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