• Luna and Jodi

Pre-Civil War

We've been learning about the period in American History known as Sectionalism. This was the time leading up to the Civil War.


We charted the main events during this time, and learned that most of the factors were political in nature. Federalism was an issue of time, this was the belief that the national government should hold a lot of power, and there was a struggle going on between state governments and the federal government. The 10th Amendment to the US Constitution said that any power not given directly to the federal government belonged to the states. As part of the Kentucky Virginia Resolutions, the states gave themselves the authority to nullify any law the federal government passed that they did not like. Nullification means saying, "no." When Missouri wanted to join the union as a slave state, the free states were upset. This is like a family with an equal number of boys and girls, but when a new baby is born, the boys hope it's a boy (giving them more power in the family) and the girls want it to be a girl for the same reason. The United States government didn't want to make a decision so they drew a line across the country known as the Mason Dixon Line, and everything north was supposed to be free and everything south was supposed to be a slave state. But this didn't work, because it's as helpful as if you drew a line across your bedroom that you share with a sibling and declare one side as yours and the other as theirs... until you realize the bathroom's on one side, and the door's on the other. Neither one of you gets access to everything you need. This did not seem to be a well thought out plan, and it didn't work. Next, the government tried to let each new state vote on if they would be slave or free, this was called popular sovereignty and it didn't work because both sides sent representatives to new states to vote. People from both sides began to mistrust one another and the government was trying to stay out of it.


There were also economic tensions such as the Tariff Act of 1832. This act added a tax to goods from other countries. The northern states, where all of factories were, liked the tariff because it meant their goods were purchased more often. The people of the south did not like this act because it made goods more expensive. They got so upset they tried to nullify it, and war almost broke out. Also, the immigrants coming into the U.S. would come in through New York which was in the North. They were against slavery because they needed jobs, and they couldn't compete against free labor.


There were also moral issues that led our country to the Civil War. We all know that the issue of slavery was at the center of it all. While for many it was about economics, or the balance of power, there were people who recognized that slavery was wrong, they were called abolitionists. One abolitionist, named John Brown, stole weapons and tried to give them to slaves so that they could rebel and free themselves. He was unsuccessful, and was sentenced to death, but when people heard about it, there was an increase in the call to end slavery. Another famous situation which strengthened the abolitionists cause was the Dred Scott case. Dred Scott was a slave whose family moved to a free state. When his family decided to move back, the Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property and Dred Scott lost his freedom.


The issues leading up the The Civil War were complex, and our country was still very new, trying to figure out how democracy would work and who it applied to. We have come a long way, and still have a long way to go. Our hope is that seeing how history played out we can learn to see our current culture and the issues we face today with some of the wisdom that was learned the hard way in the past.



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