January 7, 2013
The constitution was used as an instrument of national unity, unfortunately by the 1850’s, because of its lack of information about slavery, the constitution became a source of sectionalism and ultimately it tore apart the union it had created. When the founding fathers wrote the constitution they had one main concern and that was to keep the union together. Unfortunately, this meant that any subject that could produce tension was avoided. The founding fathers knew if they decided one way or another on slavery they would lose a large portion of supporters. Southerner’s didn’t want their population numbers to be drastically lower than the north’s since this would cause them to be the minority. If slaves were all together not counted into the population, then the south would lose much of their population. The north knew this and used it to their advantage. The founding fathers knew that they had to come to a compromise. This was called the three fifths compromise. Slaves were to be counted as three fifths of a person in distributing a state’s taxation and representation.
There were many reasons for the southerners to fight for the right to have slaves. Their whole economy was based upon slavery. Cotton needed to be grown and they needed slaves to grow and harvest the cotton. Owning slaves was risky though. The slave owners would spend large amounts of money on the slaves, but then the slaves could end up running away or getting sick. When the Missouri Compromise was ruled unconstitutional under the Dred Scott decision, the due process clause, for the first time, was interpreted to state that people could not be denied their property. An anonymous Georgian, although somewhat contradictory, explained, “Two Constitutional provisions are necessary to secure Southern rights upon this important question,--the recognition of slavery where the people choose it and the remedy for fugitive slave” (Document B). In the compromise of 1850, there was a part called the Fugitive Slave Law supported by John C. Calhoun. It required everyone to turn in runaway slaves (Doc. C). This gave comfort to plantation owners, but it made much of the union upset. Many northerners disliked the idea of turning in the slaves. It turned some northerners into fueled abolitionists, since it affected them. Soon Manifest Destiny would take over and the union would increase, also increasing the tension between the north and south over the debate of slavery that wasn’t touched in the constitution. The Wilmot Proviso had to be written to calm the dispute over if the land won in the Mexican war should be a slave or free state. It was never passed, so it became a symbol of the intense dispute over slavery. When Missouri wanted to join the union they chose to be a slave state. This angered northerners so they finally came up with the Missouri compromise. This compromise decided that Maine would be a free state and that no other states above the southern border could be a slave state. However, soon there would be Bleeding Kansas. Bleeding Kansas was a series of violent political disagreements over whether slavery should be allowed. Northerners felt slavery was being shoved down their throats (Doc. F). Soon Popular Sovereignty was being discussed. The Kansas-Nebraska act determined that popular sovereignty would decide how the states would come in: slave or not. Popular Sovereignty had many supporters, but also came with many critics. President Buchanan believed each person was judged individually, not as a whole. Therefore, popular sovereignty should be allowed.
The north had