Explain the significance of the issue of allowing slavery in the territories for both Northerners and Southerners.

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The debate over the expansion of slavery into the territories was significant for both the northerners and the southerners. For both sides, the expansion of slavery would impact political power at the federal level. If slavery would not be allowed in the territories, when new states would enter the Union, they would then eventually become free states. This would give the free states more senators that would be against slavery. This would make it easier to adopt anti-slavery laws and policies. If slavery existed in the territories, then it would be possible for more slave states to eventually join the Union. This would give the slaves states more power in the Senate, making it easier to adopt laws and policies that would help slavery continue to exist in the United States.

Another factor that made the expansion of slavery an important issue was the impact that the expansion of slavery or lack of the expansion of slavery would have in each region. If slavery would not be allowed to exist in the territories, southern farmers would have been negatively impacted. The southern farmers wanted to grow more cotton, and the new territories provided land that was suitable for growing cotton. If the southern farmers couldn’t use slaves, then they might have lost opportunities to increase their profits. Northern businesses also wanted to expand to the new territories. If slavery was allowed in these territories, it might have been harder for these businesses to expand to these territories. This could have limited profits of these northern businesses.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For both sections, this issue was an emotional/psychological/political one.  For both sections (though more for the North) it was also an economic issue.

Both sections were very interested in this issue because they wanted to be able to feel that their side was getting its way.  They wanted to feel that the federal government worked for them.  Therefore, they wanted their system to spread into the territories so that they could feel that America was a country that was solidly behind their system.  In this way, they were after the intangible benefit of feeling that their side was on top.

But both sides were also interested in the issue for economic reasons.  This was particularly true of the North.  Both sides wanted the chance to be able to move West and find more opportunity.  If the "wrong" system were set up in the territories, they would find themselves cut off from this opportunity.  

In this way, there were tangible and intangible reasons for caring about this issue.