Friday, March 6, 2015

The Elephant Named "Slavery"

Still focusing on the topic of slavery, our class spent the week following the events that took place in America during the mid-19th century. 
     Slavery was still an evident problem in the 1850s, with the rifts that were caused between the north and south. While the North advocated against slavery, the South equally fought against it. This debate in American politics was conspicuously caused by slavery. This type of situation in politics is known as an elephant in the room. In this case, the elephant, root issue, of slavery causing problems in society was avoided during this debate. To explore this issue further, our class followed and learned all the major events that took place. After being split into groups of three, we were assigned to create a timeline of the incidents that occurred between the North and South from 1820 to 1860. Our timeline was organized with all the events benefitting the North above the line and the events benefitting the South on the bottom:

Timeline: 1820-1859
     The event that led to several other occurrences relating to slavery to take place was the Compromise of 1850. All was fair in 1820 when the United States was evenly split into eleven free states and eleven slave states. This allowed the slave states and the free states to have an even number of votes in senate. However, the States were still growing and new territories were added. In order to settle any possible imbalance in the number of slave and free states, it was decided that all new territory north of the 36 degrees 30 minutes latitude line will be free in the future. The only reason this compromise was put in place was because of the two conflicting opinions of slavery. If the misunderstandings caused by the situation had been taken care of ahead of time, the events following the compromise would not have occurred.
     Three years after the Missouri Compromise, the Gadsden Purchase (1853) caused another
Gadsden Purchase vs
the land purchased through
the Treaty of Guadalupe
imbalance between the free and slave states. In 1848, the US paid $15 million for all of Nevada, California, Utah and much of Arizona and New Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as a result of a victory of the war between Mexico. However, the US paid $10 million for a much smaller strip of land known as the Gadsden Purchase. The huge price difference per square mile is quite obvious. The small strip of land would eventually be used to provide a route for the southern transcontinental railroad, which would give the pro-slavery Southern citizens better access to the new territories. From the South's benefit from this purchase, it is easy to conclude why there was so much conflict between them and the North. With the results of the purchase, the North would decide their next move to excel above the South. This continuous process would end up in more drastic events than the one before it. Nevertheless, neither side looked out to find a solution to the main problem of slavery.
Effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854
     Out of the eight events discussed, I believe the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 was an occurrence that caused citizens to settle in the new territories. Due to the increase of railroad transportation in the North, travelling to the new territories was significantly easier and faster. The anti-slavery Northerners would have the same advantage as the Southerners, or pro-slavery settlers. Both regions would have a chance to send people to the new territories in order to vote for their state of slavery. However, this act violated the Missouri Compromise that was settle in 1850. Any place above the latitude line was open to slavery, and this benefitted the southerners to expand their pro-slavery land farther up North. These "small" actions led to further dangerous and violent situations with the main cause of slavery.
     One of these violent reactions from the build-up of events was the caning of Charles Sumner in 1856. Due to the misconceptions caused between the North and South, leading Senators and Representatives from both sides vigorously fought against each other. Not only was violence seen in the citizens but was also seen in the politicians who refused to believe that slavery was the root issue. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was one of the most anti-slavery voices in Congress. He gave the fiery speech "the Crime Against Kansas", attacking southerners for forcing slavery in the new territories. In this three day speech, Sumner pointedly blames Senator Andrew Butler from North Carolina. Sumner's words against Butler angered his nephew, Representative Preston Brooks, and Brooks beat Sumner with his cane. Sumner never fully recovered from Brooks' violent reaction and was unable to participate in Congress due to traumatic injuries. This event served as a reminder to both the sides of the consequences resulted from their battle of slavery.
      The build up of frustration and clash of opinions coming from the North and South resulted in a chain of events that lasted 10 years and into the Civil War- one of the bloodiest wars in American history. The slavery "elephant" was allowed to roam around the room and watch over all these events take place without being noticed. If only politicians had not ignored the debate over slavery and had tried to find a solution, those ten years could have been spent more wisely; and if the politicians had given some attention to the root cause of these occurrences, those thousands of lives lost in the course of this battle would have been saved.

Gallagher, Kerry. Elephant in the Room Lesson. Accessed: March 10.

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