A Gold Rush Leads To War Essay

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A Gold Rush Leads To War Essay, Research Paper The American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Reconstruction period that followed were the bloodiest chapters of American history to date. Brother fought brother as the population was split along sectional lines. The issue of slavery divided the nation’s people and the political parties that represented them in Washington. The tension which snapped the uneasy truce between north and south began building over slavery and statehood debates in California. In 1848, settlers discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill, starting a mass migration. By 1849, California had enough citizens to apply for statehood. However, the debate over whether the large western state would or would not allow slavery delayed its admittance. Delegates from the south

threatened to secede if California was admitted as a free state. Meanwhile, tempers also flared in New Mexico and Texas over border disputes, and abolitionists fought pro-slavery advocates over the issue of slave trading within the District of Columbia. Southern political leaders, mostly Democrats, proposed a convention in Nashville to discuss secession. In 1850, Henry Clay proposed the Compromise of 1850 to Congress. The Compromise contained the following provisions: California would enter the union as free state. New Mexico territory would be divided into New Mexico and Utah, and offered popular sovereignty. Texas must yield disputed territory to New Mexico in return for federal assumption of its state debt. Trading, but not possession, of slaves would be banned from the

District of Columbia. Fugitive slave laws would be enhanced. Zachary Taylor, who was president at the time, was prepared to veto the bills, but died suddenly. His successor, Millard Fillmore, allowed the provisions to pass one at a time with the help of Stephen Douglas. The Nashville Convention met soon afterwards and denounced the plan, but took no decisive action. This uneasy truce would last for only four years. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act makes further compromise practically impossible. It granted popular sovereignty to both states, in the hopes that they would split on the slavery issue and continue the shaky equality between slave and free states. Nebraska quickly adopted an free-soil constitution and was admitted as a free state. Kansas, however, was badly split along

sectional lines, and opposing political forces ratified both a free and a slave constitution in 1855. Riots broke out everywhere, and “Bleeding Kansas” fell into chaos. John Brown, an infamous and rebellious abolitionist, killed five pro-slavery activists in 1856 in retaliation for the murder of five abolitionists. This “Pottawatomie Massacre” further heightened a feeling of an impending war over slavery. The peace between abolitionists and slaveowners was not helped by three events which occurred in 1857. One was an economic “panic” which threw support to the newly formed Republican party. The Republicans had promised high protective tariffs, against the lowering of import duties imposed by the Democrats. However, they also maintained a strongly abolitionist

platform. The support they gained from the tariff issue also brought increased support to their abolitionist aims. Second, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, responding to violent mobs protesting slavery, decided in favor of the abolitionists. Third was the Dred Scott decision. In Dred Scott v. Sanford, the slave Dred Scott and his wife, Harriett, sued for their freedom from their master, because he had taken them into Michigan, which was a free state. They insisted that since they had lived on free soil, their bonds of slavery were no longer valid. The Supreme Court decided in a shocking decision that not only was the Scotts’ claim invalid, but the entire case had been unconstitutional, because blacks, according to their claims, had no right to sue whites in any court, much less