National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
  National Constitution Center Home  
   
  Constitutional
Timeline Home
 
 


Era Overviews

 
  1765-1786  
  1787-1790  
  1791-1824  
  1825-1849  
  1850-1865 >  
  1866-1885  
  1886-1906  
  1907-1930  
  1931-1946  
  1947-1954  
  1955-1969  
  1970-1987  
  1987-  
   
  Help  
   
  Credits  
   
   
     




< Previous Event | Back to Timeline | Next Event >

You are viewing the low-bandwidth version of the Constitutional Timeline. View the broadband version.

1850-1865: We are a house divided, a nation torn by bloody civil war

September 9, 1850
We ride West on the promise of gold. Will slavery come too?

Illustration Of Men Loading Pack Mules

“Gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill!”

It’s been two years since we heard the news. Thousands have poured into the territory, turning California from wilderness to boomtown. Towns spring up, and railroads push forward.

And again we face a thorny question. Does expanding the nation mean expanding slavery? We look to the Constitution...but find different answers.

People who oppose slavery admit that the Constitution may tolerate it as a local institution. But how, they ask, can a national government bound by the Bill of Rights push slavery further?

Meanwhile, Southern leaders say that blocking slavery’s growth is an unconstitutional attack on Southern state interests.

Today in Congress, arguments gave way to exhausted compromise. California will enter as a free state. Settlers in the New Mexico and Utah territories will decide for themselves.

Another uneasy truce. Can it last?

< Previous Event | Back to Timeline | Next Event >


You are viewing the low-bandwidth version. View the broadband version (Flash plug-in and broadband connection required)

 

Home | Feedback | Site Map
525 Arch Street, Independence Mall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19106 ph.215.409.6600
Content Copyright 2006, National Constitution Center. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy