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Events that led to the Civil War Notes. 1. Missouri Compromise Tallmadge Amendment – an attempt to add Missouri as a free state. It failed.

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1. Missouri Compromise

Tallmadge Amendment – an attempt to add Missouri as a free state. It failed.

This is 1819-1820 and the issue was whether or not to add a new slave state to the Union (the U.S.). This would upset the balance of Senators in the US Senate.

Resolution – Maine now qualified for statehood so it would enter as free and Missouri would enter a slave. The balance was maintained. Also, in the future, slavery would only be legal in areas below the latitude line of 36 30.

2. Imbalanced Congress

The US Congress has two houses. In the House of Representatives representation is based on population and the free states had larger populations.

In the Senate, each state had 2 senators.

The advantage was on the side of the North or free states but Senate was where laws could be stopped due to the deadlock or tie.


3. Abolition Movement

  • The growing number of anti-slavery Americans put pressure on the government to try and end slavery. It also forced slave owners into fighting more aggressively for less government interference into their affairs, such as slavery.
  • 4. Rebellion
  • The fear of slave uprisings causes the owners to treat slaves even harsher and to pass slave codes or laws that restrict slaves more than ever. The owners are now fearful on two fronts. Slave uprisings and government interference.
  • Examples include: Nat Turner Rebellion, Denmark Vessey’s Planned rebellion and John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry.
  • 5. Runaways
  • Abolition efforts to help slaves escape increases resentment from owners that their property is being stolen and they have no help in regaining their property. It further draws a difference between slave owners and northern abolitionists.
6. Compromise of 1850

When California wanted to become a state there were no other areas that qualified for statehood. Therefore the balance would be upset when it entered as a state. In order to compromise Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. This law did the following:

1. Made it legal to recapture and return runaways from any area of the US.

2. It made the act of helping or hiding a runaway a federal crime.

3. Gave higher payments to judges who ruled in favor of the slave owner ($10 to return, $5 to set free)

7. Uncle Tom’s Cabin

An anti-slavery novel written in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Gave many Americans their first exposure to slavery and its cruelty.


8.Kansas-Nebraska Act

1854-This law by Stephen Douglas created two territories on the Great Plains, Kansas and Nebraska. Because they were above 36 30 it was agreed that future settlers (voters) could decide whether to be slave or free. Pro and anti slavery groups move into the areas and violence breaks out.

9. States’ Rights

The Tenth Amendment allowed states to take power over those things not under the control of the Federal government, such as slavery. The claimed that no federal law could interfere with slavery. Later the 14th amendment will makes the Bill of Rights apply to all laws (state and federal).


10. Brooks attacks Sumner

1856. While debating the violence in Kansas, Massachusetts Senator Sumner, is caned by Representative Brooks, the nephew of SC Senator Butler. This attack represents the growing inability to peacefully resolve differences. Some call it the first attack of the Civil War.

11. Dred Scott Decision

1857- The Supreme Court rules that slaves were not citizens not entitled to legal protection. Slaves were property. Also, the court ruled that Congress had no right to limit slavery in new states or territories.

12. Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Stephen Douglas was the Democratic senator from Illinois running for reelection against the republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln. The two met on several occasions to discuss the issues including slavery. Lincoln loses the election but becomes a national name in politics and in the anti-slavery movement.

13. Presidential Election of 1860

November, 1860-Four candidates run but Lincoln (Republican) wins by carrying nearly all of the northern states. The South now realizes that they are a minority region with less power to protect their rights (slavery).