Teaching Resource Catalog

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The Sectional Crisis (1848-1861)

 

              

Manifest Destiny and the War with Mexico

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This lecture looks at American expansion into the Far West all the way to the Pacific as well as the war with Mexico.  Topics to examine include the nation’s support for the concept of “manifest destiny,” American migration into Texas during the 1820s and 30s, and the military conflict with Mexico over Texas and other western lands from 1846-48.  Although the US emerged victorious in the conflict, the triumph sparked the sectional crisis as national leaders attempted to deal with the status of slavery in the newly-won territories.

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Absorbing the Territories and a Case of Indigestion

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This lecture explores the aftermath of the Mexican War when the nation struggled to absorb the new western territories amid acrimonious debates regarding slavery’s expansion.  Key events and developments to discuss are the presidential election of 1848, the so-called “Compromise of 1850,” growing sectional rhetoric and bitterness, and the collapse of the Whig Party following the 1852 elections.

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Stephen Douglas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act

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This lecture looks at the pivotal Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, sponsored by the ambitious Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, as well as the violence it sparked.  Important topics to cover include the political aims of Douglas and the Democrats in passing the statute, territorial elections and disputes in Kansas over slavery, and the descent into violence, which ultimately led the territory to become known across the nation as “Bleeding Kansas.”

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Election of 1856 and the Dred Scott Decision

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This lecture looks at the mid-1850s when national leaders desperately struggled to find a way out of the sectional crisis.  Key issues to examine are the ongoing violence in the Kansas Territory, the effort to find national leaders acceptable to both Northern and Southern voters (especially in the 1856 presidential race), the rise of the new Republican Party amid hardening sectional opinions, and the infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, which greatly exacerbated rather than solved the nation’s slavery question.

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The Emergence of Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and the Election of 1860

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This lecture looks the latter stages of the sectional crisis in the years immediately prior to the Civil War.  Important topics to explore include the emergence of Abraham Lincoln as a key leader in the new Republican Party as well as the 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry (led by the radical abolitionist John Brown), which significantly heightened already-strained political tensions within the nation.  The lecture concludes with an examination of the presidential election of 1860 and Lincoln’s victory, thus setting the stage for secession and war.

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