Sectional tension increased during the mid 19th century bringing America into a civil war. There were a few important factors that helped to increase tensions in both the North and the South. Some of these factors were the Anti-Slavery movement, Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Fugitive Slave Law, John Browns raid at Harpers Ferry, Uncle Toms Cabin, and the election of Abraham Lincoln into Presidency. There were quite a few events that caused tensions in the North.
The anti-slavery movement greatly influenced the norths feelings toward slavery. Writers like William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote on the topic of slavery and helped lead the movement against it. In his newspaper, The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison shared his wish for complete and immediate abolition: “tell a mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 angered the North because it voided the Missouri Compromise that they agreed to 34 years prior. The Free States felt they were undermined. The Fugitive Slave Law fueled the anti-slavery feelings in the North. It was probably one of the most important causes that bought on war. The law said that if slaves escape from the North, northerners are responsible for assisting in his capture and return. This brought many questions to peoples minds.
Do slaves not have freedom in a “free state” where slavery is outlawed? Now the northerners were more connected with slavery — it was much closer to home for them. Many factors caused tension in the South as well. One of these is Harriet Beecher Stowes Uncle Toms Cabin. Southerners felt that the book was nothing more than abolitionist propaganda. They felt it was an attack on the South as a whole, not just on slavery. Southerners believed that northerners treated their factory workers no better than they treated their slaves.
An excerpt from the last paragraph of Uncle Toms Cabin: “Not by combining together, to protect injustice and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to be saved — but by repentance, justice and mercy; for, not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God! ” John Browns raid at Harpers Ferry significantly had an impact on the South. In October 1857, Brown and 21 followers captured the US arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
Brown planned the takeover as the first step in his liberation of the slaves, but it was taken the next morning by Robert E. Lee. John Brown was hanged two months later. In his speech before the court on trial for treason, he stated, “Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.
Due to emotions fueled by the raid, angered mobs in the south attacked whites suspected of being anti-slavery. The incident helped the South prepare for war as they strengthened their militia. The election of Lincoln can be described as “the straw that broke the camels back” for the South. Lincoln ran on the Republican ticket and opposed extending slavery into the territories. Lincoln got 40 percent of the popular vote, but had 59 percent of electoral votes, all from northern states. Seven of the ten southern states did not even have Lincoln on their ballots. Southerners felt politically weakened by the North.
A month and a half later, before Lincoln was even inaugurated, South Carolina was the first was the first state to secede from the Union. The most important general factor that led the United States into civil war was the issue of slavery. Though the causes of the war involved many different elements such as conflicting nationalisms, the definition of freedom, and the preservation of the Union; a large number of them dealt with slavery. The issue of slavery generated very strong feelings in the North and South and events like those described in this essay escalated the tension.