Rising Sectionalism of the Middle 1800's

Despite the many victories and compromises throughout history, sectional tension existed between the north and southern states. For a brief period during the Mexican American war, these rivalries were masked by a greater cause, but they were quickly revived. Among the problems was the issue of slavery in new territories, expansion of the railroad, the ruling of the Dred Scott case and others. All of these led towards a greater sectional divide in the union.

Immediately after the war with Mexico, the issue of slavery in the new lands that were ceded arose. Territories like California and Texas were soon to be states, but there was a fight over the state promoting on outlawing slavery. To try to focus the country's attention towards the problem of slavery, President Pierce started his "Young America" plan that attempted to conquer new land in areas around the world. His goals included obtaining the Kingdom of Hawaii and Cuba, but the idea of new land only brought the slavery issue up once again. Furthermore, the prospect of attacking Cuba to capture it only led to greater debate.

Another event that escalated the sectional tensions of the country was the introduction of railroads to the west. As more settlement began to take place, a greater need for an intercontinental railroad grew and soon the question of where the track should be placed became known. Many northerners felt the road should stay more in the north and pass through Chicago while the south wanted the attention of a railroad in their area to improve business. It was finally decided that the railroad be placed in the new acquired Gadsden Purchase, which was an area between Arizona and New Mexico. This enraged many northerners who felt that the southern railroad would lead to the movement and popularity of slaves across the nation.

The most important issue that occurred was the Kansas-Nebraska controversy. Stephen Douglas, a senator from Illinois, proposed a new area west of Iowa to introduce as the state of Nebraska. However, many southerners would be likely to oppose the state since the Missouri compromise would make the state a free state. In an attempt to satisfy them, Nebraska was split in to having the bottom half be Kansas and the states were allowed to choose to be free by popular sovereignty. This agreement led to a startling amount of changes in the country. Instantly the Whig party was destroyed, it separated the northern democrats and started the Republican Party.

Because of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, much bloodshed took place in the new territory of Kansas. During the elections for state legislature, 6,500 people came to vote despite the 1,500 legal voter population. This was due to the great influx of people to Kansas just to vote for its slavery. This led to the south having a majority in the house and many northerners became enraged and formed their own constitution, but they were then denounced by the president.

The Kansas issue led to an even greater problem when a posse of pro-slavers attacked and killed five anti-slave people. This was the start of what became known as "bleeding Kansas," which would lead to constant guerrilla warfare in Kansas. Another symbol of the tension between the sections appeared in congress when Charles Sumner gave a speech insulting southern way of slavery. In response, Preston Brooks attacked Sumner one day in his office nearly killing him and displayed just how badly it had become between the north and south.

One of the most controversial court rulings ever was the Dred Scott case. The ruling had stated that slavers were indeed property and had no rights as human beings. This gave southerners a great boost in there slave goals because the most highly sanctioned court had agreed to there ways and at the same time had denounced the north's abolitionist efforts.

As one can see, a great number of events occurred in the mid 1800's to escalate the sectional tensions of the union. Among them were the new territories' conflicts over slavery, the expansion of the union, railroads, which shifted the economy to the south in the west, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott case. These events all had a drastic effect on the country and led to greater sectionalism and ultimately the civil war.

NOTE:This is an original work. Please cite when used.

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