Civil War After the War Term Paper
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California was particularly problematic. Taken from Mexico after the war, California was geographically cut in half along the 36°30, and was therefore legally and politically cut in half. However, residents applied for statehood as a free state in 1850. Congress responded with a set of complicated compromises: California would be admitted as a free state in exchange for the Fugitive Slave Law, which required that citizens residing in free states hand over runaway slaves, who would not be afforded any legal rights. Additionally, the District of Columbia would cease trading slaves, but the institution itself would not be abolished; slaves would not be emancipated. The admission of California as a free state upset the balance of power in Congress. The Fugitive Slave Law fueled the Underground Railroad and underscored the deepening divisions between North and South.
The Missouri Compromise was shot to pieces in 1854, when Kansas and Nebraska were admitted to the union under the doctrine of popular sovereignty: the rights of territories to choose for themselves whether or not to allow slavery within its borders. Both states should have been admitted as free states automatically according to the Missouri Compromise, but hungry for the southern vote, Stephen Douglas supported the rights of southerners to own and trade slaves as they pleased in the new territories. The dispute over slavery in Kansas erupted in violence. Northern abolitionists and the Emigrant Aid Company sent armed forces to ensure Kansas would be admitted as a free state. Southerners, who would be victorious on the Kansas issue, responded in turn. "Bleeding Kansas" became the predecessor for the violence to come during the Civil War.
The free state/slave state issue reached the Supreme Court with the Dred Scott v. Sanford case. Dred Scott, a former slave, petitioned for his freedom after moving to slaveholding Missouri from Illinois and Wisconsin, both free. The Supreme Court delivered a shocking
decision that declared Dred Scott and all persons of African descent as being devoid of the rights granted to other citizens of the United States. The decision also overturned the Missouri Compromise as being unconstitutional. Even as it pleased the South, the Dred Scott decision sent the nation into an uproar.
Compromises between north and south had failed. The nation was politically divided in half. The election of 1860 exacerbated the divisions between North and South and initiated the War of Secession, as Abraham Lincoln won the election in spite of his not carrying a single Southern state. Sectionalism between North and South grew as intense as to cause the creation of the Confederate States and the long and bloody Civil War, which was fought over the political, economic, and social implications of the institution of slavery: states' rights; federalism; and political representation were all issues that were related to the divisions between north and south.
The South came close to winning, but the Union was ultimately successful. In 1864, General Lee's surrender, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and later, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution ended the practice of slavery in the United States. Winning the war and officially ending slavery did not instantly cure all of America's ills. The process of Reconstruction would be long and painful and never decisive enough to ensure rights for African-Americans in spite of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Sectionalism divided North and South for many decades after the end of the Civil War, and resulted in deplorable race relations within the United States.
Bleeding Kansas." Africans in America. PBS Online. Online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2952.html.
The Compromise of 1850." Africans in America. PBS Online. Online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2951.html.
Cozzens, Lisa. "Impact of Dred Scott." African-American History. Online at http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/scott/impact.html.
Kansas-Nebraska Act." The Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, 2001. Online at http://www.bartleby.com/65/ka/KansasNe.html.
Northwest Ordinance. July 13, 1787. Full text at Avalon Project, Yale Law School. Online at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/nworder.htm.
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