Causes of the Civil War

Eliot Chastain

Missouri Compromise (1820)

The Missouri Compromise decided if a new state would be a free or slave state. A line was created at the 36o, 30o latitude, Missouri’s southern border. When new states were being admitted to the Union, new states to the North of the line would become free states. New states under the line would be deemed slave states. This compromise lasted 30 years until california came into the Union with the Compromise of 1850.

Compromise of 1850 (1850)

The Compromise of 1850 dealt with slavery. It stated that California would enter as a free state, and Utah and New Mexico entered the Union. Utah and New Mexico adopted popular sovereignty. The slave trade in Washington D.C. became illegal. The Civil War was delayed as a result of this compromise.

Fugitive Slave Act (1850)

The Fugitive Slave Act upset many northerners and abolitionists. The law stated that fugitive slaves must be returned to their masters. Anyone who was caught helping a runaway slave would be sentenced to six months in jail. It denied slaves the right to a jury trial. Some northern states wanted to nullify the law. At this time, the underground railroad was at large, assisting slaves by helping them migrate to Canada.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published (1852)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a book published by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852. It made people in the North aware of how harsh slavery was. The book was met with protests and many books were burned. Many more people looked at slavery as a bad thing. It was banned throughout most of the South. It was proclaimed as “outlandish” and “an exaggeration.”

Nebraska-Kansas Act (1854)

The Kansas-Nebraska Act gave the power of popular sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska territories. This meant the Missouri Compromise line was void. This compromise lead to bleeding Kansas. Citizens in Missouri illegally came over to Kansas to vote for it to be a slave state. The government got wind of this and Kansas turned into a free state.

Dred Scott Decision (1857)

Dred Scott was a slave that pressed charges against his owners. Scott claimed that his owner brought him into a free territory and then went back to Missouri. He thought that since he was in a free territory, it meant he was a free black man. In the end, he lost his case. This case was important because it showed that the government cannot stop the spread of slavery.

John Brown’s Raid on Harper's Ferry (1859)

John Brown was a radical abolitionist who wanted nothing more than an end to slavery. He identified himself as the one God chose to end slavery. He would do anything to help, even if it meant killing people. John recruited slaves and other men, arming them with guns. He would attack an armory and create a slave rebellion. When they were meeting near Harper’s Ferry, none of the slaves showed up. Only the white people. John and his men killed many officers, but were eventually captured and sentenced to death by hanging.

Election of 1860 (1860)

The two candidates in this election were John Bell and Abraham Lincoln. John Bell was a wealthy slave owner from the South. Abraham Lincoln was the American dream. He was a self-made man and was a symbol for the frontier and hard work. Lincoln received almost half of the popular vote. This meant that The South did not want Lincoln to become president.

The Election of 1860 Explained

South Secedes From The Union (December 1860-June 1861)

In response to the election of 1860, which produced Abraham Lincoln, many Southern states seceded from the Union. Abraham Lincoln was not for slavery. This made the Southerners afraid that their way of life, slavery, would be destroyed. This began in December of 1860 and ended in June the next year. This set a stage for the civil war.

Was the Civil War avoidable?

I do not think the Civil War was avoidable. The North and the South were already separated by lifestyle. Northerners worked for themselves without slaves. Southerners uses slaves as a primary labor source. Tension had previously been high with the abolitionist movement. The Missouri Compromise further added to the fuel by limiting slave states' territory.

The Compromise of 1850 raised the idea of popular sovereignty and upset the balance of free and slave states within the Union. The Fugitive Slave Act angered many Northerners. The act stated that any slave master could retrieve any suspected black man and return them to slavery. Free blacks were in danger. Uncle Tom's Cabin was a book about slavery that helped Northerners understand how harsh it really was.

When the Nebraska-Kansas Act came around, people got to vote if it was a slave state or not. People from Missouri and Texas came to Kansas and illegally voted. Kansas still ended up as a free state. Illegal voters angered the North. The next event almost directly caused Southern secession. Abraham Lincoln, a Northerner against slavery, was elected, which was the last straw for the South.