Social Studies - 2018-19

VUS.6e - Issues that Divided the Nation

The student will apply social science skills to understand major events in Virginia and United States history during the first half of the nineteenth century by

e) evaluating the cultural, economic, and political issues that divided the nation, including tariffs, slavery, the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements, and the role of the states in the Union;

Adopted: 2015


Unit Themes

Unit Essential Questions

Environment (geography)

How does the environment and geography impact our lives?

Economic Systems

To what extent does the American economy shape the American experience? 


What are the duties and privileges of American citizenship?

Constitutional Principles

How does the US Constitution shape our lives as Americans? 


As the nation struggled to resolve sectional issues, compromises were developed to defuse a series of political crises.


Sectional tensions caused by competing economic interests 

 The industrial North favored high protective tariffs to protect Northern manufactured goods from foreign competition. 

 The agricultural South opposed high tariffs that made the price of imports more expensive.

Sectional tensions caused by westward expansion 

 As new states entered the Union, compromises were reached that maintained the balance of power in Congress between “free states” and “slave states.”

o The Missouri Compromise (1820) drew an east-west line through the Louisiana Purchase, with slavery prohibited above the line and allowed below, except that slavery was allowed in Missouri, north of the line.

o In the Compromise of 1850, California entered as a free state, while the new Southwestern territories acquired from Mexico would decide on their own.

o The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 repealed the Missouri Compromise line, giving people in Kansas and Nebraska the choice whether to allow slavery in their states or not (i.e., popular sovereignty). This law produced bloody fighting in Kansas as pro- and antislavery forces battled each other. It also led to the birth of the Republican Party that same year to oppose the spread of slavery.

Sectional tensions caused by debates over the nature of the Union 

 South Carolinians, in the South Carolina Exposition and Protest, argued that sovereign states could nullify the Tariff of 1832 and other acts of Congress. A union that allowed state governments to invalidate acts of the national legislature could be dissolved by states seceding from the Union in defense of slavery (Nullification Crisis). 

 President Jackson threatened to send federal troops to collect the tariff revenues and uphold the power of federal law.

Sectional tensions caused by the institution of slavery 

 Slave revolts in Virginia, led by Nat Turner and Gabriel Prosser, fed white Southerners’ fears about slave rebellions and led to harsh laws in the South against fugitive slaves. Southerners who favored abolition were intimidated into silence. 

 Northerners, led by William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of The Liberator, increasingly viewed the institution of slavery as a violation of Christian principles and argued for its abolition. Southerners grew alarmed by the growing force of the Northern response to the abolitionists. 

 Enslaved African Americans who escaped to free states, many aided by the Underground Railroad, pitted Southern slave owners against outraged Northerners who opposed returning escaped slaves to bondage.

The women’s suffrage movement 

 At the same time the abolitionist movement grew, another reform movement took root—the movement to give equal rights to women 

 Seneca Falls Declaration 

 Roles of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who became involved in the women’s suffrage movement before the Civil War and continued with the movement after the war


Terms & EventsPeoplePlaces Supreme Court Cases

Cotton Gin

Texan Revolution

Mexican War

Manifest Destiny

Hartford Convention (proposed secession and 

constitutional amendments)

Missouri Compromise

Compromise of 1850

California statehood

Popular sovereignty

Kansas-Nebraska Act

Republican Party


Eli Whitney

Dred Scott



Cotton Kingdom

Deep South


Free and slave states

Land acquisition: California, Nevada,

Utah, Arizona, parts of Colorado, New Mexico Bleeding Kansas

 Scott v. Sandford

Updated: May 18, 2018