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American Civil War with reference to Abraham Lincoln and the Abolition of Slavery: Part I

American Civil War with reference to Abraham Lincoln and the Abolition of Slavery: Part I

  • The American Civil War was a civil war fought from 1861 to 1865 to determine the survival of the Union or independence for the Confederacy.
  • Among the 34 states as of January 1861, seven Southern slave states individually declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America, known as the “Confederacy” or the “South“. They grew to include eleven states. The Confederacy was never diplomatically recognized by a foreign country.
  • The states that remained loyal and did not declare secession were known as the “Union” or the “North“.
  • The war had its origin in the fractious issue of slavery, especially the extension of slavery into the western territories.
  • After four years of combat that left over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead and destroyed much of the South’s infrastructure, the Confederacy collapsed and slavery was abolished. Then began the Reconstruction and the processes of restoring national unity and guaranteeing civil rights to the freed slaves.

Series of Events Leading to Civil War

  • The Three-Fifths compromise (1787):
    • It was a compromise between southern and northern states that helped ensure ratification of the Constitution.
    • Three-fifths of the population of slaves counted for purposes of the distribution of taxes and the number of members each state was allowed in the House of Representatives. (means one slave = 3/5 man)
    • Effect:
      • Led to increasing sectionalism
  • The Northwest Ordinance or The Ordinance of 1787:
    • The ordinance created the Northwest Territory, the first organized territory of the United States, from lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains, between British Canada and the Great Lakes to the north and the Ohio River to the south. The upper Mississippi River formed the Territory’s western boundary.
    • The ordinance insured that Northwest territory will be free territory i.e. slavery will not be allowed.
    • Effect:
      • The prohibition of slavery had the practical effect of establishing the Ohio River as the boundary between free and slave territory in the region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.
      • This division helped set the stage for national competition over admitting free and slave states, the basis of a critical question in American politics in the 19th century until the Civil War.

1

  • Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin (1793):
    • It revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States. Removal of cotton seeds became 50 times faster.
    • Led to greater demand for slaves in the deep south.
    • Effect:
      • Increase in numbers of slaves –slavery expands.
  • After the Louisiana Purchase (from France) in 1803:
    • The United States doubled in size.
    • Manifest Destiny principle spurred Westward Expansion and the fight over slavery.
    • This purchase gave the United States control of the vast lands west of the Mississippi.
    • Effect:
      • As Americans pushed west, the issue of slavery came to the forefront. Would the new territories of the United States be slave or free?

  • Missouri Compromise (1820):
    • The first confrontation over slavery in the West.
    • Missouri applied as a slave state. The admission of Missouri would upset the balance of power in the Senate where at the time there were 11 free states and 11 slave states.
    • In 1820, it was suggested that Missouri enter as a slave state and Maine as a free state to keep the balance of power.
    • Furthermore, with the exception of Missouri, this prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the 36° 30´ latitude line.
    • Effect:
      • Cools sectional differences for a short time.
      • Shows how volatile issue of slavery is.
    • In 1854, the Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
    • Three years later the Missouri Compromise was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision, which ruled that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories.

  • Nullification Crisis (1832):
    • South Carolina nullified the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 within their borders and threatened to secede if the federal government attempted to collect those tariff duties.
    • President Jackson immediately offered his thought that nullification was tantamount to treason.
    • Crisis was avoided with a new tariff acceptable to South Carolina.
    • Effect:
      • First act of defiance in south threatening secession over policies in the north.
  • The Compromise of 1850:
    • The Compromise of 1850 consists of five laws passed in September of 1850 that dealt with the issue of slavery.
    • In 1849 California requested permission to enter the Union as a free state, potentially upsetting the balance between the free and slave states in the U.S. Senate.
    • The Compromise of 1850:
      • California entered as a free state.
      • The rest of the Mexican cession was divided into New Mexico and Utah. In each state, voters would decide (popular sovereignty) the issue of slavery.
      • Fugitive Slave Act was amended.
      • The slave trade in Washington, D.C., was abolished but slavery was not.
    • Effect:
      • Intensified battle over slavery in new territories by making the decision the responsibility of the state’s citizens.
      • The Compromise of 1850 accomplished what it set out to do — it kept the nation united — but the solution was only temporary.
      • Over the following decade the country’s citizens became further divided over the issue of slavery. The rift would continue to grow until the nation itself divided.

  • The Fugitive Slave Act (1850):
    • It required that all escaped slaves, upon capture, be returned to their masters and that officials and citizens of free states had to cooperate.
    • It denied a fugitive’s right to a jury trial. People who helped slaves escape would be jailed and fined.
    • Effect:
      • The Act was one of the most controversial elements of the 1850 compromise and heightened Northern fears of a “slave power conspiracy”.
      • For slaves attempting to build lives in the North, the new law was disaster. Many left their homes and fled to Canada.
      • Passage of the Fugitive Slave Act made abolitionists all the more resolved to put an end to slavery.
      • The act also brought the subject of slavery before the nation. Many who had previously been ambivalent about slavery now took a definitive stance against it.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852):
    • Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel that told the story of Uncle Tom, an enslaved African American, and his cruel master.
    • In the novel, Stowe wrote of the evils and cruelty of slavery.
    • It was the best-selling novel of the 19th century.
    • The novel had an enormous influence in the north. It helped change the way many Northerners felt about slavery.
    • It ignited a firestorm of protest from defenders of slavery (who created a number of books like Aunt Phillis’s Cabin in response to the novel).
    • Effect:
      • Slavery was now a moral problem/issue, intensifying the animosity and debate between North & South.
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854):
    • The Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise, allowing slavery in the territory north of the 36° 30´ latitude.
    • Introduced by Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois who proposed that Nebraska be divided into two territories — Kansas and Nebraska.
    • The settlers of the new territories would decide (popular sovereignty) whether they would be slave or free.
    • Southerners supported the act, while Northerners felt it was a betrayal.
    • Thousands of pro and anti slavery supporters flood Kansas to vote and fight for their position on slavery – Civil War about to erupt.
    • Anti- and pro-slavery forces set up rival governments. President Franklin Pierce in support of pro-slavery settlers, Pierce sent in federal troops to stop the violence and disperse the anti-slavery legislature.
    • Effect:
      • Little room left for compromise. Both side swilling to fight for their beliefs.

  • Founding of Republican Party (1854):
    • It emerged in 1854 to combat the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which threatened to extend slavery into the territories and which was viewed by Free-Soil and Abolitionist Northerners as an aggressive, expansionist maneuver by the slave-owning South.
    • Its aim was also to promote more vigorous modernization of the economy. The Party had almost no presence in the South, but by 1858 in the North it had enlisted former Whigs and former Free Soil Democrats to form majorities in nearly every Northern state.
    • With its election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and its success in guiding the Union to victory and abolishing slavery, it came to dominate the national political scene.
  • Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court (1857):
    • Dred Scott was a slave who claimed that because his master had taken him to the free territories of Illinois and Wisconsin, he should be free.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a slave (Dred Scott) who had resided in a free state and territory (where Slavery was prohibited) was not thereby entitled to his freedom; that African Americans were not and could never be citizens of the United States.
  • The court ruled that because Scott was not considered a citizen, but property, he could not file a lawsuit.
  • The Court also ruled that Congress had no power to decide the issue of slavery in the territories. This meant that slavery was legal in all the territories and the Missouri Compromise (1820), which had declared free all territories west of Missouri and north of latitude 36°30′, was unconstitutional.
  • Effect:
    • The decision added fuel to the sectional controversy and pushed the country closer to civil war.
    • The issue of slavery reaches a boiling point. Becomes a moral issue in north and constitutional issue in the south – NO MORE ROOM FOR COMPROMISE!
  • Harper’s Fery and John Brown (1859):
    • John Brown and a group of abolitionists organized a raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, a federal arsenal.
    • Brown hoped that slaves would come to the arsenal and he would then lead a massive slave uprising.
    • Brown was unsuccessful and captured. He was found guilty of murder and treason and sentenced to death.
    • Many northerners saw Brown as a hero. Southerners felt that the North wanted to destroy slavery and the South along with it.
    • Effect:
      • Convinced many southerners that war was inevitable.
  • Lincoln elected as President (1860):
    • The Southerners’ reaction to the election of President Lincoln was strong. They felt that the country had put an abolitionist in the White House. The South felt that secession was the only option.
    • The South felt they had the right to secede. The Declaration of Independence stated that “it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish” a government that denies the rights of its citizens. Lincoln, they believed, would deny them the right to own slaves.
    • Effect:
      • In 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union.
      • By February of 1861, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi had seceded.

  • Fort Sumter (1861):
    • After Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, he announced that no state can lawfully leave the Union. He declared, however, there would be no war unless the South started it.
  • The South started to take possession of all Federal buildings — forts and post offices. The South took control of the three forts in Florida and was ready to take control of Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
  • In April 1861, the Confederates asked for the fort’s surrender. Major Robert Anderson of the Union refused to surrender. The Confederate troops proceeded to shell Fort Sumter. Anderson ran out of ammunition and was forced to surrender.
  • Effect:
    • America’s brutal, but inevitable, Civil War had begun.
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