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One of the bitterest fruits of westward expansion was the intensification of the slavery extension issue. I support this statement.
Westward expansion intensified the slavery extension issue like nothing else could have. It all began simply enough in 1787 when the Ordinance of 1787, better known as the Northwest Ordinance, was passed. The bill structured a government for the west by setting up a governor, secretary and three judges to establish and maintain order. The bill also stated that when a territory reached 60 thousand people it could apply for statehood. At the end of the bill there was a small phrase that stated slavery would be prohibited in all of the territories and future states governed by the bill. This didn’t cause many problems because many people subscribed to the natural limit theory. Simply stated the theory said slaves = cotton or slaves = tobacco. Slavery was thought to be undesirable in areas where it was not applicable, thus slavery would contain itself by economics. Although this theory was popular it proves to be fantasy. This method of thinking and the Northwest Ordinance started our young country down the dark road that would end in the War of the Rebellion.
Extension of slavery next became an argument and hot topic at the Philadelphia Convention in the fall of 1787. The northern delegates “detested the slave trade and wanted it to end” (pg. 187). The slave states came out ahead in this battle as they got congress to agree that they would not interfere with the slave trade until 1808 and the south obtained a fugitive slave law. The only victory the north received was that the Union remained intact.
The slavery extension issue took a back seat to other pressing problems and states were admitted to the Union usually in pairs with one entering as a free state and one as a slave state. Popular sovereignty became the method of determining free or slave states.
1830 was the next time that the extension of slavery became an issue. The Second Great Awakening led to many religious revivals, increased feelings of morality and duty to do the right thing. The concept of natural limits no longer seemed plausible as the nation rapidly industrialized. Slaves no longer equaled field hands, they could be used anywhere for anything. Northerners realized this and became very insistent that slavery be abolished immediately. All of this led to increasingly extreme abolitionist movements, and responding pro-slavery responses.
In 1850 the slavery expansion issue reached a phase where there was no return to the peace that had one reigned. In 1850 there was a compromise reached to put off the issue again. The compromise was aptly named the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise stated that popular sovereignty would be used in all territories, California would be admitted to the union immediately as a free state (This broke the balance of the states, angering the south). Also Texas would give up some claimed territory to the north in exchange for the national government assuming it’s state debt, slave actions would be banned in D.C. (again angering the south), and finally it called for a strict enforcement of the fugitive slave laws. Instead of solving the problems the Compromise simply added to the frustration and the anger.
Now as if there wasn’t enough going on, in 1854 Senator Stephen Douglas proposed a bill and stuffed it through congress. The bill became known as the Kansas- Nebraska Act. From here on in the confrontations would cease to simply be verbal, physical violence would become more common. Under the Kansas-Nebraska act the Missouri Compromise was declared null and void, and that popular sovereignty would be used in Kansas and Nebraska. This broke the established thirty-six degree thirty minutes line that was the Mo. Compromise designated as the dividing line between slave and free states. Some radical abolitionists like John Brown thought that if popular sovereignty was to be used then the only thing that needed to be done was to have the majority of the voters in the territory anti-slave. To ensure this he drove out pro-slavers by armed force. His southern counterparts also saw this and responded likewise. This led to the first physical violence that would lead to the War of the Rebellion.
In 1857 the
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Slavery in the United States, Bleeding Kansas, Slavery, Missouri in the American Civil War, Slave and free states, Missouri Compromise, Compromise, Stephen A. Douglas, Fugitive slave laws, Abolitionism, KansasNebraska Act, American Civil War
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