Behind the leadership of Henry Clay, Congress passed a series of agreements in 1820–1821 known as the Missouri Compromise. Under these agreements, Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. The rest of the Louisiana Territory was split into two parts. The dividing line was set at 36°30´ north latitude. South of the line, slavery was legal. North of the line—except in Missouri—slavery was banned.
Santa Fe Trail
One of the busiest routes was the Santa Fe Trail,
which stretched 780 miles from Independence, Missouri, to
Santa Fe in the Mexican province of New Mexico. Each spring from 1821 through the 1860s, American traders loaded their covered wagons with goods and set off toward Santa Fe.
San Felipe de Austin
Many Americans rushed at the chance to buy inexpensive land in Texas. The population of Anglo, or English-speaking, settlers from the United States soon surpassed the population of Tejanos, or Mexican settlers, who lived in Texas. Among the more prominent leaders of these American settlers was Stephen F. Austin.
One of the most famous conductors was Harriet Tubman,
born a slave in Maryland in 1820 or 1821. In 1849, after Tubman’s
owner died, she heard rumors that she was about to be sold. fearing this possibility, Tubman decided to make a break for freedom and succeeded in reaching Philadelphia. Shortly after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, Tubman resolved to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
The most radical white abolitionist was a young editor named William Lloyd Garrison. Active in religious reform movements in Massachusetts, Garrison became the editor of an antislavery paper in 1828. Three years later he established his own paper, The Liberator, to deliver an uncompromising demand: immediate emancipation.
Mexico Abolishes Slavery
Despite peaceful cooperation between Anglos and Tejanos, differences over cultural issues intensified between Anglos and the Mexican government. The overwhelmingly Protestant Anglo settlers spoke English instead of Spanish. Furthermore, many of the settlers were Southerners, who had brought slaves with them to Texas. Mexico, which had abolished slavery in 1829, insisted in vain that the Texans free their slaves.
Nat Turner's Rebellion
Some slaves rebelled against their condition of bondage. One of the most prominent rebellions was led by Virginia slave Nat Turner. In August 1831, Turner and more than 50 followers attacked four plantations and killed about 60 whites. Whites eventually captured and executed many members of the group, including Turner.
Meanwhile, Mexican politics had become increasingly unstable. Austin had traveled to Mexico City late in 1833 to present petitions to Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna for greater self-government for Texas. While Austin was on his way home, Santa Anna had Austin imprisoned for inciting revolution. After Santa Anna suspended local powers in Texas and other Mexican states, several rebellions broke out, including one that would be
known as the Texas Revolution.
Stephen F. Austin goes to jail
Believing that he was pushing for Texas independence and suspect that he was trying to incite insurrection, Austin was arrested by the Mexican government in January 1834 in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. He was taken to Mexico City and imprisoned. No charges were filed against him as no court would take jurisdiction.
The Oregon Trail stretched from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. It was blazed in 1836 by two Methodist missionaries named Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. By driving their wagon as far as Fort Boise (near present-day Boise, Idaho), they proved that wagons could travel on the Oregon Trail.
The phrase “manifest destiny” expressed the belief that the United States was ordained to expand to the Pacific Ocean and into Mexican and Native American territory. Many Americans also believed that this destiny was manifest, or obvious and inevitable.
Texas enters the United States
Most Texans hoped that the United States
would annex their republic, but U.S. opinion divided along sectional lines. Southerners wanted Texas in order to extend slavery, which already had been established there. Northerners feared that the annexation of more slave territory would tip the uneasy balance in the Senate in favor of slave states—and prompt war with Mexico.
The Mexican–American War, also known in the United States as the Mexican War and in Mexico as the American intervention in Mexico, was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the United Mexican States from 1846 to 1848.
The North Star
In 1847, Douglass began his own antislavery newspaper. He named it The North Star, after the star that guided runaway slaves to freedom.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Mexico agreed to the Rio Grande as the border between Texas and Mexico and ceded the New Mexico and California territories to the United States. The United States agreed to pay $15 million for the Mexican cession, which included present day California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, most of Arizona, and parts of
Colorado and Wyoming.
Compromise of 1850
As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was amended and the slave trade in Washington, D.C., was abolished. Furthermore, California entered the Union as a free state and a territorial government was created in Utah.
Fugitive Slave Act
The harsh terms of the Fugitive Slave Act surprised many people. Under the law, alleged fugitive slaves were not entitled to a trial by jury. In addition, anyone convicted of helping a fugitive was liable for a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for up to six months. Infuriated by the Fugitive Slave Act, some Northerners resisted it by organizing “vigilance committees” to send endangered African Americans to safety in Canada.
As time went on, free African Americans and white abolitionists developed a secret network of people who would, at great risk to themselves, hide fugitive slaves. The system of escape routes they used became known as the Underground Railroad.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which stressed that slavery was not just a political contest, but also a great moral struggle. As a young girl, Stowe had watched boats filled with people on their way to be sold at slave markets. Uncle Tom’s Cabin expressed her lifetime hatred of slavery.
Douglas introduced a bill in Congress on January 23, 1854, that would divide the area into two territories: Nebraska in the north and Kansas in the south.
Dread Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott, a slave whose owner took him from the slave state of Missouri to free territory in Illinois and Wisconsin and back to Missouri.The Supreme Court ruled that African Americans were not and could never be citizens. Thus, Dred Scott had no right even to file a lawsuit and remained enslaved.
Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas Debate
The two men’s positions were simple and consistent. Neither wanted slavery in the territories, but they disagreed on how to keep it out. Douglas believed deeply in popular sovereignty. Lincoln, on the other hand, believed that slavery was immoral. However, he did not expect individuals to give up slavery unless Congress abolished slavery with an amendment. Douglas won the Senate seat, but his response had widened the split in the Democratic Party.
John Brown's raid/ Harpers Ferry
While politicians debated the slavery issue, the abolitionist John Brown was studying the slave uprisings that had occurred in ancient Rome and, more recently, on the French island of Haiti. He believed that the time was ripe for similar uprisings in the United States. On the night of October 16, 1859, he led a band of 21 men, black and white, into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His aim was to seize the federal arsenal there and start a general slave uprising.
Abraham Lincoln becomes President
As the 1860 presidential election approached,
the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln appeared to be moderate in his views. Although he pledged to halt the further spread of slavery, he also tried to reassure Southerners that a Republican administration would not “interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves.” Nonetheless, many Southerners viewed him as an enemy. As the campaign developed, three major candidates besides Lincoln vied for office.
Formation of Confederacy
Mississippi soon followed South Carolina’s lead, as did
Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. In
February 1861, delegates from the secessionist states met in
Montgomery, Alabama, where they formed the Confederate
States of America, or Confederacy. They also drew up a
constitution that closely resembled that of the United
States, but with a few notable differences. The most important difference was that it “protected and recognized” slavery in new territories.
Attack on Fort Sumter
Months earlier, as soon as the Confederacy was formed, Confederate soldiers in each secessionist state began seizing federal installations—especially forts. By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, only four Southern forts remained in Union hands. The most important was Fort Sumter, on an island in Charleston harbor. Lincoln decided to neither abandon Fort Sumter nor reinforce it. He would merely send in “food for hungry men.”
Battle of Bull Run
The first bloodshed on the battlefield occurred about three months
after Fort Sumter fell, near the little creek of Bull Run, just 25 miles from Washington, D.C. The battle was a seesaw affair. In the morning the Union army gained the upper hand, but the Confederates held firm, inspired by General Thomas J. Jackson. “There stands Jackson like a stone wall!” another general shouted, coining the nickname Stonewall Jackson.
Battle at Antietam
McClellan ordered his men to pursue Lee, and the two
sides fought on September 17 near a creek called the
Antietam. The clash proved to be the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with casualties
totaling more than 26,000. The next day, instead of pursuing the battered Confederate army into Virginia and possibly ending the war, McClellan did nothing. As a result,
Lincoln removed him from command.
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. The following portion captured national attention. The proclamation did not free any slaves immediately because it applied only
to areas behind Confederate lines, outside Union control. Nevertheless, for many, the proclamation gave the war a moral purpose by turning the struggle into a fight to free the slaves. It also ensured that compromise was no longer possible.
The war led to social upheaval and political unrest in both the North and the South. As the fighting intensified, heavy casualties and widespread desertions led each side to impose conscription, a draft that forced men to serve in the army. In the North, conscription led to draft riots, the most violent of which took place in New York City. Sweeping changes occurred in the wartime economies of both sides as well as in the roles played by African Americans and women.
As the Northern economy grew,
Congress decided to help pay for the war by collecting the nation’s first income tax, a tax that takes a specified percentage of an individual’s income.
Battle at Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1 when Confederate soldiers led by A. P. Hill encountered several brigades of Union cavalry under the command of John Buford, an experienced officer from Illinois.The three-day battle produced staggering losses: 23,000 Union men and 28,000 Confederates were killed or wounded. Total casualties were more than 30 percent. Despite the devastation, Northerners were enthusiastic about breaking “the charm of Robert Lee’s invincibility.”
In November 1863, a ceremony was held to dedicate a cemetery in Gettysburg. There, President Lincoln spoke for a little more
than two minutes. According to some contemporary historians, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address “remade America.” Before Lincoln’s speech, people said, “The United States are ...” Afterward, they said, “The United States is...” In other words, the speech helped the country to realize that it was not just a collection of individual states; it was one unified nation.
Battle at Vicksburg
While Meade’s Army of the Potomac was destroying Confederate hopes in Gettysburg, Union general Ulysses S. Grant fought to take Vicksburg, one of the two remaining Confederate strongholds on the Mississippi River. Vicksburg itself was particularly important because it rested on bluffs above the river from which guns could control all water traffic. In the winter of 1862–1863, Grant tried several schemes to reach Vicksburg and take it from the Confederates.
In the spring of 1864, Sherman began his march southeast through Georgia to the sea, creating a wide path of destruction. His army burned almost every house in its path and destroyed livestock and railroads. Sherman was determined to make Southerners “so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.” By mid-November he had burned most of Atlanta.
Surrender at Appomattox
On April 3, 1865, Union troops conquered Richmond, the Confederate capital. Southerners had abandoned the city the
day before, setting it afire to keep the Northerners from taking it. On April 9, 1865, in a Virginia town called Appomattox Court House, Lee and Grant met at a private home to arrange a Confederate surrender. At Lincoln’s request, the terms were generous. Grant paroled Lee’s soldiers and sent them home with their possessions and three days’ worth of rations.
After some political maneuvering, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified at the end of 1865. The U.S. Constitution now stated, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”
Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
On April 14, 1865, five days after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, Lincoln and his wife went to Ford’s Theatre in Washington to see a British comedy, Our American Cousin. Lincoln, who never regained consciousness, died on April 15. It was the first time a president of the United States had been assassinated. After the shooting, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth—a 26-year-old actor and Southern sympathizer.
Abolition, the movement to abolish slavery, became the most important of a series of reform movements in America.