A Divided Nation

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by BrookeValenzuela
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Social Studies
African-American History

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A Divided Nation

A Divided Nation

The debate on slavery slowly splits the nation in two.

The California Gold Rush had caused a rapid population growth so California applied for statehood. Because of popular sovereignty Californians would get to vote whether they wanted slavery or not, but this was a problem because if California became a free state than there would be more free than slave states. The Compromise of 1850 declared that California would enter the United States as a free state as long as the territories of Utah and New Mexico also entered the US, and their free/slave state status would be determined by popular sovereignty. This calmed the North and South, but only temporarily.

The fued all started when the North and the South were unable to decide whether Missouri should be a slave state or not. With a very convincing argument from Henry Clay, Congress approved the Missouri Comprimise. This was only approved because its three main concepts were that 1) Missouri would be a slave state, that 2)Maine (who was also attempting statehood) would become a free state, and that 3) slavery would banned in any territory above Missouri's southern border.

The Fugitive Slave Act made it illegal to help slaves who ran away and gave permission for any person in lawinforcement the right to arrest those slaves, whether they were in slave, or free areas. This act benifited comissionors but it helped them more if they sentenced the runaways. This policy was effictive almost immediatly after it was made. Not only did this terrify the escapees, the Northerners were not exactly enthusiastic with the amount of power the commissoners were given. They also didn't like that the slaves and the slave-hiders were not given a trial. They would be accused and not be able to testify. The northerners were at first peacefull in there protesting, but that didn't last long. There wasn't many fatalities, according to page 442 of my history textbook, but more and more people joined the abolitionist side, tearing the frail relationship between the North and South.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a plan that would divide the remainder of the land form the Louisiana Purchase into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska. The people of these two areas would decide whether they would be free, or slave states. This act would demolish the Missouri compromise, and the Northerners were not happy about what could happen. They all thought that if either of the two territories were to become a slave state that it would deminish the area making the land withered with masters and slaves. All over the North, people went and protested at meetings and sent anti-slavery groups to Kansas to reason with the locals. The South had wasted little time as well. Fredrick Douglass and democratic President Peirce also sent pro-slavery groups to talk up the Kansans' as well. In the end, Kansas ended as a slave state because thousands of pro-slavery commonfolk crossed the border, voted, and returned home, leaving the actual Kansans outraged. They then formed their own legislature in what is now present-day Kansas's capital, Topeaka. President Peirce refused to notice the pro-slavery legislature, only the opposing one. This would only end badly for both sides of the dispute.

By now the two legislatures in Kansas were at eachothers throats. They were dividing the population, and something had to be done. To try and sort it out, a team of the congressional sort was sent to see which house was more legitimate. When finding that the pro-slavery legislature was rather un-fair, the federal governments did not act upon this note. When their problems could no longer be ignored, everything turned violent, and Kansas's delima soon became what is known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Un-able to contain their rage, Kansas broke into an all out civil war, killing at least 200 people. This tragic event was soon to be called "Bleeding Kansas." However sad, the people did get a new governer, who began to sew back together Kansas's tattered remains.


Shortly after Buchanan was elected, the Court started reveiw and decide the case of a Missourian slave, Dred Scott. Dred's 'master' had past away, and he was left to the widow. He sued for his freedom, saying that when he lived elsewhere (traveling with his slave-holder), in free terriotory, he should have been free. Although the lower court agreed with Mr. Scott, the Missouri Surpreme Court overturned it. In 1857, 11 years after the original ruling, the case reached U.S. Surpreme Court. With a lot to consider, the Cheif Justice on the case decided that Dred Scott, along with all other African Americans were not citizens, and therefore had no right to appeal his slave/not slave status. Then Taney stated that the Missouri Compromise line, at 36 degrees 30' was unconstitutional and that the amendments prohibited it. Southerners cheered, but Northerners were astonished that what Congress ruled could be so easily dismised. Whatever remains of Americas unity was soon to crumble.

There were four participants in the Election of 1860. The first being Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was widely supported by the North because of his overt distaste for slavery. Stephan Douglas, another participant in the election, was also highly favored, but in the south. He, unlike Lincoln, was pro-slavery and thought that the Dred Scott Decision was some how not only fair, but righteous. The other two srong canidates in the election were John Bell, and John C. Beckinridge, who were less influential and who had similar, but slightly different opinions than Lincoln and Douglas. Once the votes were in, Lincoln had one both the electoral and popular vote. The North was thrilled, it seemed as though they had finally won the debate, but the South would not let slavery go. The South was losing their political power.


Missouri's Compromise

Compromise of 1850







The Fugitive Slave Act

With Lincoln as president, backed by the Republican Party, he said he would not change slavery in the south, but he also would not permit slavery to expand. The South could not hold there anger in. They were considering fomally withdrawing from the Union, or secession. Many states in the South did secede and there was mass confusion on who owned the federal property. When Lincoln was inagurated he declared that the seceded land would still go to him, and that he hoped that with time, the South would rejoin the nation.


Event 2

Event 1

The Kansas-Nebraska Act

"Bleeding Kansas"

The Dred Scott Decision

The Election of 1860

The South Secedes


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