During the 19th Century, Slavery, and Its Influence on Westward Expansion in America

During the 19th century, slavery, and its influence on Westward Expansion in America, was at the heart of political and economic unrest between Northern and Southern States. While the South relied on enslaved workers to preserve its cotton plantations, the North denied a slave system altogether. Instead, it energized its industrial labor market with a surplus of American immigrants eager for work. As expansion in the west was looming, America’s political divide grew as the discussion over which territories would become Free States versus Slave States was sure to offset the equilibrium between parties in the Senate. Over the decades, several attempts were made by Congress to settle the continued discord over slavery between the North and the South, but ultimately, the failure to reach a sustainable compromise on Westward Expansion resulted in the Civil War.

The first of many tried solutions made by Congress was the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which outlined states that would be exempt from slavery, such as Maine, and identified entering states, such as Missouri, as regions that would yield to a slave system. The second attempt to reconcile resurfacing dissolution was in the acquisition of Texas from Mexico, in which Congress failed to approve the 1846 proposition stating any territory obtained from Mexico would be free from slavery. The third incident that sparked division in Westward Expansion was California’s transition into the Union. As the South feared California’s viewpoints on slavery would favor the North, the Compromise of 1850 was introduced. The foundation of this deal positioned California as a Free State and released the District of Columbia from the slave trade. In exchange, the South could adopt Utah and New Mexico into the slave system based on the majority vote in those states. In addition, the Compromise of 1850 spurred a jarring shift to the already established Fugitive Slave Act which would require the North to return fugitive slaves entering into any Free State back to the South from which they escaped. This revision sparked outrage in the North, amplifying further division between the Free States and Slave States. In its final attempt to settle discordance between the States, Congress established the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 which overturned the Missouri Compromise and stated that the fate of Nebraska and Kansas as either Free or Slave States would be left to the people’s vote.

The repeated failure to address the spread of slavery in Westward Expansion and the continuous courtship of Southern States were just a few factors that led to upheaval, revolt, and ultimately the call for a Civil War between the American people.