There were a tremendous number of events that helped lead to the Civil War. It would be possible to argue that almost every major issue that arose in the US in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s led to the war since most of these issues drove the North and South farther apart. Let us look at a few of the most important events.
- The Mexican-American War was certainly important in leading to the Civil War. It brought a large area of land into the United States, causing the North and South to come into conflict over whether that land would be free or slave.
- The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act came out of the Mexican-American War. The Fugitive Slave Act, in particular, made many people in the North feel very negatively towards the South.
- The Kansas-Nebraska Act and “Bleeding Kansas” in 1854 were also very important. The Kansas-Nebraska Act opened those areas up to “popular sovereignty,” thus leading to the fighting in “Bleeding Kansas.”
- The Dred Scott case in 1857 lead to the war because it foreclosed the possibility of compromise over slavery in the territories.
- John Brown’s raid and the reaction to it in 1859 further divided the two sections. Southerners were incensed that Brown would be seen as a hero by some in the North.
- Finally, it was the election of Abraham Lincoln that led most directly to the war. Southerners felt certain that he would govern in ways that helped the North and hurt the South.
These are a few of the most important events that led most clearly to the coming of the war.