As an alternative to one of these five scenarios and this kind of imaginative autobiography, you may choose to do a persuasive Congressional speech. Imagine that you are a member of the U.S. Senate in the 1850s. (For purposes of this paper we will forget that in this period women could not even vote, let alone sit in Congress. We will make believe that they could sit in Congress as equals with men). I would like my female students to imagine themselves in the Senate as women, rather than having to pretend that they are men, if they do not want to.
As a member of the Senate you know that there are good arguments on both sides of the slavery question, and certainly about the spread of slavery into the western territories. It is a tense time and emotions are running high, in Congress and in the United States. You have to deliver a persuasive speech to the Senate, to convince your colleagues that your position is the right one. Do you speak for or against the spread of slavery? More important, what arguments do you use to convince the house that your position is the right one?
The date is July 26, 1856: The “Gold-Rush” in California had already taken place and a “trade treaty” with Japan had just commenced two years prior, opening two ports to American shipping (Foner, 374-376). I am William Brooks, a young Republican Senator from Ohio, who is about to address my fellow Senate members regarding the spread of slavery in the western territories. My goal is to persuade the Senate to vote “nay” on expansion in the western territories. Receiving support from the Republican Party candidate, John C. Frémont, and many others who opposed the expansion of slavery, I decided to deliver my own address in hopes to nullify this argument that has pressed forth so long. As I make my way to the podium, there is a grim silence in the room. Both sides with different views are all now focused on me; I begin to speak:
Fellow members of the Senate: I come to you today humbled yet...