What was the concept of Manifest Destiny and how did it influence American expansionism west of the Mississippi River? What impact did this concept have on American foreign policy during this period? How is this concept rooted in the American colonial experience, especially that of New England? (Consult previous chapters when answering this question.)
Why did the South perceive the Wilmot Proviso as such a threat? What did the Proviso indicate about the North's attitude toward slavery? Was the abolition of slavery the issue, or was it something else? Examine the Proviso, its implications, and the Southern response.
Eventually the majority of Northerners came to believe that the existence of slavery was dangerous not because of what it did to blacks but because of what it threatened to do to whites. How did this feeling shape the Northern attack on slavery, and how did Southerners attempt to defend their institution?
Kansas became a symbol for both the North and the South—but a symbol of what? What did both sides find in the controversy over Kansas to support their charges against their adversaries? What did Kansas come to mean to the nation? Assess Kansas as a symbol of the positions and problems that characterized the divisions in the United States.
One historian has claimed that a lack of leadership contributed to the inability of the nation to overcome its divisions. The argument contends that a "blundering generation" of politicians who failed to understand the nature of the divisions offered solutions that resolved issues but did not deal with the real problems. Look at the concerns expressed by both the North and the South and look at the proposals advanced to ease these concerns. From this assessment, do you feel that the "blundering generation" theory has merit, or were these deeper, fundamental questions that even the most capable leaders could not have resolved? In short, had the conflict between North and South become "irrepressible"?