Road to the Civil War


NW Ordinance


This act, passed in Congress, created a policy for allowing new states into the union as well as banning slavery in the colonial Northwest. This was the legislatures first decree on slavery, one of the only benefits of the Articles of Confederation. It called for the organization of many new states, leading them to be built to best assure their success.

Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions


Written by Jefferson and Madison, these acts put an emphasis on the Social Contract Theory. They advocated for the rights of states, calling for the nullification federal laws the state's thought were unconstitutional. This later was used as justification of the South's secession from the Union.

Louisiana Purchase


Thomas Jefferson was the first to expand US territory significantly, doubling its size for a mere $15 million. This ultimately set the trend for Manifest Destiny, which in turned caused the panic of slavery. This also, as Lewis and Clarke discovered, promised bountiful natural resources for the new country.

Hartford Convention


The Federalist party, opposing completely the War the 1812, made several statements at a convention in order to make their claims heard. These statements, including limitation of congressional war making, one term for president, among others, reached DC just after news of the American victory in New Orleans. This caused humiliation and the ultimate downfall of this party, leading to the emergence of a one party system, and a temporary Era of Good Feelings for America.

Missouri Compromise


As Americans began to inhabit the newly acquired territories, the question of whether slavery should be allowed became more and more dire. The Missouri Compromise eased tensions over slavery for some time with the concession of two states Missouri and Maine, entering the union as slave and free, respectively. This also declared that no slavery should be allowed north of the 36'30 line in the remaining portion of the Louisiana territory.

Tariff of 1828


The Tariff of 1828 is also known as the Tariff of Abominations. The highest in US history thus far, this tariff was proposed by Calhoun in an effort to make Adams look bad. This tariff, although beneficial for northern manufacturing, this tax on imports wreaked havoc on the southern economy, as they could not export their crops.

Nat Turner's Rebellion


Nat Turner incited a slave rebellion which led to the death of 57 individuals, including women and children. This caused a tightened grip on slave discipline in the form of the Black Codes. This also justified the South's mistreatment of slaves, even though the North disagreed.

Nullification Crisis


South Carolina, as defended by John Calhoun, devised a scheme that nullified the national tariff within SC's borders. According to the VA and KY resolutions, states had the right to ignore federal laws they saw as unconstitutional. Nullification is was SC later used to justify the secession from the Union in the Civil War.

Texas Annexation Debate

1844 - 1845

Texan, after gaining its independence from Mexico, posed as a threat with its new foreign allies. By keeping our friends close and enemies closer, the US sought to annex the little republic. However, many disagreed with this sentiment, as Northerners feared this expansion of Slave Power that would tip the majority in Congress. The South were elated at the idea of gaining territory for slavery.

Wilmot Proviso


A Northern ploy to attempt to cease the spread of slavery, free-soilers created this bill directly after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. This was passed in the House yet shot down in the Senate, which was controlled by the south. Because of this rejection, the Compromise of 1850 was drawn up, temporarily calming the tension between the sections.

Fugitive Slave Act


The South, frightened by the overwhelming voice of radical abolitionists in the North, created this bill to force Northerners to return fleeing slaves to their owners. This provided more motivation to abolitionists; they openly rejected this. The Northerners continued to use the underground railroad to rescue slaves from the South, angering the lower portion of the nation.

The Compromise of 1850


This plan, devised by the 3 best known compromisers of their time, called for a 5 prong concession. California would enter the nation as free state, but to appease the South, New Mexico and Utah were to be decided by popular sovereignty. The Fugitive Slave Law was strengthened and the slave trade was forbidden in Washington, DC. Also, the territory of Texas was clearly defined. This eased tensions for some time, causing a temporary Era of Good Feelings.

Gadsden Purchase


Jefferson Davis and James Gadsden agree upon a negotiation with Mexico regarding the annexation of the southern portion of modern day New Mexico for $10 million in order to establish a transcontinental railroad. This southern route was chosen due to topographical advantages, but it however angered the North. This eventually led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had a direct impact on the destruction of the union.

Kansas-Nebraska Act


This not well though out compromise repealed the Missouri Compromise by permitting the decision of slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska in order to install a transcontinental railroad. This revived the slavery controversy previously appeased by the Compromise of 1850. The South were tolerant of this, however the Northern Republican party was united to protest this act.

Ostend Manifesto


This justified the US cause for the attempted purchase of Cuba from Spain. The exorbitant offer of $130 million was rejected, and the US believed it had means for war. This caused Northerners to fume, as they saw it as the expansion of slavery by the "Slave Power" of the South.

Bleeding Kansas

1855 - 1856

The race to Kansas would determine the fate of the state's slave status. There was an influx of both Northerners and Southerners in order to control the area. Violence broke out as the stakes were raised, for Kansas was to be decided through popular sovereignty. This violence was the first true fighting of the Civil War.

Sumner-Brooks Affair


Senator Charles Sumner was clubbed to near death by a fellow Senator, Preston Brooks, after Sumner's anti-slavery speech insulting the proslaverites in Kansas. This explicit display of barbaric violence caused many uncertain persons to join the abolitionist cause. The South, although not necessarily approving Brooks, were extremely offended at Sumner's speech, furthering the division between the North and the South.

Dred Scott vs. Sanford


The Supreme Court heard the case of a slave whose master moved him to free states and then died. He was suing for his freedom to a court dominated by Slave Power. The Supreme Court decided that because slaves were property, and the government can't take property from the people, the government had no business in the legislation of slavery.

John Brown's Raid


John Brown, a debatably insane abolitionist, fully believed in his cause to the point of violence. In an attempt to start a slave revolt, he led an attack on the National Armory at Harper's Ferry. He and his sons were unsuccessful, and Brown was later hanged for treason. Seen as a martyr in the North and a traitor in the South, sectional disagreements took a violent turn.

Presidential Election of 1860


The Presidential Election of 1860 consisted of four candidates: Lincoln (Republican), Breckinridge (Democrat), Bell (Constitutional Union), and Douglas (Democratic). By running two candidates the Democrats gave up their chance at the election. By default, Lincoln triumphed, angering many southerners because of his sectionalism. Because of his election, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union.

Battle of Fort Sumter


The Battle of Fort Sumter was the first actual battle of the Civil War, taking place in South Carolina. Tension was no longer capped as first shots were fired after a siege of the Charleston Harbor. Lincoln arranged for thousands of troops to suppress this rebellion, but sectional tensions could not be eased.