Social Studies - 2018-19

USI.9b - Sectional Tensions

The student will apply social science skills to understand the causes, major events, and effects of the Civil War by 

b) explaining how the issues of states’ rights and slavery increased sectional tensions; 

Adopted: 2015



The South feared that the North would take control of Congress, and Southerners began to proclaim states’ rights as a means of self-protection. 

The North believed that the nation was a union that could not be divided. 

While the Civil War did not begin as a war to abolish slavery, issues surrounding slavery deeply divided the nation. 


Issues that divided the nation 

 An important issue separating the country related to the power of the federal government. Southerners believed that they had the power to declare any national law illegal. Northerners believed that the national government’s power was supreme over that of the states. 

 Southerners felt that the abolition of slavery would destroy their region’s economy. Northerners believed that slavery should be abolished for moral reasons. 

Compromises attempting to resolve differences 

 Missouri Compromise (1820): Missouri entered the Union as a slave state; Maine entered the Union as a free state.  

 Compromise of l850:  

o California entered the Union as a free state.  

o Southwest territories would decide the slavery issue for themselves. 

o A stricter fugitive slave law was enacted. 

o The slave trade was banned in Washington, D.C. 

 Kansas-Nebraska Act: People in each state would decide the slavery issue (“popular sovereignty”). 

Southern secession 

 Following Lincoln’s election, many southern states seceded from the Union. 

 Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, marking the beginning of the Civil War. 

 Lincoln and many Northerners believed that the United States was one nation that could not be separated or divided. 

 Most Southerners believed that the states had freely created and joined the union and could freely leave it. 


Updated: May 16, 2018