Monday, June 15, 2015

Good Intentions & Bad Results

Quick notes before you read:
*To follow along with this lesson better, a good source we were provided with can be found here. It is a helpful visual provided by ABC-CLIO that basically states everything that happened with the American Indians, Buffalo Soldiers, and Westward-Bound Whites. 

**When I refer to Native Americans as "Indians", please note that I am referring to American Indians, not citizens of India. 
Enjoy this learning experience!!

Continuing to Make Our Final Exam

The end of week two of creating our final exam is coming to an end, and our class focused on Buffalo Soldiers & Native Americans for this next unit. We made another class-wide Google Doc to document our notes. Similar to week one, we watched multiple ABC-CLIO overview videos and took notes on main ideas, key people, events, and terms. The essential question my class decided on was; "During Westward Expansion, did the impact of federal policy towards Buffalo Soldiers and Native Americans match the intent?". 

Buffalo Soldiers & Native Americans

Before moving ahead to answer the essential question, let's discuss what Buffalo Soldiers and Native Americans really are. Buffalo Soldiers were African American soldiers from the Union (North) army that continued on as permanent soldiers in the army. Buffalo Soldiers reminded natives of buffalo spirit,  As you may already know, Native Americans were those who were apart of one of the first groups of people living in U.S. Before Westward Expansion, the Native Americans lived very peaceful and happy lives in western United States. The overview videos we watched help give a good look into the lives of the Natives. Natives relied on buffalo for everything; clothing and food. They lived on the Great Plains in western U.S. states like Colorado and New Mexico, and the major groups were Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota. Natives had rituals such as the Sun Dance and vision quests. Being child was great on the Plains. Games were heavily encouraged and they completed vision quests and puberty ceremonies as they became men. However, all of this would soon take a nasty turn. 

Westward Expansion

Natives being forced to leave during Westward Expansion.
In 1830, President Andrew Jackson officially signed the Indian Removal Act. To learn more about this Act, you can read my blog post I published about my group's presentation on Indian Removal. This act stated that certain tribes must leave lands in the southern U.S. to west of the Mississippi River. Jackson wanted to remove the Indians to the west, so him and the settlers had more land. About 100,000 Eastern Indians were moved off of their homeland to make room for white settlers. Jackson wants Indian Tribes to move out west, he says each tribe will have their own land if they leave, and if they choose to stay they have to abide by the laws set for Americans. Indians wanted to stay because the territory Jackson provided was unknown and there weren't enough resources for them to support themselves. Then in the 1840s, the California Gold Rush brought more people westward, and settlers trespassing on Indian land encounter hostility from the tribes and demand protection from the U.S. army. There were American Indian Wars on the Plains from 1861-1890, and a main battle from this is the Battle of Little Bighorn. Gold was discovered in the Dakota region, immigrants abused Sioux and the Sioux fought back. The Congress approved the creation of 6 regiments of African-American troops, becoming the Buffalo Soldiers, from 1866-1890. They were involved in at least 117 of the 138 campaigns fought against the Indians on the Western Frontier. In 1876, the U.S. government issued orders for all Indians to return to designated reservations or be considered hostile. However, the message did not reach many of the Plains Indians and is straight-up rejected by others. Confrontation comes to a head at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the battle explained before. 

Answering the Essential Question

Senator Henry Dawes
After analyzing that important document mentioned at the beginning of this post, we looked at the other documents provided on Edline. The first document was an excerpt from Helen Hunt Jackson's book A Century of Dishonor (1881), which mobilized public opinion for reform of U.S. Indian policy in the late 19th century, similar to the famous Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, which contributed to the antislavery movement. I found the following quote essential; "These Indians found themselves of a sudden surrounded by and caught up in the great influx of gold-seeking settlers, ashelpless creatures on a shore are caught up in a tidal wave. There was not time for the Government to make treaties; not even time for communities to make laws." This captures how the Indians felt due to the actions of the government, forcing Americans into the West. Even if their intent wasn't to impact Natives negatively, that was the impact it had. The other document included excerpts from the Dawes Act (1887). This Act was also known as the General Allotment Act, and is known as the most significant piece of federal legislation related to the land rights of Native Americans. It was named after its main sponsor, Senator Henry Dawes from Massachusetts. The objectives of this were to promote Native conformity to U.S. culture and open Native lands to non-Native settlement. As you can see, not all federal policies had bad intentions. However, in 1890, the War Department ordered army buildup at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Tensions between American Indian ghost dancers and the U.S. army (including Buffalo Soldiers) led to the Wounded Knee Massacre, where more than 150 Sioux were killed. This massacre effectively ended Indian resistance to white culture. To answer the essential question, no. The impact of federal policy on both Natives and Buffalo Soldiers did not match the intent of these policies, that much harm was not intended when implicating the policies.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Captains of Industry

Working With Each Other, Not Against Each Other

The end of the school year is near, and that means preparing for finals week. Final exams usually consist of a huge amount of multiple choice and open response questions that the teacher comes up with covering the things we learned during second semester. For History this year, the process is a little different. Every History class that Mrs. Gallagher has will have three weeks to learn three new topics, and create 40 questions at the end of each week that are about what they learned that week. Instructions for the weekly plans can be found here. Week one is coming to an end, and the topic that my classmates and I learned about was Carnegie & Rockefeller. This is referring to entrepreneurs Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller. To start the unit, we made a class Google Doc that was shared with every student, and watched overview videos from ABC-CLIO. We took notes on main ideas, key people, important events, and essential terms. We then read the biographies we were provided on Rockefeller and Carnegie. There was also a primary/secondary source lesson that included documents and pictures, which we also analyzed as a class using the Google Doc. The essential question my class came up with today was; "Were the captains of industry a positive or negative impact to the public?".  

John D. Rockefeller

Political cartoon representing Rockefeller.
From ABC-CLIO "The Players" video.
John Davison Rockefeller was born on July 8, 1839 in Richford, New York. He helped create the American petroleum industry, and is known to some as the greatest business leader in American history. He gained the money he needed to become a business mogul by supporting the Union Army during the Civil War. Rockefeller had a mostly positive impact on the public, considering he donated over $500 million to charity and for the advancements of education, medicine, and science. However, in 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and that's when the public started viewing him differently. By 1880, his company ended up securing a virtual monopoly over oil refining and transportation and had become one of the largest corporations in the U.S. The public was convinced that all Rockefeller's actions were motivated by greed. This proves that he also had a negative impact on the public. He was quoted in an interview with William Hoster in the book God's Gold; "I believe the power to make money is a gift of God ... to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess, I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience." This sort of makes Rockefeller seem full of himself, but also shows that he truly wants to use his money for good. (remember how he donated over $500 million by the end of his lifetime?) To answer the essential question, I believe that Rockefeller had a positive impact on the public, despite his bad reputation. Actions speak louder than words.

Andrew Carnegie

A photo of Andrew Carnegie.
From ABC-CLIO "The Players" video.
Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland. He rose from poverty to become one of the richest men in the world by gaining virtual control of the U.S. steel industry. Similar to Rockefeller, he also gave millions of dollars to advance education, establish public libraries, and promote world peace. This was a clear positive impact he had on the public. Carnegie amazingly learned to distinguish the wire sounds in telegraphs without using the instruments and became one of the first operators in the country to be able to take messages "by sound". He was promoted from delivery boy to operator in the telegraph office. Carnegie ended up being the superintendent of the eastern military and telegraph lines. During the Civil War, he helped coordinate rail transportation for the Union Army and organized the telegraphic system for the army. He became the best read and traveled American businessman of his time after traveling extensively through Europe. Carnegie started an interest in his new venture, steel, in the early 1870s. This was a smart move on his part, because the United States' need for steel during the Civil War boosted production, but Great Britain still produced more higher quality steel and dominated the market. Carnegie invested a majority of his fortune in steel production in 1873. He teamed up with Sir Henry Bessemer, who instructed Carnegie to make high quality steel for a lower cost. The U.S. surpassed Great Britain and became first in steel production, and Carnegie had a lot to do with that. This was another positive impact on the public. However, Carnegie's reputation was ruined by the Homestead Strike. The strike revealed Carnegie's plans to ruin the iron and steel workers' union. This outraged the public and quickly changed what people thought of him. By 1900, Carnegie became the second richest man in the world. He sold the Carnegie Steel Company to J.P. Morgan, who turned it into the United States Steel Corporation. Carnegie donated a lot to schools and public libraries, which is why I believe Andrew Carnegie also had a mainly positive impact on the public.
The Captains of Industry John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie both had an impact on society, and in my opinion, had a mostly positive impact on the public.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gaining Freedom One Way or Another

Freedom from Above or Below

The fourth lesson of the Civil War unit is titled Freedom from Above or Below. As always, we got an essential question that needed to be answered by the end of the lesson. The essential questions are; "Who 'gave' freedom to enslaved Americans? Did freedom come from above or below? To what extent were Abraham Lincoln's actions influenced by the actions of enslaved Americans?". To start off, we looked at an image called Freedom to the Slaves, which is the image on the right. We analyzed it and noticed that it really was not very realistic. The slaves would not be that thankful and Lincoln would be more humble about freeing the slaves. This image is an example of freedom from above. Now, onto 'freedom from above' and 'freedom from below'. The term 'freedom from above' means that people of higher authority and people that are high up on the social pyramid help out slaves and help make a difference. When talking about freedom from below, slaves themselves help each other out and gain freedom by working together and not having to involve people of higher social levels. Next, we got into groups and analyzed the Lincoln Documents that were provided to us. For each document, we needed to find quotes that provided us with information on the goal of the war, Lincoln's position on freeing slaves, and evidence of his personal feelings on slavery. As an example, I will use the excerpt from Lincoln's open letter to Horace Greeley in 1862. The goal of the war was to save the union, and a quote proving that was "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery". Lincoln's position on freeing slaves was that he freed the slaves just to save the Union, and it came second to saving the Union. A quote proving that was; "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." Lastly, evidence of personal beliefs from this open letter. A good quote to represent that was "What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union...I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." We then watched a Ken Burns Civil War video and had to answer these two questions; 'How did fugitive slaves influence the government’s and Lincoln’s actions on slavery?' and 'What did Lincoln claim that he did not do more for abolition at this point in the war?'. To answer the first question, the fugitive slaves made themselves a nuscence and a problem that needed to be dealt with. It's forcing the government to face facts that the war is about slavery bc the slaves are making themselves an issue. To answer the second question, Lincoln was afraid because the North is not fully pushing for equality - most people didn't want African American neighbors. Lincoln was worried about losing the support of many people fighting with him at the stage of the war. We also were provided with documents X and Y, which both represented freedom from below. Freedom came from both above and below, and Lincoln's actions were influenced by enslaved Americans. 

Freedom from Above

As I said before, freedom from above means that those with more power and those that are higher up on the social pyramid helped enslaved people gain freedom. There were definitely times when President Lincoln stepped in and helped slaves. One example is the document I mentioned previously, the open letter to Horace Greeley. Lincoln clearly says "What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union...I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free." This proves that the main goal for him really is to save the Union, and it is clear that he is responsible for freeing the slaves - a true example of freedom from above. Another example can also be found on the document we received, the Emancipation Proclamation. This was a very clear example of freedom from above, because Lincoln freed the slaves with this Proclamation; "...all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free". Next, the Gettysburg Address in 1863. Lincoln proved that all men are equal when he said; "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". This showed proof of Lincoln caring about the slaves and knowing they are equal to everyone else and deserve freedom. He also personally believed that men fought to free slaves; "It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced." Even though there are many examples of freedom from above, freedom from below also existed. 

Freedom from Below

Freedom from below was also a huge part of slavery during the Civil War. Again, freedom from below is when slaves themselves make a difference by working together and not having to include those with higher authority. Documents X and Y are both examples of freedom from below. First, document X, the Letter from General Ambrose E. Burnside to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on March 21, 1862. "They seemed to be wild with excitement and delight— they are now a source of very great anxiety to us; the city is being overrun with fugitives from surrounding towns and plantations— Two have reported themselves who have been in the swamps for five years..". This quote proves that the slaves did their job of causing a scene to make a difference, and is an example of freedom from below. They are basically forcing people to pay attention to them, which is their goal. Document Y, the photo on the right, is also representing freedom from below. It is an Engraving titled Slaves from the plantation of Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrive at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi from 1863. This image is powerful because it shows slaves taking action and trying to make a difference by working together. 

My Opinion + How This Relates to Today

In my opinion, slaves gained freedom mostly because of people with high authority. I truly think freedom from above was more common and a bigger reason for emancipation. However, I also think Lincoln's actions were heavily influenced by enslaved American's actions. Emancipation happened because of both the slaves themselves and Lincoln, but I think Lincoln ended up using his power to make big changes. How does all of this relate to today? Recently, the news has covered the Baltimore Riots a lot. These riots were in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a black male who died in police custody a week after being arrested. Many incidents have happened in the past year that involved police unfairly treating black men in particular. These riots relate to freedom from below because people are joining together to try to make a scene and make a difference. Even though the level of violence involved is not the best strategy to get attention, the rioters have a reason. Let us learn from these riots and treat everyone equally, as it should be. 

Sources used:
  • Excerpt from President Abraham Lincoln’s Reply to an Open Letter from Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, 1862.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863 (Excerpts).
  • Gettysburg Address, November 19th 1863.    
  • Reprinted in Berlin, Ira, Barbara Fields, Steven Miller, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowland, eds. Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom and the Civil War. New York: New Press, 1992, pp. 34–35. 
  • Engraving, “Slaves from the plantation of Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrive at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi,” 1863. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Domination in the Civil War

Picking Battles

A depicition of the battle I chose; The Battle of Fort Henry.
To start the Battles Scavenger Hunt lesson, the third lesson in our Civil War unit, we first got two essential questions that needed to be answered by the end of the activity. The two questions are; "Who was the ultimate victor in each of the theaters of war: East, West, Naval?" and "What are some commonalities you can identify in the reasons for the results of the battles?". To start off, each student had to choose a battle from this list of battle descriptions. Most battles were assigned to one person, but there were a few pairs of students who worked together on one battle due to the ratio of kids to battles. After submitting our choice for the battle, solely based on the description, we had to research the description to find information on it, and most importantly to find out what the battle was called. We created a document using Google Docs with the Battle name, location, date, victor, theater (east, west, naval) and two bullets explaining the reasons for the results. I got the Battle of Fort Henry, and my Google Doc can be viewed here. After making the documents, we generated a QR code using this generator that linked to the document with the information. On a separate sheet of paper, we placed the QR code with the shortened link (using that students could use if the code did not work. At the top of the new document was the station number that the battle corresponded with. So, what was all of this for? The class organized a scavenger hunt around the school. I am going to use my battle station number as an example. Since I was station 3, I told the student with battle station 2 where I was going to place my QR code. Brian had this battle so he wrote at the bottom of his original Google Doc where to go in the school for my sign. So, someone would go to his sign, scan the code, copy the information into their Evernote app, and look at the bottom of the document to see where to go for my sign. There were twenty battles in all. Katie had station 5, so I wrote where she was putting her sign at the bottom of my document. It may sound confusing, but it worked out and was stress free. The idea of this was to obtain this information in a quicker way, instead of sitting in class listening to a teacher talk about twenty different Civil War battles. I really enjoyed this and thought it was something unique and creative.
The QR code to my Scavenger Hunt Google Doc.

Who Dominated Each Theater?

Since the idea of the scavenger hunt was to find the answers to the questions I previously stated, we all got back together and went on Padlet to help gather ideas as a class. The Padlet my class created is below. We were asked which side, the Union or Confederacy, dominated each theater - the Western, Eastern & Naval Theaters. We all looked back in our notes to find out the answer to the first essential question; Who was the ultimate victor in each of the theaters of war: East, West, Naval?  The class agreed that the Union clearly dominated the Western Theater. Two example battles of this are the Battle of Shiloh and The Siege of Vicksburg. Even though the South had more soldiers in the Battle of Shiloh, the Union came out victorious. At the Siege of Vicksburg, the Union won because the Confederacy ran out of supplies. Next, the Eastern Theater. My take on this theater was that the battles definitely seemed to be more even than the Western ones. The Confederate soldiers won battles like the Battle of Cold Harbor, due to the Union having half the number of soldiers than the South, and having a worse defense line. The Union lacked leadership at the beginning of the Eastern Theater battles, yet they ended up winning more battles as time went along, like Sherman's March to Sea and the Battle of Gettysburg. The Union also seemed to dominate the remaining theater: Naval. They won the Baton Rouge Battle due to having resources and capturing the city New Orleans, which was close to a large naval base. Another battle in the Naval theater was the Battle of Hampton Roads. Even though it was a 'draw', the Confederates were short on ammunition and fled. While running, they actually blew up their own ship so it wouldn't fall into Union hands. I think it can be argued that the Union won this battle, and dominated this theater.

Similarities In the Reasons for Results

The other essential question regards commonalities, or similarities, in the reasons for the results of the battles. A commonality I noticed was concerning the number of soldiers involved in the battles. A few examples of this are the Battle of Fort Sumter, the Surrender of Fort Donelson, the Battle of Shiloh & the Battle of Cold Harbor. A majority of the time, one side didn't have enough soldiers to keep up with the opposing side. Another similarity is supplies. For example, the Confederacy had to surrender in the Siege of Vicksburg because they ran out of supplies, and in the Battle of Fort Sumter the Union troops did not have enough supplies to defend themselves against a siege. It is pretty clear to me that the Union dominated the battles of the Civil War, with a few exceptions. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Election That Divided the Nation

The next lesson on the Civil War unit was the Election of 1860. The essential question was "How were the results of the Election of 1860 representative of the deep divisions over slavery?". To first get an overview on the Election of 1860, we watched this Crash Course video in class. This helped explain how the slavery issue caused divisions for events like the Fugitive Slave Law and Bleeding Kansas. As you can see in the photo, the country was basically divided into sections. Abraham Lincoln was against slavery, Stephen A. Douglas believed that people should be able to vote on whether slavery should exist or not (popular sovereignty), John C. Breckenridge believed that slavery was the priority and all blacks were inferior to whites, and John Bell wanted to preserve the Constitution and the Union as is, including slavery. Because of all of this, Lincoln was most likely to win in states that were against slavery, Douglas would probably win in states like Missouri, because many people fighting in Bleeding Kansas from Missouri were pro slavery. Breckenridge was predicted to win in southern states, since slavery was always the priority there, and Bell would win in areas right in between the pro and anti slavery lines. This is because they don't want people fighting in their states. Lincoln ended up winning the Election. We then went onto the Civil War in Art website and looked at & analyzed five photographs. Small groups created mini-documentaries using sites like Educreations and ShowMe to explain the events surrounding the Election of 1860 and also to answer the essential question. My group's Educreations video is below. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

#NumbersDontLie - Making Civil War Infographics

Stats & Strategies 

To start off our Civil War unit, we learned about statistics and strategies of both the North and the South during the war. To begin the lesson, we looked at three documents and analyzed them. The essential question we needed to figure out was "How did the differences between the North and South affect each region's strategy and success in the Civil War?". We first looked at a Railroad and Slave Density document that featured two maps of the US - one showed the railroads in 1860, and the other showed slave density and cotton production in 1860. The next document featured pie charts about resources of the Union and Confederacy in 1861. This document ended up being an essential part of making the infographic. There was a lot of good information on here that made it easier to realize how both the North and the South had advantages in the war. The last document was called Slavery by the Numbers. This document also was really important because numbers don't lie, and neither do facts.

Making the Infographic

The main assignment for this lesson was making an Infographic. The website I ended up choosing for my presentation was Piktochart. Making infographics are difficult because it has to be visually appealing. Because of this, I had to pick certain statistics and different pieces of data to use that would make sense to anyone. I titled it "Success By The Numbers" because I like the idea of percentages and I want people to understand what they are looking at. It was not an easy task to only use a few tidbits of information. I focused on railroad mileage, agriculture and war strategy for my infographic. What did these have to do with the Civil War? Well, railroad mileage was actually more important than people might think. Railroads were essential because things had to be transported. Troops and supplies were transported quicker in the North, because they had a much larger amount of railroad milage. Agriculture is also important when talking about the situations faced by the Union and Confederacy at the start of the war. Cotton was the main crop, and basically the most important thing that everyone wanted. The South produced all of the cotton at this time. This means that they had all the power. They shipped this to places like Europe, but also to the North. The South had the power to cut off the North's supply of cotton, putting all the power in their hands. War strategy was the last aspect I focused on. The North had an elaborate war plan called the Anaconda PlanThe basic plan was to blockade the saltwater ports of the South and to stop all commerce on the Mississippi River so no cotton could be exported and no war supplies could be imported. The South's plan? Their strategy was called the War of Attrition. Their basic war plan was to prepare and wait. In the end, I realized the North had the advantage in the Civil War over the South, even with the cotton element. The infographic I made using Piktochart is below. Oh, and I like color coding so the information on the North is in blue, while the South is in red. 

  • American: Pathways to the Present. Chapter 11 Section 1. Prentice Hall. PearsonSuccessNet.
  • Allen Weinstein and R. Jackson Wilson, Freedom and Crisis: An American History, New York: Random House, 1974, and Philip Roden et. al., Life and Liberty Vol. 2, Scott, Foresman and Company, Glenview, Illinois, 1980.
  • Lawrence, Andy. 2012. Alliances. Military History Monthly. January 26. Accessed March 9, 2015.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Major Deal, Minor Attention

Elephant in the Room Overview

The final lesson of our "Causes of Civil War" unit was called Elephant in the Room. The expression "the elephant in the room" refers to when there is a huge topic or issue and nobody is bothering to discuss it. This had to do with slavery in the early 19th century. The essential question for this lesson is "How do we know the debate over slavery was the 'elephant in the room' for American politics in the early 19th century?". To start the lesson, we got a quick overview on the Missouri Compromise. The Missouri Compromise took place in 1820, and it created an even split of eleven slave states and eleven free states. This means slave states and free states have an even number of votes in the Senate. Also, all new territory north of the 36 degrees 30 minutes latitude line will be free in the future. 1849 held the Gold Rush in California. In 1950, California requests to join the United States as a free state. Henry Clay anticipates the inevitable controversy of the loss of balance between slave and free states. So he proposes a 5-part compromise. Our next task was to read this article on PBS titled "The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act". With this, we needed to find these five parts of the compromise. The first part was that Texas would claim the land in dispute but, in compensation, be given 10 million dollars -- money it would use to pay off its debt to Mexico. This satisfied pro-slavery advocates. The second part was the territories of New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah being organized without mention of slavery. The decision would be made by the territories' inhabitants later, when they applied for statehood. This also satisfied pro-slavery advocates. The third part was the slave trade being abolished in the District of Columbia, although slavery would still be permitted. This satisfied anti-slavery advocates. The fourth part of the compromise was California being admitted as a free state. To pacify slave-state politicians, who would have objected to the imbalance created by adding another free state, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. This also satisfied anti-slavery advocates, because another free state exists. The final part was the Fugitive Slave ActIt required citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves. It denied a fugitive's right to a jury trial. (Cases would instead be handled by special commisioners -- commisioners who would be paid $5 if an alleged fugitive were released and $10 if he or she were sent away with the claimant.) The act called for changes in filing for a claim, making the process easier for slaveowners. Also, according to the act, there would be more federal officials responsible for enforcing the law. This satisfied pro-slavery advocates. We were split into groups of 2 or 3 to make timelines with the Timeline app. My group's timeline is below, along with descriptions of each event. To answer the essential question; the debate over slavery was the 'elephant in the room' because most decisions were made regarding states and territories, and not how it affected slaves. Slavery was obviously the elephant in the room, and it needed to be a bigger deal to politicians. Next, I will use other events to prove this, even though some politicians truly cared about slaves. 

More Proof of Ignoring Slavery

As you can see on the timeline, we also analyzed the Gadsden Purchase, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, The Caning of Charles Sumner, The Dred Scott Decision, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and John Brown's Raid. These events really helped support the idea that slavery was the elephant in the room, the thing that was an obvious issue but was not discussed enough. The Kansas-Nebraska Act took place in 1854 and got rid of the Missouri Compromise. Yes, the compromise that kept territories above a certain line free of slavery was gone. This already helps us answer the essential question. Clearly none of the politicians were worried about those new slave states. This act made it easier for southerners to expand slavery northward. Another important event was Bleeding Kansas. The Kansas-Nebraska Act led to Bleeding Kansas, which resulted in a lot of major violent outbreaks. The Caning of Charles Sumner proved that even the most civilized men could resort to violence because of slavery controversy. In 1856, Senator Charles Sumner delivered a two day speech called The Crime Against Kansas. The anti-slavery Republican attacked southerners in this speech for forcing slavery on territories. He also made bold insults against Senator Andrew Butler. Rep. Preston Brooks, a member of the House of Representatives and Butler's nephew, was angered by Sumner's remarks and was determined to defend the honor of the south. Two days after Sumner's speech, Brooks approached Sumner at his Senate desk and beat him with his cane. People across the south voiced their support for Brooks. Northerners were outraged. Another event was the Dred Scott Decision in 1857. Dred Scott was an enslaved man living in Missouri. He filed a suit against his owner, and argued that he and his wife were free because they had once lived with their owner in states and territories where slavery was illegal. The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 against the Scotts. We read about the effects of this decision here. There were 3 effects of the Dred Scott Decision. Slaves, because they were not citizens, were denied the right to sue in court. Enslaved people could not win freedom just by living in a free territory or state, and the Missouri Compromise ruled unconstitutional and all territories were open to slavery. This last effect really stood out to me because it's as if time was moving backwards. They made the Missouri Compromise in 1820 to keep certain states free, they got rid of the compromise in 1854 with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and then all territories are open to slavery? It makes no sense to me, further proving that politicians did not want to talk about how awfully slaves were treated, and proving that the debate over slavery truly was the elephant in the room for American politics in the early 19th century.  

Before and After the Kansas-Nebraska Act that made more states available to slavery.

Sources Used:
  • The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act.
  • The Works of Charles Sumner, vol. IV (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1870- 1873), pages 125-249. 
  • Finkelman. Dred Scott v. Sanford.