Sources of Freedom Exercises

This chapter concentrates on the events that led up to the Civil War. The chapter opens with the South’s objection to sculptor Thomas Crawford’s design for a Statue of Freedom to crown the Capitol’s dome, illustrating how divisive the issue of slavery had become.

Spurred by the idea of manifest destiny, westward expansion is covered with the Texas independence movement, the Oregon Trail, and the Mexican-American War. Freedom is extended to some groups, but denied to others as America consolidated its continental empire. With the new land from Mexico, slavery once again became a national political crisis as seen with the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Demonstrating how important the issue of slavery had become for Congress, William Seward’s statement on "The Irrepressible Conflict" is highlighted in Voices of Freedom. For the North, free soil became the rallying cry as its advocates saw slavery as competition to free labor. Along with the Free Soil Party, another new political party emerged, but in response to the growing immigration from Ireland. The American Party, or Know-Nothings, was fearful of the Irish Catholic immigrants. As these parties died away, the Republican Party, whose major platform was preventing the expansion of slavery, absorbed them.

The chapter ends with the explosive events leading up to Southern secession, starting with the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Demonstrating its enormous impact upon national life, the Act destroyed the Whigs, split the Democrats, and unified the Republicans. The Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry are highlighted, culminating in the 1860 election and the South’s secession.

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