Remodeling The Polarized States

Submitted By Caprisun8
Words: 1122
Pages: 5

Remodeling the Polarized States

The root of hostility between the North and South was hinged on complex and dysfunctional value systems. Cotton was King in the South, reigning in enormous amounts of wealth and property for the very few in the planter class. The economic structure of the South had slave labor built into its aggregation of wealth- relying on free human capital to produce goods. While the South was profiting from this “peculiar institution,” the North was focused on industry, machinery, and transportation built by a large influx of immigrants and urban dwellers. Although slavery was widely viewed as unjust and vigorously attacked as a commercial system by the North, many were apprehensive that abolishing the practice would lead to job competition and uncertain prospects. These inverse economic structures would have damning implications for political and social disagreements between the two regions. Threatened by the North’s progressive endeavors into new markets, the South adhered to its antiquated philosophy of self- determination and forced labor to support their culture. The threat of economic and social change fostered the heated debate over the validity of state versus federal laws, and who held the authority to choose. The celestial model of Manifest Destiny was rooted in the expansion westward to conquer all the lands “from sea to shining sea.” With the acquisition of new territories in the west, Congress had negotiated between proslavery and antislavery forces in the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Twenty-five years later, the undertaking of the Mexican-American War by President Polk furthered the cause to annex Texas, and assume all major ports in the West, expanding the American Empire. After General Winfield Scott seized Mexico City in September of 1848 and forced the Mexican military into submission, the American frontier gained nearly half a million acres- six new states. The signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 concluded the Mexican-American War, but created an immense battlefield for the conflicting ideals of the divided American states. The balance of power was lingering onto exceedingly tumultuous footing. Deciding on the outcome of free or slave states was not a topic any Northern politician was willing to champion. “In the short term, the Federal and state governments needed to plan for the adoption of new state constitutions, new land policies, and new rights of suffrage. The reform of these institutional structures proved easier to accomplish than those of racial attitudes or justice” (“The Post War Years: Free at Last.”). President Taylor, with the help of Senator Clay, devised a plan in hopes of once again reaching equilibrium in the political climate. By September of 1850, with the help of moderates and Clay, the Compromise of 1850 facilitated an agreement between the North and South, appeasing each, but satisfying neither. Slavery was the example needed by the South to explain the supremacy of state power over federal government in the case of personal ownership (i.e. human property), as interpreted in the Tenth Amendment (Schweitzer). John C. Calhoun embodied the contentious Southern opinion that slavery was not only legal, but also constitutionally valid. An arduous agreement was eventually established on issues surrounding forced labor and the crisis had been averted- at least for now. For nearly four years, the Compromise helped quiet the discord in the new territories, until a Democrat named Stephen Douglas shaped a new brand of democracy, one which would lead the nation to the brink of war. The central idea of The Kansas-Nebraska Act alleged that the new states of Kansas and Nebraska could decide for themselves whether to allow slavery in their borders or not. The Act repealed the Compromise of 1820, which outraged antislavery groups who asserted that territories above Missouri would be free automatically. Both proslavery and antislavery groups