information on some notable cases in the North in which the new Fugitive Slave Laws were put to the test. Make notes on; the Northern ‘Vigilance Committees’. the concept of ‘Southern honour’ and its links with escaped slaves. the ‘higher law’ doctrine. “ The consummation of the iniquities of this most disgraceful session of Congress” CF Adams “ The question of Slavery has been avoided. It has not been settled. SP Chase “ I think the settlement of the last session and the firm course of the Administration in the execution of the Fugitive Slave Law has given a new lease to Slavery.” Un-named Southern politician In addition, use this reading to make some ‘case notes’ relating to: the Crafts Shadrach Thomas Sims The Battle of Christiana
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 10 The 1852 Presidential Election This election was the last one before the war in which the two parties succeeded in restricting debate about Slavery and the expansion of slaveholding territory. Although the anti-Slavery lobby campaigned strongly in the North, they did so mainly outwith the two main parties. Sectional-based disputes within the Democrats resulted in the selection of the ‘colourless’ Franklin Pierce as their candidate whilst the Whigs eventually chose General Winfield Scott, of Mexican war fame in the expectation that he would, like Taylor, attract large numbers of votes just for ‘who he was’. Both parties endorsed the 1850 Compromise but for the Whigs, the signs were ominous. Northern Whigs were unhappy that their platform said nothing about Slavery, its western expansion & the operation of the Fugitive Slave Laws. Southern Whigs did not like the choice of Scott as candidate because they feared he was too much influenced by the ‘Free Soil’ Seward. The outcome of the election was a disaster for the Whigs. Pierce won a landslide victory - in both sections, with Scott taking only 4 states. The impact of this defeat on the Whig supporters was devastating (as indeed it was for the Free Soil Party supporters). Support for the Whigs in Southern states dropped from the previous 50% down to 35% and even among Northern Whigs there was despondency at the fear that their Party could never again challenge what seemed to be the ever more powerful Democrat Party - a Democrat Party which appeared to Northern eyes, to be even more dominated by Southern vested interests. Task 7, Heading ; Further Evidence of a ‘Slave Power Conspiracy’? Read ‘origins’ Pp To what extent do the first years in office of Franklin Pierce provide Northerners with evidence that Pierce and the South were intent on expanding slaveholding territory? 2. To what extent did Pierce’s actions contribute to: [a] sectional splits within the Democrat Party? [b] increased Northern conviction that ‘Democrat’ meant ‘Southern’? Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the influential bestseller, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.
America : Study Guide Number Three - The Compromise of 1850 page 12 This Unit about ‘the politics of Slavery’ dealt with complex issues. Make sure that you are confident that you do understand: the reasons behind the political & constitutional crisis of 1850 the difficulties involved in finding a compromise solution to the crisis the views of the political parties the roles of individuals the process whereby the 1850 COMPROMISE was finally agreed the terms of the 1850 Compromise an evaluation of the 1850 Compromise Study Guide Number Three Task 8, Heading: Using the Sources Look back at all the Sources provided throughout Study Guide 3 1. What was the ‘momentous question’ which so disturbed Thomas Jefferson? [P2) 2. Why do you think that Emerson thought ‘Mexico will poison us’? [P4] 3. Compare the three responses to the 1850 Compromise [P9] 4. Compare the two reviews of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ [P11] 5. What evidence can you detect in the De Bow’s Review of a ‘hardening’ of Southern attitudes towards the North’s attacks on Slavery? 6. What comments would you make about the use of ‘De Bow’s Review’ as an historical source? Conclusion The period 1848 to 1850 was marked by the most severe constitutional crisis in the brief history of the Union. A Compromise of sorts was eventually reached but not without a considerable struggle. Historians continue to debate whether the various ‘agreements’ secured by Stephen Douglas amount in fact to a Compromise. Certainly if the Compromise is assessed in terms of solving the problems that brought on the crisis, then it was not a success. Not only did these problems remain unsolved, they were to get worse as the 1850s wore on. Of particular interest was the implementation of the revised Fugitive Slave Laws. In some parts of the North, especially in New England, enforcement of these Laws by Federal officers enraged the Abolitionist community and also added to its membership. In the South, there was equal fury that some Northern states passed ‘Personal Liberty Laws’ in an attempt to avoid having to cooperate with the Fugitive Slave Laws. In the South, there was a feeling that the Northern reaction to the Fugitive Slave Laws was a ‘test’ of the North’s willingness to allow the South to continue with its ‘Peculiar Institution.’ New England in particular seemed to fail this test. The huge publicity attracted to the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the apparent acceptance across the world of the bleak picture it painted of Slavery in the South further enraged Southerners. Although there was a period of relative calm following the Compromise, it was to be short lived.