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Delaware in the 19th century


Fenwick island Delaware
Fenwick island Delaware

Slavery was one of the most important issues in national politics in the first half of the 19th century. Politicians of the Northern states pressed to end it, both because it was considered immoral and because white labor could not compete with unpaid black labor. Politicians of the cotton-growing Southern states felt that slavery was necessary to their agricultural system and that the North was trying to dominate the country economically. Many in the influential slaveholding class in the South favored secession from the federal Ubetween Bombay Hook and Capnion and formation of a separate Southern nation. By the 1850s the South had become a minority section, and its leaders viewed the actions of Congress, which they no longer controlled, with growing concern.

The North demanded for its industrial growth a protective tariff, federal subsidies for shipping and internal improvements, and a sound banking and currency system. The West looked to Congress for free homesteads and federal aid for its roads and waterways. The South, however, regarded such measures as discriminatory, favoring Northern commercial interests, and it found intolerable the rise of antislavery agitation in the North.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. The state of South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and in December 1860 it did so. Other slavery states followed in quick succession, and in February 1861 they formed a confederacy, the Confederate States of America.

Delaware was a slaveholding border state with many Confederate sympathizers; Lincoln did not carry the state in 1860. However, Delaware had more economic ties with the North than with the South; by 1860 fewer than 2000 of the almost 22,000 blacks in the state were slaves, and most Delawareans opposed the extension of slavery.

There was never any movement in Delaware to secede from the Union, and it remained loyal during the American Civil War (1861-1865) that followed the secessions. More than 13,000 Delawareans, nearly one-tenth of the state’s population, served in the Union Army, and several hundred fought for the Confederacy. Fort Delaware, on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, was garrisoned by Union Army soldiers and served as a prison for Confederate prisoners of war. In 1861 Lincoln proposed that Delaware’s slaves be freed and the owners compensated. That proposal failed, partly because of party politics on the part of the Delaware Democrats, and in 1865 the 13th Amendment to the Constitution freed the slaves with no compensation. The Democrats controlled the legislature throughout the war and repeatedly railed at the Republicans as the party that had started the war and was going to make blacks equal to whites. In the 1864 presidential election Lincoln again failed to carry Delaware, one of only three states that preferred his opponent, General George B. McClellan. "Delaware" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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