Friday, October 7, 2011

Origin of the Civil War

Origins of the Civil War

The deepest cause of the Civil War lay in the divergence of two societies over slavery. As the North and the South developed divergent societies based on freedom and slavery, two separate regional identities emerged. The United States was a nation divided into two distinct regions separated by the Mason-Dixon line. The Wilmot Proviso, Compromise of 1850, and Kansas-Nebraska Act stirred up a great controversy over the extension of slavery into the western territories and also contributed a lot to the coming of the Civil War.

During the Mexican-American War (1846-48), the Wilmot Proviso was a bill in Congress to outlaw slavery in the new territories; it never passed but stirred intense controversy. The Wilmot Proviso was a proposal, by David Wilmot for Congress to forbid the expansion of slavery into the Southwest, the land acquired from Mexico after the Mexican-American War. Many northerners viewed the war with Mexico as part of a southern plot to extend the “slave power”. This belief and the Proviso inflamed great sectional tensions and helped cause the American Civil War, because the northerners voted for the Proviso even if they were democrat and the southerners voted against it even if they were Whigs.

The Compromise of 1850 in United States history was a series of legislative acts that were intended to resolve conflicts between pro-slavery and anti-slavery, but it ended up being a controversy. A political crisis began with a petition for the admission of California as a free state. Following the California Gold Rush, California had enough people for the formation of a government. But after the Missouri Compromise, it had been the practice of Congress to admit states in slave-free pairs so as to maintain the balance of free and slave states in the U.S. Senate. As there was no slave territory anywhere close to being ready or able to organize as a state, the admission of California as a free state would undo the compromise and grant a free-state majority in the Senate. Henry Clay proposed a compromise that would resolve this and other outstanding issues. Clay's bill admitted California as a free state, banned the sale of slaves in Washington, D.C., organized the remainder of the Mexican Cession into two territories-Utah and New Mexico-and allowed the settlers to decide the slavery issue by popular sovereignty, and strengthen the fugitive slave law. Parts of the compromise became sources of controversy, especially the new Fugitive Slave Law and the provision of popular sovereignty.

Most people thought the Compromise had ended the territorial issue, but Stephen A. Douglas reopened it in 1854, in the name of democracy. Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill with the intention of the railroad connections from Chicago into Kansas and Nebraska, but that was not a controversial point. The Bill proposed that the Nebraska Territory be divided into the Kansas territory and Nebraska territory, and the settler there be free to decide whether or not to allow slavery(popular sovereignty). The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act renewed the sectional controversy that had been at least partly resolved by the Compromise of 1850. In effect, it repealed the Compromise of 1820. This caused protest in north, and the party that caused this protest was called the Anti-Slavery Republic Party.

Some Historians see the Wilmot Proviso as the first round in an escalating political conflict that led ultimately to Civil War. The Compromise of 1850 was also one the steps leading to the Civil War. Manifest Destiny ,belief that the United States was destined to expand across theNorth American continent, played the most important role to trigger the Civil War.

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