Last Updated 21 Apr 2020


Category Slavery
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Sectionalism Essay During the 1850's, slavery, a southern necessity both socially and economically, threatened the unity of our nation essay writer site. The tension's were high between the North and South, and further increased as more and more factors contributed to the strain in the Union. As an outcome of these factors, small and big, sectional hatred began to arise and commenced the splitting of the nation; ultimately leading to the American Civil War. The very first issue that caused sectionalism in the 1850's between the North and South was the Compromise of 1850.

This compromise was a package of bills, passed in the United States in September 1850, regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War. It was drafted by Whig Senator Henry Clay and was negotiated with Stephen Douglas in order to avoid secession or civil war in 1850. The Compromise of 1850 caused sectionalism in the Union because it first established California as a free state and turned down the Southern proposal to split California at the 35° parallel; causing the South to be frustrated at the admittance of California.

To balance out the annexation of California, the South was pleased to hear that the territories of New Mexico and Utah would have slavery decided with popular sovereignty, meaning that the people who settled there would decide whether or not the territory would be free or slave. Little did they know that they were being cheated, because the land in New Mexico and Utah was unsuited for agriculture and not fit for slave plantations.

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The biggest blow that caused sectionalism in the Compromise of 1850 was delivered when the Fugitive Slave Law became more strongly enforced. The Fugitive Slave Law basically declared that all runaway slaves must be returned to their masters and anyone who assisted the runaway slave would be arrested. It also gave commissioners ten dollars for every slave that was returned to its master and five dollars for every accused slave released, which led to greedy commissioners re-enslaving freed slaves.

Lastly, the debate over slavery in the nation's capital was resolved during this compromise, it banned the trading of slaves in the capital but still allowed slavery to be practiced, which did not do much because people would just bring slaves in from neighboring states. The Compromise of 1850 was made in order to restrain the Union from splitting, but in it's attempt to please both the North and South, it caused them to develop more sectional hatred for one another. Another factor that caused sectionalism at the time came with the publishing of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852.

This book was an anti-slavery novel by the author Harriet Beecher Stowe and was the bestselling novel of the 19th century. She was an abolitionist, which means she was against slavery, and she wrote the book so the North would understand how badly the South were treating their slaves. This book stood out among all the other anti-slavery books because it was the first to develop an emotional impact on the reader and personified the slave, not as a piece of property, but as a living human being.

Her words galvanized the North to take action instead of remain undecided on their view of slavery and showed the people in the North, and even other neighboring countries how devastating slavery was in the South. The South saw this book as a direct attack on their practice of slavery and developed a burning hatred for the words of Stowe because she was said to exaggerate greatly on the practice of slavery, making it seem more brutal and savage then it really was.

This book caused the Union to become further sectionalized and caused more hate between the North and South; to the point where Lincoln even referred to Stowe as “the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war. ” Uncle Tom's Cabin did more than awaken the North; it influenced other nations to stay out of the Civil War because they were so moved by the book and were afraid it would stir up troubles in their own countries if they picked a side.

The differing views about the institution of slavery contributed to the growing rift between the South and North and was another factor that caused sectional hatred in the 1850's. A huge factor that caused the chasm between the North and South to grow was one regarding the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This act was proposed by Steven Douglas and it split the Louisiana Purchase into two and created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening them for settlement and letting them decide the issue of slavery through popular sovereignty.

The decision to decide slavery in these territories through popular sovereignty rivaled the great Missouri Compromise of 1820 because both the territories were above the 36°30' parallel and yet they had a chance to become slave states if enough people voted for it. The act inflamed the slavery issue and led opponents to form the Republican Party, which was supported by Abraham Lincoln and saw the expansion of slavery as a great evil.

The Republican Party held all it's power in the North and caused many of the Northerners to rally to them on the grounds that the Kansas-Nebraska Act opposed the Missouri Compromise that kept those grounds sacred and untouched by slavery. This caused life in Kansas to be a mini civil war with Northerners and Southerners competing with one another for land and other resources, resulting in a lot of violence, which led to the coining of the term “Bleeding Kansas” because of the federal governments inability to contain the disorder.

Douglas' plan to find middle ground between the free and slave states ended up driving the North and South farther apart because both slave and free advocates believed they rightfully had claims to the territory, the Northerners supporting the Missouri Compromise, and the Southerners supporting the new-found Kansas-Nebraska Act. The secretive Ostend Manifesto of 1854 played a small role in driving the nation apart. The manifesto contained rationale for the United States to buy Cuba from Spain and implied that the U.

S. would declare war on Spain if it refused to sell Cuba to them peacefully. The annexation of Cuba was a huge goal for southern expansionists because they sought to bring in Cuba as a slave state and said that Cuba was vital to the Union's domestic interests. The document started a diplomatic firestorm, reinforcing foreign fears of aggressive American expansion and caused the Northerners who were now enlightened on the cruelty of slavery to become insubordinate to the South.

This led to the coining of the term “slavocracy” which basically described the people who used their political power to corrupt slavery and spread it across the nation. Although this attempt to annex Cuba into the Union was a failure, it did represent the intentions of the South and cause the North to become agitated. This manifesto was one of the small contributing factors to the separation of the North and South that would soon pile onto the ever growing heap of sectionalism in the Union. Another event that contributed to the sectionalism between the North and South was the famous Sumner Assault of 1856.

On May of that year, the brilliant speaker, Charles Sumner made his speech that denounced “The Crime Against Kansas” along with other Southern leaders, such as Senator Butler. A fellow senator, Preston Brooks, took deep offense to the harsh word from Sumner's mouth and considered challenging the babbling madman to a duel, but then soon realized he must not stoop so low as to duel someone as scum-like as Sumner. So to solve his problem, on May 22, 1856 Preston Brooks strolls into the Senate Chamber and starts to beat Charles Sumner voraciously with his cane.

This caused Brooks to gain much fame from his fellow Southerners and people even went so far as to send him personal cane's to replace his bloody broken one. The Northerners, on the other hand, were extremely outraged at this praising of Brooks and his violent acts and further supported their theory that the South were savages. In order to show support for their now injured speaker, Massachusetts reelected Sumner for another term and left his seat vacant as a reminder of southern brutality and cause the North to have more reasons to develop sectional hatred for the South.

The Dred Scott Decision of 1857 was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court that caused the greatest division between the North and South. It stated that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves were not protected by the Constitution and were not U. S. Citizens. Furthermore, Taney also included in this court case that the slave, Dred Scott was never free, regardless of where he lived, because slaves were personal property.

This decision also went so far as to claim the Missouri Compromise of 1820 to be unconstitutional because the federal government had no right to prohibit slavery in the new territories. They also argued that the Constitution supported slavery because it did not outlaw or restrict it within the United States. Antislavery groups were appalled by this court decision and feared that slavery might spread unchecked and as a result, the Republican Party of 1854 fought to gain control of the Congress and the courts.

The Dred Scott Decision was also a event that appealed to the people emotionally, much the Uncle Tom's Cabin, because people began to sympathize for slaves who were treated unfairly, such as Dred Scott. The court decision pleased the South because it allowed slavery to exist everywhere because the federal government has no legal power to take away property, and it upset the North because they saw it as a terrible decision that would allow slavery in their states. This caused the tension between the two to become even more strained and foreshadowed the terrible disunion that was to come.

Another written document that caused hostility between the North and South was the Lecompton Constitution of 1857. This constitution was one of the four proposed constitutions for the state of Kansas that were made in the three years since the Kansas-Nebraska Act. During this three year period, the North and South grew increasingly caught up in whether or not Kansas would join as a free or slave state. In the end, the pro-slavery forces won control of the constitutional convention in the town of Lecompton on a day in September.

This only happened because the anti-slavery group in Kansas believed the voting was rigged and refused to vote for the constitution, causing the pro-slavery group in Kansas to win the vote and pass the contribution to the Congress. However, the Congress saw something wrong with the voting sensed that the voting was fraudulent and that popular sovereignty did not work effectively because of the North's refusal to vote. Seeing that the North had not had a chance to vote, Douglas persuaded Congress to called for a new vote on the Lecompton Constitution, and on January 4, 1858 the new vote was swept over with anti-slavery Republicans.

This solved the problem of Kansas' admittance to the Union but it caused other problems such as the splitting of the Democratic Party because of debate over “Bleeding Kansas” and it also lost Douglas many Southern votes in the upcoming election. This caused the nation to further become sectional due to the Lecompton Constitution ripping apart the only political party that had a mixture of Northerners and Southerners and causing the South to become angered at the rejection of their constitution. One of the last major events in the 1850's that caused intense sectional hatred between the North and South was the execution of John Brown in 1859.

John Brown was a dedicated abolitionist that commanded forces multiple times in Kansas, making him a very stern and somewhat violent man. This proved to be true when Brown led a few of his troops to Pottawatomie to kill five pro-slavery supporters. The death of these pro-slavery men only sated his appetite for justice for a small while and in 1859, Brown sought to carry out a plan that Southerners have feared for every since slavery arose. Brown took his small group of men, and on October 16 of that year, he attempted to start an armed slave revolt by seizing a United States Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.

The attack was so crazy and so unexpected that Brown and his troops took the armory easily, but their problem arose when it came to galvanizing the slaves. With the slaves refusing to fight back, Robert E. Lee and his troops overwhelmed Brown's small number of men and forced them to surrender. The South, who were appalled by Brown's crazy attempt to defeat slavery, sentenced him to death by hanging. However, John already saw his fate and found what his purpose was. He believed that he was much more useful as a martyr that would give the abolitionists someone to fight for. His perception of his death caused im to make beautiful speeches against the institution slavery, which gained him sentiment and established a personal bond with all the abolitionists in the North. John Brown's execution gave many Northerners a reason to hate the South because they had killed a man who was brave enough to stand up for the good of the nation. As a result, tensions increased to its maximum capacity and caused the Election of 1860 to be the straw the broke the camel's back. During the 1850's, there was an overwhelming amount of sectionalism in the United States because of the differences between the North and South.

Many factors, small and big, contributed to sectional hatred between the North and South, which was terribly unhealthy for the prosperity of the nation. The buildup of tension came from a variety of things, from frivolous brawls in the Congress to the publishing of a book, and everything in between. All of these tiny disagreements continued to add up, causing hatred to fester between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery groups which began the secession of the South, resulting in the start of the bloodiest war in U. S history, The American Civil War.

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