Manifest Destiny and the Issue of Slavery as the Causes of the Conflict in the Civil War

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Manifest Destiny, in combination with the slavery issue, greatly contributed to secession and the Civil War. Manifest Destiny was the idea that the US was chosen by God to populate the Americas. The 1800s were a time of expansion, but every time the US gained land, they had to deal with the issue of slavery. Some believed the US should deal with the new lands by making them slave states, free states, or by the idea of popular sovereignty. The main factor that contributed to sectionalism and the split of the US was that a Republican northerner was elected as president.

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The South strongly felt that they could survive on their own and that the North was going to abolish slavery, so they seceded from the union.

Manifest Destiny stated that God chose America over all other countries in the world to expand and become stronger within the Americas. There were different levels that Americans thought they should populate America to, but the main theme was to expand and grow stronger. This created conflict because Americans didn’t know how to deal with the slavery issue. According to Document A, Emerson states “The United States will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man [who] swallows the arsenic…Mexico will poison us.” The annexation of Texas created a lot of controversy and some believe it contributed to the Civil War. The US at this point was just focused on acquiring land and didn’t know how to deal with it.

Many of the presidents feared that if they dealt with the slavery problem, things would get worse. Anything related to slavery was generally ignored in government. The government could only forbid or allow slavery in the new states. The North wanted to stop extending slavery into new territories because they believed it would take away from job opportunities. The new western states were decided by popular sovereignty. This caused conflict to arise because Northerners and Southerners were rushing to these western states to vote for or against slavery. The South also craved harsher fugitive slave laws. Slaves ran away from their Southern masters and hoped to find refuge in the North, which created conflict at the border states. The slaves thought they would be free in the North, but Document E states a slave is a slave no matter where he is.

The US attempted to balance the free and slave states for many years, but this compromise started to benefit the North, from the southern point of view. The Southerners felt that the North was gaining more free states because they could get to the state in time to vote due to the idea of popular sovereignty. The only thing keeping the US together was that the Executive Branch was not completely controlled by the North. When Lincoln was elected, he believed in limiting slavery. He didn’t want to get rid of it, but he wanted to stop it from spreading. This caused the South to think he was going to abolish slavery. Lincoln, being a northern Republican, also influenced the South to believe he favored the North. The Northerners were having economic problems, and because the South didn’t suffer from these same problems, they thought they could break away and still be able to sustain themselves.

Together, Manifest Destiny and the slavery issue caused the US to split and war with each other in the Civil War. The two are strongly linked because the more land that the US gained, the more the debate about slavery was raised. The presidents chose to ignore the problem until it could not be contained, and the US separated. The idea of popular sovereignty raised much conflict because it caused the Northerners and Southerners to come together in one state. The Southerners thought they could break away from the Union and sustain themselves, so they did. Lincoln then waged Civil War on the South.

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Manifest Destiny and the Issue of Slavery as the Causes of the Conflict in the Civil War. (2022, Nov 22). Retrieved from