Westward Expansion and Civil War Essay Example
Westward Expansion and Civil War Essay Example

Westward Expansion and Civil War Essay Example

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  • Pages: 5 (1344 words)
  • Published: January 21, 2022
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To many late nineteenth century Americans, the expansion of slave trade into Western territories led to a great deal of controversy. Since the drafting of the American 1787 Constitution, the South, and the North had grown further apart in terms of society, economy, and ideology. The North was afraid that the South would maliciously force its “peculiar institution” upon the whole Union. These fears were seen when the expansion of slave trade into western territories got into Congressional debates. Hoping to prevent a civil war, the federal government temporarily resolved the conflict with compromises. As the compromises appeared to favor one side, sectional divides between the South and North became more pronounced. The purpose of the paper is to explore westward expansion that led to regional differences between both the North and South. These regional differences between North and South


resulted to Civil War. The differences between North and South were spearheaded by slave trade. These differences accelerated the Civil war.

One of the main factors that led to differences between North and South was slave trade. While the South properly utilized slave trade to sustain its culture and continue with its agricultural activity of growing cotton on plantations, the North prospered economically during the Industrial Revolution. The center of industry in the U.S, Northern cities, became major metropolises because of an influx of immigrants.
With this cheap and willing workforce, the North did not largely require a slave system. Although some northern occupants found the institution of slavery morally wrong, most did not completely believe in racial equality either. Slave trade became even more divisive when it attempted to expand westward since non-slave holding white settler

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working in plantations did not want to compete with slaveholders in their new territories.

Politicians were forced to strategically deal with the issue of the slave trade and its expansion to the west as early as the Missouri slavery Compromise of 1820. The States had previously kept a shaky balance in the Senate with a number equal to that of representatives from both Free and Slave States. As Missouri prepared to get into the Union as a Slave State, this probable balance threatened to come undone. By crafting the Missouri Compromise, Henry Clay of Kentucky temporarily solved the slave issue, bringing Missouri into the Union as a State supporting Slave and, as a balance, Maine State entered as a Free State. The Compromise also significantly made future bondage unconstitutional in all areas of the Louisiana Purchase north of the line 36°30? with the exception of Missouri; all the other states below 36°30? would become the Slave States.

The first wave of westward expansion was accompanied by the rise of manufacturing industries in New England and increasing mobility across the nation. As settlers shifted to Midwest, the national infrastructure expanded significantly around them, connecting the cities and towns of the country through a system of railroads, roads, and canals. Accompanying the expansion in new methods of transportation came progress in the sectors of medicine and agriculture, as new treatments for disease discovered and new machines invented
. American culture grew in the form of painting, writing, and acting and American intellectuals gained global respect. Many writers and painters cited the American West as their source inspiration, and the West started to symbolize the American identity: rugged and rough individualism

willing to accept new challenges.

However, expansion did not take place exclusively in a wave of progress. The age of Jacksonian Democracy witnessed the rise of a political fight between the opposition Whigs and the ruling Democrats. As the two-party system grew, the political tension became the two parties clearly focused around the slavery issue. As the Western slowly developed, the old states were dramatically torn apart. Social and economic divisions became accentuated, and both South and North clung to their customs and beliefs.

The issue of extending slave activities in the West came back in Congress when the U.S entered into a civil war with Mexico over Texas State and its western territories. Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania first brought a potential solution to the slavery issue in 1846. His proposed amendment to end both the involuntary servitude and slavery in Mexico. Wilmot’s proviso proposed that slavery should be made illegal in any territories acquired from Mexico. This suggestion would encourage white settler to move west and explain that slave trade was not an institution which should stretch far past its borders. Fearful of the “Slave Power” of southern in Congress, hundreds of northern politicians backed Wilmot’s amendment. The southern politicians stressed that such an act was unlawful and blocked the passage of the Wilmot Proviso amendment. Consequently, it never passed, and the problem of slavery in westward territories continued to be a topic of heated debate.

Congress was later forced to revisit slavery issue yet again when California filed a petitioned to be and independent state in 1849. Since California had an anti-slavery inclination, southern Democrats were much reluctant to allow it enter the slave Union

and destabilize the sectional balance in Congress. The resulting 1850 Compromise was supposed to make sure that the interests of both north and south remained intact. For the North, the Compromise promised that California would join the slave Union as a Free State and slavery would end in the District of Columbia. For the South, the Compromise guaranteed that popular sovereignty would decide the issue of the slave trade in the New Mexico and Utah territories.

In 1854, Just four years later, new controversies on statehood arose and forced the slavery issue back into Congress. Nebraska and Kansas were both extensive territories petitioning to become independent states. However, people from the south opposed their admittance since the Missouri Compromise demanded that these two large territories would join the Free States. Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in order to satisfy Southern states threatening session. This new act repealed the Compromise of Missouri; instead, the people living in Nebraska and Kansas would vote to determine the end results of the states. When voters living near Missouri snuck into Kansas to vote to make the territory a slave state, consequently, tensions between the north and south exploded. War broke out in Kansas between abolitionists and pro-slavery sympathizers, named “Bleeding Kansas.”

The other factor that contributed to the civil war was manifest destiny. Manifest destiny was the attitude that prevailed throughout the 19th century during the period of American expansion. The American’s attitude that U.S was always destined to stretching from coast to coast fueled the western settlement, the removal of Native American and the beginning of civil war with Mexico. Anglo-Saxon Americans’ believed that it was their mission to insert

their influence and civilization as well as setting institutions across the whole North America. It involved territorial aggrandizement and progress of liberty in North America. In addition, this expansion involved individual economic opportunities in North America. This attitude led to differences between North and South thereby resulting to civil war.


The expansion of slavery into Western territories led to a great deal of controversy between the northern and southern territories. While the South properly utilized slave trade to sustain its culture and continue with its agricultural activity of growing cotton on plantations, the North prospered economically during the Industrial Revolution. The increase of the slavery threatened to expand to the western territories, but non-slave holding white settlers working in cotton plantations did not want to compete with slaveholders in their new territories. As a result, issue of extending slavery in the extended to the Congress when the U.S entered into a civil war with Mexico over Texas and its western territories. This led to some territories filing petition to demand statehood, which made the slavery states to reject it. In the processing of determining their statehood through voting, a tension between the north and south explode to a civil war which was known as “Bleeding Kansas.” In a nutshell, it is clear that the westward expansion led to regional differences that resulted to civil war. The main of causer of the differences was slave trade.

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