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American History: the Road to Civil War Essay

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Updated: Apr 2nd, 2020

The American Civil War led to massive destruction of property and loss of life. Many people were killed in the southern and northern state battlefields. However, the war led to the emergence of a united and strong country driven by a desire to achieve one dream. Though the Civil War occurred in the 19th century, the roadmap to the war began back in the 17th century.

In 1619, slave trade emerged in America when Virginia English settlers bought 20 Africans from a Dutch ship to work on their farms. These first batches of slaves were later sold away as indentured servants, a title that completely changed with the arrival of more Africans into the country.

The establishment of slavery followed the enactment laws in states such as Massachusetts in 1641 and Virginia in 1660 which legalized slavery. However, Maryland adopted a new law in 1663 that not only legalized slavery, but also recognized life slaves. This was followed by a law in 1667 that revoked the initial English requirement which forced slaves to convert to Christianity before serving the white people (Förster 96).

The first antislavery group emerged in Pennsylvania to stage a protest against this practice. This group argued that slavery was against Christianity as the slaves were stolen from Africa. The Pennsylvania abolition society began countrywide sensitization campaigns in 1775 to advocate for the end of slave trade and slavery. A year later, the declaration of independence was pronounced, and the country gained independence from English empire. According to the independence declaration, all men were created equal and should be subjected to an equal and just environment (Waugh 220).

After the independence declaration, Vermont joined the United States in 1777 together with Pennsylvania in 1780. During the Philadelphia convention of 1787, delegates debated the merits of halting further importation of slaves into the country. However, South Carolina and Georgia threatened to boycott any resolution that would halt the importation of slaves. In 1790, the country had the first census which indicated that African slaves were 18% of the country’s population. However, the states that had abolished slavery such as Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts had no slaves (Waugh 221).

In 1793, the fugitive slave act which allowed for the recovery of runaway slaves was enacted. The provision of cotton gin patent in 1794 increased the value and demand for slaves in states such as South Carolina and Virginia. In 1807, the United States senate passed a law that led to the abolition of slave importation into the country. In 1838, the first antislavery black movement known as the Underground Railroad Network was organized (Kherdian 121).

In 1849, Harriet Tubman, a key figure in the antislavery movement, escaped from slavery. She assisted 300 more slaves to escape. In November of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States, paving way for the Emancipation Proclamation. More than 75,000 troops were recruited from the militias to help enforce antislavery laws in the country. However, a number of states such as Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana seceded from the union in response to the policies of Lincoln. The Civil War began in 1861 in fort Sumter, ushering in the darkest era in American history (Waugh 223).

Works Cited

Förster, Stig. On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861-1871. Washington, D.C.: German Historical Institute, 1997. Print.

Kherdian, David. Visions of America. New York: Macmillan, 1973. Print.

Waugh, John. One man great enough: Abraham Lincoln’s road to Civil War. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007. Print.

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