Final Essay #1. The Disintegration of the Union between 1848 and 1860

The Civil War in America (the war between the North and the South) was the event, that eventually united all the states, but at the same time it had its negative consequences and took away many people’s lives. The major cause of the war was slavery and it needs to be mentioned that there were several concrete developments and events, which contributed to its onset.

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Among these developments are the Compromise of the 1850 and Fugitive slave law, publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and Bleeding Kansas (1856), Dread Scott Decision (1857), Lincoln-Douglass Debates (1858), John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and finally the Presidential election in 1860. Let us discuss all of them in further detail.

After the end of the Mexican War in 1848 there was a question about the existence of slavery at the new territory and as a result Henry Clay, famous American politician, worked a Compromise  in 1850 according to which California became a free state and citizens of Utah and Mexico had a choice whether to have slavery or not. At the same time, there was the Fugitive act, which punished all the people, who helped slaves to escape. Northerners, being upset and disappointed, helped fugitive slaves and supported them. Escape was very dangerous and slaves who managed to run away had to travel on foot at night. Later a secret network of people was created and it consisted of free African Americans and white abolitionists. Such people were called conductors.

In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published her famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where she depicted hard life of slaves and stressed the evil of slavery in general. The publication of the novel led to the increasing of abolitionist protest all around the country.

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The next cause of the onset of the Civil War was the Kansas-Nebraska Act, according to which these two states would vote to decide whether slaves would be legal or not (the notion of ‘popular sovereignty’). It happened that there were both supporters of the slavery and anti-slavery forces who were eager to fight for the future of the state. One of the key events was Preston Brooks’ attack of Charles Summer, who criticized the anti-slavery forces and of the events in Kansas.

One more development that contributed to the tensions over slavery was the Dred Scott decision. The issue was that the slave, who was taken by his owner to one of the free states, argued that stay in the free territory made him free. However, in 1857 the Court decided to rule against Dred Scott, referring to the Constitution and its the protection of property.

In 1858 one of the most famous debates in the U.S. history took place. The race for Senate was contested between Democratic Stephan Douglass and Republican Abraham Lincoln. The latter was eager to pass a Constitutional Amendment while Douglass wanted popular sovereignty. While two candidates debated, abolitionist John Brown planned a slave revolt. In October of 1859 he led a band of his men into Harpers Ferry in Virginia, but eventually the rebellion was put down by the slaved and Brown was executed.

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Finally, the President election was won by Lincoln and this became the last and the main event that caused the beginning of the Civil War as seven states separated from the union.

To sum up, there were many developments and events which played important roles in the onset of the Civil War, but all of them were related to slavery and the problem of its abolition.

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