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A Nation in Crisis: The American Civil War

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Dr.Liamvan Beek

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HIS271 A Nation in CrisisNovember 17th 2010
Americas Civil War
Why in 1861? Why did compromise fail?
How was the Civil War a turning point in American history? What changed?
What was the effect of the war upon American citizens?
The civil war did two things:
1.Succeeded in uniting the states together in a common national purpose
2. Intensified the divisions within the states, but these divisions became more
cultural and social. Two visions of the country fuse into one at the end of the
As important as the battles were the causes of the war were equally important
Causes of the War
Territorial Expansion
For many, land = power and control control over the direction the government is
going, etc.
How new land was going to be acquired in the United States as they expanded
westward was of the utmost importance
Wilmot Proviso, 1846
As theyre moving West, and as land west of Louisiana was acquired,
Southerners assumed the land would be made slave states
Northerners felt they should compromise
Set forth by a Northerner senator, David Wilmot, stating that any land
acquired by negotiation would be prohibited from using slave labour
Emerged as a response to conflict over the extension of the Missouri
For Polk, the president, the land meant that the population could be
dispersed, as well as slave populations being dispersed which would decrease
the chances of slave insurrections

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HIS271 A Nation in CrisisNovember 17 th 2010
Americas Civil War
Northerners feared that the extension of 36/30 would prevent free labours
from expanding across the country, intensifying the issues they were
experiencing in the East (unemployment, over population, etc.)
Northerners and Southerners argued using the Constitutional
South argued that slaves were property, and that Northerners interfering with
slavery was unconstitutional, because it protected private property
Northerners argued that the federal government could dictate how property
rights would be organized in the new territory
John C Calhoun concurrent majority: if you have a small minority that
opposes the majority, they can veto it
So the Wimot Proviso:
1.Solidified popularity for Zachery Taylor of the Whigs, who was popular with
the Southerners
2. Illustrates the divides in the Democrat party
So it was one of the first tests of the Missouri Compromise and tensions of
territorial expansion and which vision of the Union would prevail strong
central government or states rights
When gold was discovered in California, it made the abstract very real
because ACTUAL settlers were scurrying west, and they needed to decide
whose power would preside over the territory
Compromise of 1850
California sought admission to statehood, reopening the debate once again
The result of the war with Mexico, the questions of whether the state allow
slavery or not or whether the inhabitants should decide are raised
California was a territory that had grown with the gold rush of 1849 and had
petitioned Congress to enter the Union as a free state
If it did, the balance of slave vs. free states would be thrown
Boundary disputes as well, complicating the issue

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HIS271 A Nation in CrisisNovember 17 th 2010
Americas Civil War
Henry Clay didnt agree with the Compromise bill and proposes three things:
1.Admission of California as a free state
2.The division of the remainder of the Mexican territories into two territories:
New Mexico and Utah with no restrictions on slavery
3.Settlement of boundary dispute
4.Government would assume Texas debt
5.Slavery could exist, but the trade was to be abolished
6.More effective Fugitive Slave Law
Sixth was the most controversial aspect
Slaves were denied the right to a trial by jury, slave owners could cross into
Northern states to claim their runaways
Really upsetting
Northerners believed it was an infringement of their rights.. why should they
HAVE to help capture the runaways
Made them more forceful in their attempts to abolish slavery
Because the act sanctioned slave owners to enter Northern soil to pursue the
slaves, slavery was becoming a national problem
The bill passed
Kept the union from dissolving
Amplified the divide between north and south
Solved the problem, but satisfied no one
Passed because it was an omnibus bill
While the compromise held for four years, it wasnt to last
Fugitive Slave Act, 1850
Kansas/ Nebraska Act, 1854
Yet another attempt at compromise
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