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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
America in 1850
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: America 1850
Text 1. John C. Calhoun
» Reading Guide
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Text 2. Daniel Webster
Text 3. William Henry Seward
Text 4. Henry Clay
Text 5. Henry David Thoreau
Text 6. Harriet Beecher Stowe
Text 7. Frederick Douglass

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Reading Guide
1.  John C. Calhoun on the Clay Compromise Measures, U.S. Senate, March 4, 1850

John C. Calhoun, a senator from South Carolina and the preeminent spokesperson for Southern exclusionism, was so ill at the time of this speech he had to ask someone else to deliver it. He died in Washington on March 31, 1850. Here he offers his version of “the nature and character of the cause by which the Union is endangered.” Calhoun asserts that the South’s long-standing “almost universal discontent” over the “agitation of the slavery question” is only one of the causes that have endangered the unity of the nation. The “great and primary cause” is a sort of Original Sin, the North’s deliberate destruction of the balance of power between the two regions enshrined in the Constitution at the nation’s birth. With that equilibrium gone, the South is left weak and vulnerable and cannot “with honor and safety” remain in the Union. Could be used with students. 5 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  What does Calhoun see as the choice before Americans?
  ·  On what basis does he make his demands?
  ·  What, in Calhoun's view, holds the Union together?
  ·  How suited is Calhoun's vision of the Union to accommodate change?
  ·  Is Calhoun optimistic or pessimistic about the Union's prospects?

Reading highlights
  ·  Compare Calhoun's portrayal of the South with his portrayal of the North. What impression does he give of each section?
  ·  Note his emphasis on the efforts of Southern leaders to keep the populace calm and quiet.

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Topic Framing Questions
From the perspective of an American in 1850, either Northern or Southern (remember, you don't know what's going to happen over the next 15 years):
  ·  How volatile is America in 1850?
  ·  What holds the nation together? What is pulling it apart?
  ·  How serious is the Southern threat to leave the Union?
  ·  Is the Compromise of 1850 a triumph of nationalism or sectionalism?
  ·  Will the Union survive?

Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

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