Developments Leading to the Civil War, 1848-1861 Essay
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By 1848, the slavery issue was already dividing the nation and various compromise suggestions had been put forth to no avail. The elections, however, avoided the topic and it won the presidency for Zachary Taylor. Finally, in September 1850 with what was to be known as the Compromise of 1850 finally won in the form of five laws. It was hoped that this would settle the slavery problem once and for all. However, especially controversial was the Fugitive Slave Act which “compelled northern citizens to catch runaway slaves” which they loathe to do.
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published which brought the horror of slavery to the forefront. Then in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Bill was passed wherein they were to be organized as a territory with the slavery issue to be decided by popular sovereignty. It again opened great concern that slavery might extend to Kansas previously declared in the Missouri Compromise as a non-slave territory. An offshoot was the birth of the Republican Party dedicated to fight slavery.
Also in 1854, the Democrats made moves to expand further south into Cuba using the Ossend Manifesto to pressure Spain to sell it and if successful, turn it into several slave states. In Kansas, there was chaos. Both pro- and anti-slavery scrambled to settle the area so they can take part in the territory’s vote on the slavery issue. For three years, there was much conflict and bloodshed. It became the “foretaste of civil war. ” In the presidential election of 1856, Kansas was the chief issue. The Democratic candidate James Buchanan won.
In 1857, the proslavery groups in Kansas set-up a convention and asked to be admitted as a state by and submitted the Lecompton Constitution to Congress. Buchanan endorsed it. However, Stephen Douglas fishing for the north’s support in his bid for the Senate fought for having it returned to Kansas and passed in a referendum. The people of turned it down. On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court brought down its ruling on the Dred Scott case. Scott sued for his freedom on the grounds that he lived in both a free state and territory before retuning to Missouri.
It was declared that he was a non-U. S. citizen, that he was his master’s personal property and according to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, Congress had no right to take way personal property without due process of the law. This last ruling in effect declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. This led to violent opposition. The series of debates between Lincoln and Douglas on the slavery issue also brought it forward to people’s awareness and widened the rift between the North and the South.
In 1859, John Brown together with 22 men, an anti-slavery radical, attacked the federal arsenal hoping to provoke an uprising by the slaves. His trial gained more sympathy from the North for his cause but increased the paranoia of the South. For some time, Southern leaders had said that their states would not stay in the Union if an anti-slavery president was elected. Abraham Lincoln who opposed the extension of the slavery in the Territories won in 1860 by popular vote. South Carolina promptly seceded from the Union. In the next two months, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas also seceded.
They soon organized the Confederate States of America. On February 4, 1861 they adopted a constitution and elected Jefferson Davis president. Meanwhile, the Federal forts in the South were being taken over by the Confederates including Fort Sumter. Major Robert Anderson was holding it down and asked for provisions from the Federal government. On April 10, Jefferson ordered General P. G. T. Buearegard to get the fort to surrender. Major Anderson refused and on April 12, the Confederates shelled Fort Sumter. The Civil War has begun. Two days later, Fort Sumter surrendered.