Did the Dred Scott case play a bigger role in the Civil War than Westward Expansion (Popular Sovereignty)?

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This is a very interesting (and difficult) question, made more so by the fact that, strictly speaking, the Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott case invalidated the principle of popular sovereignty. Technically, according to the decision, no territory could constitutionally bar slavery. This ought to have made the principle...

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This is a very interesting (and difficult) question, made more so by the fact that, strictly speaking, the Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott case invalidated the principle of popular sovereignty. Technically, according to the decision, no territory could constitutionally bar slavery. This ought to have made the principle of popular sovereignty a dead letter, but by this point popular sovereignty had already divided the nation.

The implementation of popular sovereignty in Kansas resulted in a divisive and bloody struggle in that territory as early as 1855. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 established popular sovereignty in Kansas, pro-slavery partisans quickly poured in to create a government that would permit slavery. A bloody struggle ensued for control of the state that lasted for years. "Bleeding Kansas," as it became known, was a highly divisive issue--people were dying by the hundreds over the issue of slavery. In fact, the Kansas-Nebraska Act resulted in the breakdown of the second two-party system--the Democrats and the Whigs, as Northern Whigs bolted to form a new party, the Republicans, that was firmly opposed to the spread of slavery and outraged by events in Kansas. When a Republican presidential candidate--Abraham Lincoln--was elected in 1860, South Carolina left the Union. Ultimately, I would argue that the issue of popular sovereignty was more divisive than the Court's decision in Dred Scott.

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