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CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I. Introduction to Civil War

The American Civil War was a war fought within the United States of America between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy) starting from 1861 and ending in 1865. This war was one of the most destructive events in American history, costing more than 600,000 lives. It was thought to be one that helped shape the character of the American individual today. From the Southern point of view, this war was a War of Rebellion, or a War for Southern Independence. From the Northern point of view this war was seen as a revolution. This unfortunate war started as a result of many years of differences between the Union and the Confederacy. It erupted after many years of conflict building up between the two regions. Between the North and the South there lay deep economic, social and political differences, but it is important to understand that Slavery was the root of cause of these differences.

II. Social Causes

There were many factors that contributed to the onset of the Civil War. Socially, the North and the South were built on different standards. The South, or the Slave States, was a slave-based community that followed a class-based system. This system consisted of aristocracy, middle class and then slavery. Many depended on slaves and were accustomed to this way of life, which was hard to change. Plantation owners had slaves working for them, and those who could not afford to own slaves would work on their own farm. The North, or Free States, had more immigrants settling in its areas, where labour was needed, but not the labour of slaves. Therefore it had a more industrialized society where most people worked in factories, and did not follow a class system. The Northerners opposed to Slavery as an institution in the South, as the Confederate States were the only region in the world that still legalized the ownership of slaves. This angered the Southerners and threatened their way of life. The election of Abraham Lincoln, as president was viewed by the South as a threat to slavery.

III. Economic Causes

By time, economic differences also developed between the two regions. The Southern states were agrarian states, and depended on agriculture rather than industrialization. After the Cotton Gin was invented, it increased the need for slaves and made cotton the chief crop of the South. The South was able to produce 7/8 of the world’s supply of cotton. This increased the South's dependence on the plantation system and its vital component, slavery. But by then, the North was prospering industrially. It feared that the South’s slave-based economy might affect their economy. The North depended on factories and other industrialized businesses. For this reason many of the new immigrants settled north, while very few settled south. This allowed the North to grow industrially, while making the South more hostile towards them. The Confederacy resisted any kind of industrialization and manufactured as little as possible. Southern economy opposed high taxes, as manufacturing was limited. But the Northern states welcomed high taxes to protect its products from cheap foreign competition. As a result, the South preferred not to accept most improvements that were made by the federal government, such as roads and canals, in order to keep taxes low.

Another major problem that occurred was the competition between the North and South for more land. Both regions wanted to expand socially and economically westwards. The South wanted more agrarian states, while the North wanted to be able to expand industrial-wise. Confederate states felt that more agrarian states would help protect their economy and society in the future. The Union also felt that expansion would help their future as an industrialized country. As competition grew between the two sides, unrest grew with it, eventually resulting in the Civil War.

IV. Political Causes

Politically, the States were not any more united in their point of views. They each feared each other’s political goals. Expanding westwards did would not only help each side socially, and economically, but also politically. More Slave states meant there would be more Southerners will be involved in congress. But if there were more Free States, there would be more northern representation in congress. This caused continuous unrest between the two regions. Also, both the North and the South had different views on how the government should operate. The south wanted less government control, and more state freedom, while the North welcomed the central power of a government. The South viewed the election of Abraham Lincoln, as president, as a threat to slavery. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the South threatened to secede from the United States that questioned “State Rights.” Were States allowed to secede from the nation or not? To make matters worse, the South was determined to start its own nation, by electing its own president, Thomas Jefferson. It started calling for International recognition as a nation from France and Britain. The South was persistent in becoming a separate country, but the North was not about to give up the South.

V. Aftermath

Eventually, the Civil War erupted. After four long years, the Union would win the War and the country would once again become united. There were many reasons why the North was able to overcome the South. Since Southern economy was agrarian, and they had very few factories, the value of manufactured goods was higher than crops by the start of the War. This made the North wealthier, helping it to produce ammunition and other warfare utilities. The South was poorer, do to the lack of money since cotton was no longer providing the income and had only a few sources for manufacturing goods. As a result they were always unequipped and could not keep up. The North had the ability to invent modern weapons while the South had to fight with older weapons. The North always had more people compared to the South who had fewer people. At war, the casualty rates were always equal, but the South suffered more because while the North could afford these loses, the South could not.

The Civil War lasted longer than it was expected to. But, unfortunately, the War was inevitable due to the great gap between the North and South socially, economically and politically. In fact, due to these circumstances, if the South had won the War, the country would have probably been divided into two separate countries. As any war would have ended, the War ended with great losses to both sides. More Americans were killed in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined from the colonial period through the later phase of the Vietnam War. Apart from the number of deaths and casualties, the great loss of property and money, the country now needed to work together in order to rebuild what was lost. Emotionally, it would take long years for many people to overcome the consequences of the war. The war was followed by twelve years of Reconstruction, during which the North and South debated the future of black Americans and fought bitter political battles. Yet, there was a good outcome of this war. Slavery came to an end as a legal institution. But the war did not bring equal rights for blacks, they still had their own war to win until those rights would be achieved.

...but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,

and the other would accept war rather than let it perish,

and the war came.

Abraham Lincoln, 4 March 1865

OUTLINE

THE CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I Introduction to Civil War

II Social Causes

A Differences in society

B Westward Expansion

III Economic Causes

A Differences in economy

B Westward Expansion

IV Political Causes

A Government

V Aftermath

A Costs of War

The Main Causes of the American Civil War

by

Nadine Soliman

Academic Writing EWR3AA-01

Ms. Mack

February 20, 2001

WORKS CITED

“American Civil War.” Encarta Online Encyclopedia[CD-ROM]. Microsoft Corporation.

2000 ed.

Fluhrer, Robert C. “Civil War.” World Book. 1996 ed.

Hux, Allan and others. America: A History. Toronto: Globe/Modern Curriculum

Press, 1989.

Stampp, Kenneth. The Causes of The Civil War. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc,

1965.

CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I. Introduction to Civil War

The American Civil War was a war fought within the United States of America between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy) starting from 1861 and ending in 1865. This war was one of the most destructive events in American history, costing more than 600,000 lives. It was thought to be one that helped shape the character of the American individual today. From the Southern point of view, this war was a War of Rebellion, or a War for Southern Independence. From the Northern point of view this war was seen as a revolution. This unfortunate war started as a result of many years of differences between the Union and the Confederacy. It erupted after many years of conflict building up between the two regions. Between the North and the South there lay deep economic, social and political differences, but it is important to understand that Slavery was the root of cause of these differences.

II. Social Causes

There were many factors that contributed to the onset of the Civil War. Socially, the North and the South were built on different standards. The South, or the Slave States, was a slave-based community that followed a class-based system. This system consisted of aristocracy, middle class and then slavery. Many depended on slaves and were accustomed to this way of life, which was hard to change. Plantation owners had slaves working for them, and those who could not afford to own slaves would work on their own farm. The North, or Free States, had more immigrants settling in its areas, where labour was needed, but not the labour of slaves. Therefore it had a more industrialized society where most people worked in factories, and did not follow a class system. The Northerners opposed to Slavery as an institution in the South, as the Confederate States were the only region in the world that still legalized the ownership of slaves. This angered the Southerners and threatened their way of life. The election of Abraham Lincoln, as president was viewed by the South as a threat to slavery.

III. Economic Causes

By time, economic differences also developed between the two regions. The Southern states were agrarian states, and depended on agriculture rather than industrialization. After the Cotton Gin was invented, it increased the need for slaves and made cotton the chief crop of the South. The South was able to produce 7/8 of the world’s supply of cotton. This increased the South's dependence on the plantation system and its vital component, slavery. But by then, the North was prospering industrially. It feared that the South’s slave-based economy might affect their economy. The North depended on factories and other industrialized businesses. For this reason many of the new immigrants settled north, while very few settled south. This allowed the North to grow industrially, while making the South more hostile towards them. The Confederacy resisted any kind of industrialization and manufactured as little as possible. Southern economy opposed high taxes, as manufacturing was limited. But the Northern states welcomed high taxes to protect its products from cheap foreign competition. As a result, the South preferred not to accept most improvements that were made by the federal government, such as roads and canals, in order to keep taxes low.

Another major problem that occurred was the competition between the North and South for more land. Both regions wanted to expand socially and economically westwards. The South wanted more agrarian states, while the North wanted to be able to expand industrial-wise. Confederate states felt that more agrarian states would help protect their economy and society in the future. The Union also felt that expansion would help their future as an industrialized country. As competition grew between the two sides, unrest grew with it, eventually resulting in the Civil War.

IV. Political Causes

Politically, the States were not any more united in their point of views. They each feared each other’s political goals. Expanding westwards did would not only help each side socially, and economically, but also politically. More Slave states meant there would be more Southerners will be involved in congress. But if there were more Free States, there would be more northern representation in congress. This caused continuous unrest between the two regions. Also, both the North and the South had different views on how the government should operate. The south wanted less government control, and more state freedom, while the North welcomed the central power of a government. The South viewed the election of Abraham Lincoln, as president, as a threat to slavery. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the South threatened to secede from the United States that questioned “State Rights.” Were States allowed to secede from the nation or not? To make matters worse, the South was determined to start its own nation, by electing its own president, Thomas Jefferson. It started calling for International recognition as a nation from France and Britain. The South was persistent in becoming a separate country, but the North was not about to give up the South.

V. Aftermath

Eventually, the Civil War erupted. After four long years, the Union would win the War and the country would once again become united. There were many reasons why the North was able to overcome the South. Since Southern economy was agrarian, and they had very few factories, the value of manufactured goods was higher than crops by the start of the War. This made the North wealthier, helping it to produce ammunition and other warfare utilities. The South was poorer, do to the lack of money since cotton was no longer providing the income and had only a few sources for manufacturing goods. As a result they were always unequipped and could not keep up. The North had the ability to invent modern weapons while the South had to fight with older weapons. The North always had more people compared to the South who had fewer people. At war, the casualty rates were always equal, but the South suffered more because while the North could afford these loses, the South could not.

The Civil War lasted longer than it was expected to. But, unfortunately, the War was inevitable due to the great gap between the North and South socially, economically and politically. In fact, due to these circumstances, if the South had won the War, the country would have probably been divided into two separate countries. As any war would have ended, the War ended with great losses to both sides. More Americans were killed in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined from the colonial period through the later phase of the Vietnam War. Apart from the number of deaths and casualties, the great loss of property and money, the country now needed to work together in order to rebuild what was lost. Emotionally, it would take long years for many people to overcome the consequences of the war. The war was followed by twelve years of Reconstruction, during which the North and South debated the future of black Americans and fought bitter political battles. Yet, there was a good outcome of this war. Slavery came to an end as a legal institution. But the war did not bring equal rights for blacks, they still had their own war to win until those rights would be achieved.

...but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,

and the other would accept war rather than let it perish,

and the war came.

Abraham Lincoln, 4 March 1865

OUTLINE

THE CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I Introduction to Civil War

II Social Causes

A Differences in society

B Westward Expansion

III Economic Causes

A Differences in economy

B Westward Expansion

IV Political Causes

A Government

V Aftermath

A Costs of War

The Main Causes of the American Civil War

by

Nadine Soliman

WORKS CITED

“American Civil War.” Encarta Online Encyclopedia[CD-ROM]. Microsoft Corporation.

2000 ed.

Fluhrer, Robert C. “Civil War.” World Book. 1996 ed.

Hux, Allan and others. America: A History. Toronto: Globe/Modern Curriculum

Press, 1989.

Stampp, Kenneth. The Causes of The Civil War. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc,

1965.

Bibliography

“American Civil War.” Encarta Online Encyclopedia[CD-ROM]. Microsoft Corporation.

2000 ed.

Fluhrer, Robert C. “Civil War.” World Book. 1996 ed.

Hux, Allan and others. America: A History. Toronto: Globe/Modern Curriculum

Press, 1989.

Stampp, Kenneth. The Causes of The Civil War. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc,

1965.

Word Count: 2747

This timeline of events leading up to the American Civil War describes and links to narrative articles and references about many of the events and issues which historians recognize as origins and causes of the Civil War. The pre-Civil War events can be roughly divided into a period encompassing the long term build-up over many decades and a period encompassing the five-month build to war immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln as President in the Election of 1860 which culminated in the Fall of Fort Sumter (April 1861).

Since the early colonial period in Virginia, slavery had been a part of the socioeconomic system of British North America and was recognized in the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the United States' Declaration of Independence (1776). Since then, events and statements by politicians and others brought forth differences, tensions and divisions between the people of the slave states of the Southern United States and the people of the free states of the Northern United States (including Western states) over the topics of slavery. The large underlying issue from which other issues developed was whether slavery should be retained and even expanded to other areas or whether it should be contained and eventually abolished. Over many decades, these issues and divisions became increasingly irreconcilable and contentious.[1]

Events in the 1850s culminated with the election of the anti-slavery-expansion Republican Abraham Lincoln as President on November 6, 1860. This provoked the first round of state secessions as leaders of the Deep South cotton states were unwilling to remain in a second class political status with their way of life threatened by the President himself. Initially, the seven Deep South states seceded, with economies based on cotton (then in heavy European demand with rising prices). They were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. After the Confederates attacked and captured Fort Sumter, President Lincoln called for volunteers to march south and suppress the rebellion. This pushed the four other Upper South States (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) also to secede. These states completed the formation of the Confederate States of America. Their addition to the Confederacy insured a war would be prolonged and bloody because they contributed territory and soldiers.

Colonial period, 1607–1775[edit]

1619
1640
  • The General Court of Virginia orders John Punch, a runaway black servant, to "serve his master or his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere." Thus "John Punch, a black man, was sentenced to lifetime slavery."[5][6]
1652
  • After earlier laws in Massachusetts (1641) and Connecticut (1650) limited slavery to some extent, a 1652 Rhode Island law clearly limited bond service to no more than 10 years or no later than a person attaining the age of 24.[7] Nonetheless, Newport, Rhode Island became a large slave trade center a century later. In 1792, the state of Rhode Island prohibited the slave trade.[8]
1654
1671
  • About 2,000 of the 40,000 inhabitants of colonial Virginia are imported slaves. White indentured servants working for five years before their release are three times as numerous and provide much of the hard labor.[11]
1712
1719
  • Non-slaveholding farmers in Virginia think slave labor threatens their livelihoods. They persuade the Virginia General Assembly to discuss a prohibition of slavery or a ban on importing slaves. In response, the assembly raises the tariff on slaves to five pounds, which about equals the full price of an indenture, so as not to make importation of slaves as initially attractive or preferable to a mere indenture for a term of years.[13]
1739
  • In South Carolina, the Stono Rebellion (or Cato's Conspiracy or Cato's Rebellion) was the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies, with 25 white people and 35 to 50 black people killed.[14][15]
1741
1774

American Revolution and Confederation period, 1776–1787[edit]

1776
  • The United States Declaration of Independence declares "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Slavery remains legal in the colonies.[2]
1777
1778
  • The Virginia legislature passes a law, with Thomas Jefferson's support and probably authorship, that bans importing slaves into Virginia. It is the first state to ban the slave trade, and all other states eventually followed.[21][22]
1780
1782
  • Virginia liberalizes its very strict law preventing manumission; under the new law, a master may emancipate slaves in his will or by deed.[22]
1783
  • The New Hampshire Constitution says children will be born free, but some slavery persists until the 1840s.[27]
1784
  • Rhode Island and Connecticut pass laws providing for gradual emancipation of slaves.[28]
  • The Continental Congress rejects by one vote Jefferson's proposal to prohibit slavery in all territories, including areas that become the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.[29]
1786
  • George Washington writes: "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it [slavery]."[30] Civil War era historian William Blake says these "sentiments were confined to a few liberal and enlightened men."[22]
1787
  • July 13: The Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation passes the Northwest Ordinance to govern territory north of the Ohio River and west of Pennsylvania. The territory will become the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota. In the ordinance, Congress prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude in the territory and requires the return of fugitive slaves found in the territory to their owners. The law no longer applies as soon as the territories become states. Anti-slavery Northerners cite the ordinance many times over the years as precedent for the limitation, if not the abolition, of slavery in the United States. Despite the terms of the ordinance, Southern-born settlers will try and fail to pass laws to allow slavery in Indiana and Illinois.[31]

Early period under the Constitution, 1787–1811[edit]

1787
  • The new Constitution of the United States has compromises to protect slavery. Representation in the House and Electoral College is increased by counting each slave as three-fifths of a person (Article I, Section 2), the passage of any law that would prohibit the importation of slaves is forbidden for 20 years (Article I, Section 9) and the return of slaves who escape to free states is required (Article IV, Section 2).[2][23][32]
1789
  • August 7: Congress re-adopts the Northwest Ordinance under the Constitution.[33][34]
1790
1791
  • Vermont admitted as a free state.[20]
  • Kentucky admitted by joint resolution of Congress before the State has adopted a constitution.[20]
  • Robert Carter III of Virginia begins gradually to free his 452 slaves. He will perform the largest manumission of slaves in U.S. history.[41]
1792
  • Kentucky draws up a constitution as a slave state and is admitted to the union.[20]
1793
  • Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 based on Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution.[23][42]
  • Eli Whitney, Jr. invents the cotton gin, making possible the profitable large-scale production of short-staple cotton in the South. The demand for slave labor increases with the increase in profitable cotton production.[43]
1794
  • By 1794 every state had banned the international slave trade, although South Carolina reopened it in 1803.[44]
  • Congress in 1794 prohibits ships from engaging in the slave trade.[45]
1796
  • Tennessee is admitted as a slave state.[23]
1798
  • The legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia pass the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, which are anonymously written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Most other states reject the Resolutions, which claim that the states can negate federal laws that go beyond the federal government's limited powers. In the second Kentucky resolution of November 1799, the Kentucky legislature says the remedy for an unconstitutional act is "nullification".[46][47][48]
1799
  • New York enacts a law gradually abolishing slavery.[49]
  • George Washington dies on December 14, 1799. His will frees the 124 slaves that he owns outright upon the death of his wife, Martha. They are freed by Martha in 1801, about 18 months before her death.[50]
  • Richard Allen, a black minister, calls on the nation's white leaders to follow Washington's lead.[51][52]
1800
  • U.S. slave population in the 1800 United States Census: 893,605 (as corrected by late additions from Maryland and Tennessee).[53][54]
  • The Gabriel Plot was led by Gabriel Prosser, a literate blacksmith slave. He planned to take the Richmond, Virginia armory, then take control of the city, which would lead to freedom for himself and other slaves in the area. The plot is discovered before it is activated; Gabriel, along with 26 to 40 others, is executed.[55]
1803
  • The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from France. Slavery already exists and efforts to restrict it fail; the new lands permit a great expansion of slave plantations.[56]
  • Ohio, a free state, is admitted to the union. Three hundred Blacks live there and the legislature tries to keep others out.[57]
1804
  • New Jersey enacts a law that provides for gradual abolition of slavery. All states north of the "Mason–Dixon line" (the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania) have now abolished or provided for the gradual abolition of slavery within their boundaries.[58]
  • The American Convention of Abolition Societies meets without any societies from Southern states in attendance.[59]
1805
  • In January 1805, at Chatham Manor, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, slaves overpowered and whipped their overseer and assistants in protest of shortened holidays. An armed posse of white men quickly gathered to capture the slaves, killing one slave in the attack. Two others died trying to escape and the posse deported two others, likely to slavery in the Caribbean.[60]
1806
  • Virginia repeals much of the 1782 law that permitted more liberal emancipation of slaves, making emancipation much more difficult and expensive. Also, a wife can revoke a manumission provision in her husband's will within one year of his death.[61]
1807
  • With the expiration of the 20-year ban on Congressional action on the subject, President Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong enemy of the slave trade, calls on Congress to criminalize the international slave trade, calling it "violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country have long been eager to proscribe".[62]
  • At the urging of President Jefferson, Congress outlaws the international slave trade in an Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. Importing or exporting slaves becomes a federal crime, effective January 1, 1808; in 1820 it is made the crime of piracy. The trade had been about 14,000 a year; illegal smuggling begins and brings in about 1,000 new foreign-born slaves per year.[63]
  • John Randolph of Roanoke warns during the debates that outlawing the slave trade might become the "pretext of universal emancipation" and further warns that it would "blow up the constitution". If there ever should be disunion, he prophesies, the line would be drawn between the states that did and those that did not hold slaves.[64]
1810
  • 1810 Census Data Volume 1 is unavailable online[65] but a secondary source indicates that in 1810 there were 27,510 slaves in the North and 1,191,364 in the South.[66]
  • The percentage of free blacks increases in the Upper South from less than one percent before the Revolution to 10 percent by 1810. Three-quarters of all blacks in Delaware are free.[67]

1812 to 1849[edit]

1812
  • Louisiana is admitted as a slave state.[68]
1814
  • The Hartford Convention of delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island and others discusses New England's opposition to the War of 1812 and trade embargoes. The convention report says that New England had a "duty" to assert its authority over unconstitutional infringements on its sovereignty, a position similar to the later nullification theory put forward by South Carolina. The war soon ends and the convention and the Federalist Party which had supported it fall out of favor, especially in the South although leaders in Southern states later would adopt the States' rights concept for their own purposes.[69]
1816
1817
  • Mississippi, a slave state, is admitted to the union.[73]
1818
  • Illinois joins the union as a free state.[74]
  • Missouri petitions Congress for admission to the union as a slave state. Missouri's possible admission as a slave state threatens the balance of 11 free states and 11 slave states. Three years of debate ensues.[75]
1819
  • Alabama, a slave state, enters the union.[76]
  • Missouri again petitions for admission to the union.[77]
  • U. S. Representative James Tallmadge, Jr. of New York submits an amendment to the legislation for the admission of Missouri which would prohibit further introduction of slaves into Missouri. The proposal also would free all children of slave parents in Missouri when they reached the age of twenty-five. The measure passes in the House of Representatives but is defeated in the Senate.[78][79]
  • Representative Thomas W. Cobb of Georgia threatens disunion if Tallmadge persists in attempting to have his amendment enacted.[80]
  • Southern Senators delay a bill to admit Maine as a free state in response to the delay of Missouri's admission to the union as a slave state.[80]
1820
  • U.S. slave population in the 1820 United States Census: 1,538,000.[81]
  • Speaker of the HouseHenry Clay of Kentucky proposes the Missouri Compromise to break the Congressional deadlock over Missouri's admission to the union.[82] Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state on August 10, 1821, and the northern counties of Massachusetts would be admitted as a free state, the State of Maine (which occurred on March 15, 1820).[83] To the west, slavery would be prohibited north of 36°30' of latitude, which was approximately the southern boundary of Missouri. Many Southerners argued against exclusion of slavery from such a large area of the country. The restriction of slavery north of the 36° 30' line of latitude will be abrogated by the popular sovereignty voting provision of the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854.[80][84]
  • The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is founded in New York City.[85]
1821
  • After Missouri becomes a state, its legislature passes a law excluding free blacks and mulattoes from the State in violation of a Congressional condition to its admission to the Union.[80]
1822
  • The Vesey Plot causes fear among whites in South Carolina, who are convinced that Denmark Vesey and other slaves plan a violent slave uprising in the Charleston area. The plan is discovered and Vesey and thirty-four of his presumed followers are seized and hanged.[86]
1824
1826
  • New Jersey, followed by Pennsylvania, pass the first personal liberty laws, which require a judicial hearing before an alleged fugitive slave can be removed from the state.[88]
  • Thomas Cooper of South Carolina publishes On the Constitution, an early essay in favor of states' rights.[89]
1827
  • The process of gradual emancipation is completed in New York state and the last indentured servant is freed.[90]
1828
  • Congress passes the Tariff of 1828. It also is called the "Tariff of Abominations" by its opponents in the cotton South.[91]
  • The opposition of Southern cotton planters to transfer of federal funds in one state to another state for internal improvements and to protective tariffs to aid small Northern industries compete with foreign goods leads a South Carolina legislative committee to issue a report entitled South Carolina Exposition and Protest.[83] The report outlines the nullification doctrine. The doctrine would reserve to a state the right to nullify an act of Congress that injures perceived reserved state rights as unconstitutional. The state could prevent the law's enforcement within its borders.[83]James Madison of Virginia, fourth President of the United States and a framer of the U.S. Constitution, called the doctrine a "preposterous and anarchical pretension." The report threatens secession of the State over high tariff taxes. In 1831, Vice President John C. Calhoun admits he was the author of the previously unsigned South Carolina committee report.[83][92]
1829
  • David Walker, a freed slave from North Carolina living in Boston, publishes Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. He calls on slaves to revolt and destroy slavery.[93]
1830
  • U.S. slave population in the 1830 United States Census: 2,009,043.[81]
  • In North Carolina v. Mann, the Supreme Court of North Carolina ruled that slaveowners had absolute authority over their slaves and could not be found guilty of committing violence against them.
  • Daniel Webster delivers a speech entitled Reply to Hayne. Webster condemns the proposition expressed by Senator Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina that Americans must choose between liberty and union. Webster's closing words became an iconic statement of American nationalism: "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"[94]
  • The National Negro Convention, a black abolitionist and civil rights organization, is founded.[95]
1831
  • Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator, a greatly influential publication. About this time, abolitionism takes a radical and religious turn. Many abolitionists begin to demand immediate emancipation of slaves.[96]
  • Nat Turner leads a slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia in August. At least 58 white persons are killed. Whites in turn kill about 100 blacks in the area during the search for Turner and his companions and in retaliation for their actions. Turner hides but is captured several months later. Turner and 12 followers are executed. Turner's actions outrage Southerners and some suspect abolitionists supported him. They prepare for further uprisings.[97]
  • Southern defenders of slavery start describing it as a "positive good," not just a "necessary evil."[98][99]
1832
  • Congress enacts a new protective tariff, the Tariff of 1832, which offers South Carolina and the South little relief and provokes new controversy between the sections of the country.[100][101]
  • John C. Calhoun further explains the nullification doctrine in an open letter to South Carolina Governor James Hamilton, Jr. Calhoun says that the Constitution only raised the federal government to the level of the state, not above it. He argues that nullification is not secession and did not require secession to be put into effect.[101]
  • Thomas R. Dew writes Review of the Debate in the Virginia Legislature of 1831 and 1832, a strong defense of slavery and attack on colonization in Africa by freed slaves.[102]
  • On November 19, 1832, South Carolina calls a state convention, which passes an Ordinance of Nullification with an effective date of February 1, 1833. The convention declares the tariff void because it threatens the state's essential interests. The South Carolina legislature acts to enforce the ordinance.[88][100][103]
  • PresidentAndrew Jackson, a Southerner and slave owner, calls nullification "rebellious treason" and threatens to use force against possible secessionist action in South Carolina caused by the Nullification Crisis.[100] Congress passes the "Force Bill" which permits the President to use the Army and Navy to enforce the law. Jackson also urges Congress to modify the tariff, which they soon do.[100][103]
1833
1834
1835
  • A Georgia law prescribes the death penalty for publication of material with the intention of provoking a slave rebellion.[107]
1836
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passes the Pinckney Resolutions on May 26, 1836. The first two resolutions state that Congress has no constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in the states and that it "ought not" to do so in the District of Columbia. The third resolution, from the outset known as the "gag rule", says: "All petitions, memorials, resolutions, propositions, or papers, relating in any way, or to any extent whatsoever, to the subject of slavery or the abolition of slavery, shall, without being either printed or referred, be laid on the table and that no further action whatever shall be had thereon."[108][109] Massachusetts representative and former President John Quincy Adams leads an eight-year battle against the gag rule. He argues that the Slave Power, as a political interest, threatened constitutional rights.[88][107][110]
  • Texas successfully declares its independence from Mexico.[109][111][112]
  • Arkansas, a slave state, is admitted to the Union.[111]
  • Committed abolitionists Angelina Grimké Weld and her sister Sarah Grimké who were born in Charleston, South Carolina, move to Philadelphia because of their anti-slavery philosophy and Quaker faith. In 1836, Angelina publishes An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, inviting them to overthrow slavery, which she declares is a horrible system of oppression and cruelty.[113]
  • Democratic Party nominee Martin Van Buren, a New Yorker with Southern sympathies, wins the Presidential election.[110]
1837
1838
1839
  • Slaves revolt on the Spanish ship Amistad; ship winds up in U.S. After a highly publicized Supreme Court case argued by John Quincy Adams, the slaves are freed in March 1841; most return to Africa.[117][118]
  • Northern abolitionist Reverend Theodore Dwight Weld condemns slavery in American Slavery As It Is. He makes his argument by quoting slave owners' words as used in southern newspaper advertisements and articles.[119]
1840
1841
  • The last slave (lifetime indentured servant) in New York is freed.[123]
  • Slaves being moved from Virginia to Louisiana seize the brig Creole and land in the Bahamas, a British colony that does not allow slavery. The British give asylum to 111 slaves (but not the 19 ringleaders accused of murder). The U.S. government protests and in 1855 the British paid $119,000 to the original owners of the slaves.[124]
1842
  • In Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court declares the Pennsylvania personal liberty law unconstitutional as in conflict with federal fugitive slave law. The Court holds that enforcement of the fugitive slave law is the responsibility of the federal government.[125][126]
1843
  • Massachusetts and eight other states pass personal liberty laws under which state officials are forbidden to assist in the capture of fugitive slaves.[127]
1844
1845
  • Florida, a slave state, is admitted to the United States.[130]
  • The Southern Baptist Convention breaks from the Northern Baptists but does not formally endorse slavery.[128]
  • Frederick Douglass publishes his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. The book details his life as a slave.[131]
  • Former U.S. Representative and Governor of South Carolina, and future U.S. Senator, James Hammond writes Two Letters on Slavery in the United States, Addressed to Thomas Clarkson, Esq. in which he expresses the view that slavery is a positive good.[102]
  • Anti-slavery advocates denounce Texas Annexation as evil expansion of slave territory. Whigs defeat an annexation treaty but Congress annexes Texas to the United States as a slave state by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress on a joint resolution without ratification of a treaty by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate.[132]
1846
  • The Walker Tariff reduction leads to a period of free trade until 1860. Republicans (and Pennsylvania Democrats) attack the low level of the tariff rates.[133]
  • James D.B. DeBow establishes DeBow's Review, the leading Southern magazine, which becomes an ardent advocate of secession. DeBow warns against depending on the North economically.[134]
  • The Mexican–American War begins. The administration of President James K. Polk had deployed the Army to disputed Texas territory and Mexican forces attacked it.[135] Whigs denounce the war. Antislavery critics charge the war is a pretext for gaining more slave territory. The U.S. Army quickly captures New Mexico.[136]
  • Northern representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives pass the Wilmot Proviso which would prevent slavery in territory captured from Mexico. Southern Senators block passage of the proviso into law in the U. S. Senate. The Wilmot Proviso never becomes law but it does substantially increase friction between the North and South. Congress also rejects a proposal to extend the Missouri Compromise line to the west coast and other compromise proposals.[137]
  • Iowa is admitted to the United States as a free state.[138]
1847
  • The Massachusetts legislature resolves that the "unconstitutional" Mexican–American War was being waged for "the triple object of extending slavery, of strengthening the slave power, and of obtaining control of the free states".[136]
  • John C. Calhoun asserts that slavery is legal in all of the territories, foreshadowing the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision in 1857.[139][140]
  • Democrat Lewis Cass of Michigan proposes letting the people of a territory vote on whether to permit slavery in the territory. This theory of popular sovereignty would be further endorsed and advocated by Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois in the mid-1850s.[141]
1848
  • The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo confirms the Texas border with Mexico and U.S. possession of California and the New Mexico territory. The U.S. Senate rejects attempts to attach the Wilmot Proviso during the ratification vote on the treaty.[142][143]
  • Radical New York Democrats and anti-slavery Whigs form the Free-Soil party. The party names former President Martin Van Buren as its presidential candidate and demands enactment of the Wilmot Proviso. The party argues that rich planters will squeeze out small white farmers and buy their land. The Whig Party candidate, General Zachary Taylor, who owned slaves, wins the United States Presidential Election of 1848. Taylor expresses no view on slavery in the Southwest during campaign. After the election, he reveals a plan to admit California and New Mexico to the Union as free states covering entire Southwest and to exclude slavery from any territories. Taylor warns the South that he will meet rebellion with force. His moderate views on the expansion of slavery and the acceptability of the Wilmot Proviso angered his unsuspecting Southern supporters but did not fully satisfy Northerners who wanted to limit or abolish slavery.[144]
  • Wisconsin, a free state, is admitted to the Union.[145]
  • Oregon Treaty between the United States and Great Britain ends the Oregon boundary dispute, defines final western segment of Canada–United States border and ends the scare of a U.S.–Great Britain war. Northern Democrats complain the Polk administration backed down on the demand that the northern boundary of Oregon be set at 54° 40' line of latitude and sacrificed Northern expansion while supporting Southern expansion through the Mexican–American War and the treaty ending that war.[142]
  • The Polk administration offers Spain $100 million for Cuba.[146]
  • Southerners support Narciso Lopez's attempt to cause an uprising in Cuba in favor of American annexation of the island, which allows slavery. Lopez is defeated and flees to the United States. He is tried for violation of neutrality laws but a New Orleans jury fails to convict him.[147]
1849
  • The California Gold Rush suddenly populates Northern California with Northern and immigrant settlers who outnumber Southerner settlers. California's constitutional convention unanimously rejects slavery and petitions to join the union as a free state without first being organized as a territory. President Taylor asks Congress to admit California as a free state, saying he will suppress secession if it is attempted by any dissenting states.[148]
  • Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. She makes about 20 trips to the South and returns along the Underground Railroad with slaves seeking freedom.[149]

Compromise of 1850 through 1860 election[edit]

1850
  • U.S. slave population in the 1850 United States Census: 3,204,313.[35][120][150]
  • March 11: U.S. Senator William H. Seward of New York delivers his "Higher Law" address. He states that a compromise on slavery is wrong because under a higher law than the Constitution, the law of God, all men are free and equal.[151]
  • April 17: U.S. Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi pulls a pistol on an anti-slavery senator on the floor of the U.S. Senate.[152]
  • President Taylor dies on July 9 and is succeeded by Vice President Millard Fillmore. Although he is a New Yorker, Fillmore is more inclined to compromise with or even support Southern interests.[138]
  • Henry Clay proposes the Compromise of 1850 to handle California's petition for admission to the union as a free state and Texas's demand for land in New Mexico. Clay proposes (1) admission of California, (2) prohibition of Texas expansion into New Mexico, (3) compensation of $10 million to Texas to finance its public debt, (4) permission to citizens of New Mexico and Utah to vote on whether slavery would be allowed in their territories (popular sovereignty), (5) a ban of the slave trade in the District of Columbia; slavery would still be allowed in the district, and (6) a stronger fugitive slave law with more vigorous enforcement. Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a slave owner could reclaim a runaway slave by establishing ownership before a commissioner rather than in a jury trial. Clay's initial omnibus bill that included all these provisions failed. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois then established different coalitions that passed each provision separately.[153]
  • Responses to the Compromise of 1850 varied. Southerners cease movement toward disunion but are angered by Northern resistance to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Anti-slavery forces are upset about possible expansion of slavery in the Southwest and the stronger fugitive slave law that could require all U.S. citizens to assist in returning fugitive slaves.[154]
  • The Nashville Convention of nine Southern states discusses states' rights and slavery in June; in November, the convention talks about secession but adjourns due to the passage of the laws that constitute the Compromise of 1850.[155]
  • Utah is organized as a territory and adopts a slave code. Only 29 slaves are found in the territory in 1860.[156]
  • In October, the Boston Vigilance Committee frees two fugitive slaves, Ellen and William Craft, from jail and being returned to Georgia.[157]
1851
  • Southern Unionists in several states defeat secession measures. Mississippi's convention denies the existence of the right to secession.[158]
  • In February, a crowd of black men in Boston frees fugitive slave Shadrach Minkins, also known as Fred Wilkins, who was being held in the federal courthouse, and help him escape to Canada.[159]
  • In April, the government guards fugitive slave Thomas Sims with 300 soldiers to prevent local sympathizers from helping him with an escape attempt.[159]
  • In September 1851, free blacks confront a slave owner, his son and their allies who are trying to capture two fugitive slaves at Christiana, Pennsylvania. In the gunfight that followed, three blacks and the slave owner are killed while his son is seriously wounded.[160]
  • In October 1851, black and white abolitionists free fugitive slave Jerry McHenry from the Syracuse, New York jail and allow his escape to Canada.[161]
1852
  • In Lemmon v. New York, a New York court frees eight slaves in transit from Virginia with their owner.[162]
  • After magazine publication, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published in book form. The powerful novel depicts slave owner "Simon Legree" as deeply evil, and the slave "Uncle Tom" as the Christ-like hero.[163] It sells between 500,000 and 1,000,000 copies in U.S. and even more in Great Britain. Millions of people see the stage adaptation. By June 1852, Southerners move to suppress the book's publication in the South and numerous "refutations" appear in print.[164][165]
  • April 30: A convention called by the legislature in South Carolina adopts "An Ordinance to Declare the Right of this State to Secede from the Federal Union".[166]
  • The Whig party and its candidate for President, Army general Winfield Scott, are decisively defeated in the election and the party quickly fades away.[167] Pro-South ("doughface") Democrat Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire is elected President.[168]
1853
  • Democrats control state governments in all the states which will form the Confederate States of America.[169]
  • The United States adds a 29,670-square-mile (76,800 km2) region of present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico to the United States through the Gadsden Purchase of territory from Mexico. The purposes of the Gadsden Purchase are the construction of a transcontinental railroad along a deep southern route and the reconciliation of outstanding border issues following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican–American War. Many early settlers in the region are pro-slavery.[162][170]
  • Filibusterer William Walker and a few dozen men briefly take over Baja California in an effort to expand slave territory. When they are forced to retreat to California and put on trial for violating neutrality laws, they are acquitted by a jury that deliberated for only eight minutes.[171]
1854
  • Democratic U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois proposes the Kansas–Nebraska Bill to open good Midwestern farmland to settlement and to encourage building of a transcontinental railroad with a terminus at Chicago. Whether slavery would be permitted in a territory would be determined by a vote of the people at the time a territory is organized.[172][173][174][175]
  • Congress enacts the Kansas–Nebraska Act, providing that popular sovereignty, a vote of the people when a territory is organized, will decide "all questions pertaining to slavery" in the Kansas–Nebraska territories. This abrogates the Missouri Compromise prohibition of slavery north of the 36°30' line of latitude and increases Northerners' fears of a Slave Power encroaching on the North.[175] Both Northerners and Southerners rush to the Kansas and Nebraska territories to express their opinion in the voting. Especially in Kansas, many voters are pro-slavery Missouri residents who enter Kansas simply to vote.[174]
  • Opponents of slavery and the Kansas–Nebraska Act meet in Ripon, Wisconsin in February, and subsequently meet in other Northern states, to form the Republican Party.[174] The party includes many former members of the Whig and Free Soil parties and some northern Democrats. Republicans win most of the Northern state seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall 1854 elections as 66 of 91 Northern state Democrats are defeated. Abraham Lincoln emerges as a Republican leader in the West (Illinois).[162][173]
  • Eli Thayer forms the New England Emigrant Aid Society to encourage settlement of Kansas by persons opposed to slavery.[162]
  • Bitter fighting breaks out in Kansas Territory as pro-slavery men win a majority of seats in the legislature, expel anti-slavery legislators and adopt the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution for the proposed state of Kansas.[174][175]
  • The Ostend Manifesto, a dispatch sent from France by the U.S. ministers to Britain, France and Spain after a meeting in Ostend, Belgium, describes the rationale for the United States to purchase Cuba (a territory which had slavery) from Spain and implies the U.S. should declare war if Spain refuses to sell the island. Four months after the dispatch is drafted, it is published in full at the request of the U.S. House of Representatives. Northern states view the document as a Southern attempt to extend slavery. European nations consider it as a threat to Spain and to Imperial power. The U.S. government never acts upon the recommendations in the Ostend Manifesto.[176]
  • Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave from Virginia, is arrested by federal agents in Boston. Radical abolitionists attack the court house and kill a deputy marshal in an unsuccessful attempt to free Burns.[162][177]
  • Abolitionist editor Sherman Booth was arrested for violating the Fugitive Slave Act when he helped incite a mob to rescue an escaped slave, Joshua Glover, in Wisconsin from U.S. Marshal Stephen V. R. Ableman.[178]
  • The Knights of the Golden Circle, a fraternal organization that wants to expand slavery to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, including Cuba, and northern South America, is founded in Louisville, Kentucky.[179]
  • Former Mississippi Governor John A. Quitman begins to raise money and volunteers to invade Cuba, but is slow to act and cancels the invasion plan in spring 1855 when President Pierce says he would enforce the neutrality laws.[180]
  • The Know-Nothing Party or American Party, which includes many nativist former Whigs, sweeps state and local elections in parts of some Northern states. The party demands ethnic purification, opposes Catholics (because of the presumed power of the Pope over them), and opposes corruption in local politics. The party soon fades away.[162][173]
  • George Fitzhugh's pro-slavery Sociology for the South is published.[181]
1855
  • Violence by pro-slavery looters from Missouri known as Border Ruffians and anti-slavery groups known as Jayhawkers breaks out in "Bleeding Kansas" as pro-slavery and anti-slavery supporters try to organize the territory as slave or free. Many Ruffians vote illegally in Kansas. Estimates will show that the violence in Kansas resulted in about 200 persons killed and $2 million worth of property destroyed during the middle and late 1850s. Over 95 percent of the pro-slavery votes in the election of a Kansas territorial legislature in 1855 were later determined to be fraudulent.[182]
  • Anti-slavery Kansans draft an anti-slavery constitution, the Topeka Constitution, and elect a new legislature, which actually represent the majority of legal voters. Meanwhile, the initial fraudulently elected but legal Kansas legislature still exists.[183]
1856
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