America, the Multiple Personality National Conscience: Colonial Era and Reconstruction

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“We are not one people. We are two people. We are a people for freedom and a people for Slavery. Between the two conflicts is inevitable.” Assess the validity of this statement; focus your answer between the colonial era and Reconstruction.

From the colonial era through Reconstruction, the people of the United States were in many respects two people: The North appeared to be for freedom and the South for slavery .Despite this; there were instances where Northerners were not completely for freedom. Conflict between the two was hard to avoid.

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Since 1619 when the first slaves arrived to North America, Southerners tried to defend their peculiar institution .They claimed the Bible supported slavery .They pointed out the master-slave relationship resembled that of the family. Poor whites supported slavery because they enjoyed feeling racially superior and hoped to elevate themselves by acquiring a few slaves. The North never had a slave population but one can attribute this to the environment which would not support a plantation economy. While the North did not directly support slavery, its shipping economy did. Northern shippers received great profits from cotton trade. The North economically supported slavery. Northerners and Southerners treated blacks the same. In the South, slaves were forbidden to testify in court or have their marriages legally recognized. Free blacks could not enter into certain occupations or testify in court against whites. In the North, free blacks were often barred entry into a state. They could not vote or go to public schools.

There were many free spoilers in the North, people who did not slavery in the territories. Many fought the expansion of slavery for moral reasons In the government; Northerners fought slavery’s expansion because they worried over the North-South power balance. Abolitionists were not popular in either section. Southerners particularly hated abolitionist literature; in 1835, a mob in Charleston broke into a post office and burned all the abolitionist pamphlets. In Alton, Illinois, Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy, who fought slavery, was killed by a mob in 1837.

Conflict between the North and South was difficult to avoid. In1787, when the Constitution was drafted, people were beginning to see slavery as an issue but they were reluctant to deal with it. Slavery was discussed in writing the U.S Constitution. This was such a large and sensitive issue no one wanted to deal with it. The delegates at the Constitutional Convention stalled the issue by just agreeing to end the slave trade in1807. The argument over slavery continued to escalate. By1820, much argument took place over the fate of slavery in newly acquired territories. In the Missouri Compromise, Missouri became a slave state and Maine a free state. There would be no slavery north of 360 30’. This was a shaky compact and while it lasted 34 years, the compromise only temporarily ducked the question. The battle over slavery intensified .By 1836 Congress received hundreds of antislavery petitions .Debates became so heated Congress passed the Gag resolution, requiring all antislavery petitions be tabled without debate .A conflict between the North and South became hard to avoid because no one affectively tried to deal with the issue .The argument continued to intensify until it became so inflamed it could only be resolved with a major conflict. In any compromise both side tried to gain instead of solve the problem, making conflict difficult to avoid. In the Compromise of 1850 only the North benefited. California became a free state. Utah and New Mexico decided by popular sovereignty only the fugitive slave act benefited the South, but the North refused to enforce it. This made the South angry. The Kansas-Nebraska Act also formed because some wanted to gain financially. Many Northerners wanted the transcontinental railroad to go through unorganized territories. The Act organized the area by dividing it into Kansas and Nebraska.

The status of the territories would be decided by popular sovereignty. This caused fighting in bloody Kansas over the slave issue.

While the people of the South were actually for slavery, the people of the North neither supported slavery nor fought for black freedom. Conflict between the two could not be avoided.

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