In the United States before 1865, a slave state was a state in which slavery and the slave trade were legal, while a free state was one in which they were not. Between 1812 and 1850, it was considered by the slave states to be politically imperative that the number of free states not exceed the number of slave states, so new states were admitted in slave–free pairs. There were, nonetheless, some slaves in most free states up to the 1840 census, and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 specifically stated that a slave did not become free by entering a free state.
Although Native Americans had small-scale slavery, slavery in what would become the United States was primarily established during European colonization. In 1776, slavery was legal throughout the Thirteen Colonies, after which colonies started to abolish the practice. Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1780, and about half the states abolished slavery by the end of the Revolutionary War or in the first decades of the new country, although this did not usually mean that existing slaves became free. Although not one of the Thirteen Colonies, Vermont declared its independence from Britain in 1777 and at the same time limited slavery, before being admitted as a state in 1791.
Slavery was a very divisive issue in the United States. It was the largest issue during the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, and was the primary cause of the American Civil War in 1861. Just before the Civil War, there were 19 free states and 15 slave states. During the war, slavery was abolished in some of these jurisdictions, and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in December 1865, finally abolished slavery throughout the United States.
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Slavery was established as a legal institution in each of the Thirteen Colonies, starting from 1619 onwards with the arrival of "twenty and odd" enslaved Africans in Virginia. Although indigenous peoples were also sold into slavery, the vast majority of the enslaved population consisted of Africans brought to the Americas via the Atlantic slave trade. Due to a lower prevalence of tropical diseases and better treatment, the enslaved population in the colonies had a higher life expectancy than in the West Indies and South America, leading to a rapid increase in population in the decades prior to the American Revolution.Organized political and social movements to end slavery began in the mid-18th century. The sentiments of the American Revolution and the promise of equality evoked by the Declaration of Independence stood in contrast to the status of most Blacks, either free or enslaved, in the colonies. Despite this, thousands of Black Americans fought for the Patriot cause for a combination of reasons. Thousands also joined the British, encouraged by offers of freedom such as the Philipsburg Proclamation.
In the 1770s, enslaved Black people throughout New England began sending petitions to northern legislatures demanding freedom. Five of the Northern self-declared states adopted policies to at least gradually abolish slavery: Pennsylvania in 1780, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 1783, and Connecticut and Rhode Island in 1784. The Republic of Vermont had limited slavery in 1777, while it was still independent before it joined the United States as the 14th state in 1791. These state jurisdictions thus enacted the first abolition laws in the Atlantic World.By 1804 (including New York (1799) and New Jersey (1804)), all of the Northern states had abolished slavery or set measures in place to gradually abolish it, although there were still hundreds of ex-slaves working without pay as indentured servants in Northern states as late as the 1840 census (see Slavery in the United States#Abolitionism in the North).
In the South, Kentucky was created a slave state from Virginia (1792), and Tennessee was created a slave state from North Carolina (1796). By 1804, before the creation of new states from the federal western territories, the number of slave and free states was 8 each. By the time of Missouri Compromise of 1820, the dividing line between the slave and free states was called the Mason-Dixon line (between Maryland and Pennsylvania), with its westward extension being the Ohio River.
The 1787 Constitutional Convention debated slavery, and for a time slavery was a major impediment to passage of the new constitution. As a compromise, the institution was acknowledged though never mentioned directly in the constitution, as in the case of the Fugitive Slave Clause. Article 1, Section 9, of the Constitution prohibited Congress from abolishing the importation of slaves, but in a compromise, the prohibition would be lifted in twenty years. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves passed easily in 1807, effective in 1808. However, the ban on importation spurred an expansion in the domestic slave trade, which remained legal until slavery was banned entirely in 1865 by the 13th Amendment.
In the late 1850s an unsuccessful campaign was launched by several southern states to resume the international slave trade, to restock their slave populations, but this met with strong opposition.However, there was large natural increase in the slave population throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, while some illegal smuggling of African slaves continued via Spanish Cuba.
One of the other compromises of the Constitution created the three-fifths rule by which slave states acquired a proportional increase in the House of Representatives and Electoral College equivalent to the size of their disenfranchised slave populations. This increased strength of the southern states was dubbed "slave power" by opponents.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, passed just before the U.S. Constitution was ratified, had prohibited slavery in the federal Northwest Territory. The southern boundary of the territory was the Ohio River, which was regarded as a westward extension of the Mason-Dixon line. The territory was generally settled by New Englanders and American Revolutionary War veterans granted land there.[ citation needed ] The 6 states created from the territory were all free states: Ohio (1803), Indiana (1816), Illinois (1818), Michigan (1837), Wisconsin (1848), and Minnesota (1858).
By 1815, the momentum for antislavery reform, state by state, appeared to run out of steam, with half of the states having already abolished slavery (Northeast), prohibited from the start (Midwest) or committed to eliminating slavery, and half committed to continuing the institution indefinitely (South).
The potential for political conflict over slavery at a federal level made politicians concerned about the balance of power in the Senate, where each State was represented by two Senators. With an equal number of slave states and free states, the Senate was equally divided on issues important to the South. As the population of the free states began to outstrip the population of the slave states, leading to control of the House of Representatives by free states, the Senate became the preoccupation of slave-state politicians interested in maintaining a congressional veto over federal policy in regard to slavery and other issues important to the South. As a result of this preoccupation, slave states and free states were often admitted into the Union in opposite pairs to maintain the existing Senate balance between slave and free states.
Controversy over whether Missouri should be admitted as a slave state resulted in the Missouri Compromise of 1821, which specified that territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase north of latitude 36° 30', which described most of Missouri's southern boundary, would be organized as free states and territory south of that line would be reserved for organization as slave states. As part of the compromise, the admission of Maine (August 19, 1821) as a free state was enabled by Missouri's compromise to join the union as a slave state (August 19, 1821).
The admission of Texas (1845) and the acquisition of the vast new Mexican Cession territories (1848), after the Mexican–American War, created further North-South conflict. Although the settled portion of Texas was an area rich in cotton plantations and dependent on slave labor, the territory acquired in the Mountain West did not seem hospitable to cotton or slavery.
As part of the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted as a free state without a slave state pair; California's admission also meant there would be no slave state on the Pacific Ocean. To avoid creating a free state majority in the Senate, California agreed to send one pro-slavery and one anti-slavery senator to Congress.
The difficulty of identifying territory that could be organized into additional slave states stalled the process of opening the western territories to settlement, while slave-state politicians sought a solution, with efforts being made to acquire Cuba (see: Lopez Expedition and Ostend Manifesto, 1852) and to annex Nicaragua (see: Walker affair, 1856–57), both to be slave states. Parts of Northern Mexico were also coveted, with Senator Albert Brown declaring "I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican States; and I want them all for the same reason – for the plantation and spreading of slavery".
In 1854, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was superseded by the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which allowed white male settlers in the new territories to determine, by vote (popular sovereignty), whether they would allow slavery within each territory. The result was that pro- and anti-slavery elements flooded into Kansas with the goal of voting slavery up or down, leading to bloody fighting. [ full citation needed ] An effort was initiated to organize Kansas for admission as a slave state, paired with Minnesota, but the admission of Kansas as a slave state was blocked because its proposed pro-slavery constitution (the Lecompton Constitution) had not been approved in an honest election. Anti-slavery proponents during the "Bleeding Kansas" period of the later 1850s were called Free-Staters and Free-Soilers, and fought against pro-slavery Border Ruffians from Missouri. The animosity escalated throughout the 1850s, culminating in numerous skirmishes and devastation on both sides of the question. Nevertheless, the North prevented Kansas Territory from becoming a slave state, and when Southern members of Congress departed en masse in early 1861, Kansas was immediately admitted to the Union as a free state.
When the admission of Minnesota proceeded unimpeded in 1858, the balance in the Senate ended; this was compounded by the subsequent admission of Oregon as a free state in 1859.
Before 1812, the concern about balancing slave-states and free states was not deeply considered. The following table shows the slave and free states as of 1812. The year column is the year the state ratified the US Constitution or was admitted to the Union:
|Slave states||Year||Free states||Year|
|Delaware||1787|| New Jersey |
(Slave until 1804)
|North Carolina||1789||New York|
(Slave until 1799)
From 1812 through 1850, maintaining the balance of free and slave state votes in the Senate was considered of paramount importance if the Union were to be preserved, and states were typically admitted in pairs:
|Slave states||Year||Free states||Year|
The balance was maintained until 1850:
|Slave states||Year||Free states||Year|
The American Civil War (1861–1865) disrupted and eventually ended slavery. Eleven slave states joined the Confederacy, while the border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained in the Union, despite the presence of slavery within their borders. In 1863 western Virginia, much of which had remained loyal to the Union, was admitted as the new state of West Virginia with a commitment to gradual emancipation. The following year Nevada, a free state in the West, was also admitted.
|Slave state||Year||Free state||Year|
| West Virginia |
(gradual abolition plan)
During the Civil War, a Unionist government in Wheeling, Virginia, presented a statehood bill to Congress to create a new state from 48 counties in western Virginia. The new state would eventually incorporate 50 counties. The issue of slavery in the new state delayed approval of the bill. In the Senate Charles Sumner objected to the admission of a new slave state, while Benjamin Wade defended statehood as long as a gradual emancipation clause would be included in the new state constitution.Two senators represented the Unionist Virginia government, John S. Carlile and Waitman T. Willey. Senator Carlile objected that Congress had no right to impose emancipation on West Virginia, while Willey proposed a compromise amendment to the state constitution for gradual abolition. Sumner attempted to add his own amendment to the bill, which was defeated, and the statehood bill passed both houses of Congress with the addition of what became known as the Willey Amendment. President Lincoln signed the bill on December 31, 1862. Voters in western Virginia approved the Willey Amendment on March 26, 1863.
President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which exempted from emancipation the border states (four slave states loyal to the Union) as well as some territories occupied by Union forces within Confederate states. Two additional counties were added to West Virginia in late 1863, Berkeley and Jefferson. The slaves in Berkeley were also under exemption but not those in Jefferson County. As of the census of 1860, the 49 exempted counties held some 6000 slaves over 21 years of age who would not have been emancipated, about 40% of the total slave population.The terms of the Willey Amendment only freed children, at birth or as they came of age, and prohibited the importation of slaves.
West Virginia became the 35th state on June 20, 1863, and the last slave state admitted to the Union.Eighteen months later, the West Virginia legislature completely abolished slavery, and also ratified the 13th Amendment on February 3, 1865.
In the District of Columbia, formed with land from two slave states, Maryland and Virginia, the trade was abolished by the Compromise of 1850. So as to avoid losing the profitable slave trading businesses in Alexandria (one was Franklin and Armfield), Alexandria County, D.C., requested that it be returned to Virginia, where the slave trade was legal; this took place in 1847. Slavery in the District of Columbia remained legal until 1862, when the walkout of all the Southern legislators permitted those remaining to pass the ban, which abolitionists had been seeking for decades.[ citation needed ]
At the start of the Civil War, there were 34 states in the United States, 15 of which were slave states. 11 of these slave states, after conventions devoted to the topic, issued declarations of secession from the United States and created the Confederate States of America and were represented in the Confederate Congress.The slave states that stayed in the Union, Maryland, Missouri, Delaware, and Kentucky (called border states) remained seated in the U.S. Congress. By the time the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, Tennessee was already under Union control. Accordingly, the Proclamation applied only in the 10 remaining Confederate states. During the war, abolition of slavery was required by President Abraham Lincoln for readmission of Confederate states.
The U.S. Congress, after the departure of the powerful Southern contingent in 1861, was generally abolitionist: In a plan endorsed by Abraham Lincoln, slavery in the District of Columbia, which the Southern contingent had protected, was abolished in 1862.The Union-occupied territories of Louisiana and eastern Virginia, which had been exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation, also abolished slavery through respective state constitutions drafted in 1864. The State of Arkansas, which was not exempt but which in part came under Union control by 1864, adopted an anti-slavery constitution in March of that year. The border states of Maryland (November 1864) and Missouri (January 1865), and the Union-occupied Confederate state, Tennessee (January 1865), all abolished slavery prior to the end of the Civil War, as did the new state of West Virginia, separated from Virginia in 1863 over the issue of slavery, in February 1865. However, slavery persisted in Delaware, Kentucky, and (to a very limited extent) in New Jersey – and on the books in 7 of 11 of the former Confederate states – until the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery throughout the United States on December 6, 1865, ending the distinction between slave and free states.
The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States fought between northern and Pacific states and southern states that voted to secede and form the Confederate States of America. The central cause of the war was the status of slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into newly acquired land after the Mexican-American War. On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, four million of the 32 million Americans were black slaves, mostly in the South.
The Emancipation Proclamation, or Proclamation 95, was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, during the Civil War. The Proclamation read:
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states on December 6, 1865, and proclaimed on December 18. It was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments adopted following the American Civil War.
The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five separate bills passed by the United States Congress in September 1850 that defused a political confrontation between slave and free states on the status of territories acquired in the Mexican–American War. It also set Texas's western and northern borders and included provisions addressing fugitive slaves and the slave trade. The compromise was brokered by Whig senator Henry Clay and Democratic senator Stephen Douglas with the support of President Millard Fillmore.
Historians who debate the origins of the American Civil War focus on the reasons that seven southern states declared their secession from the United States and united to form the Confederate States, and the reasons that the North refused to let them go. Most of the debate is about the first question, the reason that some Southern states decided to secede. Most historians in the 21st century agree that conflict over slavery caused the war, but they disagree sharply on the aspects of this conflict that were most important.
In the context of the American Civil War (1861–65), the border states were slave states that did not secede from the Union. They were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, and after 1863, the new state of West Virginia. To their north they bordered free states of the Union and to their south they bordered slave states of the Confederacy, with Delaware being an exception to the latter.
The Territory of New Mexico was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from September 9, 1850, until January 6, 1912, when the remaining extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of New Mexico, making it the longest-lived organized incorporated territory of the United States, lasting approximately 62 years.
Industrialization went forward in the Northwest. A rail network and a telegraph network linked the nation economically, opening up new markets. Immigration brought millions of European workers and farmers to the North. In the South, planters shifted operations from the poor soils of the Southeast to the rich cotton lands of the Southwest.
The Crittenden Compromise was an unsuccessful proposal to permanently enshrine slavery in the United States Constitution, and thereby make it unconstitutional for future congresses to end slavery. It was introduced by United States Senator John J. Crittenden on December 18, 1860. It aimed to resolve the secession crisis of 1860–1861 that eventually led to the American Civil War by addressing the fears and grievances of Southern pro-slavery factions, and by quashing anti-slavery activities. The Crittenden Compromise is not to be confused with the Crittenden Resolution, which provided that the Union would take no actions against slavery.
Abraham Lincoln's position on slavery in the United States is one of the most discussed aspects of his life. Lincoln often expressed moral opposition to slavery in public and private. "I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong," he stated in a now-famous quote. "I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel." However, the question of what to do about it and how to end it, given that it was so firmly embedded in the nation's constitutional framework and in the economy of much of the country, was complex and politically challenging. In addition, there was the unanswered question, which Lincoln had to deal with, of what would become of the four million slaves when they were set free, and how they would be provided for in a society that had long rejected them, or looked down on their very presence.
The Tallmadge Amendment was a proposed amendment to a bill regarding the admission of the Territory of Missouri to the Union, which requested that Missouri be admitted as a free state. The amendment was submitted in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 13, 1819, by James Tallmadge, Jr., a Democratic-Republican from New York, and Charles Baumgardner.
The Peace Conference of 1861 was a meeting of 131 leading American politicians in February 1861, at the Willard's Hotel in Washington, D.C., on the eve of the American Civil War. The purpose of the conference was to avoid, if possible, the secession of the eight slave states, from the upper and border South, that had not done so as of that date. The seven states that had already seceded did not attend.
The U.S. state of West Virginia was formed out of western Virginia and added to the Union as a direct result of the American Civil War, in which it became the only modern state to have declared its independence from the Confederacy. In the summer of 1861, Union troops, which included a number of newly-formed Western Virginia regiments, under General George McClellan, drove off Confederate troops under General Robert E. Lee. This essentially freed Unionists in the northwestern counties of Virginia to form a functioning government of their own as a result of the Wheeling Convention. Prior to the admission of West Virginia the government in Wheeling formally claimed jurisdiction over all of Virginia, although from its creation it was firmly committed to the formation of a separate state.
The Missouri Compromise was United States federal legislation that stopped northern attempts to forever prohibit slavery's expansion by admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state in exchange for legislation which prohibited slavery in the remaining Louisiana Purchase lands north of the 36°30′ parallel except for Missouri. The 16th United States Congress passed the legislation on March 3, 1820, and President James Monroe signed it on March 6, 1820.
The parallel 36°30′ north is a circle of latitude that is 36 and one-half degrees north of the equator of the Earth. This parallel of latitude is particularly significant in the history of the United States as the line of the Missouri Compromise, which was used to divide the prospective slave and free states west of the Mississippi River, with the exception of Missouri, which is mostly north of this parallel.
The RestoredGovernment of Virginia was the Unionist government of Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865) in opposition to the government which had approved Virginia's seceding from the United States and joining the new Confederate States of America. Each government regarded the other as illegitimate; the Restored Government had de facto control of the state's northwest until, with its approval, the area became West Virginia in mid-1863. Since the Restored Government and West Virginia mutually recognized each other, the restored government thereafter became for most of Virginia a government in exile. Until the end of hostilities, most of its de jure territory remained controlled by the secessionist state government, which never recognized either Unionist state government operating within its antebellum borders. Furthermore, since the Restored Government's claimed territory not under secessionist control only remained so by force of arms it was placed under Federal martial law, thus further limiting the authority of the Unionist civilian government.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the American Civil War:
The slave trade in the District of Columbia was legal from its creation until 1850, when the trade in enslaved people in the District was outlawed as part of the Compromise of 1850. That restrictions on slavery in the District were probably coming led to the retrocession of the Virginia part of the District back to Virginia in 1847. Thus the slave-trading businesses in Alexandria, such as Franklin & Armfield, could remain safely in Virginia, where slavery was more secure.