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The American Civil War

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Introduction

The American Civil War was the culmination of sectional tensions brought about by a number of regional differences. The primary disputes were with positions on slavery and states' rights. These issues spawned widespread economic, political, and social sectionalism which the statesmen of the time chose in large part to ignore. Rather than get into an all out political battle, the politicians of the day avoided the problems rather than addressing them outright, and possibly preventing the widespread blood letting that was the Civil War. Their ad hoc compromises and poorly thought out legislation merely bought time for the nation by treating its symptoms and not the disease. These blundering statesmen led the young nation down a road of destruction, not taking into account the negative impact that their short sighted actions would have on the future of America. Martin Van Buren followed Andrew Jackson, one of the most popular presidents in American history, into office in 1837 (Anonymous "Martin..." 1). Van Buren was a man of good character and a shrewd politician. However, he became the fall guy for all of Jackson's failures, including the debacle that was his economic plan. These circumstances that surrounded his presidency set off a chain reaction that resulted in the election of a succession of presidents who were neither strong or far sighted enough to hold the nation together. Historian Dr. Alan Axelrod observed, one of the great ironies of American history was that the man who changed all of this and would have perhaps been able to hold America together: Abraham Lincoln, strong, opinionated, and idealistic, perhaps the one person who might have been able to reunite the torn nation, was actually the proverbial, 'straw that broke the camel's back,' and provided the final justification to the South, driving it to secede from the Union. (Axelrod 123) Burdened by the scandal and economic troubles of the Jacksonian presidency, Martin Van Buren, nonetheless, entered his 1841 reelection campaign with high hopes (Anonymous "Martin..." ...read more.

Middle

Taylor, compensated for his lack of political finesse with his candid and straightforward demeanor. He was willing to directly challenge the spread of slavery into the west, recognizing its possible harms despite the fact that he was himself an slave owner and supporter of the slave system (Summers 3). (Kunhardt 141, Summers 3) In his annual address before congress and the nation, it was expected that he would speak in favor of the spread of slavery. Instead, he shocked his fellow party members by professing that he would put the preservation of the Union before all else. In fact, he went so far as to say that he favored admitting any of the new territories into the Union even if they banned slavery. As a result, Taylor was labeled a traitor by his fellow Southerners (Kunhardt 142). But, Taylor would not back down from his stance, and was willing to do all that was necessary to keep America intact. When he was confronted by a livid Alexander Stevens who threatened Taylor with secession unless he changed his policy, the General made his position clear. He announced that: If they were taken in rebellion against the Union, I would hang them with less reluctance than I had hung deserters and spies in Mexico! (Taylor) He even went as far as to say he would personally lead the troops against any rebels. He also stated that he would veto any compromise that dictated whether slavery would be legalized in the west. Unfortunately, this man who was fully willing to risk everything to preserve the Union, the leader who worked to educate the people on the plight of America suffered a severe bout of heat stroke while attending a Fourth of July Parade. He died less than a week later on July 9th 1850, passing the reigns onto vice president Millard Fillmore (Anonymous "Millard..." 2). (Anonymous "Millard..." ...read more.

Conclusion

The case soon became a microcosm of the overall political struggle of the time: white's for abolition, slavers for states' rights, and Northerners saying that federal law superceded state law (123). The court found in favor of the slave owners and asserted than no black man, free, or slave, was a citizen and was therefore not entitled to the right of judicial action (123). The ruling fell down party lines with the two Republican justices voting in favor of Scott and the seven Democrats casting their ballots against him (123) Forstchen hypothesizes that: Such partisanship galvanized the Republican party, and may have been directly responsible for the eventual election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860 on [the] anti-slavery platform. An election which many . . . regard as the immediate cause of the Civil War(123) Buchanan's support of the controversial ruling polarized the separate factions and cost him nearly all of his Northern and Western support while further dividing the nation. (Garraty 115, Forstchen 121-123) When, in 1860, South Carolina led the Southern states to secede from the Union, the direct result of Lincoln's election, Buchanan denounced the move (Anonymous "Abraham..." 1). He kept control of several federal institutions in the South for the last few months of his presidency as he entered his lame duck period. He insisted, however, that the Constitution did not give him the power to deal with the crisis and essentially ignored it allowing to it spread and grow until he left office (Garraty115). In his final address to the nation before leaving office, Buchanan stated with a tinge of regret and wistfulness that, "I at least meant well for my country," (Buchanan). But as historian John A. Garraty said: His policies, and those of his predecessors, however, had further divided the nation and the political parties of the day; ensuring the election of Republican, Abraham Lincoln and failing to prevent the coming of the Civil War (115) (Buchanan, Garraty 115) ...read more.

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