The Civil War was preceded by a variety of events that would only serve to divide the North and South of the United States more and more until the tensions finally had risen to the limit and Civil War erupted between the North and the South. One of the events that helped to ignite the powder keg that exploded into the Civil War was the publishing of the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written to give a clear picture to its readers of the true reality and horrors of slavery and to spread anti-slavery sentiment. Some of the atrocities that were committed by slave owners to their slaves demonstrated in the novel included, separation of families to sell each member as an individual piece of property at slave auctions, vicious beating of slaves, abuse of slaves who were children, and use of slaves for sex. The novel would increase tension between the Northern and the Southern states of the U.S due to the complete opposite reactions to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In the Northern States, the novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was accessible to both the poor and rich alike and it would grow to be extremely popular and it spread anti-slavery sentiment. The South, however, had the exact opposite reaction to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The South was completely outraged by the publishing of such a book and it was banned in the Southern States. To add the tension that was already rising, the South attempted to combat the anti-slavery themes of Uncle Tom’s Cabin through the publishing of Anti-Tom literature by Southern authors.
Anti-Tom literature was written by southerners and plantation owners in an attempt to depict slavery and plantations in a good light by arguing how slaves in the South were treated much better than the “white slaves” who frequented the factories of the North. As a result of this, the cry for slavery to end in the Northern states would only grow louder and the South would only become more defensive of its need for slavery, increasing the tensions between the two regions of the United States, defining the differences between the two regions of the U.S and leading the country down the path that would lead to the Civil War.Moreover, another event that intensified the pre-existing tensions between the Northern and Southern states of the U.S was the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. This act, written by the Illinois senator Stephen Douglas, declared that the western land of the Great Plains was to be divided into two separate territories, Kansas and Nebraska and it also declared that the settlers of each territory could decide for themselves whether they wanted slavery or not through popular sovereignty. As a consequence of this act, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which stated that slavery was prohibited north above the latitude 36 degrees 30′ line, was repealed, which caused an uproar of anger and opposition from the North.
Now that Kansas and Nebraska could either enter the United States as either free or slave states and mass fighting between the abolitionists and the pro-slavery advocates would occur in the struggle to make Kansas a free state or a slave state. What would ignite these conflicts that would lead also lead to the Civil War, would be the thousands of Border Ruffians(armed residents from Missouri who came to vote for pro-slavery candidates) meddling in the Kansas elections. Congress, even after completing an investigation that would end with confirming that fraud has occurred in the elections of Kansas, would do something that it has done in the past and still does today by turning a blind eye to it for as long as possible. The pro-slavery supporters would set up a government up their own government and establish a new slave code that made talking about abolition a crime punishable by jail. In response, the abolitionists, or the Free-Settlers of Kansas, came together to form a free-state party and they set up a government of their own. Fighting between the two divisions of Kansas broke out in May of 1856 when pro-slavery settlers had attacked the free-state settlement Lawrence and left the settlement in flames. Tensions across the country would rise even higher in September of 1856, when John Brown, a radical anti-slavery supporter, killed five pro-slavery supporters with swords.
After the massacre, an order came to Kansas with its new and third governor John W. Geary. The fighting, now known as Bleeding Kansas, would die down and it would be admitted as a free state to the union in 1861 after a new constitution was drafted, but not before driving the tensions between the pro-slavery supporters of the South and the abolitionists of the North, even closer to the breaking point of the Civil War.Lastly, one more event out of many events that contributed to the Civil War is the Dred Scott Case. Dred Scott was a slave who belonged to Dr.
John Emerson. Dred Scott was taken to Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory(Present day Minnesota), both of which were free areas. Dred Scott tried to sue for his freedom in 1846 on the basis that since he was taken to two free areas, he should be free. This court case, known as Dred Scott v. Sandford, would go on for ten years until the U.
S Supreme Court was involved, which by then tensions had grown higher between the North and the South and both sides were eager to hear the final verdict. The Supreme Court, however, was not just looking to resolve the case, they were looking to finally resolve the slavery issue once and for all. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that Scott was still a slave, but Chief Justice Roger B. Taney had personally ruled that Dred Scott was still a slave, even if he was in the free territory because he was the property of his owner. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney went even further to his express his own opinion of black people by claiming that they were “beings of an inferior order” and that they had no rights at all.
After saying this, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney pressed on even further by claiming that since there was nothing in the Constitution that gave Congress the right to prohibit slavery in any of the territories and because of that, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was unconstitutional. The final rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States cause for rejoicing in the South, but for fury and protest in the North. The North was especially angry because now that slaves were considered slaves regardless of what territory they were in, the title of being a “free state” meant nothing at all. After this court case, it would only be a matter of a few years until the first shots of the Civil War were fired.Overall, with the events of the publishing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Bleeding Kansas, and the Dred Scott case, and more events would come the outbreak of the Civil War and with it, the long road to recovery and equality.