Tempers were rising from sectional conflict over slavery in territories. As a result, moderates and unionists framed the Compromise of 1850. Henry Clay's proposition was defeated by Congress, so the cast of old and young intellectuals came up with 5 separate laws that constitute this compromise. They were:
1. Utah and New Mexico would decide the issue of slavery by popular sovereignty.
2. California was admitted as a free state.
3. Texas received $10 million for compensation of losing the New Mexico territory.
4. Slave trade was abolished in the District of Columbia.
5. The Fugitive Slave Act was passed.
This is a map of the Compromise of 1850, particularly the laws which stated that California was a free state and Utah and New Mexico would decide the issue over slavery.
he Fugitive Slave Act was passed in the Compromise of 1850. It declared that all runaway slaves be brought back to their owners/masters. Anyone caught helping these slaves out would be fined $1000 and be subject to months in jail. There was huge opposition to this law. Northerners protested and caused riots because they feared slave power conspiracy or they just didn't want slavery. White southerners watched with anger and alarm as their supposed "victory" in the Compromise of 1850 became basically meaningless.
This is a book written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe called Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is one of the most influential books ever written. It quickly became a best seller and sold thousands of copies within the first year. Stowe was revered by many in the North but was despised by many southerners. This book brought a huge message about anti-slavery and abolitionism and made an enormous effect.
The main purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was for Stephen A. Douglas to create opportunities for the transcontinental railroad he wanted. Due to the argument against the northern route west of Mississippi, he introduced a bill in January 1854 that would organize a new territory called Nebraska. This would open a white settlement in an Indian populated area. Douglas knew this would cause problems in the South because it would create a new free state. In effort to make things even, he inserted a provision that the status of slavery in that area would be determined by popular sovereignty. Because southern Democrats demanded more, Douglas agreed to repeal the Missouri Compromise, and split the area into two territories-Nebraska and Kansas. Kansas would then be a slave state. This would become the Kansas-Nebraska act, and President Pierce supported the bill, and it became a law in May 1854.
This legislation had many ominous consequences. It divided and completely destroyed the Whig Party that officially disappeared in 1856. It also divided the northern Democrats, many of whom were appalled at the repeal of the Missouri Compromise because they considered that a sacred part of the Union. That made a big impact because many of them left the party.
But most importantly, this legislation created a new party. The Republican Party was formed of Anti-Nebraska Democrats and Anti-Nebraska Whigs in 1854. It quickly became a major force in American politics. In the elections of that year and more, they won enough seats in the Congress to permit them to organize the House of Representatives, with the help of their allies, the Know-Nothings.
Dred Scott was a slave who sued his master's widow for his freedom. His owner took him to Illinois and Wisconsin, both free states. There, his owner died, and he demanded that he be free. He took this to the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Roger Taney ruled that Scott could not bring a suit into the federal court because he was not a citizen, but private property. He referenced the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, and concluded that Congress did not have the authority to pass a law depriving persons of their slave property in the territories. Therefore, the Missouri Compromise had always been unconstitutional, he stated. The southerners, obviously, were elated. The northerners were in dismay. They denounced the decision as both an offense to the principles of liberty on which the nation was founded and a victory for slave states over the free states.
Proslavery forces in Kansas resorted to electoral fraud to secure a convention to draft a slave state constitution. Under Buchanan's endorsement, the Senate voted to admit Kansas as a slave state. But this constitution died in the House of Representatives. Finally, Congress approved a compromise: the Lecompton constitution would be submitted to the voters of Kansas once more. If it was approved, Kansas would be admitted to the Union and if it was rejected, statehood would be postponed. Once again, the voters decisively opposed and rejected the Lecompton constitution. It wasn't until 1861 did Kansas enter the Union as a free state.
In 1858, an election for the senate of Illinois took place between Stephen A. Douglas, the most prominent Democrat, and Abraham Lincoln, an unknown but skillful politician in the Republican Party. By participating in these debates, Lincoln had increased his visibility and popularity as an eloquent and passionate speaker, especially over the issue of slavery. These debates had attracted enormous crowds and widespread attention, and Lincoln became nationally prominent. The heart of these debates were about slavery. Douglas didn't seem to have a solid position on this issue, while Lincoln's opposition towards slavery was more fundamental. He believed slavery was morally wrong, but he wasn't an abolitionist. He just wanted to end the spread of slavery, and trust that gradually it'll die out on it's own. Douglas' performance in the debates earned him a reelection to the Senate, but didn't do much to enhance his political ambitions. Lincoln, on the other hand, lost the senate but had a growing fan base.
John Brown was an antislavery zealot whose bloody riots in Kansas gained him infamy in the South. After elaborate planning, he and his other abolitionist followers seized control of a United States arsenal in Harper's Ferry, Virginia. He hoped the slave uprising would inspire others, but instead he found himself in trouble. After 10 of his followers were killed, he was surrounded by the local militia and surrendered. In the Virginia court, he and six other were found guilty and were sentenced to a hanging. The effect of this raid was the striking fear for the southerners, believing that they could no longer live safely in the Union. They incorrectly believed that the Republican Party had supported this raid, and suggested that the North was now committed to producing a slave insurrection.
The election of 1860 was one of the most momentous and complex elections in the history of America. It also set the stage for the Civil War. The Democrat Party was in disarray because of the disputes between the southerners and westerners. The southerners wanted to endorse slavery while the westerners wanted the idea of popular sovereignty. In contrast, the Northerners were on the same page. They attracted other major groups and feared that the South was blocking its economic aspirations. Lincoln appealed to them for his growing reputation. In November, Lincoln won the presidency with the majority of the electoral votes, but only about 2/5 of the popular votes. He won the election without the support of a single southern state. Weeks after he won the election, the process of disunion began-the Civil War would begin.
The secession crisis occurred from 1860-1861. What happened was several southern states seceded from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. These events led to the Civil War. South Carolina seceded first. It called a convention which voted unanimously to withdraw the state from the Union. Afterwards, by the time Lincoln took office, six other states seceded: Mississippi(January 9, 1861), Florida(January 10), Alabama(January 11), Georgia(January 19), Louisiana(January 26), and Texas(February 1). In February 1861, reps of these 7 seceded states met up in Montgomery, Alabama and formed the Confederacy. 5 other states seceded after the fall of Fort Sumter, and those states were Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.