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?Who Were Some of the Individuals That Contributed to the Coming of the Civil

The Civil War was brought about by many important people, some that wanted

to preserve and some that wanted to eradicate the primary cause of the war, slavery.

There were the political giants, such as Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen Douglas.

There were seditious abolitionists such as John Brown, escaped slaves such as Dred

Scott, and abolitionist writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe. These were the people

who, ultimately, brought a beginning to the end of what Lincoln called a moral, a

social, and a political wrong(Oates 66).

Southern states, including the 11 states that formed the Confederacy, depended

on slavery to support their economy. Southerners used slave labor to produce crops,

especially cotton. Although slavery was illegal in the Northern states, only a small

proportion of Northerners actively opposed it. The main debate between the North

and the South on the eve of the war was whether slavery should be permitted in the

Western territories recently acquired during the Mexican war, which included New

Mexico, part of California, and Utah. Opponents of slavery were concerned about

its expansion, in part because they did not want to compete against slave

In 1851, a literary event startled the country. Harriet Beecher Stowe, an American

writer and abolitionist, wrote an antislavery novel, Uncle Toms Cabin, that was

published serially in a newspaper and in book form in 1852. It was a forceful

indictment of slavery and one of the most powerful novels of its kind in American

literature. The success of the book was unprecedented, selling 500,000 copies in the

United States alone within five years, and it was translated into more than 20 foreign

languages(Oates 29). It was widely read in the States and abroad, and moved

many to join the cause of abolition. The South indignantly denied this indictment of

slavery. Stowes book increased partisan feeling over slavery and intensified

sectional differences. It did much to solidify militant antislavery attitude in the

North, and therefore was an important factor in the start of the American Civil

War(Oates 31). In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which

created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and stated that each territory could

be admitted as a state with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe

at the time of their admission(Oates 42). This repealed the old dividing line

between free and slave states as set by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. With the

passage of this act, a new Lincoln emerged into the world of politics. Although he

was as ambitious for political office as ever, he was now, for the first time in his

career, devoted to a cause. He became a forceful spokesman for the antislavery

In 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States added to the mounting

tension by its decision in the Dred Scott Case. Dred Scott was a slave owned by an

army surgeon in Missouri. In 1836, Scott had been taken by his owner to Fort

Snelling, in what is now Minnesota, then a territory in which slavery was explicitly

forbidden according to the Missouri Compromise(Oates 50). In 1846, he brought

a suit in the state court on the grounds that residence in a free territory liberated him

from slavery. The Supreme Court of Missouri, however, ruled that since he was

brought back into a state where slavery was legal, the status of slavery was

reattached to him and he had no standing before the court. The Scott case was then

brought before the federal court which still held against Scott. The case was finally

appealed to the Supreme Court, where it was argued at length in 1856 and decided

in 1857. The decision handed down by a majority vote of the Court was that there

was no power in the existing form of government to make citizens slave or free, and

that at the time of the formation of the United States Constitution they were not, and

could not be, citizens in any of the states(Oates 51). Because of this, Scott was

still a slave and not a citizen of Missouri, and therefore had no right to sue in the

Their decision meant that slaves could be taken anywhere within the United States,

that the Missouri Compromise was in violation of the Constitution, and that slavery

could not be prohibited by Congress in the territories of the United States. The case,

and particularly the court s decision, aroused intense bitterness among the

abolitionists, widened the gap between the North and the South, and was among the

In 1858, Stephen Douglas, writer of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was running for re-

election to the Senate against Abraham Lincoln, then the leader of the Republican

Party in Illinois. The campaign opened in Chicago, and Lincoln and Douglas

argued over, among other things, the question of the expansion of slavery(Oates

64). Douglas stood on his doctrine of popular sovereignty, holding that the people of

the territories could elect to have slavery. They could also elect not to have it. He

attacked Lincoln for his house divided speech, accusing him of trying to divide

the nation. Lincoln replied by calling for national unity. Recalling the Declaration

of Independence, he said, Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the

other man — this race and that race and the other race, being inferior, and therefore

they must be placed in an inferior position. Let us discard all these things, and unite

as one people throughout the land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that

all men are created equal(Oates 66). Lincoln argued that slavery was a moral,

a social, and a political wrong,(Oates 66) and that it was the duty of the federal

government to prohibit its extension into the territories.

In July Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of face-to-face debates and

Douglas accepted. It was arranged that seven debates would be held in seven different

cities between August and October. In the debates, both candidates respected each

other and kept to the issues. The basis of discussion was the morality of slavery.

Although the Republicans carried the state ticket and outvoted the Democrats, the

Illinois legislature re-elected Douglas to the Senate(Oates 73).

The campaign, widely reported in the newspapers, had an importance far

beyond the fate of the candidates. It demonstrated to the South that the Republican

Party was steadily growing in strength and that it would oppose the extension of slavery

by every possible means. The campaign also showed Douglas to be an unreliable ally

to the South. He had said repeatedly in the debates that he did not care whether slavery

was voted up or down. In addition, Lincoln, previously known only locally, gained a

national reputation even in defeat. One year later, John Brown made his famous raid

on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. John Brown was already an outlaw from a previous

incident in which him and his five sons became active participants in the fight against

proslavery terrorists from Missouri, whose activities led to the murder of a number of

abolitionists at Lawrence, Kansas. Brown and his sons avenged this crime, in May of

1856 at Pottawatomie Creek, by killing five proslavery followers.

This act, along with his success in withstanding a large group of attacking

Missourians at Osawatomie in August, made him nationally famous as a hostile foe of

slavery. Now, aided by increased financial support from abolitionists in the

northeastern states, Brown began in 1857 to formulate a plan to free the slaves by

armed force(Oates 87). He secretly recruited a small band of supporters for this

project, which included a refuge for fugitive slaves in the mountains of

Virginia(Bradford 54). After several setbacks, he finally launched the venture on

October 16, 1859, and with a force of 18 men, including his sons, he seized the United

States arsenal and armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and won control of the town.

After his initial success, he made no attempt at offensive action, but instead occupied

defensive positions within the area(Oates 88). His force was surrounded by the

local militia, which was reinforced on October 17 by a company of U.S. Marines under

the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee. Ten of Browns men, including two of his

sons, were killed in the consequent battle, and he was wounded and forced to

surrender. He was arrested and charged with various crimes, including treason and

murder. He distinguished himself during his trial, which took place before a Virginia

court, by his powerful defense of his efforts in behalf of the slaves(Oates 90).

Convicted, he was hanged in Charleston, Virginia in December of 1859. For

many years after his death, brown was generally regarded by abolitionists as a martyr

By 1860, the North and the South had developed into two very different regions.

Divergent social, economic, and political points of view gradually drove the two

sections farther and father apart(Oates 99). Each tried to impose its point of view on

the country as a whole. Although compromises had kept the Union together for many

years, in 1860 the situation was explosive. The election of Abraham Lincoln as

president was viewed by the South as a threat to slavery and ignited the war. During

the campaign many Southerners had threatened that their states would secede from

the Union if Lincoln was elected because they feared that a Lincoln administration

would abolish slavery. Few people in the North believed them. A month before the

election, however, Governor William Henry Gist of South Carolina wrote to the

governors of all the Southern states, except Texas, that South Carolina would secede

in the event of Lincolns election and asked what course the other states would

As soon as it was certain that Lincoln had won, the South Carolina

legislature summoned a special convention(Oates 101). It met in December of

1860, in Charleston, and three days later the convention unanimously passed an

ordinance dissolving the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other

States(Bradford 81). Similar conventions were held by other Southern states,

and similar ordinances were adopted. The first states to follow South Carolinas

actions were: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. In

April of 1861, Lincoln called for states to send militias for national service to

suppress the rebellion. The upper South refused to send their militias to restrain the

seceded states. Instead they joined the lower South with the secession of Virginia,

Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. This secession by the South lead to the

The war over slavery was brought about by many important people, who used

many different ways to express their points of view. Some exhibited their

dissatisfaction with slavery by debating, some by using violence, some by suing in

court, and some by writing a story. These were all effective strikes against the South,

and primary causes of the war. In conclusion, these people ultimately brought a

beginning to the end of what Lincoln called, a moral, a social, and a political


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