History of the USA

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CLAY and Daniel WEBSTER, the Whigs called for protective tariffs, a national bank, and internal improvements to stimulate the economy. Moralists in politics, they also demanded active intervention by state governments to maintain the sanctity of the Sabbath, put down alcoholic beverages, and "Americanize" the immigrants in the public schools. Yankees, who by now had migrated in great numbers into the Midwest, leaned strongly toward the Whigs. Many southerners admired Yankee ways and tended to vote for Whig candidates, too.


Democrats continued to condemn banks and tariffs as sources of corruption and exploitation, and in Jeffersons tradition insisted on cultural laissez-faire, the freedom of people to live as they desired. The minority out-groups--Irish Catholics and Germans--concurred, voting strongly Democratic in order to ward off the imposition of Yankee morals. During the presidency of Martin VAN BUREN (1837-41), Democrats succeeded in entirely separating banking and government in the INDEPENDENT TREASURY SYSTEM, by which the government stored and controlled its own funds. A brief Whig interlude under William Henry HARRISON (1841) and John TYLER (1841-45) was followed by the presidency of the Democrat James K. POLK (1845-49), who in the Walker Tariff (1846) brought the United States closer to a free-trade basis.


Growing Sectional Conflicts


President Polks war with Mexico ripped open the slavery question again. Was it to be allowed in the new territories? The WILMOT PROVISO (1846), which would have excluded slavery, became a rallying point for both sides, being voted on again and again in Congress and successfully held off by southerners. Abolitionism, led by William Lloyd GARRISON and others and now strong in many northern circles, called for the immediate emancipation of slaves with no compensation to slaveowners. Most northern whites disliked blacks and did not support abolition; they did want to disallow slavery in the territories so they could be preserved for white settlement based on northern ideals: free labor, dignity of work, and economic progress.


In 1848 northerners impatient with both of the existing parties formed the FREE-SOIL PARTY. By polling 300,000 votes for their candidate, Martin Van Buren, they denied victory to the Democrats and put the Whig Zachary TAYLOR in the White House (1849-50; on his death Millard FILLMORE became president, 1850- 53). The COMPROMISE OF 1850 seemed to settle the slavery expansion issue by the principle of POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY, allowing the people who lived in the Mexican cession to decide for themselves. A strong FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW was also passed in 1850, giving new powers to slaveowners to reach into northern states to recapture escaped slaves.




As the 1850s began, it seemed for a time that the issue of slavery and other sectional differences between North and South might eventually be reconciled. But with the westward thrust of the American nation, all attempts at compromise were thwarted, and diverging economic, political, and philosophical interests became more apparent. The resulting civil war transformed the American nation.


Political Fragmentation


In 1854 the KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT threw open the huge unorganized lands of the Louisiana Purchase to popular sovereignty, repealing the Missouri Compromise line of 1820. The North exploded in rage. Thousands defected from the Whig party to establish a new and much more antisouthern body (and one wholly limited to the northern states), the REPUBLICAN PARTY. The Republicans were aided by an enormous anti-Catholic outburst under way at the same time, aimed at the large wave of Irish Catholic immigration. Anti-Catholicism was already draining away Whigs to a new organization, the American party, soon known as the KNOW-NOTHING PARTY. When in 1856 it proved unable to hold together its members, north and south, because of disagreements over slavery, the anti-Catholics joined the Republicans.


In Kansas civil war broke out between pro-slavery and anti- slavery advocates, as settlers attempted to formalize their position on the institution prior to the territorys admission as a state. The Democratic presidents Franklin PIERCE (1853-57) and James BUCHANAN (1857-61) appeared to favor the pro-slavery group in Kansas despite its use of fraud and violence. In 1857 the Supreme Court, southern dominated, intensified northern alarm in its decision in the case of DRED SCOTT V. SANDFORD. The Court ruled that Congress had no authority to exclude slavery from the territories and thus, that the Missouri Compromise line had been unconstitutional all along. Thousands of northerners now became convinced that a "slave conspiracy" had infiltrated the national government and that it intended to make slavery a nationwide institution.


In 1860 the political system became completely fragmented. The Democrats split into northern and southern wings, presenting two different candidates for the presidency; the small CONSTITUTIONAL UNION PARTY attempted to rally the former Whigs behind a third. The Republicans, however, were able to secure the election of Abraham LINCOLN to the White House.


Southerners had viewed the rise of the Yankee-dominated Republican party with great alarm. They were convinced that the party was secretly controlled by abolitionists (although most northerners detested the abolitionists) and that Yankees believed in using government to enforce their moralistic crusades. In 1859, John BROWN led a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va., hoping to incite a slave insurrection. His action--and his subsequent deification by some northerners- -helped persuade southerners that emancipation of the slaves, if northerners obtained control of the country, was sooner or later inevitable.





Southern leaders had threatened to leave the Union if Lincoln won the election of 1860. Many South Carolinians, in particular, were convinced that Republican-sponsored emancipation would lead to bloody massacres as blacks sought vengeance against whites. In order to prevent this horror South Carolina seceded in December 1860, soon after the victory of Lincoln, an undeniably sectional candidate; it was optimistic about the eventual outcome of its action. Before Lincolns inauguration (March 1861) six more states followed (Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas). In February their representatives gathered in Montgomery, Ala., to form the CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA. On Apr. 12, 1861, when President Lincoln moved to reprovision the federal troops at FORT SUMTER, in Charleston Harbor, Confederate shore batteries launched a 34-hour battering of the installation, forcing its surrender. The U.S. CIVIL WAR had begun.


The War between the States


Lincoln moved swiftly. On April 15 he called the remaining states to provide 75,000 troops to put down the Confederacy; Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee reluctantly seceded. The capital of the Confederacy moved to Richmond. On July 21, 1861, the first major battle between Union and Confederate forces occurred--at Bull Run (see BULL RUN, BATTLES OF), south of Washington, D.C.--resulting in a dramatic southern victory. Thereafter, both sides settled down to a long conflict.


It became an immense struggle. With a total U.S. population of fewer than 32 million, the number of dead reached 620,000 (360,000 northerners out of an army of about 1.5 million and 260,000 southerners in an army of about 1 million). In contrast, during World War II, when the American population was 135 million and its military forces fought for 4 years throughout the world, the total dead reached 400,000. In 1861 about 22 million people lived in the North, as against some 9 million people in the South, of whom 3.5 million were black. Although the North possessed a vigorous system of industry and a well-developed railroad network, Europeans were highly skeptical of a northern victory because the Confederacy was practically as large as Western Europe and fought with a determined passion for its independence. The North had to invade and defeat the opposition in order to win; the South had only to defend its borders. The conflict was not so uneven as it seemed.


Lincoln launched an all-out effort: he declared a naval blockade of the Confederacy; worked hard to maintain the loyalty of the slaveholding border states (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri); invaded Tennessee to gain a base of power in the heart of the Confederacy; cut the South in two by taking the Mississippi River; and looked for a general who could win. This last task took him 2 years. Gen. George B. MCCLELLAN proved disappointingly conservative, and his successors were bumblers. After Gen. Ulysses S. GRANT won major victories in the western theater, Lincoln brought him to Washington in 1864 to face the brilliant Confederate commander, Robert E. LEE.


By mid-1863 the South was in desperate straits, lacking both food and supplies. A great northward thrust was turned back at Gettysburg, Pa., in July of that year (see GETTYSBURG, BATTLE OF). Thereafter, Grant mounted a relentless campaign that hammered down toward Richmond, at hideous cost in casualties. Union Gen. William T. SHERMAN, meanwhile, was slashing through Georgia to the sea, leaving a wide swath of total destruction, and then turning northward through the Carolinas. By April 1865, Grant had finally rounded Lees flank, and on the 9th