The Preposterous 1850's

  • The Seneca Falls Convention

    The Seneca Falls Convention
    On July 19th-20th, 1848 the first Women's Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady drafted the Declaration of Sentiments which argued for equality among men and women as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Following this convention women acquired the right to vote however, it took until 1920 before their right was exercised federally. (James McPherson, The American Yawp)
  • The California Gold Rush

    When gold was discovered in northern California in 1849, everything changed overnight. As the news spread across the country, thousands of individuals fled to this newly discovered location searching for gold, skyrocketing the population on the western coast of America. Following this discovery, the question of whether or not California would become a slave state or a free state arose. Additionally, California became a free state under the Compromise of 1850. (James Mcpherson, The American Yawp)
  • The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850

    The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
    As a result of one of the compromises from the Compromise of 1850, one piece of legislation created was the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This new legislation was extremely significant because the US government was now brought in to help track down fugitive slaves. Within this law, if a slave was turned in and found to be a runaway, they were returned to their owner, which usually came with extreme consequences. Because the members of the tribunal got paid, it incentivized people to turn in slaves
  • Americas Victory over British Yachts

    On August 22, 1851, America went against Britain in the race of the Royal Yacht Squadron. The America, the United States ship, took the victory over fourteen British ships. This ship then went on to be a Confederate blockade runner during the Civil War but was then found by the Union who used it as their blockade ship (McPherson 15). This victory was important because it showed Britain and other countries how strong America's manufacturing and the industrial system was.
  • The Kansas- Nebraska Act

    The Kansas- Nebraska Act
    The Kansas- Nebraska Act was a pivotal movement and piece of legislation. Stephen Douglas, a senator from Illinois, proposed the transcontinental railroad go through Kansas or Nebraska. This large amount of land was to be created into 2 new territories and the idea of popular sovereignty arose as he believed it should be up to Americans to decide if they should be free or slave states. Both Anti-slavery and pro-slavery states sent individuals to Kansas to ensure their side would win.
  • Anthony Burns flees to Boston

    Anthony Burns flees to Boston
    In March of 1854, enslaved Anothony Burns escaped his plantation in Virginia and boarded a ship traveling to Boston, Massachusetts. Burns was enjoying free life until a letter he wrote to his brother in Virginia was intercepted. A US marshall arrested Burns and was held in the federal courthouse. Thomas Wentworth Higgins attempted to rescue Burns, bringing axes and revolvers. Several were killed in this altercation. This instance showed an increase in violence and tension (McPherson 119).
  • The Second Battle of Rivas

    The Second Battle of Rivas
    William Walker created an Army to invade Mexico to expand US territory, after they kicked him out, he then went to Nicaragua to attempt the same thing. He succeeded and installed himself as president even revoking Nicaragua's 1824 Emancipation, legalizing slavery again. Walker was captured by the British navy which turned him in to Honduran authorities. He was later executed by their firing squad. (McPherson 115) This is important because if he wasn't captured, it could've become US territory.
  • Mormon & California Emigrants Massacre

    In 1856, the Republican party announced polygamy a barbarism equal to slavery, which upset Mormons. This was now a rising conflict between Brigham Young, the leader, and the federal government. President James Buchannon sent troops to Utah to assert supremacy. Young, who formed his own army blocked trails used by emigrants on their way to California. This led to a massacre and 120 emigrants were killed by the Mormons(McPherson 45). The US almost went to war with a religious group.
  • The Dred Scott Decision

    The Dred Scott Decision
    The Dred Scott Decision of 1857 was a consequential ruling. The issue was introduced by slave Dred Scott. Scott's slave owner was an officer in the military who got moved around to different states- free and slave. Dred Scott sued for his freedom saying once he entered a free state he was no longer a slave. Chief Justice Roger Taney said he could not sue because of standing, because he was not a citizen of the US. This decision made it clear slaves do not have any protection from the government.
  • The Homestead Act

    The Homestead Act was a piece of legislation that provided settlers with 160 acres of government land to cultivate, ultimately helping America's economy. This was appealing to many immigrants because after five years of cultivating the land they could keep it for a small price. This act was important because it led to western expansion and let former slaves own land, which was a new concept. (McPherson 126, Varon 104).