What Advantages did the South Exploit to Dominate the Union for 20 Years? | HistoryNet MENU

What Advantages did the South Exploit to Dominate the Union for 20 Years?

10/7/2014 • Ask Mr. History

Can you explain the advantages the South exploited to which President J Q Adams refers:  Such a development, John Quincy Adams wrote, was “terrible to the South–threatening in its progress the emancipation of all their slaves, threatening in its immediate effect that Southern domination which has swayed the Union for the last twenty years.”

Thx,

G. Pighetti

? ? ?

Dear Mr. Pighetti,

I believe that when John Quincy Adams made the entry that you quoted in his diary on Feb. 20, 1820, his father, John Adams, had been the only non-Virginian to have held the presidency. Of the 16 speakers of the House up to 1820, the 7th-9th, and 12th-16th had been southern, with Henry Clay as the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th. The old Jeffersonian Republican (Democratic-Republican) party had held the majority in the Senate since 1801; it also dominated most state governments outside of Adams’ New England. Twelve of the 19 Supreme Court justices were from south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

However, J.Q. saw the slavery debates going on in 1819 and 1820, particularly in regard to whether or not to extend the institution into the Missouri Territory, which was settled by the first Missouri Compromise, excluding slavery from the Louisiana Territory north of Missouri’s southern border save for Missouri itself, entering the Union as a slave state, but counterbalanced by the admission of Maine as a free state. The bill, which passed the Senate by a 24-20 vote on February 18—and subsequently passing the House to be signed by President James Monroe on March 5—held the potential of politically realigning the budding two-party system along regional criteria. With more of the westward-moving United States acquiring land on which slaves would not be a critical factor (as they were with cotton and tobacco in the South), it was likely that more states would enter the Union opposed to the Peculiar Institution than for it. That was probably the “development” that Adams regarded as “terrible to the South—threatening in its progress the emancipation of all their slaves, threatening in its immediate effect that Southern domination which has swayed the Union for the last twenty years.”

Sincerely,

 

Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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