Crittenden Compromise Essay

1883 words - 8 pages

What Was the Crittenden Compromise, Why Was It Written, and Why Did It Fail? The Crittenden Compromise was more or less a last ditch effort to avert secession of the Southern states and the likely ensuing civil war. The mid-nineteenth century was a time when many people had their own views of slavery (the main cause of secession), and how Congress should handle it. Northern abolitionists wanted an end to slavery; however, southerners were opposed to such a drastic measure. In the midst of Senatorial confusion and congressional debate arose the Kentucky Senator, John Jordan Crittenden, with his proposal. Initially brought to the Senate floor on December 18, 1860, the compromise met with mixed reviews. Crittenden was willing to amend his compromise to suit his colleagues' ideas, but it was not enough, and the proposal was ultimately unsuccessful because of a variety of reasons, leading to the deterioration of Southern unity and loyalty towards the Union. During the 1850's, the growing debate over slavery was nearing a definite boiling point. The controversy culminated with the election of Abraham Lincoln to Presidency in 1860. A major issue that was being tossed around during compromise talks was the 36°30' line, established by the Missouri Compromise in 1820. This compromise said that Maine would be admitted to the Union as a free state as long as Missouri would be admitted as a slave state, and that the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase north of this line would be free, and south of it would be slave. The restoration of this line for the remaining territories, and also guaranteeing the protection of slavery south of this line were major components of the Crittenden Plan. South Carolina was perhaps the most aggressive in their efforts for secession. They held strong beliefs that the North was deliberately trying to hurt Southern business and at the same time violating the laws of the Constitution. South Carolinians felt a number of states including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Illinois (among others) were enacting laws that either negated acts of Congress or rendered attempts at executing them useless. The constitutional article in question is Article 4, which states: No person held to service in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.The South (especially South Carolina) was angry that too many of their slaves had escaped to the North and were being permitted to live free, despite Article 4. The South felt powerless to stop these actions and hence moved for secession, and eventually seceded on December 20, 1860. Charles O'Conor, a prominent lawyer in the South, stated: ...If the South cannot otherwise protect itself against the aggravated spirit of the North, a real necessity for this act...

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