“When Representative James Tallmadge of New York attempted to add an anti-slavery amendment to that legislation, however there ensued an ugly and rancorous debate over slavery and the government’s right to restrict slavery.” (‘Missouri Compromise’) This legislation prohibited the introduction of slaves into Missouri and ‘provided for further emancipation of those already there when they reached the age of 25.’ (‘Missouri Compromise’) This piece of legislation went to the House of Representatives, where it was passed. This was probably because the House of Representatives were largely controlled by the people of the North, who had anti-slavery tendencies, because they did not want their livelihoods threatened by slavery. In spite of this, the legislation failed to be passed through the Senate, which was equally divided between the Free states and the slave states, which led to, “Congress adjourning without resolving the Missouri question.” (‘Missouri Compromise’}
However, this was not an end to the issue, because when congress reconvened, it was faced with a request from Maine to become a state. “The Senate passed a bill allowing Maine to enter the Union as a Free State and Missouri to be admitted without restrictions on slavery. Senator Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois then added an amendment that allowed Missouri to become a slave state but banned slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase north of latitude 36°30'. then skillfully led the forces of compromise, and on March 3, 1820, the decisive vote in the House admitted Maine as a free state, Missouri as a slave state, and made free soil all western territories north of Missouri's southern border.” (‘Missouri Compromise’) This was the creation of the Mason-Dixon Line, because the northern states wanted to prevent the spread of slavery, while the southern states wanted to be able to move ‘their’ slaves anywhere they wanted, because it would be considered unconstitutional if they were not allowed to do this. This was seen to be a compromise between the northern and southern states of America, but neither the north nor the south liked this decision because they both wanted a decision that would completely stop the movement of slavery, or completely allow it.
However, there was a significant event for the northern states of America in 1850 when ‘The Fugitive Slave Act’ was introduced.
“The Fugitive Slave Act was one of the compromises included in the ‘Compromise of 1850’. The passage of this act along with slaveholding rights in Texas allowed California to enter the union as a free state and prohibited the slave trade in the District of Columbia.” (Fugitive Slave Act of 1950)
This was a major loss for the southern states of America because it appeared that there was more support for anti-slavery, which was a major threat to their livelihood. However, this was a major victory for the northern states of America because it meant that another state was admitted to the union as a ‘free’ state. The fugitive slave act was approved on September 18th 1850, and was set up as, “An act to establish the judicial courts of the United States.” (Fugitive Slave Act of 1950)
Section 4 of this act states that, “The judges of the superior court… shall grant certificates to such claimants, upon satisfactory proof being made, with authority to ake and remove such fugitives from service or labour, under the restrictions herein contained, to the state or territory from which such persons have escaped or fled.”
This act was set up to ensure that free states were kept ‘free’ and the provisions within this act were to be followed so this would happen.
Another significant event which influenced the south to break away from the union in 1861 was the ‘Kansas-Nebraska Act 1854.’ In 1820, the ‘Missouri-Compromise had excluded slavery from that part of the Louisiana Purchase (expect Missouri) north of the parallel. However, the Kansas-Nebraska Act “(May 30th 1854), in the antebellum period of U.S. history…concerning the expansion of slavery into the territories, affirming the concept of popular sovereignty.” (Kansas-Nebraska Act 1854.) Popular sovereignty is defined as being “a controversial political doctrine that the people of federal territories should decide for themselves whether their territories would enter the union as free or slave states.” (‘Popular Sovereignty’)
The most crucial use of popular sovereignty was applied by the senator Stephen A. Douglas in the Kansas-Nebraska Act 1854, because this repealed the prohibition of slavery north which was established in the Missouri Compromise of 1820. “The Kansas-Nebraska Act ironically fanned the flame of national division” (Kansas-Nebraska Act). The passage of this act was also followed by the establishment of the Republican Party who were opposed to the expansion of slavery into the territories. This also seemed to be another big factor which eventually led to the south leaving the union in 1861, because now political organisations seemed to agree with the northern states, and against the spread of slavery.
However, the decision made in the case of Dred Scott vs. Sanford 1857 seemed to support the southern states as it supported slavery. On March 6th 1857, the case of Dred Scott vs. Sanford went to the American Supreme Court which ruled that slavery would be legal in all territories, ‘thereby adding fuel to the sectional controversy and pushing the nation along the road to civil war.’ (‘Dred Scott decision) This was a victory for the southern states of America who were the slave holding states.
“The decision [was] only the second time in the nation’s history that the Supreme Court declared an act of congress unconstitutional… Southerners had argued that both congress and the territorial legislature were powerless to exclude slavery from a territory. Only a state could exclude slavery, they maintained.” (‘Dred Scott decision)
In this case;
“Dred Scott was a slave whose master in 1834 had taken him from Missouri (a slave state) to Illinois (a free state), then into the Wisconsin Territory (a free territory under the provisions of the Missouri Compromise), and finally back to Missouri. In 1846, with the help of anti-slavery lawyers, Scott sued for his freedom in the Missouri state courts on the grounds that his residence in a free state and a free territory had made him a free man. The Missouri Supreme Court overturned an initial ruling by a lower court which had declared Scott free, and the case, then, began a long sojourn up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court announced its decision on March 6, 1857, just two days after the inauguration of President James Buchanan. Though each justice wrote a separate opinion, Chief Justice opinion is most often cited on account of its far-reaching implications for the sectional crisis. Taney, one of the seven justices denying Scott his freedom (two dissented), declared that a Negro could not be entitled to rights as a U.S. citizen, such as the right to sue in federal courts. In fact, Taney wrote, Negroes had ‘no rights which any white man was bound to respect’.” (‘Dred Scott decision)
This decision went against the decision previously reached in the Missouri Compromise in 1820, because this had forbidden slavery above the Mason-Dixon Line. This decision then went on to declare the decision made in the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because congress had no power to prohibit slavery in territories because this went against the fifth amendment of the constitution, which guaranteed the masters of slaves property rights, as slaves were classed as property. This decision, made in the Dred Scott case seemed to be a big factor to overcome by the newly created Republican Party, because this party was created to try and prohibit the movement of slavery westward. This was a major victory for the president at this time, President Buchanan, the south and the majority of the Supreme Court because they hoped it would mark the end of any further anti-slavery legislation, as there was now nothing to stop them from moving the slave economy westward. However, this decision increased the anti-slavery feeling in the north and it strengthened the Republican Party, which made the feeling that there was a need for civil war, which this would later lead to, when the south left the union in 1861.
Abraham Lincoln was elected as president in 1860. Abraham Lincoln was a member of the Republican Party, who stood for ‘anti-slavery’. The southern states did not like this, as they wanted slavery to be legal everywhere, and did not want any legislation to prevent this. However, although Lincoln stood for anti-slavery, (as he never liked slavery from his childhood), this was not to ‘free’ the slaves, but to send them all out of America. During the civil war, Lincoln found religion to help him justify it. In 1862, he wrote, “‘the legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot do so well, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities’.” (‘Abraham Lincoln’) He wrote this because when he first entered politics Andrew Jackson was the president, and Lincoln ‘shared the sympathies that the Jacksonians professed for the common man, but he disagreed with the Jacksonian view that the government should be divorced from economic enterprise.’ (‘Abraham Lincoln) Lincoln being elected as president was a major factor which led to the southern states leaving the union because he had anti-slavery sympathies and this was a major disadvantage to the southern states, as it would make it harder for them to legalise the movement of slavery into the territories.
While in the legislature, Lincoln demonstrated that ‘though opposed to slavery, he was no abolitionist.’ (‘Abraham Lincoln’) This showed that although Lincoln was opposed to slavery, he did not want to abolish it completely, which was not a total loss for the southern states. While Lincoln was president, he spent little time dealing with legislative matters, and spent most of his time dealing with slavery issues, which needed to be resolved between the northern and southern states of America. This would eventually lead to conflict between the two states, which would be the civil war, when the southern states left the union in 1861.
The northern states of America wanted the west to be made up of white families who were small scale farmers who would provide them with the crops that they needed like wheat, while the southern states wanted the slaves to be allowed to work in the west. This was the main factor which led to the south seceding from the union and to the outbreak of the civil war in 1861, as the issues regarding slavery could not be agreed upon. Although many events happened that influenced Lincoln being elected president overthrew the balance, and conflict between the north and the south were inevitable.
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