America in the 1850s

Politics

  • Territory was gained from the Mexican nation, and by 1850 the debate over slavery in territories was resolved. The Compromise of 1850 admitted California as a free state, made the territories of Utah and New Mexico with popular sovereignty to decide whether or not the use of slaves would be legal, made slave trade illegal, and the recovery of fugitive slaves easier for the south.
  • The 1850s gave way to many sectional political crises. First, slaves began to resist their masters through violent armed riots, such as one by Gabriel Prosser in Virginia. Also, the Fugitive Slave Act, the law that made runaway slaves not permitted to a jury trial, had a critical response, like Harriet Stowe's book Uncle Tom's Cabin. Lastly, 1854 saw the Ostend Manifesto, a document which claimed Cuba to be dangerous to the United States. This made the North angry, due to America seeming to go too far for slave territory, thus opening the breach between the North and the South even more.

Economics

  • Americans who ventured to Sacramento Valley in 1848 were in for a big surprise. Gold nuggets were found all over San Francisco, causing thousands of men to go to California to search for gold. This led to many prosperous years for the non-native Californians, and it increased western expansion dramatically.
  • America became hugely reliant on gold, so the nation was put to the test when a large shipment of gold was caught in a hurricane, therefore not making it to America. The Panic of 1857 began, where banks invested in failing businesses, stock market investors lost more and more money, and railroads had many debts that needed to be payed. Chaos ensued as the prospect of a financial catastrophe grew near. The banks of the nation began to collapse, and the panic would last for 3 years.

Society

  • The women's rights movement began around 1848 after the Seneca Falls Convention. There were both local and national conventions around America complete with speeches, resolutions, and petition campaigns. Activists would discuss the natural rights of a woman with perspectives on equality, citizenship, representation, and consent.
  • America, going through an Industrial Revolution, had a large use of child labor. Children would work in sweatshop conditions and were even enslaved to work in places such as mines, factories, and textiles. This led to a bad child mortality rate as children became sick or hurt while laboring each day.
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Diego Canossa

Oh Susanna! by Diego Canossa