House Divided (Civil War): That Peculiar Institution II

Lead: One hundred and fifty years ago the Republic was facing its greatest crisis. This continuing series examines the American Civil War. It is "A House Divided."

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Constitution was clear. Slavery was a permitted and permanent fixture in American life. According to Article IV, escaped slaves even had to be delivered up for their owners. As each decade passed the South demanded and Congress delivered ever increasingly effective fugitive slave laws. Those opposed to slavery suspected, with some justification, that those in pursuit were none too scrupulous about correct identification of slaves, often grabbing free blacks instead or even bothering always to bring them before northern local courts to press their claims. In a reversal of the normal regional preference for federal intervention, Northern states began to resist the work of slave catchers and their federal enablers, passing personal liberty laws. These laws gave escaped slaves legal rights and set up barriers to prevent easy capture and return.

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House Divided (Civil War): That Peculiar Institution I

Lead: One hundred and fifty years ago the Republic was facing its greatest crisis. This continuing series examines the American Civil War. It is "A House Divided."

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the history of the American Republic, there is nothing that compares to slavery. It divided the infant nation, at least in part provoked and sustained the greatest war in U.S. history, philosophically poisoned the national charter, retarded the economic development of one of great America’s regions and probably skewed that of all others, and dominated the national conversation for seven decades. It also complicated and excavated one of the important fault lines running through the American experience: the great debate over federal and state power.

Nat Turner Slave Rebellion III

Lead: In the summer of 1831, Nat Turner, a religious mystic convinced that God had called him as a prophet, led a group of followers on a bloody rampage through south-side Virginia in the most serious slave rebellion in U.S. history.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Nat Turner was a gifted and powerful, mesmerizing slave preacher. Nearly all his life Nat Turner could read and write. His owners from the early days encouraged him to read those portions of the Bible that tell slaves to live lives of dutiful and submissive obedience. Yet, he also read subversive portions of the scriptures that gave him hope that one day he might achieve freedom. By the mid-1820s, Nat Turner was attracting large groups of slaves to his preaching services on Sundays near Cross Keys in Southampton County or down near the North Carolina border.

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Nat Turner Slave Rebellion II

Lead: Even as a child, people could tell Nat Turner was exceptional. His intelligence and physical presence marked him for leadership in the slave community of south-side Virginia.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Benjamin Turner owned a small plantation outside the town of Cross Keys in the Virginia county of Southampton, nestled on the North Carolina border 70 miles southeast of Richmond. His land was heavily forested and only about 100 acres were under cultivation. It was enough, however, for him to afford to keep slaves, the mark of status in the South, and in 1799 he bought a slave woman freshly arrived from Africa. He named her Nancy and in the next year she gave birth to Nathaniel.

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Nat Turner Slave Rebellion I

Lead: In August 1831 the southside Virginia county of Southhampton was convulsed by the deadliest slave rebellion in North American history. One of roots of the rebellion was Southern white ambivalence about slavery.

Intro. : A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Despite the growing economic dependence upon slave labor in the American South after the Revolution, there was powerful ambivalence among many Southerners about the institution of slavery. It mocked the philosophical foundation of the republic itself, violating the principles animating the Declaration of Independence. Many religious groups were increasingly vocal about the immorality of slavery. Quakers, anti-slavery Baptists, and, before 1800, Methodists vigorously denounced the practice and encouraged slave owners to manumit their slaves. In the North, slavery was gradually eliminated by custom, sentiment, and legal prohibition, so that the South became increasingly isolated in the national debate.

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Missouri Compromise II

Lead: With the U.S. Senate in gridlock over the admission of Missouri to the union as a slave state, policy makers turned to Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky. He helped broker the Missouri Compromise, both of them.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Until 1819 the national balance between slave and free interests had been maintained by equal representation of the two sides in the United States Senate. Slave and free states had been admitted in alternating rotation. In 1817 Missouri petitioned for admission as a slave state, but an amendment passed in the House threatening to bring slavery to an end in that border state.

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Missouri Compromise I

Lead: In 1820 Henry Clay helped broker a compromise that, for a time at least, calmed the growing sectional passion over slavery. It was in the prophetic words of Thomas Jefferson, “a reprieve only, not a final sentence.”

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The framers of the U.S. Constitution tried to put slavery to sleep. Compromises forecast an end to the external slave trade by 1808 and counted slaves as 3/5 of a human for the purposes of congressional apportionment. Most thought slavery was going to fade away. The eastern plantations were playing out and there loomed no cash crop on the horizon that would stimulate the demand for increased slaves. The following three decades were an era of population growth, heady nationalism and western expansion. The number of states had steadily grown. Sentiment against slavery had increased in the U.S. House of Representatives. This body reflected the increasing population in northern states where slavery was more and more held to be morally offensive. In the Senate a rough balance remained – eleven so-called free states, eleven slave states. This balance had been strictly maintained by alternating admissions, a slave state then a free state and so on.

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A House Divided: Emancipation Strategy IV

Lead: One hundred and fifty years ago the Republic was facing its greatest crisis. This continuing series examines the American Civil War. It is "A House Divided."

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: As the Civil War deepened and as the blood and sacrifice on both sides became more profound, Abraham Lincoln began seeking an edge to improve the Union’s chances of prevailing. After a stream of good news from the West earlier in the year, by summer 1862 Union military fortunes had fallen on hard times. Lincoln began to consider striking a powerful economic and, as it turned out, military blow against the rebels. He had begun to formulate an Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln started looking for the opportune moment to issue it, meaning he needed a Union victory so as to insure that such a revolutionary and precipitous move might not seem to be an act of desperation.