Causes of the American Civil War. The Unfinished Business of the American Revolution. Unfinished business. “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” ~ Thomas Jefferson concerning the slaves
Causes of the American Civil War
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Passed in 1854. It’s most significant advocate was Stephan Douglas.
It repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed the people of the new states of Nebraska and Kansas to choose if slavery were to be legal within their borders.
“Popular Sovereignty” was the key principle.
The Act further divided the nation and led to the birth of the Republican Party, which aimed to stop the expansion of slavery.
Following passage of the act, Stephan Douglas engaged in a series of debates with a former Illinois congressman, Abraham Lincoln. These debates, in which Lincoln argued against slavery, propelled him into the national spotlight.
The Supreme Court ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants—whether or not they were slaves—were not legal persons and could never be citizens of the United States, and that the United States Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories.
Dred Scott was the slave of a military man who traveled, bringing Scott along, to free states. When the owner died, Scott sued for his freedom, claiming that because he had been in free state he was thus legally free, and could not be expected to revert back to being a slave.
The negative reaction of the North, especially among the abolitionists, was fierce.
Lincoln said, “Put this and that together, and we have another nice little niche, which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a State to exclude slavery from its limits. ...We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free, and we shall awake to the reality instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State."
While Chief Justice Taney, who wrote the decision, sought to put the issue of slavery to rest, once and for all, thus saving the nation, the court’s decision nevertheless had the opposite effect. Civil War was becoming inevitable.
On November 2, 1859, Brown was sentenced to death for the raid.
After his conviction he said, “I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done.”
Brown was hanged on December 2, 1859.
The great Frederic Douglas wrote, "Did John Brown fail? John Brown began the war that ended American slavery and made this a free Republic. His zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine. Mine was as the taper light; his was as the burning sun. I could live for the slave; John Brown could die for him."
Brown’s Raid largely succeeded in further leading America into the conflict that would eventually end slavery once and for all.