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Major Sectional Conflicts In The 19th Century History Essay

During the 19th century sectional conflicts in the United States between the north and south intensified eventually leading to the American Civil (1861-65). The major sectional conflicts revolved around politics and economics and slavery.

Political and economic factors played a major role in the secession of the southern states and the start of the Civil War. During the mid-19th century, there were major economic differences between the Northern and Southern states of the U.S.. The South had an economy that was based on farming and depended on the labor of black slaves while the North was more industrial, and did not rely on slave labor. By the mid 1800’s the North had gained a majority in Congress due to its increased population resulting from high rates of immigration. This situation led to policy differences between the North and South, in particular over taxation. Since the Northern States now had a majority in the House, the Southern states were not able to prevent the passing of new taxes that benefited Northern industries while hurting the Southern plantation owners. One such tax was the1828 tariff that came to be known as the “Tariff of Abominations”.

The “Tariff of Abominations” intended to protect the Northern manufacturers by keeping the British from flooding the American markets with foreign goods by making them more expensive. Though this benefited the North it hurt the South. The tariff inflated the price of manufactured goods the Southerners needed to buy and also resulted in Britain reducing the amount of cotton it imported from the South as a result of the market for British products shrinking. Legislation such as this outraged the South and led to South Carolina passing an Ordinance of Nullification, in 1832, in which they said they had the right to make any federal law in their territory that they felt was adversely affecting them null and void. This political/economic conflict between the North and South was known as the Nullification Crisis.

Another major sectional conflict between the North and South was slavery. The South held that slavery was a vital aspect of its economy; while many people in the North believed that slavery was a horrible institution and were determined to end it throughout the United States. Up until the late 1850s, the North and South had largely avoided violent confrontations over slavery through negotiations such as the Missouri Compromise in 1820, which resulted from the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Compromise of 1850, which resulted from the acquisition of Texas to the United States as a slave state. But with the debate over the expansion of slavery into new territories becoming more heated the issue would inevitably to come to a head. It did so in 1854 as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, written by Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, which repealed the Missouri Compromise, divided the land west of Missouri into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, and called for popular sovereignty in the new territories so that residents would decide for themselves whether slavery would be legal or not. This outraged antislavery activists who felt that if the Missouri Compromise were still in effect slavery would have been illegal in both territories. The Passing of the bill resulted in violence when both Northerners opposed to slaver and Southerners in favor of slavery went to Kansas to try and sway the vote in their favor. The meeting of these two opposing groups came to be known as "Bloody Kansas," because of the resulting violence that occurred between them.. As a result of the violence, tensions between the North and South reached there highest ever. Tensions between the North and South were further intensified on March 6, 1857 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Dred Scott case. Chief Justice Roger Taney of the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not have the right to prohibit slavery in the new western territories. This outraged Northern abolitionist who saw the ruling as a step backward in their attempts to rid the nation of slavery.

The final conflict in the sectional crisis between the North and South was the election of Abraham Lincoln on November 6, 1860. Although Lincoln’s main agenda was to preserve the union, not end slavery, the South believed that his election would lead to an attempt by the North to abolish in the United States. Shortly after his election South Carolina seceded from the Union and was followed by ten other Southern states including Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. This marked the begging of the American Civil War.

After the end of The American Civil War (1861-65) with the Union emerging victorious over the Confederate south about 620,000 Americans had died and roughly four million black slaves had been liberated. The period following the end of the civil war in which the Confederate states were reintegrated into the Union is know as Reconstruction (1865-77). There were three major issues involving the reconstruction; what would the defeated Confederate states need to do to be allowed to reenter the Union, was the president or the Congress responsible for Reconstruction, and to how much the federal government assist the newly freed slaves.

After President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 Andrew Johnson became president and adopted Lincolns Reconstruction policies. He believed that the South had already been punished enough, through the destruction of its lands and cities during the war, and thus took a fairly lenient approach to Reconstruction. Johnson, like Lincoln, believed that the sooner the nation rebuilt and moved forward, the better off everyone would be. He followed Lincolns plan to appoint governors for the Southern states to prepare them for reentry to the Union, and to pardon confederates who had not been high-ranking soldiers during the war. Also like Lincoln, Johnson left the issue of how to deal with the newly freed slaves up to the state governments; he did not believe the federal government had the right to force states to give all freedmen equal rights. He did though require the Southern states to ratify the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, in order to rejoin the Union. Johnson’s relaxed approach to Reconstruction angered radical Republican in Congress who differed on how to rebuild the South.

The radical Republicans in Congress felt that Johnson's plans for Reconstruction were to merciful. They wanted strict policies put in place that would punish the South for its role in the Civil War and ensure that it would not revert to its pre-war condition. They believed that a strong federal presence in the South was the only way to ensure that blacks' rights would not be violated. They pointed out how the South had already established Black Codes, such as the Jim Crow Laws, and formed organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan, that were committing violence against newly freed slaves, as showing that the South could not be trusted to ensure black’s rights. Supporters felt that placing the South under military rule was the only way to assure they followed the Reconstruction acts. Other supporters justified harsher punishment by arguing that the Confederacy had been defeated, and therefore the government had the right to treat the South as a conquered enemy to achieve its objectives.

They felt the government had the right to set strict terms for the Confederate states to be readmitted to the Union because they had been defeated in the war. In March 1866, the now radical Republican controlled Congress attempted to pass the Freedmen's Bureau Bill and the Civil Rights Bill, which were designed to protect freed slaves from Southern Black Codes. President Johnson vetoed both bills which solidified the split between Johnson and Congress.

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