1850-61: The Decade of Strife

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Uncle Tom's Cabin
    Uncle Tom's Cabin, written in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was at one point the best-selling novel in the United States during the 19th century. The book, which provided a brutal description of slavery, hastened the start of the Civil War. Northerners loved it, Southerners hated it, and Stowe became known as "The little lady who started this big war" by Abraham Lincoln.
  • Bloody Kansas (1854-61)

    Bloody Kansas (1854-61)
    Kansas was split between free-state and pro-slavery parties in the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, who were both vying to control the popular vote due to the territory having popular sovereignty over the slavery choice. This rapidly turned violent, which eventually ended in a free-state victory that raised tensions and hastened the start of war.
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act

    Kansas-Nebraska Act
    In order to address the slavery debate, Stephen Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It repealed the Missouri Compromise, as well as left the status of Kansas and Nebraska, the two territories created by the act, up to the people. This created a bit of a situation, as Kansas was split between free-state and pro-slavery parties, who were both vying to control the popular vote. Free-state won. This led to what we now know as Bloody Kansas, heightening tensions between North and South.
  • Republican Party

    Republican Party
    In 1854, the Republican Party formed to counter slavery's expansion after the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It included northern Protestants, workers, professionals, businessmen, prosperous farmers, and, post-Civil War, ex-slaves. However, it had minimal support from white Southerners who favored the Democratic Party in the Solid South, and Catholics, a key Democratic voting group.
  • Brooks-Sumner Affair

    Brooks-Sumner Affair
    In direct retaliation to Massachusetts anti-slavery representative Charles Sumner railing against multiple pro-slave representatives including Andrew Butler, Butler's relative Preston Brooks viciously attacked Sumner with a cane, almost killing the man and causing him permanent trauma. The Republicans latched onto this and used it as a political tool to attack the Democrats, which helped them in the election of 1860.
  • Election of 1856

    Election of 1856
    James Buchanan won the election in a relatively easy win for the Democrats, who ran on a platform built on popular sovereignty and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In addition, he didn't campaign, but supported the pro-slavery government established in Kansas, as well as a plan to annex Cuba.
  • Dred Scott

    Dred Scott
    In a singular ruling regarding a slave named Dred Scott suing for his freedom since he resided in the North, the Court aimed to address the constitutional inquiries surrounding slavery. It stated that the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were not originally designed to extend to African Americans. Additionally, the Court held that Douglas's "popular sovereignty" ideology, which gave territorial governments the authority to prohibit slavery, was also unconstitutional.
  • LeCompton Constitution

    LeCompton Constitution
    The second of four proposed constitutions for the state of Kansas, the Lecompton Constitution was a very pro-slavery constitution that excluded free people of color from the Kansas Bill of Rights. It never passed; rather, anti-slavery forces prevailed and Kansas joined the Union as a free state.
  • "House Divided" Speech

    "House Divided" Speech
    During his acceptance speech for the Republican Party for Illinois senator, Abraham Lincoln spoke of how "A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other" in regards to the slavery issue. This brought more attention to him in the wider nation.
  • Lincoln-Douglas debates (August-Oct)

    Lincoln-Douglas debates (August-Oct)
    These were a set of Senate debates between a young Republican by the name of Abraham Lincoln and Democrat incumbent Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas accused Lincoln of being a radical on the "Black Republican" platform, while Lincoln heavily criticized him for his support for the Dredd Scott case. Later, Lincoln forced Douglas into a hole by saying states could use popular sovereignty to exclude slavery in a territory (FD). Despite an eventual loss, Lincoln was propelled to the public eye.
  • Harper's Ferry

    Harper's Ferry
    Abolitionist John Brown led an assault on a federal armory in what used to be Virginia but now is Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. After securing the backing of six known abolitionists called the "Secret Six", he prepared an invasion force. Ultimately, the siege only lasted three days before US Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lt. J.E.B. Stuart overran them, which wound up in ten of Brown's men getting killed. Although the raid failed, and Brown was executed, this raised tensions all over.
  • John Brown

    John Brown
    John Brown was the quintessential abolitionist leader. Known for his radicalism and his role in fighting in Bleeding Kansas. He thought he was an instrument of God hand-picked to end slavery through any means necessary, and initially, he had popularity in the North. Until the Pottawatomie Massacre, a butchering of sleeping pro-slave forces. From then on, he lost support, and his raid on Harper's Ferry was an abject disaster that ended in his capture and later execution.
  • Election of 1860

    Election of 1860
    Abraham Lincoln assumed the presidency of the United States in 1860, a pivotal period that coincided with the onset of the American Civil War. The 1860 election where he beat out Breckinridge, Douglas, and Bell, held immense significance in shaping the nation's destiny, as it marked the beginning of the end of slavery, but also ushered in an era of violence. Notably, Lincoln's presidency also marked a historic first, as he became the inaugural Republican president in the nation's history.
  • Secession

    First, South Carolina voted unanimously to secede from the Union, meaning they no longer considered themselves American. Later, they were joined by Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. Later, they would be joined by Virginia and Tennesee to name a few, but they faced more staunch resistance.
  • Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address

    Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address
    In his first-ever inaugural address, Lincoln emphasized the importance of upholding the Constitution, seeking unity, and maintaining the rule of law. He encouraged a peaceful resolution to the secession crisis and expressed a willingness to work together for the betterment of the nation. Lincoln's words served as a call for understanding and cooperation during a time of great uncertainty and division.