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A Nation Divided

Essay by   •  September 11, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,300 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,111 Views

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As time wore on in America, the issue of slavery came up time and again as the borders of the United States pushed further and further West. Americans went to great lengths to forestall the inevitable national debates on the legality and morality of slavery since the time of the Constitution to right before the American Civil War. They knew this issue could potentially destroy the United States so they made many compromises to try and appease everyone. However, the issue was too great, dividing the nation between the North and South.

It all began at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 when the issue of slavery first gained great attention. With the creation of the new legislature in which the lower house, the House of Representatives, had population-based representation, issues arose with the South because 40% of their population were slaves. They wanted slaves to be counted with the population so they would have more representation in Congress, but the North believed that since they were not citizens, they should not be counted. However, the South argued that if slaves were to be included in taxation, they should be included in representation as well. To appease both sides, James Wilson proposed the Three-Fifths Compromise, that said "all other persons" were to be counted as only three-fifths of their numbers which reduced the power of the slave states relative to the original southern proposals, but they gained more power against the North. So, for a time, the issue of slavery was ignored.

That is, until Missouri, in the middle of the dividing line between North and South, applied for statehood. In 1819, Missouri had grown significantly in population and decided to apply for statehood. The problem was that Missouri had the same latitude as Illinois and Indiana, but was largely an agrarian plantation society that required slaves. Northerners saw this as expanding slavery and it would throw off the 11:11 ratio of slave to free states in the Senate. The Tallmadge Amendment submitted to the House of Representatives sought to impose conditions on Missouri to extinguish slavery altogether, however it was not passed by the Senate. Instead, the Missouri Compromise stated that slavery was prohibited in the Louisiana Purchase above the 36o30' parallel. Missouri would be allowed to be a slave state if Maine entered the Union as a free state to keep the balance in Congress.

Though the Nullification Crisis had nothing to do with slavery, it was a means that split the country even further over political and economic reasons. After the Tariff of 1828, designed to protect American industry by placing a tax on low-priced imported goods, many southerners were angry because they were harmed directly by having to pay higher prices for goods they did not produce; indirectly, because reducing the number of goods exported to the United States left Britain with less money to pay for the cotton they imported from the South. Many South Carolina politicians blamed the economic downturn in the 1820s on this national tariff policy. When the Andrew Jackson administration failed to take action to address their concerns, radicals proposed that the state declare the tariff null and void. An open split on the issue occurred between Jackson and his vice-president John C. Calhoun, leading Calhoun to resign his office in order to run for Senate where he could more effectively defend nullification since Jackson did not allow anyone to disagree with him. Jackson then signed into law the Tariff of 1832 which reduced some of the tariffs. However, the reductions were too little for South Carolina and in November, a state convention declared the tariffs unconstitutional and unenforceable in South Carolina after the upcoming February. Though in late February, the Force Bill authorized the use of military forces against South Carolina and a new tariff bill appeased South Carolina. The South Carolina convention reconvened and repealed its Nullification Ordinance on March 11, 1833, ending the controversy.

Beginning in the 1820s, Texas began to be seen as a way for the United States to expand further West. With the Declaration of Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821, many Americans desired to develop and populate the Northern provinces aka Texas. Because of fighting between Indians and Mexicans as a result of Indians being pushed off their lands, Americans and others were invited to settle in Texas. Empresarios, or entrepreneurs, were offered virtually free land deals as long as they became Mexican citizens, adopted Catholicism, and recruited others to settle there, too. It was used as a buffer for the United States so the Indians would fight with the Mexicans and not bring fighting over to the United States. However, few lived up to the conditions of the settlement which oppressed the Mexicans. After over 35,000 Americans settled in Texas, the United States showed interest in buying Texas, but Mexico was not willing to sell the area. Mexico then tried to gain control of the situation by stopping further immigration and imposing new laws. Texas responded by declaring independence on March 2nd, 1836 after the Battle of San Jacinto in which Texans caught General Santa Anna off guard and defeated him. Also, after the Battle of the Alamo, a free Texas sentiment began to grow, as the phrase "Remember the Alamo" was displayed all over in honor of the men who died fighting for their freedom. Texas was not a republic for very long before they began to seek annexation to the United States, as the Texan War for Independence mirrored that of the American Revolution. However, it was clear early on that much negotiation would have to be taken place first. Only after Mexico broke off relations with United States because of John Tyler's expansionist mandate, did Texas ratify annexation and join the Union on December 29, 1845.

As the United States began to push its borders further and further west, settlers came across the "Great American Desert". They decided to move on and look for better land on the Atlantic coast which was thinly populated at the time, leaving the desert region for the Indians to occupy. Literature began to remark on the beauty of the area, prompting more settler interest. With the help of the Oregon Trail, connecting the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon, the American population began to spread West, some settling areas along the way. However, Oregon Country was claimed by both British America and the United States. The US claimed land all the way to 54o40'N latitude mark, but Britain didn't agree and the United States almost threatened war. It never came to that, as the two agreed on extending the 49th parallel across to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1848, the US portion was formally organized as the Oregon Territory. Shortly after, there was an effort to split off the region north of the Columbia River, resulting

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