The Fatal Flaws of the Constitution
During the 1850’s, the supreme and absolute Constitution, which had previously seen no topic it couldn’t resolve or illuminate in the eyes of its interpreters, was faced with its toughest, unrelenting foe; the issue of slavery, and the locations that it existed in or was desired to exist in. Ultimately, this issue led to the demise of the Union that had been created under the watchful and guiding eye of the Constitution. This decade in particular was brimming with the reoccurring argument of whether or not slavery would be allowed to expand into any newly-acquired United States territories. The sectional discord that resulted between the South and the North as a result of this argument ended in secession, disunion, and eventually war. The flaw of the Constitution existed not in its clear and over-comprehensive guidelines for the Union, but rather in its ambiguity over the rarely discussed topic of slavery. In fact, it was so infrequently discussed because in 1839, Congress had passed a “gag rule” that prohibited any debate about, reading of, printing of, or reference to slavery. There was such a state of ambiguity on the subject that each side, North and South, found the Constitution as both a helpful tool to prove that they were in fact in the right and the other side in the wrong. By 1850 sectional disagreements centering on slavery were straining the bonds of union between the North and South due to the Compromise of 1850 (doc A). These tensions became especially acute when congress began to consider whether western lands acquired after the Mexican War would permit slavery under popular sovereignty. In 1849 California requested to enter the Union as a free state. Adding more Free State senators to Congress would destroy the balance between slave and free states that had existed since the Missouri compromise of 1820. The compromise essentially erased the effects of the...