Were Blundering Politicians The Main Political Cause

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Were Blundering Politicians The Main Political Cause Of The American Civil War? Essay, Research Paper Discuss the view that the main political cause of the American civil war was the leadership failings of a ?blundering generation? It is felt by many that the main cause of the American civil war was the failings of politicians such as Stephen Douglas, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. They are considered to have made a series of political blunders, such as Douglas?s handling of the Kansas – Nebraska Act and the way in which Buchanan alienated the North. However it could be said that this was not the root cause of the war, but rather the underlying problem of slavery. Stephen Douglas created a number of problems when he tried pass the Kansas – Nebraska Bill, although

Northerners were keen to see Nebraska developed, Southerners were less enthusiastic, due to the fact that it lay north of latitude 36 30. and by the terms of the Missouri compromise all new states would eventually enter the Union as free states. Douglas knew he needed Southern support to enable the bill to be passed in congress, this meant he would have to change the bill so that the South had a chance of expanding slavery in this area. The South also demanded that the territory be spilt into two areas; Kansas and Nebraska. Although in theory slavery could move Northwards but Douglas felt that due to the climate problems this was highly unlikely. Douglas, a great believer in popular sovereignty saw no problem in letting the people of Kansas – Nebraska decide their own fate.

Douglas believed that in doing this he had succeeded in winning over the South without conceding much in return. However, this was not the case, his bill, far from healing the North – South tensions in actual fact did the opposite. Douglas?s actions was proof to the South that there was a slave power conspiracy at work, they now considered him a traitor. The bill was eventually passed but it had virtually sectionalised congress. Douglas still believed this storm would be short lived however, this was not the case and the North – South rivalry would stay around. This was not the end of problems in Kansas, during 1854 – 6 there were a number of problems due to the North and South trying to influence popular sovereignty in the new territory of Kansas. Problems were made by

President Pierces appointment of Andrew Reeder, a pro-slaver as governor of the territory. It was obvious from that start that he was incapable of handling that situation. In the first elections pro-slavers from Missouri crossed the border into Kansas voted then returned home. This tactic tarnished the concept of popular sovereignty. This caused problems when the legislature met at Lecompton as it was dominated by pro-slavers who passed a series of pro-slavery laws. This of course angered Northerners – even moderates again giving them reason to believe that there was a slave power conspiracy at work. Events turned nasty when a pro – slavery posse, trying to arrest free soil leaders, ?sacked? Lawrence (a free state centre). This event was blown out of proportion by Northern

journalists. This sparked of more violence caused by John Brown who murder four pro-slavers settlers. These attacks could possibly been avoided if Pierce hadn?t endorsed the Lecompton Legislature and appointed pro-slavery governors. Although he tried to rectify the situation by appointing John Greary as the new governor who proved to be a good choice, it wasn’t enough to ease the tensions that already existed due to his irresponsible behaviour. However, by 1857 Americans seemed more optimistic about the future when a new president, James Buchanan was elected. This optimism proved to be short lived. Right from the beginning of his presidency, Buchanan caused problems by alienating the North. Firstly, his choice of cabinet indicated pro-slavery leanings – four of his cabinet