The Civil War Essay

The Civil War Essay

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The American Civil War, fought between the North and South during the years 1861~1865, was the must brutal war in American history. Over 600,000 Americans died in this struggle, which was fought because the nation could not peacefully settle the social, political, and economical issues. This issue simmered for many years and many laws were enacted as compromises to prevent the Civil War, but by the 1850s, things were coming to a head. The sparks that ignited the two sides into an actual war were the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the Abolition movements by Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 carried the result of the stalemate between the North and the South over the location of the proposed Transcontinental Railroad. The Northerners wanted the railroad to run from Chicago to California, while the Southerners wanted the railroad to run between New Orleans to California. In order to settle this dispute, senator Stephen Douglas managed to persuade Southern congressmen to agree to the Kansas-Nebraska Act which made Chicago the starting point o f the railroad by splitting the territories left in the Louisiana Purchase into two states: Kansas and Nebraska. This new arrangement created the state of Kansas north of 36/30 degree, the line north of which slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820, to enter the Union in popular sovereignty. This law infuriated the Abolitionists in America who claimed that, “Douglas proposal, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, shattered the letter and spirit of the 1820 Missouri Compromise ;after its passage, the debate over the future of slavery became more violent than ever” (Schweikart and Allen pg. 118). Both the Abolitionists and the slave owners poured into Kansas and elected opposing governments in the same state. Slave-owners attacked the city of Lawrence Kansas, where the Abolitionist government was located. The government officials escaped, but the pro-slavery settlers killed a resident, and burned buildings. This actions was the first real violence and more than, “Hundred people died in the border wars fought over ‘Bleeding Kansas’” (Schweikart and Allen pg. 119). This physical violence divided the nation further apart than ever. Issue of Bleeding Kansas couldn’t settle the anger in both North and the South. Kansas-Nebraska Act and Bleeding Kansas started an unstoppable run of violence that eventually led to the greatest violence: the Civil War. The Abolitionist movement also contributed to the onset of the Civil War by two both peaceful and violent actions. Years prior to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe published a novel called Uncle Tom’s Cabin about the unfair institution of slave in the South. This book is a heart rending account of black slaves. Stowe infuriated Abolitionists in the North with these words describing the plight of Eliza ;who wanted, “to go thither, to escape across the Ohio River, were the first hurried outlines of her plan of escape ;beyond that she could only hope in God” (Deverell and White pg, 444). This story of Eliza also greatly angered the pro-slavery Southerners, who felt that the institution of slavery was a lawful situation in their states. They also felt that Northern Abolition was violating the rights by trying to undermine their rights to own slaves. One man who was greatly affected by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was John Brown, an Abolitionist from New England who moved to Kansas in 1855 to fight for Abolition. In 1858, John Brown raided the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He seized the weapons there and attempt to recruit slaves to start a rebellion against the U.S government. The slaves refused to join Brown for fear of being executed. Eventually, Brown was captured and hanged on December 2, 1859. His last speech quoted, “If I am dying for freedom, I could not die for a better cause” (Deverell and White pg. 456). Brown claims that God has ordered him to kill the pro-slavery men, so he does not regret. Although Brown’s attempted rebellion failed, his two violent attempts to end slavery frightened the pro-slavery residents of the South. They feared that more John Browns would attack them and massacre more innocent Southerners. Many in the South began to feel that the only avenue to security was secession. The thinking of many in the South is described by a quote from South Carolina newspaper, “The sooner we get out of the union, the better” (Deverell and White pg. 456). John Brown’s violent actions had brought the nation to the brink of an irreconcilable spilt. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 led to the first sustained violence in the long struggle to resolve the slavery issue in America. The actions of Abolitionists Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown added to the irreparable rupture between the two groups. Citizens on both sides of the issue of slavery became much more convinced that a peaceful solution would not occur. The election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States in 1860 was the final strew that led the South to secede from the union and cause the outbreak of the American Civil War.

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