Document Based Question – What caused the American Civil War?

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Document Based Question – What caused the American Civil War?
Background Essay

  1. What issue divided the North and the South since the nation’s beginnings?

  2. Why did the North and South want to maintain a balance of free and slave states?

  3. How did the Missouri Compromise of 1820 maintain balance in Congress?

  1. How did the issue of protective tariffs further divide the North and South?

  1. How did the Mexican War affect the balance of power between North and South?

  1. What made the Compromise of 1850 necessary?

  1. List the details of the Compromise of 1850:

Document A – Railroads in 1860 / Slave Density and Cotton Production, 1860 (Maps)

  1. What do you notice about railroad development in the North and South?

  1. What are some of the major economic differences between the North and the South?

  2. Even though they were slave states, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware did not secede from the Union. Is there a connection between slave density and which states left the Union?

  3. What arguments could be made about the potential causes of the war given these maps?

  4. If this is all the information you had on the economies of the North and South, how might one argue that new lands in the West might lead to serious troubles for the nation?

  5. The first states to secede from the Union were South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana; given the maps, is this surprising? Why or why not?

Document B – Resources of the Union and the Confederacy, 1861

  1. What is the population total for non-slaves in the North (including Border States) and the South?

  2. Given the population statistics, how might the North have dominated the South politically in at least two branches of the government?

  3. How might the North’s industrial economy and the South’s agricultural economy have benefited
    each other?

  4. Why might some Northern workers not want slavery to end in the South?

  5. Why might some Southerners have wanted slavery to end in the South?

  6. Do the economic differences reflected by these pie charts suggest a possible cause of the Civil War?
    Why or why not?

Document C – The Impending Crisis of the South

  1. What is Helper’s opinion of the Southern economy, and why?

  2. What evidence does Helper present that argues for a change in the Southern economy?

  3. What groups of people in the South benefit from the Southern economy, and what groups
    DO NOT benefit? Why?

  4. How do you think this book would have been received in the North?

  5. Do the pie diagrams from Document B support Helper’s argument? Why or why not?

  6. Does this document shed any light on what possibly caused the Civil War?

Document D – Cotton is King

  1. What is the main idea of this document (what is Hammond’s main argument)?

  2. What evidence does Hammond provide to support his argument?

  3. Cotton was sometimes called “white gold.” How important was this crop to the US, England, and the rest of the world? Why?

  4. Read the final paragraph again. Given what Hammond is saying, what might be a potential problem for the North if the two sides, North and South, go to war?

  5. Consider all four Documents; does there seem to be an economic cause for the Civil War?
    Why or why not?

Document E – John C. Calhoun and the Compact Theory of Government

  1. With what issues and events have we discussed John C. Calhoun in the past?

  2. Is Calhoun a believer in states’ rights or federal rights?

  3. What is Calhoun’s main argument in this quotation?

  1. Consider a parallel example: Marriage is a type of “compact,” or agreement, similar to the compact made between states in the Union. Is “secession” in marriage, that is, getting a divorce, okay? Is it okay for a state to divorce itself from a union of states?

Document F – Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address

  1. What do the words “perpetual” and “perpetuity” mean?

  2. How does Lincoln view the Union and what reason does he give for this belief?

  3. Consider both documents: List two or three reasons why BOTH men, Calhoun and Lincoln, make legitimate arguments regarding the nature of the Union.

  4. Did the disagreement over the right to secede cause the Civil War? Was the issue of the legality of secession by itself enough reason to go to war?

Document G – Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”

  1. What do you know about the background and history of Frederick Douglass?

  2. What does Douglass mean when he says “your celebration is a sham?”

  3. What does Douglass mean when he says “your denunciation of tyrants” is
    “brass fronted impudence?”

  4. How do you think Douglass’ audience reacted to this speech? Why?

Document H – George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All!

  1. Write the reasons Fitzhugh praises slave labor and the problems associated with free labor below:
    Slave Labor:

    Free Labor:

  1. Which of the statements above do you believe are legitimate and which are not? Why?

  2. What do you believe Douglass would have said to Fitzhugh?

  3. Comparing Douglass and Fitzhugh, are there sufficient reasons here for civil war? Why or why not?

Document I – Fugitive Slave Law, Harriet Tubman, & Uncle Tom’s Cabin

  1. What did the Fugitive Slave Law require everyone in the nation to do?

  2. What was the opinion of the Fugitive Slave Law in the North?

  3. What did Harriet Tubman do to help slaves escape to the North?

  4. What was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin about?

  5. What effect did the novel have on the North?

  6. How did many in the South react to the novel?

  7. How might the Fugitive Slave Law, Harriet Tubman, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin have been a cause of the Civil War?

Document J – The Reaction to John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry

  1. What was John Brown trying to organize and how was he planning on doing it?

  2. What was the result of Brown’s actions?

  3. How did people in the North and South react to John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry?

    1. North:

    2. South:

  4. How did this event and the subsequent reactions to it seem to push the nation closer to war?

Document K – Popular Sovereignty and the Free-Soil Party

  1. What is “popular sovereignty” and how is it a form of compromise in regards to the slavery issue?

  2. Why did many Northerners support the idea?

  3. What was the platform of the Free-Soil Party?

  4. How did most in the Free-Soil Party feel about the morality of slavery? What was their concern with the issue?

  5. Who won the election of 1848? How did the issue of slavery and its expansion affect this election?

Document L – The Republican Party

  1. How did the issue of slavery affect the Whig Party?

  2. Members from what other parties came together to form the Republican Party?

  3. The Republican Party was built on a platform of anti-slavery. What appears to be the main difference between the Republican Party and the Free-Soil Party?

  4. Who won the election of 1856?

  5. What appears to be one reason why Republican candidate John C. Fremont did not win the election?

  6. What effect does the issue of slavery appear to be having on the Democratic Party?

Document M – The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

  1. Before Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephen Douglas ran for president against one another in 1860, Lincoln challenged Douglas for his senate seat in what state in 1858?

  2. What was the major issue discussed during their public debates in 1858?

  1. What were the main arguments presented by both men during the debates?

    1. Lincoln:

    2. Douglas:

  2. Who won this election and how did this senate election affect Lincoln?

  3. Taking Documents K, L and M together, how does it appear slavery is affecting politics during this time?

  4. Is the political issue of slavery one that is straight forward and cut-and-dry across the national landscape? Why or why not? Could differing political views about slavery and its expansion have been a cause of the Civil War? Why or why not?

Document N – The Wilmot Proviso

  1. How did the result of the Mexican War affect the debate over slavery and its expansion?

  2. What was the proposal made by Congressman David Wilmot?

  3. What was the result of this proposed law?

Document O – The Kansas-Nebraska Act

  1. Review… what were the provisions of the Missouri Compromise (1820)?

  1. How did the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 change the Missouri Compromise?

  2. What is popular sovereignty and what role does it play in this act?

  3. How was popular sovereignty used in the Compromise of 1850?

  4. Why might this act have made many in the North upset?

  1. What might the North or South try to do in order to make sure these territories became either slave or free? Why might this cause a problem?

  2. Does the Kansas-Nebraska Act appear to be a good compromise over the slavery issue?
    Why or why not?

Document P – Bleeding Kansas

  1. Why did so many people pour into the Kansas Territory?

  2. Kansas was ready to vote for a government and decide if they would be a free or slave state in 1855. What happened that made the territorial vote controversial?

  3. Where were the two different governments located?

    1. Pro-Slavery government:

    2. Anti-Slavery government:

  4. What happened during the 1856 “Sack of Lawrence?

  5. Seeking revenge for the “Sack of Lawrence,” what did abolitionist John Brown do and what
    was it called?

  6. John Brown’s violent acts in Kansas occurred a few years before his attack on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Given those two events, what became clear about Brown and his attitude toward slavery?

  7. As violence spread in Kansas, what was the nickname given to these events and why?

  1. Given what happened in Kansas following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, would you consider that law a successful compromise? Why or why not?

Document Q – The Caning of Charles Sumner

  1. Examine the cartoon and list the following details: Date, place, occasion, names of the men

  2. What is going on in the cartoon and why?

  3. What do you think is the cartoonist’s point of view and what makes you think that?

  4. Does this incident reveal a potential cause of the Civil War? Why or why not?

Document R – The Dred Scott Decision

  1. What was the main issue or question that the Supreme Court was dealing with in this case?

  2. What ruling did Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney make regarding the social and political status of African Americans?

  3. How do you believe this ruling further pushed the nation toward war?

  4. After Taney’s decision was announced, Frederick Douglass was quoted as saying, “My hopes were never brighter than now.” Why do you believe Douglass would say such a thing?

Document S – Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech

  1. What is the main point Lincoln is trying to make in this speech?

  2. What is Lincoln’s opinion of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott case? What effect does he feel those decisions will have on the nation?

  3. What does Lincoln say happened “two years ago,” and what does he see happening in the future?

  4. Do you get a sense from Lincoln’s speech that he believes war is coming? Why or why not, and how can you tell?

Document T – The Presidential Election of 1860

  1. What is the difference between the electoral vote and the popular vote?

  2. Of the four candidates, who holds the toughest position against slavery?

  3. What happened to the Democratic Party, and why? How did it affect the election?

  4. Who won each region of the nation? Where there any exceptions to the general pattern?

    1. North:

    2. Border States:

    3. South:

    4. Far West:

  5. Lincoln was not on the ballot in any states south of Kentucky and Missouri. Given the results of the election, how do you think the South reacted and why?

  6. Does the Presidential Election of 1860 help explain what caused the Civil War? Why or why not?

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