SS7 Chapter 16 Notes: Towards Civil War

Section 1: The Search for Compromise (p. 428-432)

The question of slavery divided Americans. Many Northerners wanted to ban it. Most Southerners wanted Northerners to stay out of the South’s business. Each time there was a debate over slavery, the nation’s leaders came up with a compromise.

In the 1840s there was another disagreement over slavery in new territories.  Especially after the United States acquired a great deal of territory from the Mexican War.  Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania wanted slavery banned in any lands gotten from Mexico. His plan was called the Wilmot Proviso. Southerners did not like this plan.

In 1848 both presidential candidates ignored the slavery issue which made voters angry. Some members of the antislavery Whigs party and Democrats formed the Free-Soil Party. The new party’s slogan was “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men.” Although their candidate did not win, the party gained some seats in Congress.

In 1849, California wanted to become a free state.  Also there were talks of banning slavery in Washington D.C. and Southerners wanted stronger fugitive (runaway) slave laws.  The compromise developed by Henry Clay was to allow California enter as a free state, allow slavery in new territories, allow slave trading in Washington D.C. (not slavery itself), and create strong fugitive slave laws.  These agreements became known as the Compromise of 1850.

Two new states were to join the United States; Kansas and Nebraska.  However, they would enter as free states which the Southerners were against.  They suggested “popular sovereignty” which would allow for a vote so the people of the states could make this determination.  The Northerners did not like this plan because it could lead to slavery in new states.  Large pro-slavery and antislavery groups converged upon Kansas in the event there was a vote.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act passed and Kansas became a slave state.  Antislavery groups rejected this and created their own separate government within Kansas.  Soon fighting broke out across the state and this conflict soon became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”


Section 2: Challenges to Slavery (p. 433-438)

The Free-Soil Party and antislavery Whigs and Democrats combined to form the Republican Party. This party was against slavery in new territories.  Meanwhile the Democratic Party became mostly a Southern party.  In the 1856 election, James Buchanan (a Southern preference) went on to become President.  Voting mostly fell along the Mason-Dixon Line (the line that divides the North from the South).

Dred Scott was an enslaved African American who tried to sue for his freedom.  His owner moved from the South to a free state where Dred Scott was still kept as a slave.  Eventually the owner moved back to a slave state.  Scott argued he should have been given his freedom when his owner moved to a slavery state.  The case went before the Supreme Court and they ruled:

  • Scott was not a free man because his owner moved to a non-slave state.
  • Scott was not a citizen but was instead property.  Therefore could not sue anyone.
  • Neither Congress nor voters could ban slavery. That would be like taking away a person’s property.

This decision angered Northerners because it allowed the spread of slavery.

In Illinois, there was a Senate race between the popular Stephen A. Douglas, a Democrat, and the unknown Abraham Lincoln, a Republican.  This election drew a great deal of national attention.  Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of debates (a type of structured argument).  The main issued argued was slavery.  Lincoln said that African Americans had rights. He said that slavery was wrong.  Even though Douglas won the election, a lot of national attention was drawn to Lincoln.

Abolitionist John Brown led a raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The target was a Southern arsenal, a place where weapons were stored.  He even tried to recruit enslaved African Americans.  Ultimately, he was caught, convicted of treason/murder, and hung.


Section 3: Secession and War (p. 439-443)

The issue of slavery split the Democratic Party in the presidential election of 1860.  Because they split their vote, Lincoln (a Republican) won the election.  He won every Northern state. Many Southerners believed the Republicans would try to end slavery wherever it existed. In 1860, South Carolina left the United States. Other Southern states debated secession, or withdrawing from the Union, too.  By early 1861, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia had seceded.  Delegates from these states met together and formed the Confederate States of America. They chose Jefferson Davis as their president.

Not all Southerners believed in secession and some Northerners were glad to see Southern states leave. Most Northerners, however, thought secession would be bad for the country.  When Lincoln took the office of President, he asked seceding states to rejoin the Union and also warned that he would use force, if necessary, to make them rejoin.

Fort Sumter was a Northern-controlled fort locate in South Carolina.  Supplies were low in the fort and the Confederates (the South) demand they surrender.  Lincoln tried to send supplies to the Fort but Jefferson Davis decided to attack the fort before the supplies arrived.  Fort Sumter surrendered and the Civil War had begun.  A civil war is a war between people of the same country.  Other states soon after joined the Confederacy such as Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.