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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
Text 2. Daniel Webster
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 3. William Henry Seward
Text 4. Henry Clay
Text 5. Henry David Thoreau
Text 6. Harriet Beecher Stowe
Text 7. Frederick Douglass

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
2.  Daniel Webster, Speech to the United States Senate, March 7, 1850

In the 1830s Daniel Webster, a senator from Massachusetts, established himself as the champion of American nationalism. Responding to Calhoun, he speaks for the "preservation of the Union," for "the restoration of quiet and harmonious harmony." This latter point is one of the major themes of his speech. Citing what he sees as the unwarranted split of the Methodist Episcopal Church into Northern and Southern branches over the question of slavery, he denounces "impatient" men who are unyielding and fanatic in their efforts to enforce their view of what is right. Such people lead the abolition movement, which, in his view, has "produced nothing good or valuable" and, indeed, has actually retarded the progress of race relations in the South. He criticizes the North for its failure to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. Finally, he storms against "peaceable secession," marshalling practical reasons why it would not work. 7 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  What, in Webster's view, holds the nation together?
  ·  How seriously does he take the Southern threat to secede?
  ·  How does Webster's vision of the Union differ from those of Clay, Calhoun, and Seward?
  ·  What is his argument for preservation of the Union?
  ·  What, in his view, are the benefits of the Union?

Reading highlights
  ·  Note the emphasis he places on the value of harmony and calm.
  ·  Note his image of the nation as an ordered universe, "the states revolving in harmony around a common centre."

» Link

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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