Timeline: 1850-1861

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Uncle Tom's Cabin was an anti-slavery novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was an instant success, becoming an instant bestseller. The novel worked to point out the evils of slavery, promoting ideas of emancipation and freedom of all the slaves. But this escalated tensions between the North and the South. The North's anti-slavery views became stronger. The South became furious at the book, making them grow stronger in their pro-slavery views. This contributed to the increased tensions.
  • Republican Party

    The Republican Party was founded by a group of Whigs. The Whig Party was formed in 1834 to oppose Jackson, but they couldn't handle the national issue of slavery. So, in 1854, a group of anti-slavery Whigs began meeting to form a new party: the Republican Party. This new party instantly grew support, especially in the North; their first candidate, John C. Fermont, won 11 of 16 states in the election of 1856. The South became furious, threatening secession if a Republican won the presidency.
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act

    Proposed by Stephen Douglas of Illinois, this act made it so that slavery would be decided by popular sovereignty in the Kansas and Nebraska territories, and repealed the Missouri Compromise. This destroyed sectional peace, for now, both the North and South were trying to sway the votes in these two territories, which would lead to eventual violence. As a result, the North and South were pushed closer to war as tensions rose higher. (Led to fall of the Whigs; led to creation of the Republicans)
  • Bloody Kansas

    Bloody Kansas was a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, when anti-slavery forces of the North and pro-slavery forces of the South clashed in Kansas. This led to a series of bloody violent outbreaks. The violence escalated tensions between the North and South over the question of slavery and its future. John Brown also took part: on May 24, 1856, Brown marched with his men down towards Pottawatomie Valley, ready to meet pro-slavery settlers; instead, took five men from their homes, killing them.
  • Brooks-Sumner Incident

    Senator Charles Sumner was an anti-slavery Republican of Massachusetts; he gave a speech on Kansas and the violence happening within Kansas. Calling out two Democrats as being responsible, he insulted one of them, enraging Representative Preston Brooks. Brooks took a cane, walked into the Senate, and violently beat Sumner. This further divided the nation: we see a Southern representative violently attacking a Northern senator; the North sided with Sumner while the South sided with Brooks.
  • Election of 1856

    The Election of 1856 pitted Republican John C. Fremont against Democrat James Buchanan. Buchanan won the election with 174 electoral college votes, leaving Fremont with 114. The Republicans were very close to winning; this will lead to the Republican win in the Election of 1860 and the start of the Civil War. This election was significant in that it heightened the divide between Republicans and Democrats, the North and the South. It set the stage for the next election.
  • Dred Scott: Supreme Court case- Scott v. Sanford

    Dred Scott was an African American who went to the Supreme Court to advocate for his freedom and his citizenship. However, the Court voted against him: (1) he was of African descent and thus not a citizen; (2) he was not a free man; (3) Congress does not have the constitutional authority to pass laws affecting slavery. This decision angered the North because now Congress could not restrict the expansion of slavery into new territories. The South, of course, was happy with this ruling.
  • LeCompton Constitution

    The LeCompton Constitution was the second of four documents drafted as the constitution of Kansas. It was a proslavery document, declaring slavery was allowed in the state of Kansas. However, it never went into effect: the people of Kansas voted against it. President Buchanan supported Kansas becoming a state under the LeCompton Constitution; however, again, the people voted against it. This caused Kansas to be admitted to the Union as a free state, angering many in the South.
  • House Divided Speech

    The "House Divided Speech" was a speech by Abraham Lincoln at the Illinois Republican Convention in 1858. The main purpose of his speech was to convey that the tensions between the North and the South were indeed escalating, that they as a nation are deeply divided. Lincoln anticipated war; he stated that the previous Scott v. Sanford case has opened the way for slavery into the North. If slavery is to be abolished, something has to be done; there will simply be no room for compromise.
  • Lincoln-Douglas Debates (Freeport Doctrine)

    A series of debates between Abraham Lincoln, Republican candidate for Senate from Illinois, and incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas. Douglas supported popular sovereignty to decide slavery, but this was against the ruling of Scott v. Sanford; in his Freeport Doctrine, he declared that the ruling of the Supreme Court meant nothing if it can't be enforced, it was actually up to the people's actions to decide slavery. This statement split the Democratic Party, hurting Douglas in his run in 1860.
  • Harper's Ferry

    Harper's Ferry was a federal armory that was raided by anti-slavery Northerners led by John Brown. Brown was an abolitionist who was strongly against slavery; he organized a raid on Harper's Ferry to steal guns, hoping to start a slave revolt and free the slaves. The raid was unsuccessful; however, it did succeed in raising tensions between the North and South to the point where compromise was nearly impossible. This event raised sectional tensions and the stakes of the election of 1860.
  • John Brown's Execution

    As a result of Harper's Ferry, John Brown was tried and executed. He was charged with treason, murder, and insurrection, and was sentenced to be hanged. His execution was only sixteen months away from the beginning of the Civil War. His death sparked much anger in the North, leading many peaceful abolitionists to move toward violent measures in order to prevent the extension of slavery; in return, the South too began to become angry with the efforts of the North.
  • Election of 1860

    The election of 1860 was between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate, and John C. Breckinridge, the Democrat candidate. Abraham Lincoln won the election with 180 electoral college votes while Breckinridge only got 72. Lincoln becoming president was a significant push for war between the North and the South. It angered the South to the point of secession. The South was already sitting on the idea of secession, but the election of 1860 confirmed it; South Carolina was the first to secede.
  • Secession

    The first state to secede from the Union was South Carolina, on December 20, 1860. After South Carolina, the other southern states began to secede: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky. Together, they formed the Confederacy.
  • Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

    Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address was given when he accepted the presidency for his first term. Lincoln attempted to make peace with the South. Lincoln promised not to interfere with slavery where it was held in the slave states; however, he did declare himself against secession. In the end, his speech did not keep the North and South from going to war; only six weeks later, Confederates fired upon Fort Sumner in South Carolina, beginning the war.