- Do you think the sectional conflict resulting from this event was inevitable?
- Do you think more skillful political leaders could have made better decisions? If so, what decisions would have been better? Why?
- Did the leaders of the 1850s take actions that inflated the importance of events?
The Sectional tension was already there; as evidenced by the debate over the Missouri Compromise. Additionally, sectional tension had long existed, primarily over the tariff issue. South Carolina originally threatened to leave the Union over the Tariff of 1828. Also, with the slavery debate rampant, Southern states saw the admission of new states as the death knell of their way of life. Evil as slavery was, it was an economic necessity for the South. The Dred Scott decision was nothing more than fuel on an already hotly burning fire.
I'm not sure that skillful politicians could have made better decisions. Some of the great minds of the 19th century had debated the nature of the union; not just the issue of the existence of slavery; which all believed to be constitutionally protected. Could Lincoln and Buchanan have made better decisions? Possibly. Buchanan believed he could do nothing to stop the Southern states from leaving the Union; Lincoln thought it best to wait things out; but not to recognize the Confederacy.
One of the things that happened as a result of this decision was declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. this opened up whole new territories where slavery would be allowed.
I would argue that the decision was a reflection of sectional tension, as opposed to its cause. As it was a Supreme Court decision, it wasn't the result of a "deal" between different political factions, it was a ruling, handed down by an independent judiciary with no political consequence to their offices.
As far as if Buchanan or Lincoln could have handled the secession crisis better, I would say yes on Buchanan and no on Lincoln. Buchanan could have taken any action at all, yet he sat on his hands as the country fell apart. By the time of Lincoln's inauguration, there was little he could do to rescue the situation.
Once this decision was handed down, increased sectional conflict was inevitable. Before the decision, there could be compromises made in Congress as to where slavery would and would not be allowed. After the decision, Congress had no power to regulate slavery in the territories and no further compromises were possible. This would surely lead to more conflict.