The American Civil War lasted from 1861-1865. Eleven states seceded from the union to form the Confederate States of America. While the Civil War was devastating for the United States in terms of human loss of life, it was also the event that caused the American states to finally become united. What were the major events that led to secession and the beginning of the Civil War?
The Mexican War Ended – 1848
With the end of the Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, America was ceded western territories. This posed a problem: as these new territories would be admitted as states, would they be free or slave? To deal with this, Congress passed the Compromise of 1850 which basically made California free and allowed the people to pick in Utah and New Mexico. This ability of a state to decide whether it would allow slavery was called popular sovereignty.
Fugitive Slave Act – 1850
The Fugitive Slave Act was passed as part of the Compromise of 1850. This act forced any federal official who did not arrest a runaway slave liable to pay a fine. This was the most controversial part of the Compromise of 1850 and caused many abolitionists to increase their efforts against slavery. This act increased the Underground Railroadactivity as fleeing slaves made their way to Canada.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Was Released
Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly was written in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stowe was an abolitionist who wrote this book to show the evils of slavery. This book, which was a best seller at the time, had a huge impact on the way that northerners viewed slavery. It helped further the cause of abolition, and even Abraham Lincoln recognized that this book was one of the events that led to the outbreak of the Civil War.
Bleeding Kansas shocked Northerners
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed allowing the Kansas and Nebraska territories to decide for themselves using popular sovereignty whether they wanted to be free or slave. By 1856, Kansas had become a hotbed of violence as pro- and anti-slavery forces fought over the state’s future to the point where it was nicknamed ‘Bleeding Kansas’. The widely reported violent events were a small taste of the violence to come with the Civil War.
Charles Sumner is Attacked by Preston on the Floor of the Senate
One of the most publicized events in Bleeding Kansas was when on May 21, 1856 Border Ruffians ransacked Lawrence, Kansas which was known to be a staunch free-state area. One day later, violence occurred on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Pro-slavery Congressman Preston Brooks attacked Charles Sumner with a cane after Sumner had given a speech attacking the pro-slavery forces for the violence occurring in Kansas.
Read more: https://www.thoughtco.com/events-that-led-to-civil-war-104548