An experiment in analysis and debate, and it is hoped that this assignment will stimulate thought concerning the crisis which convulsed this Republic in the 1860s

Part I:

The place is Washington, D.C., just after the Presidential election of 1860. You are Congressman Robert Culloden Campbell, representing a slaveholding state apparently on the brink of secession following the victory of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln. In Washington s most famous hotel, Willard s, you have jumped up upon the bar to present an improvised but statesman-like case to your fellow gentlemen (no ladies at the bar, of course!) for both the legality and the necessity of secession “ and war, should the Federal government attempt to preserve the Union by force. You are ready to cite both recent events and those in the more distant past as evidence in support of your case, while avoiding personal attacks in so far as possible.

Begin your address with Gentlemen, Fellow citizens, or some other suitable salutation.

Part II:

Now that Rep. Campbell has leaped down from the bar, it is left for Congressman James Wolfe Larson to jump up in his place, and so begin an impromptu rebuttal of the arguments made by his esteemed colleague of the South. Congressman Larson represents a Northern state with a mixed agricultural and industrial economy, and is moderately antislavery in his views. Like Rep. Campbell, he avoids personalities while striving to make his arguments in a polite and logical way.

But it is his own position that the Southern states have received no provocation that could justify secession; that secession is in any case illegal; and that if the seceding states continue to defy the Federal government, the remaining states of the Union will be justified in putting down such rebellion by force. Since Rep. Larson is the second man to speak, he will be able to refute the arguments that Rep. Campbell has already made; however, Rep. Campbell may anticipate some of Mr. Larson s anti-secession/pro-Union arguments in his own remarks, and thus to a degree negate his opponent s advantage. Each man, of course, feels that he is heir to the original framers of the Constitution.

Things to remember:

Keep things civil. Of course, references to the Slave Power, Black Republicans and so forth may be permitted. Try to keep our two combatants sounding plausibly mid-Victorian — rather than overly modern, like the creations of a typical Hollywood screenwriter. With the texts and period documents available to you, you should be able to get a proper feel for the men of that era and their ways of expressing themselves. Do not have either speaker refer to himself in the third person.

Make the best case you can for whoever is speaking at the moment. The film director King Vidor once observed of staging cinematic combat that, unlike Napoleon, he could command both armies in a battle, and since you are the sole author of this exchange, you will control the input from both sides — something that neither Mr. Douglas nor Mr. Lincoln could do in their own debates! You must therefore resist the temptation to throw the match. Set each man s arguments out in logical and orderly fashion, using such factual material as you deem beneficial to his case.

Though brief quotations from contemporary authors or statesmen (including national figures such as Jefferson Davis or Abraham Lincoln) are acceptable, avoid flattering (or leaning on) such individuals by quoting them too frequently or at too great a length — or even paraphrasing them too closely. Instead, use their ideas; an ability to express these ideas in your own language will better demonstrate your understanding of the premises under which such politicians, and many other Americans, operated.

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