Should the Union be Saved?
Calhoun Vs. Webster
The arguments over California statehood showed how the North and South were moving toward a Civil War.
The settling of the West made it impossible to maintain equal numbers of free and slave states. Western territories wanted to become free states. The argument over California statehood showed how the North and South were moving toward a Civil War.
Calhoun, from South Carolina, was a passionate supporter of slavery. As a senator, he argued that any state had the right to secede, or leave the
Union, if it disagreed with national laws.
“[T]here is not a single Territory in progress in the Southern section, and no certainty that any additional State will be added to it. [This destruction of the equilibrium] was caused by the legislation of this government, which was appointed as the common agent of all. . . .
If you admit [California] under all the difficulties that oppose her admission, you compel us to infer that you intend to exclude [the South] from the whole of the acquired Territories, with the intention of destroying . . . the equilibrium between the two sections.”
—Senator John Calhoun, March 4, 1850
Webster, from Massachusetts, was a strong nationalist. As a senator, he supported sectional compromise as a way to preserve the Union.
“I wish to speak to-day, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. I speak to-day for the preservation of the Union. “Hear me for my cause.” I speak to-day, out of a solicitous and anxious heart, for the restoration to the country of that quiet and that harmony which make the blessings of this Union so rich, and so dear to us all.
[T]he strength of America will be in the Valley of the Mississippi. [What can we] say about the possibility of cutting that river in two? I would rather hear of war, pestilence, and famine, than to hear talk of secession. . . . [T]o dismember this glorious country! . . . No, Sir!”
—Senator Daniel Webster, March 7, 1850
1. What does Webster mean when he says “the strength of America will be in the Valley of the Mississippi”? What would cut the Mississippi River in two?
2. What does Calhoun accuse the U.S. government of doing?
3. Who do you agree with? Write a paragraph explaining your reasoning
4. Task: Create a pamphlet in which you argue with Calhoun or Webster on the Status of California