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The traditional view was that an escalation of conflict led to the Civil War. 2. Holt believes there are flaws in the idea of the escalation of conflict. He asks why the war occurred when it did; the matter of time is very significant. Time and change over time. 3. Politics is at the center of the issue according to Holt. Both the people of the North and the South feared “political enslavement” by the other section. a. Both the South and the North believed they were protecting and defending the ideals and legacy of the American Revolution; they were the patriots. B. The Old South and Southern Sectionalism. 1. Northern sectionalism. a. The North was much more united over stopping the expansion of slavery than in abolishing slavery. 2. Examination of sectionalism as an intrusion into the political arena, despite the desires and efforts of politicians to keep it out. a. Southerners typically viewed themselves as different and superior to those who lived in the North. b. There were efforts, although unsuccessful, among people of the South to keep their dollars, values, and college students out of the hands of crass, materialistic, and immoral “Yankee” hands. c. It is incorrect to view Southern politicians as banding together in opposition to passage of the Missouri Compromise. d. Party loyalty was more significant in congressional votes in the period 1830 to 1850. 3. What created “Southern Unity,” or did it really exist? a. The slavery issue. Between ⅔ and ¾ of all Southern whites did not own slaves or their livelihood did not depend upon the existence of slavery. Why would the majority of the Southerners fight for the minority institution of the slaveholders? See Peter Kolchin’s book, American Slavery, 1619-1877. Bill Freely argues in his book, The Road to Disunion, the so-called “Solid South” was really disunited. Distribution of white slaveholders by number of slaves owned in 1850:
Distribution of White Slaveholders by Number Of Slaves Owned in the year 1850
Number of Slaves Owned Number of Slaveholders 1 slave 68,820 2-4 slaves 105,683 5-19 slaves 135,000 20-99 slaves 35,000 100 or more slaves 1,733
*Dividing line between planters and farmers who owned slaves.
b. There was a very skewed distribution of wealth in the South. Only 1½ % of all Southerners owner 50 or more slaves in the year 1860. That 1½ % controlled 25% of all the land. That 1½ % controlled 28.7% of all the wealth of the South. In the year 1860, the wealthiest 1,000 Southern families had an average income of $50,000 a year. The other 660,000 Southern families’ average income was $90 a year in 1860. Remember, the average male field slave cost about $1,000. 4. What was the non-slaveholder’s stake in protecting slavery in the South? Why did they care about the Wilmot Proviso? Why would they oppose an end to the extension of slavery? a. The aspirations of non-slave holders to become such, and gain wealth, power and social prestige. b. Non-slave holders out numbered slaveholders in every state and could have voted out the “slave aristocracy,” why didn’t they? The planters held hegemony or control of the non-slave holders by tradition, awe, and money. To demonstrate the planters’ power, Holt noted that in the year 1850 the entire cotton crop of the entire South was grown on just 6% of the South’s agricultural lands—most of it in the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. c. All whites in the South had an interest in keeping potential for the expansion of slavery in order to continue to control the black population or sell them to new areas—racism. d. The stark contradiction of Hinton R. Helper of North Carolina demonstrates the depth and breadth of Southern racial fears. In the year 1857 Helper wrote and published the book, The Impending Crisis, in which he argued about the evils of the “peculiar institution” on the South. Once the Civil War began and the end to slavery became apparent, Helper wrote the book in 1862 with the title, No Joke, and he argued for the complete extermination of all blacks in order to insure racial purity. Some historians argue many people of the North argued for an end to the expansion of slavery in the territories in order to keep blacks out of areas that white Northerners desired to settle—racial motivations. 5. During the Kansas-Nebraska Act controversy, Southerners never really believed they would take slaves to Kansas, Nebraska, the Oregon Territory, or lands taken with the Mexican Cession. But they objected to Congress taking away their rights to take personal property into the territories. It made Southerners less equal,
and it became symbolic of Northern oppression of their section. In order to protect their rights—all Americans’ rights—Southerners had to resist and defeat the Wilmot Proviso and by 1856 the Republican Party. The North’s actions—from the South’s perspective—were insulting and created inequality and inferiority. II. The political realignment of the 1850s (second morning session). A. Introduction to the topic. 1. During the winter of 1860-1, Congress passed a 13th amendment that would have prohibited any right to abolish slavery in the South without exception. By February 1861 the states of Illinois, Ohio, and Maryland ratified it, but after the Battle of Bull Run the drive for ratification died out. a. If slavery was the major cause of the Civil War, why did the South not end the war with the amendment that would protect their slaves? 2. The examination of the American or Know-nothing Party allows the study of many issues and themes of that period. B. The anti-Kansas-Nebraska backlash and death of the Whigs in the 1850s. 1. [The congressional election of 1854 was the first one where every state held its election on the same day throughout the U.S.] 2. What caused the shift in voting loyalties and patterns by 1854? a. Anti-Democratic Party sentiments. b. Opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. c. Anti-South, anti slavery sentiments. 3. Why did many people in the North desire to end the expansion of slavery? a. Moral opposition to slavery. b. Attempt to end the political powers of the “slavocracy.” c. Keep blacks out of the territories, indicative of Northern racism. C. The strength of the Know-Nothing Party during the first years of the 1850s demonstrates, according to Dr. Holt, slavery was not as significant an issue as many suppose. 1. In the year 1854 the American Party controlled the state government of Massachusetts. 2. In the states of Texas and Maryland, Know-Nothings held prominent state offices. 3. By the year 1854 it appeared to many that the Know-Nothing Party would replace the Whig Party. D. Historical background of the Know-Nothing or American Party. 1. In the year 1849 two secret fraternities merged and helped
establish the party. a. The “Order of the Star Spangled Banner,” that was a super-patriotic group with secret goals and ceremonies. b. The “Order of United Americans,” which was much like that above. 2. When the two fraternities merged, their membership reached between 800,000 and 1,500,000 members. [Since they were secret, membership rolls are non-existent, and their history is unclear.] a. When people asked them what their fraternity stood for or desired, members would answer, “I know nothing,” thus their name. 3. The Know-Nothings desired the following: a. Protection of American “values.” b. Anti-immigrant. c. Anti-Catholic. d. Lengthen the period to become a naturalized citizen from five to 21 years. e. Prohibit any Roman Catholic from holding public office. 4. Why did the Know-Nothing Party temporally succeed, and who joined it? Holt reasoned there was much more going on during the 1850s than conflict that led to civil war. a. The secrecy and fraternal aspects of the Know-Nothings was appealing. b. The disruption between the Democratic and Whig Parties left a vacuum that the American Party filled. c. It became a refuge for “WASP,” conservative men—few blue collar or lower-middle class men joined. 5. Dr. Holt’s views on the Know-Nothings: a. By the early 1850s Americans came to view the Democratic and Whig Parties as possessing the same views, and working merely for election of their candidates— they stood for nothing. b. Many people desired change and neither party would undertake it. c. Americans perceived or sensed the republic was in danger or threatened. You can change the government with your vote. d. Social and economic dislocation occurred during the decade and contributed to the growth on Know-nothingism. The California Gold Rush. Boom in the cotton industry. Investors in Great Britain invested large sums of money in America (primarily railroads) rather than Europe because of the Revolutions of 1846. Resentment of foreigner—especially Irish, who were Catholic—became symbolic of the dislocation.
The 1840s and 50s were times of the “Old Immigration” of the Irish, Germans, and Scandinavians. The Irish/Catholics were particularly disliked. By the election of 1852 many of those immigrants were able to vote and seemed to threaten traditional American voters. Fear of the Catholic Church increased. For example, Gaetano Bedini represented Rome when he called for moving control of church property from “lay control” to control of property from Rome. e. The Know-Nothing Party turned voters against the Democrats and Whigs because both parties actively sought the votes of immigrants and Catholics. f. The 19th Century was the century of democracy and participatory government in the United States. Percentage of Voter “Turn-out” of the 19th Century Year 1824 1828 1840 1844 1848 1852 1856 1860-1896 1990s* Voter % 26% 55-57% 80.2% 79.8% 72% 69% 81% 70-75% 52%
III. Why did the Republican Party succeed and the Know-Nothing Party fail? (Afternoon session) A. Know-Nothing and Republican percentages of anti-Democratic voters. Percentage of Anti-Democratic Voters Time frame Know-Nothing Party Republican Party End of 1855 60% 40% Nov. 1856 23% 77% Nov. 1860 4% 96%
1. As the above table demonstrates, the American or Know-Nothing Party lost its bid to replace the Whig Party by 1860. B. Three turning points that led to the success of the Republican Party. 1. Bleeding Kansas (1856) was an issue the Republicans used to demonstrate Northern rights were being denied by Southern slaveholders. a. People from the North had their property destroyed, were beaten and driven, and denied the principle of “popular sovereignty in Kansas by the Missouri Border Ruffians. b. The Republican Party avoided the slavery issue in Kansas; it was the issue of Northern men’s rights. 2. “Bleeding Sumner” occurred as Bleeding Kansas began, just after the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas. May 22, 1856 Representative Preston S. Brooks walked into the Senate chambers and “caned” Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. a. Brooks “caned” Sumner because he wanted to humiliate him, he was beneath challenging to a duel. You whip a dog. b. It was a premeditated attack that lasted about 45 seconds.
c. Reactions to the caning of Sumner: Sumner did not return to the Senate for 3 years, due to some type of psychosomatic illness concerning his beating. Republicans defended Sumner and the North. South Carolinians reelected Brooks to the House of Representatives. Neither Bleeding Kansas nor Sumner’s caning concerned slavery or Blacks; it was the Southern aggression, violence, and violation of Northern rights that was a focal point. Some people in the North began to discern a conspiracy of the “slavocracy” and Southern planters to oppress the North politically and pervert democracy. 3. The Republican crusade to save the North. a. The post-Lecompton challenge, 1858-9. Buchanan bribed congressmen, threatened them with the loss of patronage to get them to vote in favor of the Lecompton (slave) constitution of Kansas on August 2, 1858. The North believed the federal government was in the slavocracy or Southern planters control by 1859, as a result of President Buchanan’s actions, the actions of Congress (Kansas-Nebraska, Bleeding Kansas, and the Lecompton constitution), and the Supreme Court (Dred Scott v. Sanford). C. With the secession of the “Deep South,” Holt proposed that civil war was then inevitable. D. What was the South’s motive for secession?
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