About This Chapter
Sectional Crisis (1850-1861)
In the years leading up to the American Civil War, tensions were high in the country. The Northern states and Southern states were in disagreement over many things, with one of the main points of contention being slavery. The Southern states wanted to hold onto this institution that allowed them to maintain expansive plantations at a minimal cost. Slavery wasn't the only issue at hand, though. With so much tension, the setting was right for the country to explode in a civil war. Let our lessons guide you through the period from 1850-1861 so you can see what life in the States was like during this troubled time.
We have a lesson that will introduce you to Uncle Tom's Cabin, a controversial book that addressed slavery. You'll also get to learn about Fugitive Slave Law and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The lesson will cover the formation of the Republican Party, too. Another lesson will teach you about Bloody Kansas. Find out what it was, what caused it and the effects it had.
You'll also get to learn about President James Buchanan and the major issues of his presidency. Study major events such as Dred Scott v. Sanford and the financial crisis of 1857. Find out about what else was happening as Buchanan's presidency was wrapping up in our lessons that cover John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry and the Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates.
Finally, study the election of Abraham Lincoln. See how the Southern secession began and learn about the newly established confederacy. Wrap up this lesson by reviewing the first shots fired at Ft. Sumter that began the Civil War.
1. Uncle Tom's Cabin and Tension Over Slavery in the 1850s
Uncle Tom's Cabin captured the plight of slaves in the 1850s like no other book. The novel, coupled with the Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act, served to further strain the country, which was at a breaking point over the issue of slavery. This lesson details these events.
2. Bloody Kansas: Causes, Effects and Summary of Events
The events in the Kansas territory were a microcosm of the violent forces shaping the United States in the decade of the 1850s, forces that would ultimately lead to a disintegration of the Union itself. This lesson details what has come to be known as Bleeding Kansas and its impact on the issue of slavery.
3. Dred Scott v. Sanford and President Buchanan
The Dred Scott decision was one of the most important turning points in the debate over slavery in the United States. It came during the presidency of James Buchanan, a man well qualified but ill suited for the job of keeping the nation together. This lesson discusses both as we attempt to understand the dynamics that led to the American Civil War.
4. John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry: Fighting Slavery
John Brown was a man of strong convictions - so strong that he was willing to fight, to kill, and to die for them. These abolitionist beliefs led him from Kansas to Virginia, where he would pay the ultimate price. This lesson tells that story.
5. Primary Source: John Brown's Address to the Virginia Court in 1859
One of the most important figures in the lead-up to the Civil War, John Brown attempted to seize a government armory in 1859. He hoped to provide the weapons to black slaves and start a mass rebellion.
6. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858: Summary & Significance
In an effort to secure their own appointments to the U.S. Senate, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas squared off in a series of seven debates in 1858. Find out why Douglas might have won in the short term but Lincoln won in the long term.
7. Lincoln's Election, Southern Secession & the New Confederacy
Learn about how Abraham Lincoln's election in the contentious 1860 presidential race set off a domino effect leading to the secession of South Carolina and six other states and the formation of the Confederate States of America.
8. The Battle of Fort Sumter & the Start of the Civil War
South Carolina's attack on a U.S. military outpost triggered the American Civil War. Learn more about the Battle of Fort Sumter and the consequences of the fort's surrender to the Confederacy.
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Other chapters within the History 103: US History I course
- First Contacts (28,000 BCE-1821 CE)
- Settling North America (1497-1732)
- The Road to Revolution (1700-1774)
- The American Revolution (1775-1783)
- The Making of a New Nation (1776-1800)
- The Virginia Dynasty (1801-1825)
- Jacksonian Democracy (1825 -- 1850)
- Life in Antebellum America (1807-1861)
- Manifest Destiny (1806-1855)
- American Civil War (1861-1865)
- Reconstruction (1865-1877)
- Studying for History 103