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 Posted: Sun Sep 9th, 2012 04:09 pm
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Texas Defender
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Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
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BHR62-

  As you say, we only disagree on one point. I do not believe that the institution of slavery was growing in its influence in the years just before the Civil War. I would contend that by the late 1850s, the southerners were clearly on the defensive.

  The main issue had always been the question of expanding slavery into the western territories. The southerners, of course, wished to expand slavery westward even though much of the land there wasn't really compatible with the plantation system. The purpose was to preserve as much political power as possible.

  It is true that the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, but it was usually resisted in the north. It did give slave hunters license (In their minds at least) to come north and kidnap former slaves (And in some cases, free blacks) and ship them south. But the effect of this was to rally the abolitionist movement which had been growing steadily in the 1830s and 1840s. It caused the abolitionists to seek to better organize themselves and increase their political power.

  The overall effect of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, in conjunction with the Kansas-Nebraska Act was to strengthen the abolitionist movement. It also led directly to the establishment of the Republican Party (Which got 1/3 of the popular vote in a three man race in the presidential election of 1856).

  I would contend that all of this in the end worked against southern interests because it increased the power of the anti-slavery forces who were calling for the complete abolition of slavery. I believe that by 1860, most southerners thought that they were losing the political power game and could not see how their position could improve in the future. Since they could not win the game, more and more southerners became open to the idea of no longer playing it. By 1860, the majority of southerners were willing to consider the radical step of leaving the Union.

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