Widely D.C; the third allowed the people of New

thought of as the bloodiest war in the history of the United States, the Civil
War lasted from 1861 to 1865. The seeds of struggle started well before 1861 as
many events occurred during the preceding fifteen years to cause seven states,
known as “cotton states”, to secede from the Union. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, the
raid on Harper’s Ferry, Uncle Tom’s Cabin being released, the Mexican-American
War ending, the Dred Scott Decision and the Lincoln Election in 1860 are
several of the factors leading to the secession and the beginning of the Civil
War. These events strengthened either the abolitionist cause, pro-slavery cause
or both respectively and made southerners wish to get out of the Union while
northerners insisted on war to keep the Union intact.

            The United States won the
territories, wholly or partially, of Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas,
Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming after the Mexican-American War
victory in 1848. The question was whether to bring these new states into the
Union as slave or free states. The Compromise of 1850 was penned by Henry Clay,
a Whig, and Stephen Douglas, a Democrat, to try and curb the conflict between
the slaving South and free North. Its
creation didn’t have the desired effect as it seemed to cause more controversy
and increase the likelihood that a war would be waged between the two factions.

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The Compromise of
1850 was met with mixed feelings from the people of both sides. In 1848, the
Senate consisted of fifteen states for both the free and slave states;
therefore, any state to be entered into the Union would unbalance the power in
one sides favor or the other. It consisted of five bills. The first stated
California was to enter the Union as a free state; the second abolished the
slave trade in Washington, D.C; the third allowed the people of New Mexico and Utah
to decide if they wanted to enter the Union as a slave or free state (popular
sovereignty); the fourth bill passed the Fugitive Slave Act; the fifth bill decreased
the size of Texas (trimmed off the western land), the purpose of which was to lessen
some of their debt. This was the most controversial bill, and also the one with
the most impact. The Fugitive Slave Act forced federal officials to return
runaway slaves, or be charged a fine. Abolitionists doubled down on their
efforts to get rid of slavery, as they considered this act to be favoring the
pro-slavery crowd. The Underground Railroad was spawned from the backlash and
helped many slaves find their way to freedom in the North and beyond to Canada.
Those in the South were angered since they felt not enough was being done by
the government to protect their property.

Lincoln called her
the “little lady who started this Great War.” Harriet Beecher Stowe was,
indeed, one of the most prominent people behind the cause of the Civil War.
Stowe’s brother, father and husband were evangelical priests who supported
abolitionism. Having been captivated by the Second Great Awakening, Stowe
preached how slavery undercut the Christian values of both whites and blacks.
Her Uncle Tom’s Cabin (published in 1852) was one of the most significant
responses to the Fugitive Slave Act; it was a pivotal example of pre-Civil War
propaganda—it empowered the abolitionist cause, but also infuriated the
southerners. In her book, Stowe revealed the ghastly lives of slaves on
southern plantations, which caused many northerners to draw upon their disgust
of slavery that had been previously ignored, or never thought about, in an out
of sight out of mind mentality. The fight against slavery now became a moral
crusade rather than a constitutional one. Her book was widely popular, mostly
because of the captivating characters she created. The lifelike situations,
like Tom being whipped to death, upset many Northerners. However, considering
the fact that she was an abolitionist, many southerners believed that her
opinion was unfairly biased—they though she would say anything bad about
slavery in order to further her cause. Many States in the South even banned her
book from being produced or sold; however, the fact that the book was illegal
made it even more appealing to people. Some southerners tried to reverse the
effects of the book by writing about Christian masters that did no harm to
their slaves. The Northerners, however, were already fired up over the
institution of slavery, and soon, the fight to end slavery became an underlying
motive of the Northerners during the Civil War.

Curiosity arose once
Nebraska and Kansas were added, much like the territories added after the end
of the Mexican-American War, whether they would become slave or free states. In
1854, Stephen Douglas penned the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which, similar to the
Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, was another controversial act introduced
prior to the Civil War. The idea behind the Kansas-Nebraska Act was to aid the
building of the Mideastern Transcontinental Railroad. Popular sovereignty was a
part of this act allowing Nebraska and Kansas to decide whether to be for or against
slavery. Douglas believed the act would make strides to relieve tensions
between Northerners and Southerners because each side would be able to press slavery
into new states, or prevent it, respectively. The Republican Party grew from its
opposition because its members believed the Kansas-Nebraska Act was assisting the
progression of slavery into the west. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln took part in a several
debates with Stephen Douglas pertaining to the Act (the Lincoln-Douglas Debates).
Lincoln was against slavery, because of its religious, moral and economic reasons.
Douglas thought it fair that each state had a decision and argued in favor of slavery.
Constant fighting between the anti- and pro-slavery sides cause Kansas to be known
as Bleeding Kansas by 1856. This was foreshadowing to a lesser degree of the massive
loss of life that would soon come in the Civil War.

Known as the lawsuit
that helped cause the Civil War, the Dred Scott Decision of 1857 helped further
the abolitionist cause. Dred Scott was a slave that lived in Missouri with his
master, Dr. John F. A. Sandford. However, Dr. Sandford soon moved his family
(and his slave) to Northern states, which were deemed free almost a hundred
years earlier. Upon reaching a free state, Dred Scott sued his master for his
freedom in 1856, which sparked one of the most controversial Supreme Court
cases in American history. Aided by abolitionist lawyers, Scott claimed that,
since he was brought on to free soil, he should no longer be considered a slave
(he claimed that the Northern states he lived in did not allow slavery).
However, in March of 1857, the Supreme Court ruled (7-2) that Dred Scott could
not sue for his freedom in court because of the fact that he was a non-citizen,
and therefore, had no rights. In addition, the Supreme Court ruled that any
slave, or descendant of a slave, could not be (nor could they ever have been) a
United States citizen. Furthermore, they ruled that Congress could not stop
slavery in new territories, and, they subsequently ruled the Missouri
Compromise of 1820 (which stated than any states north of the Missouri
Compromise line were free) unconstitutional; according to them, their Fifth
Amendment was being violated because Congress was trying to keep them from
their property because slaves were nothing more than property. The Dred Scott
decision furthered the gap between the North and the South, for obvious
reasons. The Northern anti-slavery activists thought that the decision was
unduly biased, considering the fact that most of the Supreme Court Justices
were pro-slavery; in fact, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger Brooke
Taney, was a former slave owner in Maryland. Also, many abolitionists believed
that the decision allowed Southerners to spread slavery all throughout the
nation. On the other hand, Southerners thought that the decision was just
because Congress had no rights to prohibit slavery in the new territories. In
addition, pro-slavery activists believed that, since slaves were property, they
could be taken anywhere, including being taken to free states. The
abolitionists furthered their efforts in order to stop slavery from being
extended throughout the country.

Two years after the
Dred Scott Decision (in 1859), a radical abolitionist, named John Brown,
executed one of the largest raids in American history on the nation’s arsenal
at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). His goal was to arm slaves
with the nation’s weapons in order to start a massive slave rebellion. However,
after capturing a couple of buildings, troops led by Colonel Robert E. Lee
surrounded and captured John Brown, as well as many of his men. Later, Brown
was tried and hanged for treason against the United States. His radical
uprising against slavery in the South caused a lot of controversy in the couple
of years following it. Many Northerners and slaves thought of him as a martyr
for dying to end slavery, while many Southerners thought of him as a terrorist.
The fact that an abolitionist participated in open warfare against those who
were pro-slavery made many Southerners further their efforts to stop the
Northerners from trying to end their “way of life” (i.e. slavery in the South).
The last event that helped cause the Civil War was the Presidential Election of
1860. Although there were four candidates, Stephen Douglas (Democrat) and
Abraham Lincoln (Republican) were the two candidates that everyone was turning
their eyes to because of their longstanding conflict with one another (other
two candidates were John Bell (Constitutional Union) and John C. Breckinridge
(Southern Democrat)). All the states knew, per their debates years earlier,
where Lincoln and Douglas stood on the political spectrum (specifically, where
they stood on the argument of slavery). Although he didn’t receive any
electoral votes from any southern state, Abraham Lincoln was declared President
of the United States on Tuesday, November 6, 1860, having received 180
electoral votes (out of 303). Though his views on slavery were not harsh during
his nomination and election, South Carolina still threatened to secede from the
Union if Lincoln won. This is not surprising considering Lincoln’s stance on
slavery. For example, Lincoln publicly spoke out against the Dred Scott
Decision, as well as against slavery and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Lincoln also
spoke about how powerful the Southern states were becoming, and he made it
known that he would not allow slavery to be extended to any more areas, or any
new territories (or states) admitted to the US. Indeed, South Carolina, whose
beliefs obviously conflicted with Lincoln’s, seceded from the Union on December
20, 1860. Six other states, which included Mississippi, Florida, Alabama,
Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, followed in suit by seceding from the Union.
With South Carolina, they formed the Confederate States of America.

The circumstances and
events that occurred in the fifteen years prior to the Civil War — The
Kansas-Nebraska Act, the raid on Harper’s Ferry, Uncle Tom’s Cabin being
released, the Mexican-American War ending, the Dred Scott Decision and the
Lincoln Election in 1860 —produced
conditions that Southerners felt that seceding from the United States (because
it threatened their “way of life”) was the best option. Also, it produced
conditions that Northerners considered going to war with the Southern
Confederacy to keep the Union intact. The Civil War comes as no surprise
considering the North was powered by the industrial revolution, and the South
driven by the agricultural way of life. Had the two halves of the country
attempted to resolve the differing issues, instead of trying to force feed
their beliefs down the others throat, the bloodiest war this country has ever
seen could have possibly been prevented.