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IB History of the Americas/Chapter 5

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The Origins of the American Civil War

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"One eight of the whole population was coloured slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localised in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

—Abraham Lincoln, 2nd inaugural address.

1793: Invention of the cotton gin. This made possible the expansion fo slavery inland and allowed for the continuance of slavery as a viable economic system. By 1860 the South produced 4 million bales of cotton, which was 50% of US exports.

1808: US abolished the slave trade. The value of slaves increased to $2,000 by 1850. Despite only 25% of South owning slaves, the existence of slaves reminded poor whites that there was a class below them in society. Slavery permeated all aspects of Southern life, therefore, an attack on slavery was seen as an attack on the South. "Slavery was much more that an economic system. It was a means of maintaining control and white supremacy... The economic, social and racial centrality of slavery to the Southern way of life focused the region's politics overwhelmingly on defence of the pecliar institution." A. Farmer.

1819: 11 'free' states, 11 'slave' states. The senate was even but the North had began to dominate the House with its rapidly growing population.

1820: Missouri Compromise. Missouri, a slave state, would join the union with Maine, a free state, to maintain the balance. No slavery was to be subsequently allowed North of the 36'30' parallel. The issue was not resolved, merely delegated to a later date.

1833: Britain abolished slavery throughout its empire. This encouraged the Northern abolitionists, with a noticeable rise of militant abolitionists.

1836-48: 3 slave states and 3 free states join the union. This preserved te sectional balance in the senate

Late 1840s: Gowing tension due to: the acquisition of Oregon in 1846, California and New Mexico in 1848, the discovery of Gold and the migration of Mormons to Utah which led to the rapid westward migration and growth. The Wilmot Proviso 1846, which excluded slavery from any territory acquired from Mexico, was passed in the House but defeated in the Senate. The Calhoun Doctrine 1847, argued that territories were the common property of all states, that any US citizen was free to settle in the US with its property (slaves), that the states were sovereign, they had the right to secede if the North ignored Southern interests and threatened slavery, then the South was justified in leaving the Union.

1850: Compromise. California to join the Union as a free state, the end of slavery in Washington D.C, in Utah and New Mexico 'popular sovereignity' would decide whether the state would be slave or free, and a more stringent Fugitive slave law. David Potter argues it was "an armistice rather than a compromise"

1852: Publication of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'

1854: Kansas-Nebraska Act. Addition of two new states, their status to be decided by poplar sovereignity, undermined the Missouri Compromise. This re-iginited sectional tensions and fed Northern fears of a 'slave power' base.

1856: Brooks, a Southern representative, beat unconscious the abolitionist senator Sumner, on the senate floor. The start of the violence.

'Bleeding Kansas' a minor civil war over whether to be free or slave, eventually in 1858 after a referendum the pro-slavery group was defeated.

1857: Dred Scott Case. The Supreme Court rules that slavery could exist throughout the union, this implied that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.

Rise of the Republican Party. The Republican Party became a fully sectional party and led to a further identification with North or South rather than with the Union, Abraham Lincoln was influential in the Douglas-Lincoln debates in splitting the democratic party.

1860: Lincoln wins the presidential election, with only 40% of the popular vote. A complete sectinal victory, and in December South Carolina secedes from the Union, followed by 6 other states.

1861: The confederacy was formed. Lincoln rejected any compromise such as the Crittenden Proposals. "Given the momentum of succession and the fundamental set of Republicanism, it is probably safe to say that compromise was impossible from the start" David Potter.

April: Fort Sumter, remained loyal to the Union. Lincoln chose to re-provision, and Davies demanded surrender. When Anderson refused shots were fired at 4:30am until he surrendered 33 hours later.

"The social systems of slave labour and free labour 'are more than incongrous - they are incompatible', the friction between them is 'an irreconcilable conflict between opposing and endring forces.'" Seward. "The Civil War was 'The Repressible Conflict'" Craven (revisionist) - it could have been avoided had serious attempts been made to diffuse the situation, failure of the leaders to responsibly handle the situation.