Moral Conflictions and Economic Debates
Moral conflictions and economic debates were the cause in which brave men died and brother fought against brother in the bloody massacre that is entitled the American Civil War. The South was seen as an assemblage of barbaric individuals who slaughtered, abused, and animalized a race and the North was viewed as a rich society who wanted to strip the South of its individual and state rights. However, such a bloody massacre as the Civil War couldn’t have erupted overnight. Several key events took place in American history, one of which was the pursuit westward, that sparked violence and controversy among slave and free states. With the presence of slavery an ever-growing issue in the American government, the obtaining of western territories did nothing to the economy but bring violence, secession, and a great divide between the states.
On May 13, 1846 the United States declared war on Mexico, engaging soldiers in a series of battles before they quickly seized control of Mexico. The entire war was centered around the Republic of Texas, which had declared independence from Mexico nearly a decade earlier. With the Treaty of Velasco, which ended the Texas Revolution, came Texas’s clear intentions to join the United States. In 1845, the US annexed Texas, and thence declared war on Mexico a year later. The Treaty of Guadalupe was signed on February 2, 1848, the US acquiring all of what would become Texas, California, and most of the modern West and Mid-West. The addition of western territories forced American citizens to confront the looming conflict of slavery.
The promise of new land to make profit off brings the debate of which side would own the land- or really, if new territories will have abolitionist or southern control. One northern abolitionist, David Wilmot, proposed a bill to forbid slavery in any territory obtained in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, provoking the first serious discussions of secession and formation of the Confederacy. The Wilmot Proviso passed the House but was denied in the Senate for more southern representation was present there. The mere promotion of the bill was evidence enough to the South that they would have to fight for their rights. In an attempt to calm the dispute growing between the North and the South, the Compromise of 1850 was passed.
The Compromise of 1850 admitted California as a free state after much debating from Senator Henry Clay. Furthermore, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, which required northerners to report absconded slaves and return them to their owners, sparking controversy and further stirring the nation divide. The Compromise of 1850, along with the Fugitive Slave Act, did little to address the South’s demands of unjust, and therefore only reinforced and accentuated the rising disunions in the nation.
However, a peaceful compromise was not in store. By the early 1850s American citizens looked to settle into modern-day Kansas and Nebraska, which would not be possibly unless the unused land was made into a territory. Senator Stephen A. Douglas was the man behind the Kansas-Nebraska Act, his intentions not focused on sectional strife but on building a transcontinental railroad. He pushed for Kansas to be made a slave state, ultimately violating the Missouri Compromise of 1820 that had kept the North and South’s dispute at bay for 34 years. In 1854, after much opposition, Congress relented and passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which allowed western territories to determine to be free or a slave state based on popular sovereignty. The political effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act were colossal. The Whigs party fragmented in two, the Southern Whigs favoring more towards the Democratic party and the Northern Whigs forming the rise of a new political party- the Republicans Citizens flocked to Kansas, instigating turmoil and violence as political views clashed in much more physical ways.
In that year, Kansas would be given the nickname Bleeding Kansas as the death toll rose with each week. Abolitionists and southerners alike resorted to violence, leading revolts and raids in an effort to secure the state as free or a slave state. Violence erupted immediately, leaders on each side quickly coming into light. Border ruffians, a nickname given to southern slave supporters, and abolitionists nearly outnumbered those who migrated to Kansas for agriculture and industry.
Two of the men who exemplified the gore were John Brown and George W. Clarke, Brown being in support of the abolitionists and Clarke being in support of slavery. George Clarke led a battery of men to the eastern Linn county, where they plundered, robbed and burned out of house and home nearly every Free-state family in Linn County, while [Clarke’s] hands were steeped in innocent blood, and the light of burning buildings marked his course., according to Robert K. Sutton’s Stark Mad Abolitionists: Lawrence, Kansas, and the Battle Over Slavery in the Civil War Era. John Brown led the same course in history, following Clarke’s footsteps except in patronage for the other side of the national divide. Brown first gained national attention in the era of Bleeding Kansas, leading small groups of men in an effort to take action, a conception he was passionate and spoke often about, before his infamous raid on Harpers Ferry in October of 1859.
The nation was now official divided, the South just moments away from succeeding from the Union. They had preached in vain to get their voices heard for concerns they believed in and time after time the South had been ignored and silenced into submission. The North was wondering how a person could slaughter another race that heartlessly when its own economy relied on wage worker in factors and not slaves in plantations. It wasn’t until a month after Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected for president that the Southern states declared independence from the United States, officially becoming the Confederate States of America.
The violence, political tension, and general turmoil caused by the westward movement of slavery had a vast impact on the nation and pressed it closer to a civil war. The arguments of which states would be free, which would have slavery, or whether all the new states should be completely one or the other led to a divide in the nation, splitting the North and South due to varying viewpoints. All the division that came from the newly obtained land weakened the already feeble bond between the Northern and Southern states, ultimately causing the states to split, spilling American blood and initiating brother to fight against brother in the bloodiest war of American history.