Civil War Timeline Page 3

Compromise of 1850 to the Election of 1860

  • Kentucky Senator Henry Clay proposes the Compromise of 1850 to deal with California’s petition to become a U.S. state and Texas wanting to expand into New Mexico. Clay proposes: 1. the admission of California as the 31st state 2. prohibiting Texas from expanding into New Mexico 3. compensation of $10 million to Texas to finance its public debt 4. permission for the citizens of New Mexico and Utah to vote on whether they want slavery allowed in their states 5. a stronger fugitive slave law with stronger enforcement Responses to the Compromise of 1850 varied. Southerners eased back from seceding from the U.S., but were upset by Northern resistance to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Anti-slavery groups are upset about possible expansion of slavery in the Southwest and the stronger fugitive slave law that could require all U.S. citizens to assist in returning runaway slaves.


  • The magazine article entitled, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe is reprinted as a book. The powerful book depicts slaveowner “Simon Legree” as evil and cruel, and the slave “Uncle Tom” as a hero. It sells between 500,000 and 1,000,000 copies in the U.S. and even more in Great Britain. Millions of people see the stage play of the book. By June 1852, Southerners move to ban the book’s publication throughout the South.

    Harriet Beecher Stowe


  • Opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act [Read More] meet in Ripon, Wisconsin in February, and form the Republican Party. The party includes many former members of the Whig [Read More] and Free Soil [Read More] parties and some northern Democrats. Republicans win most of the Northern state seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall of 1854 elections. Abraham Lincoln emerges as a powerful Republican leader in the West (Illinois).


  • Violence by pro-slavery looters from Missouri known as “Border Ruffians” and anti-slavery groups known as “Jayhawkers” begin in Kansas, as pro- and anti-slavery citizens try to organize the territory as a free or slave. Many Border Ruffians voted illegally in Kansas. Estimates show that the violence in “Bleeding Kansas” (as Kansas became known) resulted in about 200 people killed and $2 million worth of property destroyed during the middle and late 1850s. Over 95% of the pro-slavery votes in the election of a Kansas territorial legislature in 1855 are later determined to be forged.


  • On May 21st Missouri Border Ruffians and local pro-slavery men sack and burn the town of Lawrence, Kansas [where? Click Here], an anti-slavery town.


  • John Brown [read more], an abolitionist born in Connecticut, an his sons kill five pro-slavery men from Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas, in revenge for the sacking and burning of Lawrence, Kansas, by Border Ruffians.


  • In the court case, Ableman versus Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law is constitutional and that state courts cannot overrule federal court decisions. On October 16, Kansas abolitionist John Brown attempts to spark a slave rebellion in Virginia by capturing weapons from the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown holds the arsenal building for 36 hours. No slaves joined him and no rebellion starts, but 17 people, including 10 of Brown’s men, are killed. Brown and his remaining men are captured by the U.S. Marines led by Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown is tried for treason to the state of Virginia, murder and calling for a slave uprising. He was found guilty of all charges and hanged on December 2, 1859.


  • May 16th…William H. Seward of New York, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania are leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, along with the more moderate Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. When the Republican convention starts in Chicago, Lincoln supporters from Illinois skillfully gain representative votes for Lincoln. On May 18th, Abraham Lincoln wins the Republican Party nomination for president. The Republicans create a document that precisely explains their political platform which includes the exclusion of slavery from the the territories that are awaiting statehood, but affirms the right of individual states to order and control their own “domestic institutions” (slavery).

    Abraham Lincoln in 1860