Wilentz part II, study questions


1.      Wilentz argues that the Compromise of 1850 was not actually a compromise, because in order for a compromise to exist, both sides need to actually give something up.  Instead, Wilentz suggests the Compromise of 1850 was really a victory for the North.  If so, why did northerners violently oppose it?

2.      Wilentz spends a significant time discussing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a component of the compromise.  As it turns out, few southerners actually used this law to recover slaves, as it was often too costly to do so.  How do northerners turn the fugitive slave law into a constitutional issue and southerners a question of honor?  How significant was the Fugitive Slave Law in escalating sectional
tensions?

3.      Why was sectionalism so ingrained and difficult to overcome politically?


4.      Uncle Tomís Cabin played a pivotal role in gaining northern sympathy for the abolitionist cause.  To what extent does Wilentz argue that sympathy translated into political action?


5.      After the Whigs were widely defeated in the elections of 1852 and the death of their two last giants, Webster and Clay, why did the Whig party continue to exist?  How important was the decline of the Whig party in the events that lead to the Civil War?  Could things have been different if they had remained a strong political power?


6.      The issue of expansion is inexorably linked to the issue of slavery. How did expansionist presidents support the idea of territorial gain but avoid the issue of slavery?  And what consequences did this have?


7.      How would the annexation of Cuba changed the direction of the slavery issue?


8.      How does Wilentz view the racism of Free Soilers as opposed to the racism of white southern plantation owners?  How did the Free Soilers exploit the concept of popular sovereignty to promote their belief of inequality between races?


9.  How does Wilentz interpret the relationship between rise of the Republican party and the escalating tension around slavery?