DBQ on Sectionalism

Essay by maddyzHigh School, 11th grade November 2014

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Maddy Zimba

During the period of 1850-1861, America was struggling to stay united as debates over several major issues started to take the forefront. After the war with Mexico ended in 1848, America gained the territories of Texas, New Mexico, and California through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Soon after, disputes over whether these states should be free states or slave states erupted. By 1850, a solution was found in the Compromise of 1850 where California would become a free state, and New Mexico and Texas would have popular sovereignty, allowing them to decide for themselves whether they would be slave states or not. The Fugitive Slave Act was also written in 1850 in an effort to satisfy southern slave owners by requiring northerners to return any runaway slaves back to their owners in the South. The combination of the Compromise of 1850 and The Fugitive Slave Act, along with debates over the Constitution and popular sovereignty, started to impact the unity of the nation and potentially split the North and South even more.

The actions of the government during the period of 1850-1861 contributed to the deteriorating conditions of America, particularly in the Constitution and the Fugitive Slave Act. In 1852, William Lloyd Garrison expressed the idea that the Constitution influenced slavery in America despite the fact that nothing about slavery was directly mentioned. He feels that a government in support of slavery is corrupt and cannot be trusted and that the people need to overthrow it. The Constitution's inability to stop slavery leads to division among the people who support slavery and the people who do not. In this way, the government played a part in the weakening of the Union (Doc. E). The Fugitive Slave Act, a part of the Compromise of 1850, helped...