US105 Final Essay
The 1850s was a time of calamity and prosperity for African Americans, slavery, and women. In the beginning, Confrontations over slavery mounted, each national political party was dividing into factions along North-South lines. A ten-month-long debate over a series of resolutions, the Compromise of 1850, which intended to reduce the crisis between North and South that had “unhinged” both political parties. Also, the Women’s Right’s Conventions were starting to take off, with the first one being held in 1848 (“Seneca Falls Convention.”) In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, “allowing people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery within their borders. The Act served to repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of latitude 36°30°, (“The Kansas-Nebraska Act.”) During this time, many people had been advocating towards women’s rights, the freedom of slaves, and the citizenship of African Americans.
On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court gave a decision on the Dred Scott vs. Sanford case. Dred Scott was born a slave in Virginia, had been taken to St. Louis in 1830 and sold to a man, who took him to Illinois, and later back to Missouri in 1842. In 1846, Scott filed suit in Missouri saying his residence in Illinois had made him free because slavery was not legal in that area. A jury decided in his favor, but the state Supreme Court ruled against him. When the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the vote was 7 to 2 against Scott (Shi & Tindall 623-624.) This did nothing to solve the slavery problem, it only made it worse.
On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at the Republican Convention in Springfield, Illinois. This convention was to kick off the bid for the U.S. Senate race, so many voters and journalists were present. Lincoln believed that the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Dred Scott case would lead to legalization of slavery in every state. The message from Lincoln’s speech, later named “House Divided,” is to warn voters that soon every state soon, every state would either legalize slavery or make it illegal. “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other” (Lincoln, 1858). What Lincoln means by this is that the United States will soon come to a point where the nation has to decide what to do as a whole. They will have to put aside their differences and do what is best for the country. He is trying to persuade the nation to be united and and take a stance against slavery.
This speech was important because it attracted everyone’s attention to a subject that needed to be heard. Lincoln said what everyone knew, but would not admit because that meant figuring out a new way to reso...