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How effective was the American government’s response in maintaining freedom and slavery in the first half of the 19th century?

Dissertation : How effective was the American government’s response in maintaining freedom and slavery in the first half of the 19th century?. Recherche parmi 299 000+ dissertations

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How effective was the American government’s response in maintaining freedom and slavery in the

first half of the 19th century?

In 1807, the Act of Prohibiting Importation, which prohibited entry into the American territory of new slaves by making it illegal, however, slavery continues to prosper in the country, and this because of the few actions of the American government against it. The question of slavery and the freedom of blacks people were recurring questions that appeared gradually in the debates in the United States. At the beginning of the 19th century, states were already separated between the free states and the slave ones, as the North started to abolish slavery in all its states. This created a border between the north and the south, and also a source of tension and violence caused by their fight for their beliefs concerning slavery and its legitimacy. It was also a fight for their economy, the South needed slaves because their economy was based on labor-intensive cotton production. In opposition, the economy of the North was starting to change, following industrialization. Although the American government was, in the first half of the 19th century, mostly pro-slavery, the succession of events, and revolts resulting in the instauration of compromises. Firstly, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was put in place. Secondly, the government tried to appease the northerners and stop the expansion of slavery with an amendment proposed by David Wilmot, the “Wilmot Proviso”. Finally, to prevent the hypothesis of a new war the Compromise of 1850 was passed. The American government tried to appease tensions between the pro-slavery and the ones against it. These compromises had another role, to abolish slavery in all the states progressively.

Whilst the majority of northerners were against slavery, they did not feel the need to abolish it. However, they were opposed to the spread of it in the new western territories. In 1819, Missouri admission was debated in the U.S. Congress, and although the state had the right legislatures and conditions to enter the Union, Congress didn’t know if it would become a free or slave state. In in order to prevent the propagation of slavery in the new state, the Congressman James Tallmadge of New York proposed the Tallmadge Amendment for Missouri, establishing a ban prohibiting the introduction of slaves in Missouri, aiming at freeing its slaves gradually, and providing that any child born to a slave should be free. The amendment’s objectives were to weaken the political ascendency of the South over the Union and to preserve as much free land as possible for the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The anti-slavery amendment was passed by the House of Representatives, controlled mostly by northerners, but was rejected by the upper house composed equally of southerners and northerners. As the population in the northern states increased because of the USA’s development bringing immigrants, the pro-slavery community started to fear their soon dominance in the House of Representatives: they could be outnumbered as the lower house was composed according to population. In 1819, Missouri was the first swing state as the 22 other states were divided perfectly between free and slave states. The growing fear of the southerners made them realize they needed to keep the balance in the Senate so that the northern dominance in the House of Representatives would be compensated. Therefore, a compromise was found between the two parties to secure the balance between the states. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 stated that “ Missouri would be admitted as a slave state. Maine, a free-soil area that had been part of Massachusetts, would be admitted as a separate state, thus preserving the balance in the Senate. Slavery would not be permitted in the future in any territories that were created out of the Lousiana Purchase above the line of 36 degree-30- which constituted the whole of the territories of the USA as existed in 1820” (United States 1776-1993, chapter 3, p 62). The government’s goal was to resolve the present issue of whether the new state coming into the Union should be free or not. This approach was frowned upon by some high-ranking political figures, such as President John Quincy Adams who saw it as the beginning of a tragedy.

In the 1820s and 1830s, slavery was no longer a source of argumentation and conflict, but the next few years were source of rivalry. From 1836 to 1848, in total 6 more states entered the Union without disrupting the balance as 3 of them were slave states and 3 of them were free states. However, this balance was put in danger by the new acquisitions of Oregon in 1846 and California and New Mexico in 1848. At that time, the former President James Polk appeared to be favoring the South. Northern Congressmen were anxious about the results of this dilemma on whether the Senate would be dominated by the South or the North. Their fear to see the superiority of the slave states and the resulting possibility of spreading slavery was great. To ensure the freedom from slavery that northerners were seeking, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, David Wilmot, proposed the “Wilmot Proviso”. Suggested in August 1846, it submitted to exclude slavery from any territory acquired from Mexico, whether from war or purchase (Kathryn Cooper, Derrick Murphy, Mark Waldron, 2001, p°63). The bill was passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate as the South was opposed to it. It was reintroduced in February 1847 and once again passed by the House but not by the Senate. In 1848, an attempt to integrate it into the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also failed. In February 1847, Senator John Calhoun of South Carolina expressed his opposition to the Wilmot Proviso by creating the Calhoun


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