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AP American History 1987 DBQ

            When the United States Constitution was ratified in 1787, it was meant to unite the colonies, protect the rights and liberties of American citizens, and establish laws common throughout the nation. But by the 1850's, it had begun to tear apart the Union it had been created to bring together. In this turbulent period of history, the issue of slavery was pulling the North and South farther and farther apart. The North fought to contain slavery, in the interest of balancing power in the Senate and the Electoral College, and abolitionists in the free states wanted to do away with slavery altogether. Southern interests leaned not only toward the continuation of slavery, but the spread of it. Since a slave counted for three fifths of a citizen, the several million slaves in the South meant more representatives in Congress, and more power for southern states. While the Constitution should have been able to settle this conflict once and for all, it rather escalated tensions. It was too vague, and too open to interpretation to effectively solve the problem of slavery. The North felt that the Constitution protected the rights of all men, even slaves. The South, however, believed that it protected their right to do with their property as they saw fit, and to them, slaves were property. Tensions increased even further with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and with the Dred Scott decision. The American people were beginning to lose faith in the Constitution and its powers to keep order.
             The US Constitution was meant to be a steady, unchanging source of law for the citizens of America to count on to keep their freedoms safe and maintain harmony within the states, but with the issue of slavery, both North and South found within the Constitution arguments for their cause. Many in the North believed that the "blessings of liberty" should be extended to slaves as well as white men. They felt that since slavery is never directly mentioned in the Constitution, it therefore has no protection by law (E).

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