The Constitution

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APUSH P6
Mr.
December 17, 2012
DBQ By the 1850’s the Constitution was starting to become the source of sectional discord and tension which led to conflictions in the union. The way the Constitution was written, it was very vague considering slavery. Because of the Constitution being so vague, this left states free to interpret the principles stated in their own way. The reason of the fundamentals in the composition was to create a “more perfect union” and put provisions in it to abolish an oppressive government. From the South’s perspective, the North was instilling oppressive policies. Conflicts having to do with the Constitution separating the union can date back to Polk’s presidency, leading to the conflicts from 1850 to 1861. When war in the Northwest could not be avoided, Polk concentrated on efforts to claim the Southwest from Mexico. When Polk failed to claim the territory, he challenged Mexican authorities on the border of Texas, provoking a Mexican attack on American troops. Polk then used the boarder attack to argue for a declaration of war. Congress granted the declaration and in 1846 the Mexican-American War began. Abolitionists, largely in the North but elsewhere as well, feared that new states in the West would become slave states, thus tipping the balance in Congress in favor of proslavery forces. Opponents argued that Polk had provoked Mexico into war at the request of powerful slaveholders, and the idea that a few slave owners had control over the government became popular. Those rich Southerners who allegedly were “pulling the strings” were referred to as Slave Power by abolitionist. The defeat of Wilmot Proviso, a congressional bill prohibiting the extension of slavery into any territory gained from Mexico, reinforced those suspicions. The failure of the proviso led to the formation of the Free-Soil Party, a regional, single-issue party devoted to the goals of the Wilmot Proviso. Southerners felt that there should be no federal restrictions on the extension of slavery into the new territories. The two sides were growing farther apart and more rigid in their determination not to give in. From this, the Compromise of 1850 (Document A) came into action to resolve the war. It consisted of laws admitting California as a free state, creating Utah and New Mexico territories with the question of slavery in each to be determined by popular sovereignty, settling a Texas-New Mexico boundary dispute in the former's favor, ending the slave trade in Washington, D.C., and making it easier for Southerners to recover fugitive slaves. From here on Northerners and Southerners begin to develop their own interpretation of the Constitution, aiding the theory that the same Constitution that was supposed to unite the union becomes the reason why it is breaking. For years, the union used compromises to preserve the peace in the nation. Throughout the Compromise of 1850, there were still arguments having to do with having California and making it a slave state. During the Gold Rush, settlers had flooded into California, and the populous territory wanted statehood. Californians had already drawn up a state constitution. That constitution prohibited slavery, and of course, the South opposed California’s bid for statehood. At the very least, proslavery forces argued, southern California should be forced to accept slavery, in accordance with the boundary drawn by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Democrat Stephen Douglas and Whig Henry Clay came up with what they thought to be a workable solution, known as the Compromise of 1850 (Document A). The Compromise of 1850, what was supposed to be a solution due to the misinterpretations of the Constitution, was only adding on to the argument about free states versus slave states. Senator Henry Clay attempted to end the rancor by proposing a series of measures that would balance the interests of the...
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