SS8H6a Explain the importance of key issues and events that led to the Civil War; include slavery, states’ rights, nullification, Missouri Compromise, Compromise of 1850 and the Georgia Platform, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott case, election of 1860, the debate over secession in Georgia, and the role of Alexander Stephens.
STATES’ RIGHTS and SLAVERY: The economy of southern states depended on agriculture and the growing of cotton and tobacco. Slave labor was used to earn large profits for plantation owners. Whites with land and slaves often controlled the rules and laws of a state and had an interest in keeping slavery legal in the south, despite others knowing slavery was immoral. Slave states argued that individual states should have the power to determine what laws to obey and many wealthy southerners feared that federal (national) laws would abolish slavery.
In 1820, there were 11 free states in the north and 11 slave states in the south. Territories applying for statehood had to decide if they were to be a free or slave state. Missouri wanted to become a slave state, but that would make representation in US government unbalanced, so the US admit ted Maine as a free state. Territories above the 36 line of latitude would become free states.
In 1832, South Carolina nullified (or refused to accept) a federal tariff or tax on British imported goods because it was unfair to southern consumers while it benefitted northern factories. The US began to enforce the tariff causing South Carolina to threaten to secede from the Union. To avoid this conflict, the US government backed off and lowered the tariff.
In 1850, California was admitted as a free state, and Texas as a slave state. Slavery became illegal in Washington DC, and the southern states demanded that runaway slaves be captured and returned back to their owners in the south. This was known as the Fugitive Slave Act. Northerners who wanted to abolish slavery were upset that they could go to jail or fined for helping slaves escape.
In 1854, Kansas and Nebraska were territories applying for statehood. Ignoring the Missouri Compromise 36 degree latitude policy the US government allowed citizens in these territories the opportunity to vote on whether slavery would be legal or illegal. This was known as popular sovereignty. After bloody conflicts between pro-slavery and abolitionists, Kansas became a free state.
In 1857, the United States Supreme Court made its decision on the Dred Scott case. Dred Scott was a slave who sued for his freedom b/c his master took him to a free state. The court ruled that since Dred Scott was a slave he was not a citizen, therefore, he had no rights and could not sue. Also, since slaves were considered property, his master could take him anywhere. This was a defeat for abolitionists.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President from the Republican Party. Lincoln was an abolitionist and southern slave states feared that his power as president could eventually outlaw the institution of slavery, a threat to their economic success. Shortly after his election, southern states held conventions to discuss whether or not they should leave or secede from the Union.