Civil War

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SLAVERY
The burning issue that led to the disruption of the union, however, was the debate over the future of slavery. That dispute led to secession, and secession brought about a war in which the Northern and Western states and territories fought to preserve the Union, and the South fought to establish Southern independence as a new confederation of states under its own constitution. In the late 18th century, the abolitionist movement began in the north and the country began to divide over the issue between north and south. In 1820, the Missouri Compromise banned slavery in all new western territories, which southern states saw as a threat to the institution of slavery itself. With the election in 1860 of Abraham Lincoln, who ran on a position of anti-slavery, the south felt that slavery was sure to be abolished, causing many southern states to secede from the union. This capped off the bloody Civil War During the war, Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the confederate states. But it wasn’t until the Union had actually won the war and the subsequent passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that the American slaves were officially freed. STATES RIGHTS

States’ Rights refer to the struggle between the federal government and individual states over political power. In the Civil War era, this struggle focused heavily on the institution of slavery and whether the federal government had the right to regulate or even abolish slavery within an individual state. The sides of this debate were largely drawn between northern and southern states, thus widened the growing divide within the nation. As long as there were an equal number of slave-holding states in the South as non-slave-holding states in the North, the two regions had even representation in the Senate and neither could dictate to the other. However, each new territory that applied for statehood threatened to upset this balance of power. Southerners consistently argued for states’ rights and a weak federal government but it was not until the 1850s that they raised the issue of secession. Southerners argued that, having ratified the Constitution and having agreed to join the new nation in the late 1780s, they retained the power to cancel the agreement and they threatened to do just that unless, as South Carolinian John C. Calhoun put it, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment to give back to the South. Non-violent attempts at resolution culminated in violence in 1859 when Northern abolitionist John Brown abandoned discussion and took direct action in a raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Though unsuccessful, the raid confirmed Southern fears of a Northern conspiracy to end slavery. When anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860, Southerners were sure that the North meant to take away their right to govern themselves, abolish slavery, and destroy the Southern economy. Having exhausted their legal and political options, they felt that the only way to protect themselves from this Northern assault was to no longer be a part of the United States of America. Although the Southern states seceded separately, without intending to form a new nation, they soon banded together in a loose coalition. Northerners, however, led by Abraham Lincoln, viewed secession as an illegal act. The Confederate States of America was not a new country; they felt, but a group of treasonous rebels. ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT

By the early 1830s, those who wished to see that institution abolished within the United States were becoming more strident and influential. They claimed obedience to "higher law" over obedience to the Constitution’s guarantee that a fugitive from one state would be considered a fugitive in all states. The fugitive slave act along with the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped expand the support for abolishing slavery nationwide. This antislavery movement...
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