Issues that led the nation into Civil War

Field of Blood Joanne Freeman

Paper Option 3

Field of Blood, Joanne Freeman


The purpose of this paper is to get you to think about some of the issues that led the nation into Civil War. I have organized the questions alongside groupings of chapters that roughly align to the chronology of our lecture schedule. Hopefully, this will allow to narrow the focus of your paper to a subject you can manage in three pages.


  • Choose one of the following prompts and write a three-page analysis
  • Papers should be typed, double-spaced, standard margins
  • Parenthetical page references are fine
  • Do not use outside sources (though please do use lectures or your online textbook)
  • Turn in your paper through the online Canvas link
  • Papers are due Thursday, April 30

 Chapters 1-2

 Prompt 1

Freeman describes how slavery seemed to be the most important subject in Washington, D.C. during the 1830s, and yet few members of Congress wanted to openly discuss it. What were some ways that members of Congress tried to either confront or avoid the subject of slavery during the 1830s?

Prompt 2

Freeman describes how Congress in the nineteenth century formed a unique culture of its own. Within this political culture, however, regional distinctions between representatives from northern, southern, and western states were clear. Describe some of the ways that members of Congress came to understand and characterize different parts of the country.

Chapters 3-4

Prompt 3

We are often taught that southern states seceded from the United States because their states’ rights were usurped by the federal government and the antislavery political agenda of the North. In The Field of Blood, however, Freeman describes how southern politicians held the balance of power in Congress during the 1830s and 1840s. Describe some of the ways that southerners monopolized power in Congress.

Prompt 4

During the 1830s, few members of Congress wanted to discuss the issue of slavery openly. For this reason, Congress deployed the “gag rule” to stifle any conversation about slavery on the floor of Congress. Why was there such resistance to the subject and what were some of the ways that members of Congress tried to stifle discussion of slavery? How did some fight back?

Chapters 5-7

Prompt 5

Freeman describes how the press played an important role in shaping political debate over sectionalism during the 1850s. How did the partisan press create political divisions? How did it keep the peace? How did the presence of an independent press influence political debates?

Prompt 6

The caning of Charles Sumner by Preston Brooks in 1854 is one of the most iconic examples of America’s descent into violence. But, as Freeman illustrates throughout her book, violence was not at all unusual in the nation’s capital. Rather, the caning of Sumner stood out as an episode of violence that broke all the rules. What made this case so shocking?