Short-term Events leading to the Civil War

  • The Election of 1848

    In 1848, The Democrats nominated Senator Cass and adopted a platform pledged to popular sovereignty, the Whigs nominated General Zachary Taylor, and the Free-Soil party nominated Martin van Buren. It consisted of conscious Whigs and antislavery Democrats. Taylor defeated Cass because of the votes given to the Free-Soil in key Northern states.
  • Formation of the Free Soil Party

    Northern Democrats and Whigs supported the Wilmot Proviso and the position that all African Americans should be excluded from the Mexican Cession. Abolitionists advocated for the elimination of slavery everywhere, but many Northerners supported slavery in the south, but not in new western territories. In 1848, Northerners who opposed allowing slavery in these territories created the Free-Soil Party, which adopted the slogan "Free soil, free labor, free men."
  • The Compromise of 1850

    The amount of people traveling westward because of the gold rush in 1849 called for law and order in the west. In 1849, Californians drafted a constitution that banned slavery. President Taylor supported the immediate admission of California and New Mexico as free states. This sparked talks of secession in the South. The compromise bought time for the Union, as California was admitted as a free state and it added to the North's political power, but it passed a strict fugitive slave law.
  • Publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Uncle Tom's Cabin was one of the most influential books of its day. It was a bout a conflict between an enslaved man named Tom and the brutal white slave owner Simon Legree. The publication of the book moved a generation of Northerners and Europeans to view slave owners as cruel and inhuman.
  • The Election of 1852

    The Whigs were facing issues in this election, but they still nominated another war hero, Winfield Scott. They decided to focus on fixing roads and harbors instead of focusing on fixing the problem of slavery. However, these issues grew larger and the party was close to falling apart. The Democrats nominated a safe compromise candidate, as Franklin Pierce supported the Fugitive Slave Law, which appealed to southern democrats. The Democrats won the electoral college vote in all but 4 states.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854

    Now that the democrats were in control of national policy in the White House and in Congress, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois developed a plan for a transcontinental railroad with a terminus in Chicago. However, he would need to south's approval for this plan. Instead of making the route more southerly, he went against the Missouri Compromise and allowed the south to have slavery in the Missouri territory if they supported his railroad plan. The democrats condemned this bill, but it was passed.
  • "Bleeding Kansas"

    Senator Douglas expected that the antislavery settlers in Kansas would peacefully deal with slavery now being in Missouri and slave owners settling in Kansas. The Northerners and the Free-Soilers responded by organizing the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Fighting broke out shortly after between pro and antislavery groups, and was known as "bleeding Kansas." Proslavery forces attacked Lawrence, and antislavery abolitionists retaliated by attacking a farm. The Democratic party was splitting.
  • The Birth of the Republican Party

    The Republican Party was founded in Wisconsin in 1854 as a direct reaction to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It was composed of Free-Soilers and antislavery Whigs and Democrats. Its purpose was to oppose the spread of slavery into the territories, but not to end it. As the fighting grew in Kansas, more abolitionists joined the Republican Party. It was soon the nation's second largest party. However, its success alienated and threatened the South because it was a primarily northern faction.
  • The Election of 1856

    In this election, the Republicans nominated John C. Frémont, and the platform called for no expansion of slavery, free homesteads, and a pro-business projective tariff. The Democrats expected to win however, because they rejected President Pierce and Stephen Douglas because they were too closely related to the Kansas Nebraska Acts. The Democratic ticket won a majority of both the popular and electoral votes, but the Republicans may soon be in the White House, as they made a strong showing.
  • Lecompton Constitution

    One of Buchanan's first challenges as president was to decide if they should accept or reject a proslavery state constitution for Kansas submitted by legislature at Lecompton. Even though the constitution was not supported by most of the settlers, Buchanan asked Congress to accept the document and admit Kansas as slave state. Congress did not do so because many democrats joined the Republicans in rejecting the Lecompton constitution. By 1858, the document was rejected by Kansas settlers.
  • Dred Scott v. Stanford

    Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri who had moved to Wisconsin for 2 years before returning. He argued that living on free soil made him a free citizen. He sued for his freedom in Missouri in 1846. It reached the Supreme Court, which reached a verdict shortly after. The court ruled against him for reasons that Scott had no right to sue in a federal court because the Farmers of the Constitution did not intend African Americans to be citizens and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.
  • Lincoln-Douglas Debates

    Stephen Douglas was concerned about getting reelected as senator from Illinois. However he was going up against Abraham Lincoln, who had only served a two-year term in Congress. Lincoln was running as a republican and was not an abolitionist. Lincoln challenged Douglas to reconcile popular sovereignty. Douglas replied in the Freeport Doctrine. Douglas ended up winning reelection for the Senate. However, Lincoln was now being considered for the Republican nomination as the presidential candidate.
  • John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry

    John Brown confirmed the South's worst fears radical abolitionism when he tried to start a slave uprising in Virginia. He tried to steal guns from the arsenal to arm the slaves. However, they caught by troops under Robert E. Lee. They were tried, convicted, and hung for treason. The South thought they had figured out the North's plan to destroy them by using slave revolts. Brown was hailed as a martyr by the North. A few years later, civil war broke out.
  • The Election of 1860

    Americans now understood that their country was moving to the brink of disintegration. The Democratic party had a major falling out, while the Republicans admitted their nomination of Abraham Lincoln as President. A fourth political party arose, known as a the Constitutional Party, which was all about preserving the Union. Lincoln won the Election of 1860 with 59 percent of the electoral votes.