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The Causes of Tension Before the American Civil War

The Civil War is considered to be one of the central events in the history of the United States. This war has started as a result of uncompromising differences in the views of the North and the South on the issue of slavery. Primarily, the government tended to search compromises due to the great contribution of the South to the economy. Nevertheless, the population of the free states demanded to abolish slavery, which resulted in a number of arguments in the Congress. The Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act are regarded to be two laws that greatly contributed to the growth of tension between the North and the South.

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After the end of the Mexican-American war in 1848, there was an equal number of slave and free states. It resulted in the argument regarding the slavery status of the new territories. It is stated that California and Utah wanted to join the Union as free states, but the southerners insisted on allowing slavery in southern California and New-Mexico (Boyer et al. 412). As a solution to the problem of the spread of slavery, President Zachary Taylor suggested allowing the new states to make the decision. Still, his plan was rejected by the southerners.

In 1850, Henry Clay, a representative of the Whig party, suggested a set of compromises to solve the problem. His proposals included making California a free state but leaving New-Mexico and Utah without restrictions on slavery. He stated that it is important to create a balance between the north and south territories and that the southerners should be treated as equals to save the Union. He was supported by Webster, but President Taylor labeled him as a hunter for glory. Still, after President Taylor’s sudden death the same year, the compromise was supported by Vice President Fillmore.

President Fillmore stated that this compromise could be the final decision over the disputed territories. Still, there were a lot of arguments in the Congress during the voting for specific bills that formed the compromise. The Fugitive Slave Act was accepted by the northerners only to save the Union. As a response to this Act, the expenses of slave catchers’ were raised. Nine northern states also admitted personal-liberty laws to oppose it.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act signed in May 1854 had triggered the new combat over the territories. It was caused by the desire of some farm families to settle west of Missouri and Iowa. Thus, Senator Douglas proposed to divide Nebraska into two territories with Kansas situated near Missouri. Kansas was meant to be a slave state because it bordered on Missouri. It is stated that this act caused the bloodshed in Kansas, though this territory ratified the antislavery laws in the end (“Trigger Events of the Civil War: Overview”).

In the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Douglas had claimed the right of the settlers to determine whether the state should be free or slave. He was opposed by the members of the Democratic Party he belonged to but remained firm (Catton and McPherson 46). Antislavery members of Congress protested against the bill as well. It had united the southerners in support of the act as it could extend slavery territories. Thus, the tension between the North and the South kept growing.

For people who supported the position of free states, this bill was a threat to the further spread of slavery. It was the return to Missouri Compromise by extending its borders. Thus, many congressmen opposed the bill because it promoted slavery. Kansas was supported in fighting for being a free state. The struggle continued for five years and caused occasional cases of bloodshed.

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The tension between the south and north states was caused by many events. Still, the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act are considered to be the most crucial laws on the road to the Civil War. They contributed to the growing arguments over the issue of slavery. The adoption of these bills also revealed the uncompromising differences between the North and the South. It became obvious that the war was inevitable sooner or later.

Works Cited

Boyer, Paul S., et al. The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People. Cengage Learning, 2013.

Catton, Bruce, and James M. McPherson. American Heritage History of the Civil War. New Word City, 2014.

“Trigger Events of the Civil War: Overview.” Civil War Trust. 2017. Web.

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