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Politics and the Causes of the Civil War. Introduction. Begin to see political division before the United States is formed as a nation

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Begin to see political division before the United States is formed as a nation

From the Declaration of Independence through the firing on Fort Sumter, North and South struggled to make compromises that would strengthen the bond between the regions.

North looked at slavery as a “peculiar institution” that did not jive with founding documents. South viewed slavery as a significant part of their heritage and culture

early sectional examples regarding slavery
Early Sectional Examples Regarding Slavery

Declaration of Independence

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

The United States Constitution

Missouri Compromise

Tallmadge Amendment

political parties of the 19 th century
Political Parties of the 19th Century
  • Jackson creates the Democrats
  • Opponents create the Whigs
    • Free Soil Party
    • American Party (Know Nothings)
    • Republican Party
democratic party
Democratic Party
  • Embraced labor theory of value: the proceeds of wealth should go to the person that creates the product
  • Did not like wage labor thus had problems with industrialization
    • Turned workers into slaves
  • Embraced immigrants: they were votes
    • Championed individual rights
    • Supported separation of church and state (Catholic immigrants applauded)
    • Opposed temperance
  • Slavery issue split
  • State government
  • Opposed tariffs, transportation improvements, national bank
the whigs
The Whigs
  • Internal improvements
  • Tariffs to protect American industry and labor from low-wage foreign competition
  • Centralized banking system
  • Many embraced temperance – sober up America
  • Believed public schools provided opportunity for all Americans to achieve success – provided an education for all – rich or poor
  • Had a southern contingent of wealthy land owners who opposed Jackson’s catering to the yeoman farmers
end of the whigs
End of the Whigs
  • Taylor was an apolitical war hero elected because of name recognition
  • Anti-Jackson party without a clear vision on slavery
  • Party members split into newly formed parties:

1. Free Soilers

2. Know Nothings – American Party

3. Republicans

free soilers
Free Soilers
  • Created from Conscience Whigs and anti-slavery Democrats
  • Advocates of free soil, (availability of land to all in the west), free speech, and free men (abolition of slavery)
  • Nominated Martin Van Buren as president in 1848 and John P. Hale in 1852
  • Kept issue of abolition alive, but little impact otherwise
know nothings
Know Nothings
  • Formed in the 1850’s of frustrated Whigs and Democrats
  • The were what they were against: anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant
  • WASPS and Nativists
  • Opposed to large influx of Germans and Irish on the east coast in the 1840’s
  • Only presidential candidate: Millard Fillmore in 1856
  • Split on slavery issue – not their priority
  • Favored temperance
  • Opposed taxes for parochial schools
  • Increase naturalization laws

Expansion of the borders further than the Louisiana Purchase caused sectional issues because the question of slavery in the territories


Oregon Territory



Independent nation in 1836

Wanted to be annexed by US

They were a slaveholding nation (mostly Americans)

North didn’t want them

Andrew Jackson did not want to upset the Mexican government

The 1844 election of James Polk

John Tyler annexed Texas in 1845

Texas was the 28th state and 15th slave state – upset balance of power

  • Promised 4 things
    • Acceptable substitute for national bank – established an independent treasury for government funds
    • Lower tariff rate – (Walker Tariff – 1846)
    • Get Oregon Territory from British
    • Get SW from Mexico
mexican american war 1845 1848
Mexican American War – 1845-1848

Polk wanted to acquire the California and Oregon territories

He negotiated with the British to get the Pacific Northwest

He went to war with Mexico to get California and the Southwest

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California territory (modern day SW United States)

unintended consequences of war
Unintended Consequences of War

Will the new territory acquired from the treaty be slave or free?

Why doesn’t Missouri Compromise apply?

Wilmot Proviso

Slavery would not be permitted in any territory acquired from the Mexican-American War.

Southerners were not happy about this

compromise of 1850 intro
Compromise of 1850 - Intro

1849 - Gold Rush

California reached its population quota to apply for statehood

California applied as a free state

Southerners did not support

Henry Clay and Daniel Webster came up with a solution

compromise of 1850 terms
Compromise of 1850 - Terms

Admit California as a free state

Texas/New Mexico border dispute

Federal government forgave $10 million of Texas debt

New Mexico gets territory in question

New Mexico and Utah formed into federal territories - popular sovereignty

Slave Trade would be abolished in the District of Columbia

Strengthen the Fugitive Slave Act

Placed burden of proof on the African-American to prove his/her freedom

Provided federal funds for the effort

Created harsh punishments for whites who aided escaped slaves

$1000 fine, 6 months in jail

compromise of 1850 resolution
Compromise of 1850 – Resolution

It is debated in Congress


Daniel Webster


Salmon Chase and William Seward

Jeff Davis

Zach Taylor

Congress voted it down

Stephan Douglas tried to push it through as five separate pieces of legislation and all five pass

Taylor had died, Fillmore supported the bill

Civil War is averted for now

problems with the compromise of 1850
Problems with the Compromise of 1850

Fugitive Slave law breaks down

South’s big win from Compromise


Interfered with slave catchers

Tried to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act

Sympathy for African Americans in courtrooms

North was out to get them in their eyes

the kansas nebraska act and popular sovereignty 1854
The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Popular Sovereignty, 1854

Stephan Douglas (Illinois) proposed

wanted to be President – win southern votes

owned great deal of Chicago real estate

His idea: divide Nebraska territory into two territories and let Popular Sovereignty determine free/slave issue

Douglas has influence in the Senate and is able to win support for this.

It functionally shuts down the Missouri Compromise.


Leads to Bleeding Kansas

bleeding kansas 1854 1859
Bleeding Kansas (1854-1859)

Pro-slave and free-soilers immigrate to Kansas

New England Aid Society

Missouri border ruffians

Fierce struggle between the Lecompton Government (pro-slavery) and the Topeka Free Government

Tremendous amount of vigilantism and bloodshed

Sack of Lawrence

Pottawatomie Creek

Bleeding Kansas proved that popular sovereignty is not working in Kansas

whigs are dead
Whigs are Dead
  • Southern Whigs form Constitutional Union party or become Know Nothings
  • Northern Whigs become free soilers or Republicans
    • Free soilers don’t last – too divided on all other issues
  • Know-Nothings don’t become a big party
    • Immigration decreases in 1850s
    • Slavery is clearly a bigger deal
republican party
Republican Party
  • Founded in Ripon, WI - 1854
  • Kansas-Nebraska caused Abe Lincoln to go into politics and join the Republicans
  • Anti-slavery
  • Whiggish in economics – favored federal banks, internal improvements, promoting industry
  • Encouraged western settlement with land grants
rise in political tension sumner brooks
Rise in political tension: Sumner & Brooks

Spring 1856: Senator Charles Sumner (Mass)

Incendiary remarks against Southerners; targeted Andrew Butler (SC)

Preston Brooks – Southern Rep in the House

Comes to Senate and beats Sumner unconscious with a cane on the Senate floor.

Traumatic event and engages the national press

Northerners argued that this is the type of violence that is produced from slavery

This attitude makes it difficult to come to an agreement on sectional issues.

ostend manifesto
Ostend Manifesto
  • Expand South
    • Polk tried in 1848 to buy Spain
    • Filibusters Spanish consider offering emancipation to slaves on Cuba
  • Southerners feared emancipation so close to US
  • American diplomats meet in Ostend, Belgium
    • Suggest that Spain sell, otherwise possible invasion
  • Northern papers are tipped off and go crazy
  • Pierce administration renounced idea from pressure
    • K-N Act hurt Pierce’s popularity
the dred scott story
The Dred Scott Story

Slave of a military physician (John Emerson) - Missouri.

In 1834 - moved to Illinois and territory of Wisconsin.

In 1838, Scott returns to Missouri, resides with is owner until the owner dies

Since slavery was illegal in territories north of the 36/30 parallel, sues in Missouri courts

the dred scott decision 1857
The Dred Scott Decision, 1857

Missouri lower court (St. Louis County) ruled in his favor - 1850

Missouri State Supreme Court overturned the decision - 1852

Elevated to the Federal Supreme Court in 1856


Southern Justices dominated the Supreme Court (5-4). Ruled 6-3 against Scott.

Roger Taney (pronounced Tawney) Chief Justice said,

Slaves don’t have a right to sue in a federal court

Applied the full faith and credit clause

Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because only states had the right to determine whether they want to be free or slave.

the justices dred scott
The Justices & Dred Scott
  • Supreme Court making policy???
  • Five pro-southern justices
  • President James Buchanan influenced one Northern justice
    • Buchanan’s influenced was highly improper
implications of dred scott
Implications of Dred Scott

Slave holders could in theory go anywhere they want in territories with their property (slaves)

The decision makes the slavery issue worse

Northerners outraged

This is a blow to northern democratic supporters of popular sovereignty

Southerners supported this decision but are upset with Northern reaction

lecompton constitution
Lecompton Constitution
  • Proslavery government writes a proslavery constitution for the state
    • Anti-slavery citizens boycott vote
  • Governor of Kansas implored Buchanan to reject the Constitution
    • Buchanan encouraged Congress to approve it
    • Stephan Douglas opposed it
      • Caused issues between the two
  • Congress rejected the Constitution - 1857
john brown
John Brown

Religious fundamentalist and Abolitionist

Believed that he had to do the work of God

His mission was to eliminate slavery.

He separated God’s law and the United States law

Spoke in New England

He raised money from Abolitionists

Developed plan to raid the South

Would cause a general uprising of slaves.

Eventually that would lead to a war that would eliminate slavery

john brown s raid 1859
John Brown’s Raid, 1859

Oct 16th-18th at Harpers Ferry ,Va (now West Va)

He recruited a 21 armed men and captured the federal arsenal hoping to incite a slave rebellion

Virginia militia with some United States Marines (under Col. R.E. Lee) retake the armory wounding & killing several of Brown’s men. Brown is captured

The slave uprising he had hoped for never happened

the aftermath
The Aftermath

Most northerners saw this as the act of a madman

The south feared that this was the first of many attacks

What happened to Brown?

Tried for treason and murder under Virginia State laws, not federal laws

He was treated as a sane, deadly serious threat to the south and a murderer.

Convicted and scheduled to be hung on Dec. 2nd 1859.

It was widely covered by the press

He rejected all attempts to free him, commute his sentence, or pardon him.

public reaction
Public reaction


Brown was martyred by abolitionists in the north

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “John Brown will make the gallows as glorious as Jesus made the Cross.”

On the day of his execution, church bells tolled, cannons fired, sermons were preached


Sees his actions as treasonist

One Southern Journal said “The North has sanctioned and applauded theft, murder and treason in the body of John Brown

Lynchings increase

South felt they were under siege from the North

It further separated the two sections of the country

This split the democratic party along sectional lines