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How Slaves Were Treated Before The Civil War History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Before the Civil War, slaves worked hard for no pay. They were treated unfairly, like objects, rather than the white man. Many arguments, compromises, and decisions made about slavery tore the United States apart and separated the country. During the time of the Civil War, slaves had very harsh lives. They were beaten, whipped, killed, hung, and were treated badly in many other ways. The North and South had many differences, in climate and geography eventually led to different life styles and arguments called the sectional division. Because of all these differences and arguments, the country drew closer to the Civil War. Three disagreements before the Civil War frustrated the North and South, causing them to become enemies. In 1854, tensions rose between the North and South as each side tried to gain control of Kansas. The big question that had everyone talking was whether Kansas and Nebraska would be slave states or Free states.

One of the most important Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history was the Dred Scott Decision. Dred Scott was a slave born in Missouri who stood up for what he believed. He thought he should be free because he was once in a free state. In a farmhouse a few miles from U.S. Weapon storehouse, an “army” of 20 men was preparing to attack Harpers Ferry, Virginia. They were going to raid the weapon storehouse guns, weapons, and ammunition to give to runaway slaves. The leader of these abolitionists was John Brown. He and his men were prepared to die to give freedom to slaves.

Abraham Lincoln both helped cause and end the Civil War. He approved two very important decisions that impacted the slaves. The results of these two decisions were that all people should be free. Not everyone agreed with these ideas. Most people today believe that the Civil War was fought in order to end slavery, but the truth is that it was not.

By 1860, almost 1/3 of the population was made up of slaves in the south. The men and women planted, harvested, and removed weeds and other unwanted plants from the land. Slaves’ lives didn’t matter to anyone. An owner of a slave could do anything to them. If a slave didn’t work hard, their owner usually didn’t treat their slave well. They whipped slaves, and punished them severely in other ways. The main reason for this is because the owners had complete power over their slaves, and they thought their slaves would work harder if they were afraid of being punished by their owners. The owners considered them to be property (not people) that they could treat like animals. To keep the slaves under control, the people of the south made laws about what slaves could and could not do.

The difference between the two that caused the biggest problem was that the South had slavery, while the North did not. Because of this difference, there were many arguments between the North and South. The Fugitive Slave Law, passed in 1850, said that if slaves ran away to the North or Canada, they would have to be returned to their rightful owners. The Fugitive Slave Law was important because the Southerners paid for the slaves, and they didn’t think that it was fair for them to lose their money when their slaves escaped. They also thought that slaves should be punished because they broke the law. The Southerners said that the slaves had to be returned to them because the slaves were their property. Like other property, slaves could not be taken away from their owners. Using the Underground Railroad as an escape route was against the law. It was also no longer safe for slaves to escape to the northern states because the Fugitive Slave Law required them to be returned to their rightful owners. Some Northerners didn’t want to give the slaves back because they believed in individual rights. They wanted to free the slaves, but the Fugitive Slave Law gave them no other choice. The North was angry because the slaves could come into the free states and still be slaves. So the free states weren’t really free states anymore. The North didn’t want new states to allow slavery, but on the other hand, the South did. The North didn’t want to allow the new states to have slavery because they wanted to be stronger. Having more slave states would make the South stronger in politics because slave states would have more votes in the House of Representatives. This was important in causing the Civil War because whenever a new state joined the United States, there would be a big argument whether that state would be a slave state or a free state. After a lot of arguing, the South didn’t want to argue with the North anymore because they wanted to become their own nation, no matter what the North said. Then, the South decided to break away from the Union.

Before the Civil War there were three arguments to frustrate the north and the south, causing them to become enemies. There are the Three Fifths Compromise, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, And the Compromise of 1850. All three compromises were about the way slaves were used and if they would be set free or stay slaves. Some solutions to these compromises were to fight and some other ones are they would compromise until the north and the south felt happy about the decision. All these compromises led into the Civil War because all the time they would have a compromise, the compromise would get worse and worse, until the Civil War where the south and north couldn’t take it anymore.

Many compromises were happening over the slaves and their freedom. This compromise was the first. The South wanted their slaves to be used for the purpose of the counting of taxes. The northerners did not want this to happen. If the South were to be allowed to do this, they would have more Representatives. This was a problem because the north thought it was unfair for the slave owner to have the right to vote for all their slaves. For the south to have more representatives would make the southerners have more in congress.

After making some changes, the U.S. Congress decided the slaves would be counted as 3/5ths of a white mans vote. This compromise was another way the South and the North argued over slavery. The Compromise of 1820 required that all free states and slave states were to be equal. There was a balance of free and slave states. The state of Missouri was a slave state and wanted to come to the North as a free state. This would make a big deal because this would make the balance uneven, and if this happened it would not be approved. That’s not the last of hope for the South because the state of Maine also wanted to join the North and become a free state. The Compromise of 1850 would try to settle the slavery question once and for all by making the North and South content. The compromise allowed the slaves to work for the South, but it did not allow the slave trade to continue in Washington D.C. The state of California was made a free state by the U.S. Congress, but if the balance of free and slave states were to be broken it would not be allowed (like in the Missouri Compromise of 1820.) The South wanted to just take the slaves back, but they had to show evidence to the U.S. Congress to prove they were their rightful owners. If they had no evidence the slaves would be free and would not go back and work for the South on the plantations. The compromise was successful by keeping the nation united. This was only temporary until more further on when the South wanted to separate from the North.

On May 30, 1854 the territories of Kansas and Nebraska wanted to become states. The only question left to be decided was whether they would have slavery or not. Stephen Arnold Douglas, the Democratic Senator of Illinois, strongly believed that the people of the territories should decide for themselves whether they wanted slavery. He sponsored the Kansas Nebraska bill and said that the question of slavery in Kansas and Nebraska would be left to the vote of the settlers. He called it popular sovereignty. The debate over the question of slavery in the territories became more of a problem than expected. Proslavery and antislavery groups fought many wars, each side wanting to gain control of Kansas so they could vote for it to become a slave state or a free state. These wars are known as “Bloody Kansas.” The Kansas-Nebraska Act bill later became a law that would decide the slave status of the state based on public opinion in that state. The act caused Northern abolitionists to fight against proslavery Southerners. The act caused the Whig Party to split into northern and southern branches. The northern branch wanted to end slavery and the southern branch wanted slavery to continue. The Democratic Party was also divided into northern and southern branches, just like the Whig Party. The north wanted the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to become free states because the north didn’t depend on slaves to do their work. The north manufactured more of their items and didn’t have as many farms because of the cold climate and rocky soil. The south wanted the territories to be slaveholding states because the South’s way of life depended on slaves. The south had a lot of farms and plantations in which many slaves were needed to do the work. The north wanted more states of their kind because if there were to be more free states than slave states, the north would gain more power and be able to overrule the south when voting on important decisions in Congress. The south wanted more states to be like them because if there were to be more slave states than free states, the south would gain more power and would be able to overrule the north when voting on important decisions in Congress.

When people in Missouri voted in Kansas, the proslavery Party won control, and Kansas was voted to become a slave state. Later, Kansas asked Congress for statehood as a slave state. Congress refused since Kansas was north of Missouri. This was because the Missouri Compromise said that all states above the Missouri Compromise line (the 36° 30° line) would have to be free states and anything below would have to be slave states. While the proslavery Party was upset and angry over this decision, the antislavery Party quickly took control of Kansas. The Antislavery Party was fighting for control of Kansas so they could vote for it to become a free state. The Antislavery Army led by John Brown, an abolitionist, wiped out the proslavery troops. John Brown led one famous battle on the settlers at Pottawatomie Creek. In the end, the Antislavery Party ended up winning. When Kansas asked Congress for statehood as a free state, Congress agreed and Kansas and Nebraska both became free states. The north and south argued and fought over the question of slavery each time a new state wanted to enter the Union. The south finally got so tired of all the fighting and arguing that they decided to break away from the U.S. and be their own country. Fighting over whether the south would be its own country finally started the Civil War.

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth President of the United States. Many states tried to break away from the Union after Lincoln was elected because the South was afraid Lincoln would end slavery. However, Lincoln first encouraged the North to go to war with the South not to end slavery, but to reunite the nation. Eleven states from the South broke away from the Union in 1860 and 1861, forming the Confederacy. The South broke away from the North because they thought Lincoln would free their slaves. This did not help the North because it made the South stronger. Lincoln’s view of slavery was the same as the abolitionists. Lincoln once said, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” He was afraid, though, that if he made a proclamation freeing Southern slaves, then the border states would also break away from the Union. In July 1862, Congress decided to pass a law freeing all Confederate slaves who came to the North. This way, the former slaves could join the Union Army. Lincoln decided not to put this law into effect until the Union’s military had a victory. He was afraid people might think the new law was a last desperate attempt to win the war.

Finally, on September 17, 1862, the wait was over. The Union had a military victory. It wasn’t big, but it happened. At the Battle of Antietam, the Union’s General, George B. McClellan, stopped the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee’s, attack on the North. President Lincoln then signed the law. Approximately 500,000 slaves ran away after the law was passed and about 200,000 black men joined the Union Army. The North’s war effort was reinforced by the escaped slaves and had more people fighting on their side, weakening the South’s position. The Southerners would have fewer slaves to do their work while they were fighting against the North. In his famous Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln announced that all slaves in the Confederate States would be freed on January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation hurt the South because it discouraged France and Britain from entering the war. These countries depended on the South for cotton, so the South hoped they would fight on their side.

When the proclamation made the war about slavery, the French and British turned to the Union’s side because most of their people were against slavery. When the U.S. gained control of the Confederacy, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation eventually helped end slavery. When the Civil War ended on May 26, 1865, it led to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This freed the slaves because then the North gained control over the South and could make their slaves free. Lincoln kept the country together by leading it through the Civil War and he helped free slaves after defeating the South.

Most people tend to think that the main cause of the Civil War was slavery and the slave trade, though it was not. Although slavery played an important role in the Civil War, the main reason the Civil War was fought was over whether the Southern states could secede, or break away, from the Union. The South was already angry and upset about the compromises and decisions that had been made earlier regarding slavery. For example, the Dred Scott Decision, Compromise of 1850, Compromise of 1820, Kansas Nebraska Act, Raid at Harpers Ferry, Three Fifths Compromise, and Missouri Compromise were some of the compromises and decisions made at the time to try to deal with disagreements over slavery. During the presidential election of 1860, Southern leaders told the South to secede from the Union if Lincoln were to win the election because they believed Lincoln was an abolitionist. The South was afraid that Lincoln would outlaw slavery while in office. This would have created a problem for the South since its way of life depended on slaves. It would have prevented the South from thriving. Southern farmers would be forced to pay their former slaves in return for working on the farms. Plantation owners would make less money since most of the people working on the plantations would have to be paid. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union following Lincoln’s election. Soon after, five more states followed. Within six months, a total of eleven states had withdrew from the Union.


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