16. Six Major Crisis Events

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16. Six Major Crisis Events

Panic of 1857

The Compromise of 1850

John Brown: the Antislavery Martyr

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850

Dred Scott Decision

In 1833, Dr. Emerson bought Dred Scott as a slave and later moved to the Wisconsin territory where slavery was banned due to the Missouri Compromise. After Emerson died in 1843, he bequeathed all his affairs to his life Irene Sanford. The family and Irene Sanford lived in Louisiana for a few more years until Dred Scott finally saved up enough money and asked for his family’s freedom. She refused. In response to this, Dred Scott went to court and sued Irene under the basis that he had lived in a territory where slavery was illegal. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sanford and declared African Americans were not American citizens. Furthermore, they were prohibited from suing in the federal court. Furthermore, the Court announced that the rights of slaveowners were protected by the Fifth Amendment since slaves were considered “property”. The end results of this court case infuriated the North and galvanized the newly-formed Republican party and abolitionists thereby exacerbating the conflict between the two sides.

Collapse of Whig Party

After the winning the Mexican-American War, the US needed to allocate their territorial gains between the slave states and antislavery states. This became a very polemical issue as abolitionists from the North wanted the new territories to be admitted as free states whereas the slaveowners from the South wanted the opposite. The issue was somewhat “resolved” with the Compromise of 1850, which attempted to appease both the North and South. Concessions to the North include the admittance of California as a free state, the surrendering of disputed territory between TX and NM to New Mexico, and the abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia. Concessions to the South included the admittance of New Mexico and Utah as slave states (though they originally were to decide for themselves whether to be a slave or free state), the bestowal of $10 million to Texas as recompense for denying them the ability to extend their borders, and a more ironclad fugitive-slave law.

The Fugitive Slave Act was passed in the United States in 1850, which was a part of the Missouri Compromise of 1850. In this act, any abolitionists that assisted the fugitives to escape in any way were punished with fines and potential jail time. In addition, they were forced to return any runaway slaves that were found trying to escape. Fugitive slaves were not permitted to testify for themselves and were also denied a jury trial. In order to make sure this law would be followed, federal administrator were placed in charge of individual fugitive cases. It is important to know that these commissioners would be given five dollars if the escapee were freed and ten dollars if he/she were not. This caused the northerns to be completely incensed and displayed much resistance and rebellion in response.

Created in the 1830s, the Whig Party was a major political party that was formed in opposition to Andrew Jackson’s policies. This party valued national unity, education, infrastructure, and government intervention to help bring the preceding goals to fruition. In contrast, the Whig’s rivaling party, the Democrats firmly believed in allowing states initiate projects and promoted an economy whose focus would be on the agricultural industry. These two parties were head to head until the Missouri Compromise of 1850, which is where the Whig Party fell apart. Many of its members were divided upon the issue of slavery causing a realignment of political parties among its members. The Whig Party collapsed and gave rise to the Republican party, which consisted of mainly antislavery Northerners. The collapse of the Whig Party led to the creation of the Republican Party, which enlarged the gap between the North and South as they could now affiliate themselves with a political entity.

On August 24, 1857, the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company failed and- according to later reports- had their entire capital embezzled. This company was a banking institution that had loaned $5 million to railroad builders. On top of this, the company had lost millions of dollars due to a corrupt manager from its New York branch. Incapable of paying back the debt, the company filed for bankruptcy. As other New York bankers watched the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company crash, they began to fear the same fate for their own banks. In response, bankers placed restrictions and implemented hard credit policies. Many consumers viewed this as a sign for future economic depression. This caused many people to withdraw gold from the banks. However, to make matter worse,the SS Central America (a ship full of passengers and gold) was overtaken by a category 2 hurricane. Banks in America were forced to be suspended, which caused stocks to plummet, hundreds of businesses to default, and made thousands of citizens to find themselves unemployed. This economic calamity raised many questions about American economic practices and which methods should be taken in order to prevent an event like the Panic of 1857 again. Prioritizing the material welfare of the laborers, the Northerns claimed the best method was to have high tarrifs and education. In contrast, the Southerners opposed to this as they believed it would not complement the slave system. This Panic of 1857 and the economic debates following the economic disaster only widened the rift between the North and South as the difference in their economic interests became blatantly obvious.

John Brown, a white abolitionist, moved to Kansas in 1855 right after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, which the existence of slavery were to be left to the discretion of the territories. Believing he was carrying out the “will of God”, he recruited a small army of dissidents against slavery to incite rebellion among the slaves in northern Virginia. Many northerns were sympathetic to his cause due to the government’s failure to pass a peaceful emancipation of slaves and became his financial buttress for his goal. Then in 1859, he gathered weapons for his army at a farm in Harpers Ferry, VA. On October 16, John Brown led his army of 21 men to attack the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry but was quickly defeated by a militia led by Robert E. Lee. Ten of his followers were murdered and Brown was injured and captured. During his trial, Brown gave himself the appearance of a religious martyr thereby effectively invigorating the hearts of the abolitionists. While the Northerners became galvanized to put an end to this atrocity, the Southerns were officially convinced that they needed to protect themselves from the North who they suspected would soon invade their lands. Brown’s raid effectively widened the gap between the North and South and planted the seed of secession within the minds of the South.

16. Major Crisis Events


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