Causes of the Civil War (Unit 3)

Conflict Within the United States

In 1850, the United States was a large country, full of contrasts. New England and the Middle Atlantic states were the centers of finance, trade, shipping, and manufacturing. Their products included lumber, machinery, and textiles. Southern states had many farms that used slave labor to grow tobacco, sugar, and cotton. The Middle Western states also had farms, but they were worked by free men.

In 1819, Missouri asked to become a state. Northerners were against this because 10,000 slaves lived there. Because the Constitution allowed each new state to elect two senators, new states could change the political balance between “free” and “slave” states. Congressman Henry Clay suggested a way to make the North and South happy. Missouri would become a state with slaves. Maine would become a state without slaves. The Missouri Compromise was accepted.

In the following years, each side held its beliefs more strongly. Many Northerners thought slavery was wrong. Others saw it as a threat to free workers. Most white Southerners considered slavery part of their way of life.

Thousands of slaves escaped to the North with help from people along secret routes called the Underground Railroad. In 1860, however, one-third of the total population of slave states was not free.

Most Northerners did not care about slavery in the South, but they did not want slavery in the new territories. The Southerners believed that these territories had the right to decide for themselves whether slavery would be allowed.

A young politician from Illinois believed that this was not a local issue, but a national one. His name was Abraham Lincoln. He agreed that the South could keep its slaves, but he fought to keep slavery out of the territories. Lincoln thought that over time slavery would end. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he said. “This government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.”

The South threatened to leave the Union if Lincoln became president. After Lincoln won the election, some Southern states began leaving the Union before he started working as president.

Could Lincoln hold the country together?


1. Who proposed the Missouri Compromise and which states did it include?

A. Henry Clay and it included Missouri and Maine
B. Henry Clay and it included Missouri and Kentucky
C. Abraham Lincoln and it included Missouri and Maine

2. What was the Underground Railroad?

A. Trains that ran under the ground
B. Secret routes for runaway slaves
C. A road system that connected mines

3. What did the Southern states threaten to do if Lincoln became president?

A. Separate from the United States
B. Return to British rule
C. Impeach Lincoln

U.S.A. History in Brief, U.S. Department of State, 2010