Causes of the Civil War

By: Ross Jackson and Finlay Booth

Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850 was originally proposed by Henry Clay. After Clay proposed the compromise, he defended it in his speech on February 5th, 1850. In March of 1850, John C. Calhoun gave his speech going against the compromise. But Calhoun was too ill to deliver the speech, so it was given by James Murray Mason instead. The event that triggered Clay proposing the compromise was California wanting to be admitted to the union as a free state. This could’ve upset the peace between the North and the South. In order to avoid this potential crisis, Clay proposed the compromise. Elements of the compromise included the Fugitive Slave Act being amended and Slave Trade in Washington D.C. was abolished. The Fugitive Slave Act could be viewed as a backfire on the South because it greatly motivated the North to abolish slavery as quick as they could. The compromise caused great conflict between the North and South, and eventually led up to the Civil War.

Kansas Nebraska Act

January 1854- The Kansas-Nebraska Act was proposed as a bill in 1854 that stated that the people of state could vote for whether to be a free state or vote to be a slave state. This bill was originally proposed by Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln’s opponent in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The Kansas-Nebraska Act contradicted the Missouri Compromise, which stated that the status of states was decided by their boundaries - The Northern States or The Southern States. This eventually lead to conflicts between Pro-Slavery and Anti-Slavery. “Bleeding Kansas” was when Pro-Slavery settlers and Anti-Slavery settlers flooded into Kansas to attempt a change in the decision of the Act. The two, divided groups eventually broke out in violence against the opposing group in order to gain superiority. An abolitionist, John Brown, led the Anti-Slavery group and is most renown for his raid on Harpers Ferry. The Whig party collapsed as a result of the two opposing sides voting in different ways and for the first time in history, the South opposed the North within the borders of Congress.
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Lincoln Douglas Debates

1858- Lincoln, seen as a self-made man and the image of American Dream, was made famous for his debates with Douglas for the position of the Senator of Illinois. These debates, known as value debates, are used in US debate classrooms today. The 1858 debates consisted of 7 debates all over the state of Illinois. The first debate featured Lincoln's, House Divided speech ("a house divided against itself cannot stand"). Throughout the debates, Lincoln impressed many and became a national figure. In the end, Lincoln lost the position for Senator, but gained support for many in the Presidential Election of 1860.

John Brown and Harpers Ferry

1859- John Brown was an Calvinist abolitionist from Connecticut. Brown was an unsuccessful businessmen and the subject of many lawsuits before he heard a sermon and announced his dedication to elimination of slavery in the United States. In the early 1850's, Brown and his family moved to Kansas to fight against slave supporters in the state. Following the raid of a local abolitionist town, Brown led a violent attack against the slave supporters. This was 1856. Brown moved the survivors of his family to Maryland and began plotting his next move against pro-slave Southerners. On October 16th of 1859, Brown and his men, including some of his sons, raided Harper's Ferry taking hostages including 5 slaves. Two days later, the United States Marines arrived, led by Robert E. Lee, and chased down Brown's men, killing 10 including some of Brown's sons. John Brown was captured and hanged in December of 1859 at the age of 59 years old. The North had some support for Brown and proclaimed him a hero. He was even supported by big names like Henry David Thoreau, an abolitionist known for his work, Walden. However, most Northerners viewed him as insane, yet admirable for his courage and bravery. The South was obviously against Browns actions, as they hanged him. Brown, in his unending support for abolitionism, made tensions between the North and the South stronger and is now referred to as an impetus of the Civil War.

Election of 1860 and Succession from the Union

In the election of 1860, the Democratic party of the US divided and the Northern Democrats supported Stephen Douglas and the Southern Democrats supported John C. Breckenridge as their candidate, as they considered Douglas a back-stabber for his beliefs in popular sovereignty, which allowed territories to make the decision of to have slavery or not. Lincoln won the presidential election with only 40% support and 180 electoral votes. Within months of Lincoln's election and before the situation at Fort Sumpter, the states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. The election finally ignited the separation of the North and South, that was impending for years.

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