The American Civil War was the most horrible conflict in the United States. The war took thousands of American and slave lives. However, it was also a pivotal point in the US and African-American history since the lost lives and destroyed properties resulted in the abolishment of slavery and gave way to the foundation of the US central government. The precursors of the American Civil War were key aspects of these achievements. These precursors added to the growing tension between opposing parties which eventually led to the event. The American Civil War was the result of years of slavery, unjust laws, and the indifference of common men.
There were already existing conflicts in America before the Civil War broke out. One of the most significant events that led to the war was the Mexican-American War. (Varon, 2008). The Mexican-American War began in 1846 and ended in 1848. The war was a result of the United States’ continuous colonization of the western regions. The Mexican-American War presented issues regarding slavery and the existing political systems of the time (American Battlefield Trust, n.d., para. 8). In 1848, the war ended when the national congresses signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty gave the United States authority over the territories under Mexico.
How did the civil war start?
California was one of the territories that the treaty affected and ceded to the United States. However, California wanted to become a free state which eventually happened when Congress passed the Compromise of 1850 (Klein, 1997). California became a part of the Union but was a free state (Grey, 2015, 69). As a result, the popular sovereignty principle emerged and it allowed states to have the ability to decide whether or not to allow slavery.
Congress also passed the Fugitive Slave Act which held federal officials liable to pay fines for not arresting runaway slaves (Potter, 2011). The Act made sure that the population will return runaway slaves to their owners. The slave trade was a defining aspect of the pre-civil war period. The majority of the population accepted slavery which inspired many abolitionists to intensify their advocacy against slavery. The Underground Railroad also became more active which enabled most slaves to flee to Canada (Potter, 2011). The Compromise of 1850, empowered abolitionists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe to publish books in 1852 showing the evils of slavery thereby increasing public awareness and the fight against slavery (Potter, 2011). The issue of escaped slaves became prevalent and arose tension between the opposing parties. This tension eventually gave rise to the American Civil War.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act is another legislation and precursor of the American Civil War. The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed slavery in territories where the Missouri Compromise banned the practice (Britannica, 2019, para. 1). This led to increased slavery in the country. Abolitionist forces began to fight back violently against the legislation. Many slavers and abolitionists began to visit Kansas which caused the event “Bleeding Kansas” The conflict became political and eventually led to the American Civil War.
The case Scott v. Sandford is another precursor of the American Civil War. Dred Scott was a slave who sued his owner for his freedom. Dred Scott argued that he was a citizen of the US since he lived in a free state for four years ((Grey, 2015, 60). However, the court held that Dred Scott could not be free in a free state since black people are slaves and were the properties of their owners. This decision motivated abolitionists to increase their efforts against slavery and discrimination. The Scott v. Sandford case added to the growing tension between the opposing parties and became another precursor of the Civil War.
The execution of John Brown in 1859 resulted in the growth of the abolitionist movement. This growth allowed them to wage open warfare against their opposition and commence the American Civil War (Potter, 2011). John Brown was a white radical abolitionist that became an important figure due to his sacrifice to end slavery. John Brown’s execution was the result of his raiding parties. He and his men would visit proslavery settlements and harm the slavers. The public was aware of John Brown’s act of murder, however, some still saw him as a hero due to his dedication against slavery.
The American Civil War was the result of years of slavery, unjust laws, and the indifference of common men. Events like the Mexican-American War and “Bleeding Kansas” were precursors that foreshadowed the horrible outcome of the war. Legislations that condone the unjust treatment of black people became the central arguments that drove the revolution. Individuals who were willing to end the inhumane practice became figures that inspired the abused. The American Civil War was an important event as it ended the years of slavery and indifference.
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American Battlefield Trust. N.d. The Impact of the Mexican American War on American Society and Politics. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/impact-mexican-american-war-american-society-and-politics
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. 2019. Kansas-Nebraska Act". Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Kansas-Nebraska-Act.
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. 2021. Mexican-American War. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Mexican-American-War.
Grey, Corey P. 2015. Industrial Modernization and the American Civil War. Florida State University Libraries. https://diginole.lib.fsu.edu/islandora/object/fsu:253076/datastream/PDF/view
Klein, Maury. 1997. Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
National Archives. 2011. A Look Back at John Brown. Prologue Magazine. Vol. 43, No. 1. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2011/spring/brown.html
Potter, David M. 2011. The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861. Completed and edited by Don E. Fehrenbacher, New York: Harper Perennial.
Varon, Elizabeth R. 2008. Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.