A Virginia newspaper entitled The Franklin Repository stated that the American North and South were clashing with, “irreconcilable differences of principle, and bleeding from wounds within their own household” on June 13, 1860, only a year before the civil war commenced. Compromises worked to diffuse tensions early on; however as ideas like popular sovereignty came into play, compromises were no longer effective. Cultural and economic differences between the North and South continually intensified until finally reaching a climax in 1861 when the civil war started in earnest.
The western expansion of the United States created many problems, especially proposed ideas such as the legalization of slavery in western states. This expansion forced the government to devise compromises in order to keep the peace between people who disagreed about the future of slavery in the new states. Compromises such as the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law proved successful at first. Differences in opinion heightened and became more solidified so much so that eventually no acceptable compromises remained in order to keep the Union together.
The rivalry between the North and South finally reached a tipping point in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 when popular sovereignty emerged as a key idea. The North believed that federal power should decide legality of slavery in the states, whereas the South believed that the states should decide on slavery for themselves by popular sovereignty. Compromises lost their effectiveness as violence sparked. Culture in the North and South reflected yet another strong difference in opinion. The culture of the South rested on a slave society, depending fully on slavery for the agricultural economy.
This is contrary to the North, where the culture could be described as a society with slaves, because slavery existed in some parts but the more industrialized economy did not depend on slavery. Longstanding, deep-seated cultural and economic differences, distinguished by popular sovereignty between the American North and South, led to an inevitable and bloody conflict when the Civil War broke out in 1861. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 provided America with almost double the land it possessed previously when France sold land west of the Mississippi to the United States.
Although this provided America with space, it also caused many serious issues especially regarding the legalization of slavery in the new states. The North and South became forced to compromise over these issues. It all started with the Missouri Compromise, an idea formed in 1820 by member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, Henry Clay. The Missouri Compromise maintained the balance of slave and free states in the United States Senate and remained effective for years.
After the Missouri Compromise, more controversy emerged between the North and the South when the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams, passed the Tariff of Abominations in 1828, which protected northern industry in urban centers and hurt the southern planter. Contrary to the belief that next president, Andrew Jackson, would change the Tariff, he preserved it. With tension mounting between the entities, former Vice President John C. Calhoun resigned and the next big controversy started with the Nullification Crisis.
Calhoun became elected to a Senate position in South Carolina after resigning, and he decided to nullify all taxes on the importation of goods to the state. A battle of state rights versus federal authority loomed ahead. In the 1830’s and 1840’s, a new idea surfaced from a senator of Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas. His idea revolutionized the way people thought about states’ rights. Douglas believed that states should have more power than federal authority, and his idea of popular sovereignty gained traction among Americans very quickly.
However, this also reated a huge difference of opinion between the American North and South. Generally, the American North believed more in federal authority and the American South believed more in popular sovereignty. Tensions continued to mount, and the North and South began growing farther and farther apart as a war seemed destined to happen. After the Nullification Crisis, America proved victorious in the Mexican War of 1848, which meant the acquisition of even more land. Next, Henry Clay developed another key compromise, the Compromise of 1850 which provided yet another distinction between the American North and South.
Under the compromise, Utah and New Mexico could now operate under popular sovereignty. In the North, no states could operate under popular sovereignty. With this, the North and South could be compared to two different, independent countries as both had significantly different government structures and cultures. Four years later, in 1854, the tensions reached a tipping point with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act which stated that these two states could also operate under popular sovereignty.
This led to “Bleeding Kansas” as violence ensued, and people travelled from all over America to voice opinions on a relatively small but gory war. Now, a civil war loomed large in America as both entities expressed widely divergent views and compromises had failed. Tensions had reached an all time high. Along with the failed compromises, the American North and South represented very different living styles. The North centered on industry, as textile mills and factories had emerged as critical to the economy. Along with the rise of factories came the rise of urban centers.
The North had built massive urban centers such as New York and Boston where much of the population lived. The South seemed to be the polar opposite of the North. Farming took up most of the South’s land, forming an agrarian society. The southern lifestyle depended on the success of crops and farming in general. On top of this, contrary to the North, the South contained mostly rural areas and no major urban centers such as the ones in the North. These differences contributed to a different lifestyle between both of the entities.
With the tensions mounting in the late 1850s, the varied lifestyles contributed to the inevitability of a Civil War because the United States appeared comprised of two completely different economies and cultures. In 1857, a slave named Dred Scott sued his owners for his own freedom. After many trials in lower courts, the case of Dred Scott finally escalated to the Supreme Court later that year. Eventually, the Court ruled against Scott and went on to say that any person of African descent could not become an American citizen.
This set the precedent that slavery could become legal in every state at some point. The Dred Scott decision separated the North and South even further. A few years later in 1859, a determined abolitionist named John Brown led a slave rebellion, escalating the division and leading the country one step closer to civil war. With bloody violence in Kansas over states’ rights, controversial Supreme Court decisions and slave rebellions, a pivotal war began to rise on America’s horizon.