Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas
About the Seminar
In the middle years of the nineteenth century, two great events transformed the United States: the Civil War and the acquisition of 1.2 million square miles of western territory between 1845 and 1848. The Civil War and expansion to the Pacific together created what was essentially a new nation.
Acquiring the far West aggravated old tensions between North and South and raised new, difficult issues concerning the institution of slavery. Those tensions and questions contributed greatly to the gathering political crisis that erupted finally in the secession crisis of 1860–61. It is not too much to say that the expansion of the 1840s lit the fuse of the Civil War. It could be argued that the Civil War began in the West – in Kansas in the 1850s, when Americans first killed Americans over the issue of slavery.
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- Map: Westward expansion.
- Source of term "manifest destiny." Excerpt from “The Great Nation of Futurity,” by John O’Sullivan, The United States Democratic Review.
- Walt Whitman on the Mexican War, excerpts from The Brooklyn Eagle.
- Frederick Douglass on the Mexican War, excerpts from The North Star.
- Map: Mexico, 1847.
- Cartoon: “Plucked; or, the Mexican Eagle Before the War...”
- Excerpt from speech of John C. Calhoun to Senate, 1850.
- Excerpt from speech of William Seward to House of Representatives, 1850.
- (a) Wilmot Proviso; (b) Excerpt from speech to House of Representatives; David Wilmot.
- Oregon Negro Exclusion law 1849.
- Maps: Missouri Compromise; Compromise of 1850; Kansas-Nebraska Act.
- “Maps for Routes for a Pacific Railroad”, G. K. Warren, Library of Congress.
- Cartoon: “Forcing Slavery Down the Throat of a Freesoiler.”
- “The Crime Against Kansas,” Excerpt of Charles Sumner speech to Senate.
- First-hand account of a Free Soiler in Bleeding Kansas and a photograph of the man.
- Excerpts from Rodman W. Paul, The California Gold Discovery.
- Tables from John Unruh, The Plains Across.