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DBQ 1850’s Period Essay

In 1782 Americans won their independence from Britain in the American Revolution. After the colonies won their independence, Americans created the Constitution. Its purpose was to replace the Articles of Confederation and solve its problems and more importantly to bring the states together under a single document creating a stronger union of all the states. During the period of 1850, until 1861 when the Confederate States of America was formed, the union was clearly divided between the North and South. Although the Constitution was not the only factor leading to sectional tension in America, there are many strong points in the North and South favoring the statement, “By the 1850’s the Constitution, originally framed as an instrument of national unity, had become a source of sectional discord and tension and ultimately contributed to the failure of the union it had created.”It is known that the union did not last, for there was the Civil War.

If the majority of congressional leaders could agree on what the constitution implied, then there probably would not have been a civil war. From several of the documents, there are arguments about what the constitution states. “To the Argument, that the word ‘slaves’ and ‘slavery’ are not to be found in The Constitution, and therefore it was never intended to give any protection or countenance to the slave system, it is sufficient to reply, that no such words are continued in the instrument, other words were used, intelligently and specifically, to meet the necessities of slavery.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, address on the fugitive slave law. This indicated the constitution can be interpreted differently, and when used with other pertinent documents, can be incongruous. Those views that differentiated were of those in the North and South. The Constitution can be interpreted in many different ways, which leads to sectional discord and tension. For many reasons, the South evidently did not like what the constitution said.

There were many conflictions with the compromise of 1850, shown on the map with the United States territories and the fugitive slave act. Certain northerners were so against slavery and the fugitive slave act that they even posted caution signs for the slaves. It shows how kidnappers were being sent after the slaves, and how Northern abolitionists were revolting against the South’s rules and regulations. This fugitive slave act also helped drive the tension deeper into the United States. When the idea of popular sovereignty came about with the compromise of 1850 Freesoilers in office were pushed harder into complex decisions over the popular sovereignty issue.

“FORCING SLAVERY DOWN THE THROAT OF A FREESOILER,” illustrates in a very blatant text and disturbing political cartoon although being okay with slavery in the state, many including Buchanan and Steven Douglas make it seem as if slavery is the only way to go. All of the tension gathering, authors were predestining the Civil War. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that the Constitution, when assorted with others like the fugitive slave law or the compromise of 1850, were contradictory, and that they aid to the now inevitable seeming end of the union.

“What kind of legislation is this? What kind of constitution which covers? … I suppose the union can be left to take care of itself….But one thing appears certain to me, that , as soon as the constitution ordains an immoral law, it ordains disunion. The law is suicidal, and cannot be obeyed. The union is at an end as soon as an immoral law is enacted. And he who writes a crime into the statute-book digs under the foundations of the capitol to plant there a powder-magazine, and lays a train” This proves that By the 1850’s the Constitution, originally framed as an instrument of national unity, had become a source of sectional discord and tension and ultimately contributed to the failure of the union it has created. This was shown by ambivalent interpretations of the constitution and other important documents when assorted together.

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