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Were Compromises Available During the Civil War?

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Compromises were no longer able to settle political disputes by 1860 as the slavery controversy had led to sectionalism to solidify leading to concessions on the debate no longer being available as both the North and the South wanted two polar opposite things. From 1820 to 1860 the slavery issue gradually grew greater and greater leading to opinions becoming more hostile and futile. The North's opinion gradually grew from limiting the regions in which slavery was available and limiting the importation of slaves, to total abolition. Abolitionists groups became more popular in the North among the 40 year time span leading to emancipation becoming a common interest in the North. This was not possible for the South as slavery was deeply ingrained into the economic system of the area. Slavery was slowly tampering out, but after the invention of Eli Whitney's cotton gin the demand skyrocketed again. The South was generally accepting of their concessions at first as they understood that certain needs of theirs had to be thrown out to keep sectional balance. As time went on, the North gained much more land than the South leading to the sectional balance being thrown off. The land the North gained led to the North having way more political power in the House, Congress, Senate and the Federal Government. To keep the North from ruling them, the South was no longer able to give concessions as their demands had to be met in order to help them gain back the sectional balance.

In Document A, Henry Clay is giving a speech to the Senate in which he discusses the nullification crisis of 1832 in which the state of South Carolina declared the Tariff of 1828 and 1832 to be null and void. They declared it null and void as it didn’t benefit them since it forced a high protective tariff on cheap British goods to protect Northern manufacturers. President Andrew Johnson then passed a Force Bill which allowed the government to use federal force to collect the tariff. The South Carolinians then threatened to secede from the Union as they believed their rights were being infringed on. Eventually a nullification convention met in which they decided that the state of South Carolina was legally allowed to nullify the tariffs as they were unconstitutional. Clay believed South Carolina's actions were legal as its action still fell under the constitution, but impractical as it is for the benefit of the Union that the state follows the federal laws. Clay also believed it would be futile for South Carolina to secede from the Union as it would surely just be recaptured through federal force. Clay had mixed opinions on the situation as he was part of the Whig party which was also split on the issue of slavery. They believed it was a necessary evil as it was needed for the Southern economy. Clay supports the fact that early on in the 19th century concessions were still available, but hard to meet as the North and South both had totally opposite needs. In this case scenario it was the tariff which hurt the South while aided the North. This event helped solidify the growing sectional differences as the thought of secession brought up by South Carolina became more of an acceptable idea by Southern states.

In Document B, the Pinckney Committee talks about the Gag Resolution in the House of Representatives which prevented any action or debate on the issue of slavery in the House. Pinckney was a South Carolinian who drove the act through Congress with other Southern pro-slavers. It was passed by the South to safeguard their system of slavery without any fear of change or infringement to it. This lasted for eight years until John Quincy Adams repealed it. This act shows that compromise was not available at the time as the only way to keep sectional balance was to not make anymore compromises on the issue of slavery or abolition by not talking about it. By doing so, only one side of the Union was appeased; the South. The North hated this as they were incapable of making any sort of progress towards abolition as they weren’t allowed to debate about it in their own government.

In Document C, Daniel Webster suggests to the Senate that the North needs to secede from the South as the differences between the North and the South have grown too vast, causing the government to become incapable of fulfilling the needs of both halves of the nation. Webster suggests that the recently made Compromise of 1850 has made the slavery issue worse as moral Northern men are forced to return slaves back to the South based on the Fugitive Slave Law which was passed through the deal. He then goes onto debate that the slavery territorial dispute can never be settled as a line drawn in the middle of the nation may help some territories in the nation, while hurting others such as Kansas which was above the Missouri Compromise. By allowing Kansas to become a slave state through popular sovereignty the Missouri Compromise was deemed unconstitutional making the barrier between the North and the South no longer existent. The Compromise of 1850 hurt the Union rather than binding it together as the North was not appeased by the concessions it had to give

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