A Divided Nation

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Social Studies
African-American History

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A Divided Nation



1859:John Brown takes control of the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia

May 21, 1856: In the Sack of Lawrence pro-slavery forces attack the town of Lawrence, Kansas.

1852: Uncle Tom's Cabin was published by Harriet Beecher Stowe and sparked outrage in the South.

September 18, 1850: Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act which made it a crime to help run away slaves, and allowed officials to arrest those slaves in free territories.

August 8, 1848: The Free Soil Party formed as retaliation from the Democrats and Whigs who didn't say exactly what their vew on slavery was, so some Northerners decided to create this political party as an anti-slavery organization.

December 20, 1860:South Carolina votes to secede from the United States.

Dred Scott Descision:In the March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks - slaves as well as free -could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional. This permitted slavery in all of the country's territories.

The South Secedes:a secession convention meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, unanimously adopted an ordinance dissolving the connection between South Carolina and the United States of America.The convention had been called by the governor and legislature of South Carolina once Lincoln's victory was assured. Delegates were elected on December 6, 1860.

"Bleeding Kansas":Bleeding Kansas is the term used to described the period of violence during the settling of the Kansas territory. In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraksa Act overturned the Missouri Compromise’s use of latitude as the boundary between slave and free territory and instead, using the principle of popular sovereignty, decreed that the residents would determine whether the area became a free state or a slave state. Proslavery and ree-state settlers flooded into Kansas to try to influence the decision. Violence soon erupted as both factions fought for control. Abolitionist John Brown led anti-slavery fighters in Kansas before his famed raid on Harper's Ferry.

Election of 1860: The presidential election was held on November 6, 1860. Lincoln did very well in the northern states, and though he garnered less than 40 percent of the popular vote nationwide, he won a landslide victory in the electoral college. Even if the Democratic Party had not fractured, it is likely Lincoln still would have won due to his strength in states heavy with electoral votes.

Lincoln-Dougas Debates:Historians have traditionally regarded the series of seven debates between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln during the 1858 Illinois state election campaign as among the most significant statements in American political history. The issues they discussed were not only of critical importance to the sectional conflict over slavery and states’ rights but also touched deeper questions that would continue to influence political discourse.

The Missouri Compromise:The Missouri Compromise was the result of the problem of slavery. The slavery issue was at hand for decades before the territory of Missouri decided it was to be the pivotal player in 1818. Petitioning Congress was the usual route for gaining admission into the United States, and that is what Missouri decided to do. Post-Revolutionary America had seen an explosion in both territory and state admission.

Kansas-Nebraska Act:The Kansas-Nebrask Act was a bill passed in 1854 that mandated popular sovereignty–allowing settlers of a territory to decide whether slavery should be allowed within a new state’s borders. Proposed by Stephen A. Douglas, the bill overturned the Missouri Compromise’s use of latitude as the boundary between slave and free territory. The conflicts that arose between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers in the aftermath of the act’s passage led to a period of violence known as "Bleeding Kansas".

New Land/ Mexican Cession:To the United States, this massive land grab was significant because the question of extending slavery into newly acquired territories had become the leading national political issue.To Mexico, the loss of an enormous part of its territory was a tremendous embarrassment and created lasting anger among many of its citizens.Under the terms of the cession, the United States acquired the territory that became the states of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, with the exception of that territory that later was added by the Gadsden Treaty in 1853. The price of this was $15 million to Mexico and $3,250,000 to cover the claims of American citizens against Mexico.

Compromise of 1850:The Compromise of 1850 was five separate bills passed by the United States Congress in the September of 1850, which settled a four-year political confrontation between slave and free states regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." -Abraham Lincoln


The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration, and most of the Northern people, refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and it create a fatal precedent that would eventually shatter the no-longer United States into several small countries who were at war with each other.

A Nation Divided


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