The American Civil War
The American civil war was a time of national strife in America that lasted between April eighteen sixty one and May eighteen sixty five. The war nearly resulted in the splitting of the nation as several states in the South declared secession from the nation mainly due to their differences in opinion regarding slavery and its expansion into the North. By the time the civil war came into conclusion, several revolutionary legislations had been made including the abolishment of slavery, it also consequently led to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the incumbent president. As shown below, there were several events that built up animosity before the war started.
Historically, slavery was not practiced in all of the states in the nation. The fifteen states that practiced it – slave states- were; Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri , Arkansas, Florida and Texas. The previous regimes and the leaders of Northern states had been opposed to the expansion of slavery into other regions and through their majority in the Senate and Congress had always defeated pro-slavery motions in parliament through majority vote. The USA however was expanding and had conquered California and Northern Mexico and therefore wanted to make them part of the union which caused division since they were slave states and their admission would have led to the practice spreading due to their increase in numbers. Cuba also wanted to be recognized as US territory and was a slave state and its admission was therefore another source of disagreement in congress. As of eighteen sixty four, the states that did not support slavery, free states, were; New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
In the compromise of 1850, the south slave owners lost the right to practice slave trade in the capital city however, this did not bar them from having slaves or practicing slavery in Washington, simply from exchanging them for goods, services, cash or other slaves. The compromise of 1850 however allowed for slave owners to pursue slaves even in northern territories that were against the practice. The new laws also made it compulsory for all citizens to return slaves who they knew had escaped from their masters irrespective of the territory that they were in which was a gain for the slave owners. The state of California was however lost as a slave state as it was admitted into the union as a free state where slavery was not allowed (McWilliams 43).
The Kansas- Nebraska Act was created in order to have the railroad expanded and make several areas available for farming specifically in Kansas and Nebraska. The status of slavery in various states was a cause of several political stalemates and in order for the railway project to progress, it was decided that through popular vote the respective states would decide if they wanted to allow or bar slavery. The act therefore undid some of the clauses of the 1850 compromise (Fehrenbacher 96). The Dred-Scott decision was a Supreme Court ruling that set the precedents that Africans did not have any citizen rights and could therefore not represent themselves in court; it also stated that slavery was not to be regulated by the federal government as it was a state’s choice (Fehrenbacher 138).
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was one of the direct causes of the civil war as there was strong opposition of it from the Northerners who felt that as Kansas was initially a free state it should not have slavery as an electoral issue. The act led to many pro-slavery members going to Kansas to vote so as to try and make it into a slave state which is what led to the Bleeding Kansas period where pro-slavery immigrants would engage the anti-slavery supporters in skirmishes in attempts to get the political views of Kansas to change. The bleeding Kansas incident showed how popular sovereignty can on occasions lead to a violent confrontation due to an extremely polarizing issue which has two or more parties feeling that their existence rests on the vote going their way. The incidents also show that just because an idea is right it does not mean that it will receive the political backing of everybody and it can even lead to conflict.
The American Civil War was a conflict that lasted for four years in the nineteenth century that resulted in the abolition of slavery and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln four days after the secessionists surrendered. The origin of the conflict was in the legal status of slavery with the Northern states strongly opposing it while Southern states strongly supported it. Middle ground was reached at the compromise of 1850 however, the treaty of Nebraska-Arkansas undid many of the agreements made in it, making it the starting point of the civil war. As more is studied on it, we can learn more on conflict resolution and how violent outcomes can be avoided.
Fehrenbacher, Edward. Slavery, Law, and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Perspective. Oxford: Oxford Press. 1981.
McWilliams, Carey. California, the great exception. California: First California. 1974.