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The Union in Peril is a period that drew a lot of passion and controversy in the American history. Many major events took place from the birth of the Union until 1877. Three major players during this period included the white northerners, white southerners, and the African Americans. For both whites, the main issue of concern was the future of the West. The white southerners were worried about imminent dominance by the white northerners. The African Americans were concerned about freedom. The enslaved African Americans particularly found freedom an almost impossible feat to achieve. Dred Scott’s case showed how the court system was compromised. All these events drew varied reactions to Americans. Southerners felt that the secession was better for them. However, other Americans felt that rather than secede, war was better. (Oakes et al. 415)
The motive behind the Wilmot Proviso was to do away with slavery in the newly acquired lands after the Mexican War that occurred between 1846 and 1848. The southerners knew that the expansion was in earnest. It would only lead to the rift that already existed. War was imminent. Civilians wanted war. As more states seceded, the reality of war to protect the Union loomed. According to Oakes et al, each opposing side felt that it “was the ultimate protector of the country’s revolutionary heritage”(419).
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made both blacks and whites worried. This is because both could feel the consequences of the act. For instance, the fugitives were concerned because they could be taken back with consequences. Also, their accomplices would face the same. This is because those who would failed to arrest the fugitives stood to be jailed. Officers would be rewarded for capturing runaway slaves. Those officers who would fail to capture the slaves were liable to a fine or even imprisonment.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 would make any nation apprehensive. The act drew a wage between pro-slavery and antislavery supporters. In other words, the act divided the Union. It led to the violence also referred to as the Bleeding Kansas. This violence resulted in the Civil War that occurred between 1861 and 1865 (Oakes et al. 428).
Some white southerners had different aspirations. Most of them were infuriated by the influence that the North seemed to wield. It can also be said that some white Southerners wanted slavery to gain foot. The Kansas-Nebraska Act furthered the divisions between the American North and South. The proponent of this act thought that it was the one going to serve as the final compromise on slavery rather than the federal government. This Act made people from opposing sides to descend on Kansas. Intimidation and violence ensued. There was also the issue of determining the railway route. A contest as to whether it would pass through free or slave territories emerged. John Brown’s arrival characterized the violence that took place along the border with his interpretation of the act. He interpreted it as a call to arms. This inflamed tensions. Dred Scott’s case did the same. He had stepped into free territory and the question was why he was not being set free. The issue of a slave not being allowed to sue at the court made things worse. Most southerners failed to denounce the violence. This was a way of expressing solidarity with the war. The Republican Party wanted slavery to continue. The party constituted Free-Soilers, antislavery Whigs, and was later joined by some abolitionists. Traditional party affiliations suffered a big blow too. The Republican Party was a victim (Oakes et al. 440).
Several people did not want slavery to continue being practiced. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, also known as the “Life Among the Lowly” was a nineteenth-century novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel was credited with aiding to fuel the abolitionists’ movement of the 1850s. It changed the American people’s view of slavery. People were treated as if they were property. This led to the demand for freedom and equality among the races. Emancipation eventually came with abolition of slavery (Oakes et al. 440).
The union had several challenges. The conflict between the northerners and southerners made things worse. The African Americans had their demands too. Reaching a compromise was the biggest problem that eventually led to the Civil War. Slavery got abolished and the union won but with a terrible cost.
Oakes, James, et al. Of the People: A Concise History of the United States. 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009.