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Events Leading Up To The Civil War In The 1850s

1185 words - 5 pages

"The crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away; but with Blood."-John Brown (Hickman, Kennedy). Best said by the last words of John Brown, the young United States was inevitably headed towards a serious war. There were many events, though, in the 1850’s that caused the war to arrive sooner than expected.
The compromise of 1850, written by Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, had a large impact on slave owners and abolitionists alike. Now New Mexico, Utah, and any other new west land could decide for themselves whether they were free or slave according to popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty is when people in their own state and the states government decide for themselves whether they are a free or slave state (Hickman, Kennedy). Also, because of this compromise residents in the District of Columbia could no longer trade slaves ("Civil War Events Leading to War Timeline"), Texas’ debts were canceled and some Texan land was given to New Mexico. There was another part to this compromise that was more pleasing to the pro-slavery citizens called the Fugitive Slave Act.
The Fugitive Slave Act was part of a trade off. California joined the United States as a free state in 1850 so the slave states received The Fugitive Slave Act as their part of the trade off (Hickman, Kennedy). The Fugitive Slave Act made it easier for slave owners to track down their slaves if they escaped to free states ("Civil War Events Leading to War Timeline"). The Act made it more dangerous to help free slaves and hide them. Even if the house where the slaves were hid was in a free state, if the government found out, major fines or imprisoned could result for those hiding the slaves, as well as the slave would be forced to go back to the slave owner. In these cases, the slave would also receive their own punishment such as a whipping (Kelly, Martin, "Top Five Causes of the Civil War"). Any officer who saw a runaway slave and did nothing would be punished as well (Kelly, Martin."Top 9 Events That Led to Civil War."). These circumstances, however, did not prevent slaves from risking everything and seeking freedom.
In response to the Fugitive Slave Act, an intricate system was created to bring slaves to freedom called the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad consisted of people favorable to freeing slaves opening their homes and offering help to slaves on the run. After the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, helping to free slaves was not only much more difficult but it was more risky but the slaves were not safe passing the Mason Dixon Line. To be safe, slaves on the run had to go all the way up to Canada. Even with these extra challenges and risks, there was an increase of slaves running and using the Underground Railroad (Kelly, Martin.). In response to these acts, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 to bring attention to the slavery issue and turn people against the Fugitive Slave Acts ("Civil War Events Leading to War Timeline").
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