The North and South were divided long before the Civil War. They had different economies. The South was a very agriculturally influenced region of the US. They grew cotton, raised animals, and were very behind the North. The North was industrially advanced and manufactured products to make money, where the South was dependent on the sale of their crops. The South’s money was valued in the slaves that they used to harvest their crops. Neither the North nor the South could agree on the future of slavery, and this is why the Civil War was inevitable.
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The laws that were passed before Civil War drove a wedge between the North and South. Some big laws that were passed before the war were The Compromise of 1820, The Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The Compromise of 1820 was a US law passed to keep balance between the free and slave states. They did this by adding Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The law also stated that it would be illegal to have slaves above Missouri’s southern border. This line was the called the 36’ 30’ parallel. Even though The Compromise of 1820 was passed it only worked for a little bit, before more states were added and they had the same issues all over again. The Compromise of 1850 was proposed by Henry Clay to allow California in as a free state, allow the Utah and New Mexico territories to decide if1 the wanted slavery, and to create the Fugitive Slave Act. The Fugitive Slave Act required people that found runaway slaves to return them to their owners or they could be fined. The Compromise of 1850 benefited both the North and South. The North gained a free state and gained control of congress, but the South got the Fugitive Slave Act passed meaning that they would get all runaway slaves back. The last law passed before the Civil War was the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act stated that the people that lived in these territories could decide if they wanted slavery or not. This act repealed everything that was passed in The Compromise of 1820, that said people could not have slaves above the southern-border of Missouri. This caused a violent conflict between the North and South called “Bleeding Kansas”. This act did not help the division at all. It only drove them farther into disagreement.
The national attention about the Dred Scott case and John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry led up to the division of the North and South becoming a conflict bigger than words could solve. The Dred Scott v. Sanford was a US Supreme Court Case. Scott’s owner died and Scott was then purchased by Dr. John Emerson. Scott traveled to many free states with Emerson working as his slave. Emerson later died leaving his estate to his widow. Scott lived in a free state before he tried to buy his freedom and Sanford (Emerson’s Wife) denied his offer. In 1847, Dred Scott sued Sanford for his freedom. Scott said that “once free, always free”. The court ruled that Dred Scott was not a citizen because he was black meaning that he could not legally sue Sanford. They also ruled Scott was property of Sanford and could not be taken from his owner because of the 5th Amendment. This decision made many people from the North mad. They believed that since he technically lived in a free state that he should have been free. Another thing that made the North mad was that all of the Supreme Court judges were from the South meaning that they already believed that slaves were not “real” people. Scott really had no chance winning this case. The other person to gain national attention was John Brown, John Brown was known for being an abolitionist that fought slavery with violence. He went to Kansas and murdered people because they believed in slavery. Brown then took a group of people to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and raided the federal arsenal. Brown’s raid was not successful, and him and his army got seized. Brown has tried for treason. Before he was hung he said “I have only a short time to live-only one death to die, and I will die fighting for this cause.” Abraham Lincoln called Brown a “misguided fanatic”. Many people of the North looked up to Brown because he was one of the first people to fight for slavery. The South did not like John Brown because he tried to convince slaves that they could escape.
The Election of 1860 pushed the North and South farther into disagreement. Four candidates ran for the Election of 1860. They were Abraham Lincoln (Republican), John Breckinridge (Democrat), Stephen Douglas (Democrat), and John Bell (Constitutional Union). Breckinridge and Douglas both wanted to keep slavery. Lincoln opposed the spreading of slavery, and Bell did not want to talk about it and avoided it at all costs. The outcome on the election was Breckinridge winning the South and Lincoln winning the North. Lincoln had the most votes and won became president. Since Lincoln won and South Carolina knew that he opposed slavery they seceded from the United States. Soon after 11 other states from the South also seceded creating the Confederate States of America. The Election of 1860 helped the North, but not the South. Lincoln becoming president is what really completed the divide of the North and South.
The Civil War was inevitable because of slavery. So many things happened before the war that created disagreement between the North and South. Making new laws could never solve the division that had already happened. If the Compromise of 1820 would have worked to mend the North and South back together we never would have had The Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Dred Scott would have never had to sue for his freedom and John Brown would not have had to raid Harper’s Ferry or kill people. All of these things happened because the United States could not decide on something as a country and it pushed them apart to the point that words were not enough to decide how to solve the issue.
- “Dred Scott.” Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 29 Mar. 2018. school.eb.com/levels/high/article/Dred-Scott/605219. Accessed 3 Sep. 2019.
- Comparing the North and South. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yC4sxIZWGzWsKZqfYVBRxQqm4Lz-ozq_83CnpCMxqbo/edit
- The Compromise of 1850.
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