As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.
History 110 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
Unit IV: Crumbling Loyalties and Dividing the Nation
"The Straws that 'Broke the Camel's Back' -
Exacerbating Sectional Issues"
Introduction: Over the past month, we examined the geopolitical, economic, and political growth of the U.S. during the era of Manifest Destiny when Euro-Americans marched westward and conquered the North American Continent. Today, we begin to take a different look at these very same years – the first six decades of the 19th Century – but from a different angle. Our final unit, Crumbling Loyalties: Dividing and Reconstructing the Nation, will examine the issues that increasingly divided Americans during this era of Manifest Destiny and led Americans to fight Americans in the most destructive war in our history.
- To study each of the divisive issues that led to the "straws that
broke the camel's back" - the incidents that led Americans into the Civil
- To examine the road to Secession and Civil War.
Goal #1: To study each of the divisive issues that led to the "straws that
broke the camel's back" - the incidents that led Americans into the Civil
In general, six huge issues made up the final "straws that broke the camel's back" - the issues that tore the nation apart and brought us into a civil war:
- The political compromises over slavery
- The moral issues of slavery
- The economic issues of the "Slave Power"
- Shifting political alliances and parties
- Popular sovereignty in action
- John Brown and Harper's Ferry
The first three issues were directly related to slavery. Thus, we will argue today that slavery was one of the primary causes of the Civil War. But why use the verb "argue" - don't all Americans agree that slavery was a major cause of the war? The answer is complicated.
- As we will see, when the war began, the primary goal of the North - the Union - was to reunite the nation by bringing the seceeded states back into the United States of America. But for the South - the Confederate States of America (CSA) - the primary goal of the war was to allow the CSA to become a new nation in which slavery would be a permanent fixture.
- Throughout the 153 years since the Civil War began, a great deal of scholarly argument has arisen about the role slavery played in the conflict. Many Southerners argue that the war was not about slavery, but rather, it was about states rights - the right of the states to leave a nation whose federal government failed to recognize the rights of the states.
- We can see that this argument was still alive and well in December, 2010 on the 150th anniversary of the secession of South Carolina from the union.
The above political cartoon, published in the British Magazine Punch on November 8, 1856 accurately predicted, as many in Americans were beginning to realize, that the business of slavery was tearing the nation apart. Here, a slave, standing between a southern armed and rough-clothed planter and a solemn businessman from the North, tears apart a map of the United States, seeming to follow the Mason-Dixon Line - the boundary showing a geographic, if not political, dividing line between North and South.
So let's look closely at each of the six "Straws that broke the camel's back:"
First "Straw" - The Political compromises over slavery. As we enter this discussion about the politics of slavery, you should remember that from the beginning of the first debates about slavery - in colonial legislatures, and after the Revolution, in state assemblies and Congress - the issue was rarely about the morality or immorality of slavery. More often, it was about maintaining the political and economic status quo!
- As more and more states were created out of the westward territory, the question of whether they would enter as free or slave became the most important political topic of the time.
- The politics of slavery, then, were deeply tied to the politics of manifest destiny. Indeed, if the United States was going to survive as a nation of states united, it would have to depend upon the spirit of compromise and balance within Congress. Thus, there could never be more free than slave states, or vice versa.
- In order to maintain that balance, America's leaders from both the north an south fashioned a series of compromises that politicians hoped would prevent the issue of slavery from disrupting the political process: The Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854.
- Missouri Compromise. In 1819, Missouri applied to
the Union as a slave state - and to admit it as such would tip the balance
of power in the Senate where the count of free and slave states was eleven
ensuing debate in the Senate was the nation's first extended debate on
slavery. The resulting compromise determined that: a balance
would be maintained by entering Missouri as a slave state and Maine as
a free state; slavery was prohibited north of the southern boundary of
Missouri and permitted south of that line.
- However, this could only be a temporary
solution, because it did not answer the question of how the balance would
continue to be maintained. So, another compromise was necessary.
- Compromise of 1850. This compromise needed to be enacted after the Mexican-American War. The question in front of Congress was what to do with the new territory gained from the U.S. victory in the war. The Compromise of 1850 resulted and it consisted of
six laws, the most important which:
- admitted California to Union
as a free state;
- divided the remaining former Mexican holdings into two
territories - New Mexico and Utah - where the question of slavery would be
left to the people - popular sovereignty; and
the Fugitive Slave Act. Between 1842 and 1850, nine
northern states passed laws declaring they would not cooperate with
federal efforts to recapture escaped slaves. Northerners claimed
that they could not deny escaped slaves their legal and personal rights,
while Southerners claimed that such aid illegally infringed upon their
property rights. The Fugitive Slave Act added to the Compromise of 1850 increased the power of slave
owners to capture escaped slaves by:
- denying alleged fugitives the right of trial by jury,
- forbidding alleged fugitives to testify at their own trial;
- permitting the return of an alleged fugitive to slavery on the testimony
of a claimant; and
- enabling court-appointed commissioners to collect $10 if the alleged fugitive
was found to be a slave, but only $5 if found to be free.
- In 1857, the Wisconsin Supreme Court challenged the Fugitive Slave Act
by claiming the state had the authority to void federal statutes and thus,
Wisconsin would not enforce the Act. The US Supreme Court heard the
case in 1859 and unanimously upheld the constitutionallity of the Fugitive Slave
- Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854. Because the Missouri
Compromise had guaranteed free soil in the Louisiana Purchase north of
the 36th parallel, southerners had blocked political organization of that
area. Stephen Douglas, who wanted to develop the west and make Chicago
the eartern terminus of a transcontinental railroad, proposed a bill that
would organize a large territory called Nebraska. To get southern
support, he advocated for the formation of two territories - Nebraska and
Kansas - giving slaveholders a chance to dominate the more southern settlement
of Kansas. In passing the Act, Congress repealed the Missouri Compromise.
- But two things disrupted the spirit of attempted compromise during the 1850s.
- The "bad manners, unruly behavior and sometimes outright violence" that occurred in Congress over the issues of slavery and the admission of slave and free states. One of the worst such examples occurred in 1856.
- After Senator Charles Sumner of Massachussetts denounced the Pierce administration for its a pro-slavery stance on entering Kansas as a free state, a member of the House of Representatives, Preston Brooks from South Carolina, beat Sumner on the head with his walking cane while working at his desk in the United States Capitol.
- Sumner did not return to work for 3-1/2 years.
So. Carolina voters, however, resoundingly returned Brooks to office and many sent him new canes to replace the one he broke on Sumner.
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision - Scott v. Sanford 1857.
- In the 1830s, the owner of a slave - Dred Scott - took his slave
on military assignments to Illinois (a free state) and Minnesota (a free
state). There, Scott married another slave and their daughter was
born in free territory.
- In the 1840s, they all returned to Missouri (a slave state).
- In 1846, Scott, sued for freedom for himself, his wife,
and his daughter on the grounds that residing in free lands had made them
all free. The Scott's lost this trial, but they appealed the decision and were granted their freedom in January 1850. Their owner, Irene Emerson, appealed the verdict, and the case was sent to the Missouri Supreme Court in 1852 where the Scotts lost.
- In the meantime, Irene Emerson transferred ownership of the Scotts to her brother, John Sanford, who lived in New York. Because the case then involved residents of two different states (Missouri and New York) there was precedent to have it tried in a federal court.
- In 1853, the Scotts filed suit in the Missouri federal court and after losing the following year appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in February 1856.
- In March 1857, the southern-dominated Supreme
Court declared by a vote of 7 to 2 that
- in the eyes of the law, slaves were not people but property;
- Blacks, free or slave, were not citizens of the U.S. and therefore
had no right to sue in federal court; and
- The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits taking property
without due process of law. Thus, Congress had no constitutional authority
to limit slavery in any federal territory - which totally negated the Missouri
- According to Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, African Americans "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit."
- The Court intended the decision to settle the issue of slavery, but it only inflamed the debate. Why - because the Court had decided that slavery could be expanded throughout all the territories and into any new states. This essentially legalized slavery everywhere except in the states where it was already outlawed.
- Thus, by 1860, any attempt at political compromise on the issue of free and slaves states was shattered.
Second "Straw" -The Moral issues of slavery. Slavery was more than a political problem that divided the north from the south. It was also a moral problem that divided the regions. By the early 1800s, strong moral arguments were created for both sides.
- The Pro-Slavery Rationale was created by John C. Calhoun, who proclaimed
slavery to be "a good - a positive good" that was both profitable
as well as politically and socially sound: "There never has yet existed
a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did
not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other...I fearlessly assert
that the existing relations betwen the two races in the South forms the
most solid and durable foundation upon which to rear free and stable political
- The argument continued that in a free labor system, labor is a commodity
whose price is determined by the laws of the market - profilt, greed, supply
- In such a system, slavery was necessary because it produced
a master class that greatly differed from the ruling class of capitalist/industrial
- On the one hand, slave owners treated their work force with
paternalistic care; assumed life-long responsibility for the sick, old,
and dying; and thus were committed to their community. On the
other had, capitalists hired classes of manual laborers who were treated
as "wage slaves;" fired their employees if they became ill, sick, or less
productive; and thus accepted no civil or community responsibility.
- Southerners also argued that their right to own property/slaves was
guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Furtheeconomic growth
- in which the North and West also benefitted.
Slavery, in short, was a blessing to an inferior race and the cornerstone
of democracy because it avoided the bitter class divisions of the north,
while also ensuring the freedom and independence of all white men.
- The Anti-Slavery Rationale for abolition argued that ownership of human
beings was immoral; that slavery denied black men and women the basic personal
liberties that were constitutionally protected; and that the system of
slavery was economically unsound because it greatly hindered national
growth by limiting the incentives for free laborers in the territories.
- Northerners viewed the North as a dynamic and enterprising commercial
region based upon diversified markets and a free-labor ideology that offered
economic opportunity to all people and ensured their democratic rights.
In contrast, the South was a static, agricultural area dominated by a small
slave-owning artistocracy that lived off the profits of forced labor.
It not only deprived slaves of their freedom, but poor whites of their
democratic rights and fruits of their labor.
- The Quaker abolitionist poet, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote one of the greatest anti-slavery poems in 1837, "Our Countrymen in Chains." The poem was published with the woodcut to the left which became one of the most prominent symbols of the anti-slavery movement.
- Northerners felt that
pro-slavery interests constituted a "slave power" of aristocratic slave
owners who dominated the political and social life of the South and conspired
to control the federal government. Thus, it posed a danger to free
speech and free institutions throughout the nation.
Slavery, in short, was a danger to a democratic nation. The South had
to be tamed and slavery had to be abolished.
Third "Straw" -The Economic issues of the "Slave Power". As we learned weeks ago, slavery was always a huge economic issue during the first 250 years of our history. By the turn of the 19th Century, Southerners believed slavery was essential to the profitable production of cotton which was its primary export and major source of wealth. Indeed, what little manufacturing and mercantile economic activities that developed in the South arose largely to serve the needs of a plantation economy.
- Throughout the 1820s - 1850s, cotton production reigned
- economically supreme in the United States. Between 1815 and 1860, cotton accounted for over half of America's exports and by 1860, the U.S. produced 75% of the world's supply of cotton.
- Between 1820 and 1860, a significant shift of economic power occurred in the southern states. In 1820, cotton production was concentrated in the upper south, largely in the east, with a few areas scattered around Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
And as you can see in this map, by 1860, cotton production and slavery had spread to the lower south.
- Thus, the cotton boom strengthened the southern economy; by 1843, it was growing faster than the northern economy and the per capita income for white southerners was higher than those whites living in the free states.
- In 1857 when wheat prices fell dramatically, western farms and northern railroad investors were hurt particularly hard. But, the South remained relatively untouched.
- The price of cotton was still high, giving those who had begun to argue for southern succession proof that an independent southern nation was economically viable.
- Southerners grew increasingly angry when Northerners urged the federal government to help the economy by increasing the tariff on the importation of cotton cloth manufactured in Europe.
- Some northerners felt that as long as southern obstructionists were in the Union, the U.S. would never be able to develop as a nation. They argued that a "slave power" existed - a power so strong in the U.S. Congress that they would work to ensure that slavery was a permanent institution in the U.S.
- So, were the Northerners right - was there really an economic giant - a "slave power" in the South?
- In his recent book, The Slave Power, Historian Leonard L. Richards uses a rich array of primary and secondary resources to prove that the fears of the Republicans were correct. Indeed, of those Southerners who owned slaves in 1860,
25 percent of them owned slaves (which means that 75 percent of Southerners owned no slaves). And of that 25 percent of the population who owned slaves:
- 52% owned 1-5 slaves;
- 35% owned 6-9 slaves;
- 11% owned 20-99 slaves; and
- 1% owned 100 or more slaves - a VERY small minority of slaveholders.
- Thus, by 1860, a very small percentage of white slaveholders who had plantations of 800 or more acres and owned at least 50 slaves controlled the social, political, and economic power of the South.
- These men also had a huge hold over the remainder of the white population.
- How then, were they able to convince the vast majority of white southerners that they should fight for a system - slavery and the power of slaveholding aristocrats - in which they had no stake? White supremacy! No matter how poor southern whites were, as long as there was slavery, they were also superior to any slave.
In short, despite the political compromises, the anti-slavery moral arguments, and the northern insistence that a "slave power" existed, slavery continued to dominate the political discussion during the era of Manifest Destiny.
Fourth "Straw" - Shifting Political Alliances and Parties. What we see beginning in the 1850s is that people were beginning to form political alliances and join parties based upon the political beliefs of the majority of people in their particular section of the country.
- As the former Federalist/Whig Party disintegrated, its members joined other parties, depending upon their sectional beliefs and needs.
- Traditional Jeffersonian/Jacksonian Democrats split on several issues:
- Slavery - Southern members of party remained with democrats, northern members left.
- Popular sovereignty - Southerners felt slaves were to be treated as property throughout the Union; northerners felt federal government should decide to prohibit slavery in all territories.
- Immigration - Some northerners left as the party tried to recruit immigrants to their cause.
- So, where did they go? Those who shifted their political allegiances had at least three new choices opened to them during this period: Free Soilers, Know-Knothings, and Republicans.
- Free-Soilers. Before the Election of 1848,
dissatisfied factions of the Democratic party linked up with antislavery
Whigs to join the Free-Soil Party dedicated to "Free Trade, Free Labor,
Free Speech, and Free Men." They never elected a President, but did receive
a great deal of support over the next decade for several reasons:
- Despite their contradictory feelings about race, all members agreed
that slavery impeded white progress in the western territories.
No free laborer could compete with a slave who worked for free. If
territories allowed slavery, free labor would vanish.
- Free Soilers, convinced that the "slave power" was engaged in a national
conspiracy to extend slavery throughout the nation, were able to convince
many other Americans that Free Soilers could band together to fight such
a slave power.
- You can see some of this fear from the Free Soilers in the above political cartoon from the 1856 presidential election. James Buchanan - the successful candidate running for president on the Democratic Party ticket and shown in the light suit - helps hold down the head of a "Free Soiler" while Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas and the current President Franklin Pierce (also a Democrat) shove an African-American slave down his throat.
- Know-Nothings. In 1850, a secret society
in New York City founded the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner and entered
politics as the American Party. When asked about their party, members
pledged to answer "I know nothing." Thereafter, the party became
known as the Know-Nothings.
- The Know Nothings political platform was dedicated to nativist
causes: no foreign-born Protestant could hold office; no Catholic,
foreign-born or native, could hold any office; no person could apply for
citizenship until he or she had lived in the United States for at least
- Additionally, members who held any political office
promised to help remove all aliens and Catholics from all positions of
authority and to deny them jobs and profits in private business or public
- During the 1854 election, the Know Nothings emerged as the nation's
second largest party; almost a million party members elected 5 senators
and 43 representatives to Congress. During the 1856 election, the
Party's Presidential candidate, Millard Fillmore, won 21% of the vote on
his proslavery platform. Subsequently, the party lost most
of its northern delegates, and by 1860, the Know-Nothings collapsed.
Republicans. In 1854, a small group of
former Whigs, northern Democrats, and Free Soilers organized a new
political party known as the Republicans. As such, it was the first purely sectional party - comprised
largely of discontented northerners.
- The party was not taken seriously until
the election of 1856 when its platform included several basic principles:
- free labor was most beneficial to the nation;
- the expansion of slavery
in American territories and states must be stopped in order to preserve the American heritage of opportunity
and economic independence;
- the Slave Power planned to destroy the liberties
of northern whites.
- The basic beliefs of early Republicanism is described by Abraham Lincoln: Republicans
supported free labor - not wage slavery or racial slavery - but labor that
rested firmly upon the values of hard working people who met their individual
responsibilities to themselves, their families, churches, communities,
and nation. (The Protestant Work Ethic!)
- The 1860 Republican platform focused on a plan to restore the economy that had been shattered by the 1857 depression. Their candidate was the generally uncontroversial Abraham Lincoln who believed that Congress did not have the constitutional right to interfere with the legal existence of slavery in the south, but Congress had every right as well as a mandate to prohibit the extension of slavery to western territories and states.
- The Republicans economic program - similar to that of the early Federalists - supported
- a protective tariff,
- federal aid for internal improvements, and
- grants to settlers for free 160-acre homesteads carved from public lands in the west
- The Election of 1860. This was one of the most controversial and hotly contested elections in American history. An examination of the four major candidates will shed some light on the controvery.
- The Republican Candidate - Abraham Lincoln
- Platform: South had constitutional right
to preserve slavery; Congress must prohibit its extension into territories.
- Election: Lincoln won with 180 electoral votes;
highest popular vote (1,865,593 -39.8%) which came almost completely from
the North. Thus, Lincoln won with only 40% of the vote and he was not on the ballot in 10 of the total 33 states in the Union. His election was so unpopular in the South, that seven southern states seceded from the Union in response.
By the time Lincoln was inaugurated in 1861, only 26 states remained in the Union.
- The Northern Democrat Candidate - Stephen A. Douglass
- Platform: Popular sovereignty to determine extension
of slavery in territories.
- Election: Douglass took the least amount of electoral
votes - 12 - and carried only Missouri; but he took second highest number of popular
votes (1,382,713 - 29.5%).
- The Southern Democrat Candidate - John C. Breckinridge - At the party convention, a group of Democrats who were
largely radical seccessionists, walked out and organized another convention
two months later in Baltimore, Maryland where they nominated Breckinridge.
- Platform: Congress must protect slavery anywhere
that it existed; supported a federal slave code to protect slavery in the
- Election: Breckinridge took the second highest
number of electoral votes where he carried Maryland and Lower South - 72;
he took the third highest popular vote (848,356 - 18.1%)
- The Constitutional Union Candidate - John Bell. The political moderates - former
Whigs from both the North and South - also defected from the Democrats
and held their own convention where they nominated Bell.
- Platform: Union's preservation; took no stand
on slavery extension.
- Election: Third highest number of electoral
votes - 39 - carrying most of the Upper South; lowest popular votes (592,906
Fifth "Straw" - Popular Sovereignty in Action. After passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, thousands of Americans fled to Kansas to test the strength of popular sovereignty and to determine of it would be a free or slave state. The violence that ensued resulted in the phrase "Bleeding Kansas."
- Violence reached its peak in the summer of 1856 when a pro-slavery gang of 700 people sacked the free-soil town of Lawrence, Kansas. After burning many buildings and two newspaper offices, the radical abolitionist from New York and Ohio - John Brown and his sons - murdered and mutilated five pro-slavery settlers near Lawrence. What became known as the "Pottawatomie Massacre" initiated a guerrilla war that cost about 200 lives.
- In June 1857, pro-slavery leaders met in Lecompton, Kansas to draft a state constitution favoring slavery. When the Lecompton Constitution was submitted for voters' approval, the anti-slavery forces protested it by refusing to vote.
- Thus, it was the Lecompton Constitution that was submitted to Congress for approval. There, northern Democrats joined with Republicans to denounce it and declare that it did not represent the true voice of the people in Kansas.
- The Buchanan administration, however, pressured Congress to admit Kansas as a slave state. This bill passed in the Senate, but not in the House and was sent back to Kansas for another vote.
- This time, Free Soilers participated in the vote in 1858 and defeated the proposed constitution. A new, anti-slavery constitution was eventually written, voted upon, and submitted to Congress. Thus, Kansas was admitted in 1861 as a free state.
Sixth "Straw" - John Brown and Harper's Ferry. John Brown, a vehement abolitionist, was convinced that God wanted him "to break the jaws of the wicked." After leading the massacre at Pottawatomie Creek near Lawrence, Kansas, Brown shifted his direction and began planning for a major event - attacking the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.
- On October 16, 1859, Brown and 21 followers - including 5 freed blacks - attacked the Harper's Ferry.
- They were able to seize the arsenal, but failed in his primary goal - to ignite a slave rebellion throughout the South that would, in turn, lead to the establishment of an African-American state in the South. No slaves rallied to his defense.
- Federal troops, commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee soon captured Brown and his followers. Brown was convicted of treason and hanged in December 1859.
- Had Brown been only a lone fanatic, he would have been long forgotten because his invasion was a total failure.
However, captured government correspondence revealed moral and financial support of his actions from prominent northern abolitionists.
- On the day he was hanged, memorial services and toiling bells were heard throughout the North. Brown became an instant martyr for the aboltionist cause.
Goal #2: To examine the road to Secession and Civil War.
November 1860 - Lincoln was elected President
December 1860 - On December 20th, South Carolina seceded from the
Union after meeting in a special convention that unanimously voted to secede.
January 1861 - On January 9th, Mississippi seceded; on January 10th, Florida seceded; on January 11th, Alabama seceded; on January 19th, Georgia seceded; and on January 26th, Louisiana seceded.
February 1861 - On February 1st, Texas seceded.
- On February 4th, delegates from the seven seceeded states established
the Confederate States of America. On February 18th, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated CSA
- The Confederate States began seizing federal property in their boundaries - forts, arsenals, and government offices. By early April, they had enough military power to seize two fortified offshore military installations - Fort Pickens in Florida's Pensacola Harbor and Fort Sumter on an island in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
March 1861 - On March 4th, Lincoln was inaugurated. Only 26
states remained in the union. Lincoln's address made it clear that he would respect the institution of slavery as it currently existed, that the union was perpetual and could not be broken, that states that attempted to break the union were embarking upon an illegal revolution, and that secession was but a form of anarchy:
- "Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection ... I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that- I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."
- " ... we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution ... It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was 'to form a more perfect Union.'
- It follows ... that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances."
April 1861 - The CSA demanded that Fort Sumter - inhabited by troops from the Union Army - surrender. President Lincoln dispatched a relief expedition to Fort Sumter which urgently needed supplies. He informed South Carolina that he would not land troops unless the delivery of food and medicine was disrupted.
- On April 12th, Confederate troops bombarded Fort Sumter.
- On April 13th, Union troops at Fort Sumter
surrendered. Lincoln proclaimed an insurrection had taken place in
the Lower South and called for 75,000 troops for assistance. The
Civil War had begun.
- On April 17th, Virginia seceded from the Union.
May 1861 - On May 3rd, Lincoln called for volunteers to join the army for a three-year term
June 1861 - Despite their acceptance of slavery, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri did not join the Confederacy. Although divided in their loyalties, a combination of political maneuvering and Union military pressure kept these states from seceding.
- Dark Red = Seven states that seceded before April 15, 1861
- Light Red = Four states that seceded after April 15, 1861
- Yellow = Four border states - Southern states that permitted slavery but did not secede
- Blue = Union areas that forbade slavery
"The Straws That 'Broke the Camel's Back'"
- At least six politically divisive issues led directly
to the secession of the southern states:
- Slavery and political compromise
- Slavery and its moral arguments
- Slavery and its economic realities
- the shifting of political
alliances and parties
- the results of popular sovereignty in Kansas
- John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry.
- Beginning in 1820, the U.S. government entered into
a four-decade long battle to fashion a political compromise that would
prevent the issue of slavery from disrupting the political process.
- While American society had always been characterized
by diversity and divisiveness, what was new about the two decades between
1840 and 1860 was the degree to which conflict became directly related
to sectional issues. No longer could Democratic southerners and Democratic
northerners - or Whig southerners and Whig northerners - agree on political,
social, and economic issues. Rather, the issues became distinctly
sectional - either southern or northern in nature.
- Northerners were correct - by 1860, an economically strong Slave Power did exist in the South.
By 1860, compromise was dead. American society was divided in several ways:
- Over slavery - the political, moral, and moral dimensions.
- Over the economy - how to meet the economic crises of the Depression of 1857.
- Over political parties - whose shifting alliances along sectional lines split the Democratic Party.
- Over popular sovereignty - whether or not it should be extended to the territories.
- Any real understanding of American history must
be based upon an understanding of three things:
- the economic, social,
and political issues that divided Americans before the Civil War;
and Confederate goals employed during the war; and
- the economic, social,
and political consequences after four years of warfare.
If we understand
these things, we can also understand that the Civil War helped to define
us as Americans, as well as to explain what we became.