The Civil War and its Causes
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Civil War Timeline
1787-The Constitution is ratified, replacing the Articles of Confederation ans placing more power in the hands of the federal government. This was a decision with with the South did not agree, as they were proponents of states rights.
1848- As a result of the end of the Mexican War, the United States gained possession of various western territories. This new addition of land led to the debate of whether or not slavery was to be allowed in these areas.
1850-In an effort to make a fair decision, the Compromise of 1850 was enacted by Congress. This act declared California and free land and gave both Utah and New Mexico the right to decide for themselves if they wanted to allow slavery. This led to debates regarding the legality of sovereignty.
1850-The Fugitive Slave Act was passed as a subdivision act of the Compromise of 1850. This act stated that any federal official who did not arrest runaway slaves would be forced to pay a fine. This led to underground movements and resistance efforts to get slaves into safe territories.
1852-Harriet Beecher Stowes book, ???Uncle Toms Cabin??? was released. The book was an expose of just how brutal slave living was and reinforced Northern sympathies and determination to end slavery throughout the land.
1854-The Kansas-Nebraska Act was enacted, allowing these two states to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. Kansas became a war zone; one in which proponents and opponents of slavery fought for what the believed was right. The time in which these controversies occurred is known as ???Bleeding Kansas???.
1856-Republican Congressman, Preston Brooks, who was a strong opponent of slavery, physically hit Charles Sumner with a cane after Sumner gave a pro-slavery speech.
1857-Dred Scott, a slave, lost his bid for freedom in a United States court. Scott argued that he was held as a slave while living in a free state. The courts countered that while this was true, Scott had been put into slavery originally while in a non-free state and had been transported to a free state by his owner. Since this was the case, Scott was still considered property and denied his freedom. This ruling further fueled the abolition movement.
1857-The proposed LeCompton Constitution was rejected in court. This proposition was an attempt to make Kansas into a slave state, but was fought by anti-slavery groups, who eventually got the proposition declared null.
1859-John Brown, a vocal and active abolitionist, led a raid on a Harpers Ferry, Virginia, arsenal. Brown and his people were eventually captured by General Robert E. Lee and hung for treason.
1860-Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Lincoln was a known opponent to the expansion of slavery and his election fueled bitterness and anger from slavery proponents of slavery.
Events Leading to the Civil War
The United States was founded on several principles. These ideals were ones that were designed to grant freedom to all who came to this land looking for a better life, free from tyranny and oppression. Many battles were fought and settlers made homesteads throughout the thirteen colonies. What then, led to the dissension and discord that eventually caused two main groups of settlers and descendants to turn on each other in a fight for a different freedom, leading to the American Civil War
One of the main causes of the Civil War was the issue of states rights. The Southern states, also known as the Confederacy, were huge proponents of states rights, In the period between the American Revolution and ultimate ratification of the United States Constitution, there were rules under the Articles of Confederation that granted most decision making powers to individual states, rather than the federal government. With the ratification of the Constitution on September 17, 1787 , a much more powerful federal government was established. This is evident under Article Six of the United States Constitution. This passage caused animosity between Northern and Southern states as the North generally favored a federal government and the South generally favored states rights.
Another main issues and the most prominent issue that led to the Civil War was slavery. While slavery existed in North America even before English settlers arrived, English settlers began bringing slaves from Africa in 1607, with Virginia being the first known colony to have slaves and slave-owners.
While most slaves were African-Americans, there were also Native Americans used as slaves. Before chattel slavery, which was outright ownership of a slave, the colonies employed a method of indentured servants, in which slaves worked off their transport to North America and their care. Much of the lands that were fertile and agriculturally sound were in the Southern region. Northern states and border states generally opposed slavery and the abhorrent conditions under which slave families were forced to live. The issue of owning slaves grew to be a huge division among the colonies.
The Mexican War took place from 1846 to 1848 regarding the annexation of Texas. As a result of the war, the United States gained possession of various western territories. These territories included California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The acquisition of these lands led to the western expansion and the issue of slavery came to conflict. Since these regions were being accepted as states, Congress enacted the Compromise of 1850, which declared California a free state and allowed New Mexico and Utahs state governments to decide whether or not to allow slavery in their specific territories. This again, led back to the issue of sovereignty also known as states rights and proved to be a source of contention.
As a stipulation within the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was put into law. Under this act, any federal official who is found to not be arresting runaway slaves will be subjected to a fine. In order to escape capture and ensure safe transport to freedom, underground movements began to develop. In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowes controversial book, ???Uncle Toms Cabin??? was released. The book was an expose of just how brutal slave living was and reinforced Northern sympathies and determination to end slavery throughout the land. Stowe was a preacher at the Hartford Female Academy in Connecticut. The novel was fiction, based on life experiences of real slaves, and its message was the human compassion and Christianity can overcome the bonds of slavery. Many felt this
wiring was indicative of life for slaves and the work itself brought a greater awareness of the treachery of slavery to the masses. This added to the already existing conflict between the North and South; the proponents and opponents of slavery.
The election of Abraham Lincoln to the office of President of the United States on November 6, 1860, appeared to be the final insult to the Confederate states. South Carolina, along with six other states, seceded from the Union. While Lincolns ideas and opinions on the issue of slavery were considered moderate during the nomination and election, South Carolina threatened to secede if he won, which the did. President Lincoln agreed with the majority of the Republican Party that the South was becoming too powerful. Lincoln and the Republicans included opposition to slavery to their political platform. The Republicans promised that slavery would not be extended to any new territories or states added to the union. These promises infuriated the Confederacy, leading to the seven state secession. The six states that seceded along with South Carolina were Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. During the was, four more states seceded, namely Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. The sum of these states made up the Confederate States of America.
The United States Civil War was a result of a series of events. The events listed above were integral to the eventual onset of the war. Different mindsets, different points of view and also different economic situations all played a part in the culmination of the war. The Southern states not only disagreed on the issues of states rights and slavery. The Southern states also felt that they were not treated as well as the Northern states. Perhaps the Southern states felt neglected by the federal government, who was perceived to favor the Northern states. The Northern states were more technologically advanced and their industry appeared to be more stable than the agriculturally based South. Slavery was an institution in the South and slaves were seen as subhuman; nothing more than
property. This mindset was the precursor to the racial discrimination that African Americans have been subjected to since their unwanted, forced migration to the United States.
As a nation, the United States can learn from the conflicts and confrontations that resulted and developed during the period leading up to the Civil War. Westward Expansion, states rights versus federal rights and the infringement of a minority of people helps to demonstrate what can be done differently should need arise. While the United States has grown and discrimination and slavery are no longer permitted in any circumstance, there is always room for progression. Studying the era prior to the Civil War has many lessons for the nation to learn. This can help to shape our nation for generations to follow and ensure a more secure quality of life.
Articles of confederation. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://articlesofconfederation.us/
The Mexican war. (2006). Retrieved from http://www.history.com/reference/encyclopedia/viewArticleid=216359
The Compromise of 1850 and the fugitive slave act . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2951.html
Kansas-nebraska act . (2006). Retrieved from http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.doarticleId=213567
Dred scott. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.thedredscottfoundation.org/dredscott.html