Civil War: the Events Leading up to it
Introduction: Antebellum Era
The issue of slavery was a touchy issue when the Declaration of Independence was being drafted. Thomas Jefferson originally wanted to place the evils of slavery on the King of England. However, this was omitted from the final draft of the Declaration of Independence because the main issue was not the evils of slavery but of American independence. Any attack on slavery had the ominous potential of dividing the northern and southern colonies and was left out.
After Independence was won the new nation had to set up a constitution and new laws. The issue of slavery came up again and was debated. If any law was passed that omitted slavery from the new Union, then the Southern states threaten to secede. Not a promising prospect for a new nation that had no central government. Northerners agreed to a 3/5’s compromise which would count each slave as 3/5’s of a person which would give Southern states more representative power in the House of Representatives. Article 1 section 9 of the constitution also stated that it would not infringe upon the slave trade till 1808 when it would then become illegal. “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”
The Southern states made many promises that they would eventually set all of their slaves free but argued that they wanted to do it on their own time table and not the Northern states. They argued that an immediate abolition of slavery would destroy the Southern economy because slaves were the main labor force that worked and harvested the crops and worked the farms. The Northern states agreed to these terms. With the invention of the Cotton Gin by Eli Whitney in 1793, cotton was able to be produced in massive quantities like never before. This invention increased the production of cotton which brought greater revenue to the South and thus cemented the Southern dependence on slavery and its resolve to keep slavery at all costs.
With the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade being banned back in 1808, the worth of slaves skyrocketed. Thomas Jefferson made a statement that a pregnant slave is worth more money than the total revenue generated from a good slave who has worked for 3 years because owners would sell off the children of slave women. Any child that was born from a slave was property, and was owned by the owner of the slave. Families were constantly broken up because slaves had no rights whatsoever. It was this kind of evil that led Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was based off of true stories and accounts of slaves who were mistreated and suffered immensely because they had no rights to keep their families or stay together. The book was so powerful that it spread fervor throughout the nation and stirred up mass feelings of disgust and distrust of Southern states and a Northern resolve to end slavery. When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he said. “So you’re the little women that wrote the book that made this great war.” The South was pleading with England to enter the war and to aid the Confederacy against the Union. Prime minister Lord Palmerston had read Uncle Tom’s Cabin three times and admired it not so much for the story as “for the statesmanship of it.” These things would inspire a national movement that would lead to the Civil War.