1800s-1850s: Expansion of slavery in the U.S. (2022)

By the beginning of the 19th century, slavery in the U.S. was firmly established with a series of statutes and penal codes enacted in various states to regulate the activity of slaves and all conduct involving slaves and free blacks. With the Louisiana Purchase, the question of slavery became both geographical and political, and ushered in a period of national debate between pro- and anti-slavery states to gain political and economic advantage. But by 1820, Congress was embroiled in the debate over how to divide the newly acquired territories into slave and free states.

The Missouri Compromise—also referred to as the Compromise of 1820—was an agreement between the pro- and anti-slavery factions regulating slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in new states north of the border of the Arkansas territory, excluding Missouri. Constitutionally, the Compromise of 1820 established a precedent for the exclusion of slavery from public territory acquired after the Constitution, and also recognized that Congress had no right to impose upon states seeking admission to the Union conditions that did not apply to those states already in the Union. After Missouri's admission to the Union in 1821, no other states were admitted until 1836 when Arkansas became a slave state, followed by Michigan in 1837 as a free state. Indeed, the debate over slave and free states remained relatively calm for almost 30 years. However by the late 1840s, several events occurred that upset the balance: the U.S. added new territory as a result of the Mexican war, and the question of whether that territory would be slave or free arose again. California, beneficiary of an increased population because of the gold rush—petitioned Congress to enter the Union as a free state. At the same time, Texas laid claim to territory extending all the way to Santa Fe. Of course Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, not only allowed slavery but was home to the largest slave market in North America.

In January 1850, Henry Clay presented a bill that would become known as the Compromise of 1850. The terms of the bill included a provision that Texas relinquish its disputed land in exchange for $10 million to be paid to Mexico. The territories of New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah were defined while leaving the question of slavery off the table, on the understanding that the issue would be decided when the territories applied for statehood. In addition, the slave trade would be abolished in the District of Columbia, although slavery would still be permitted in the nation’s capitol. It was agreed that California would be admitted as a free state, but the Fugitive Slave Act was passed to mollify pro-slavery states. This bill was the most controversial of all the bills that made up the Compromise of 1850. According to its tenets, citizens were required to aid in the recovery of fugitive slaves. Fugitives had no right to a jury trial. The cases were handled by special commissioners, who were paid $5 if a fugitive was released and $10 if the captive was returned to slavery. In addition, the act called for changes that made the process for filing a claim against a fugitive easier for slave owners. The new law was devastating. Many former slaves who had been attempting to build lives in the North left their homes and fled to Canada, which added approximately 20,000 blacks to its population over the following decade. Harriet Jacobs, a fugitive living in New York, described this period as “the beginning of a reign of terror to the colored population.” She was one of the runaways who remained in New York, despite learning that slave catchers had been hired to track her down. Many were captured and returned to slavery, however, including Anthony Burns, a fugitive living in Boston. Even free blacks, too, were captured and sent to the South, completely defenseless with no legal rights. The compromise lasted until the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, when Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas proposed legislation allowing the issue of slavery to be decided in the new territories.

(Video) Slavery - Crash Course US History #13

In 1801, Congress extended Virginia and Maryland slavery laws to the District of Columbia, establishing a federally sanctioned slave code.

In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase added Creoles and French settlers to the U.S. population. Congress approved the Louisiana Purchase from France for $15 million, which virtually doubled the country’s land size. It also re-ignited controversy over the spread of slavery in the territory.

In 1807, Congress banned the importation of slaves into the U.S., although smuggling continued in some parts of the South. Once the transatlantic slave trade was prohibited, domestic slave trading throughout the South increased.

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The 1820 census added free colored persons to its racial categories.

In 1820, the Missouri Compromise brought Missouri and Maine into the Union. By this time more than 20,000 Indians lived in virtual slavery on California missions. The same year, Congress made trade in foreign slaves an act of piracy.

In 1821, Missouri entered the Union as the 24th state and a slave-holding state, maintaining the balance of slave and free states.

(Video) War & Expansion: Crash Course US History #17

The Office of Indian Affairs was created in 1824.

In 1825, a ship operated by the U.S. Revenue seized a slave ship, the Antelope, sailing under a Venezuelan flag with a cargo of 281 Africans. The case was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a unanimous opinion declaring the slave trade to be a violation of natural law. Only some of the Africans were set free, however, since the ruling also held that the U.S. could not prescribe law for other nations, and the slave trade was legal in Spain, Portugal and Venezuela. The 39 Africans designated by the court as property of Spain and the Antelope itself were restored to their owners.

The Compromise of 1850 admitted California as a free state; voters in New Mexico and Utah territories would decide whether they would be slave or free upon applying for statehood.

(Video) Market History #2: Cotton, the South and Slavery (1800s–1860s)

The new Fugitive Slave Act, also passed in 1850, made the federal government responsible for apprehending fugitive slaves in the North, and sending them back to the South. This extended slavery and its enforcement beyond the South. The South, however, felt that even this law was not strong enough, and the demand for more effective legislation resulted in enactment of a second Fugitive Slave Act that same year. However, the law was so severe that its implementation was open to abuses that defeated its purpose. Even during the Civil War, the Fugitive Slave Acts were used to prosecute blacks fleeing their masters in border states that were loyal to the Union. The acts were eventually repealed, but not until June of 1864.

In 1851 Shadrach Minkins, an African American working as a waiter in Boston, was abducted by slave catchers. Before he could be freed by legal means in a challenge to the Fugitive Slave law, Minkins was rescued by a group of African Americans.

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed, dividing the region along the 40th parallel, with Kansas to the south and Nebraska to the north, and providing both territories the right to vote on whether to be slave or free. For all practical purposes the act effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, which had attempted to regulate the spread of slavery. As a result of the new law, both pro- and anti-slavery supporters tried to convince settlers to move to Kansas in order to sway the vote. The New England Emigrant Aid Company, an anti-slavery group, was very successful, and a group of anti-slavery activists was established around the town of Lawrence, Kansas. At the same time, pro-slavery settlers from Missouri began moving across the border to Kansas, some establishing themselves as residents of the territory, others simply coming across to vote. They were called “border ruffians” by their opponents. Lecompton, Kansas, the territorial capital, boiled with tension over the issue, and so-called “free-soilers” felt so threatened there that they set up their own unofficial legislature at Topeka. The enmity between the sides verged on civil war, and the period became known as "Bleeding Kansas."

(Video) AP US History Study Guide: Period 4 - 1800 to 1848

The Dred Scott decision was handed down in 1857, which denied citizenship to free and enslaved blacks.

FAQs

What caused slavery to increase in the 1800's? ›

By 1800 or so, however, slavery was once again a thriving institution, especially in the Southern United States. One of the primary reasons for the reinvigoration of slavery was the invention and rapid widespread adoption of the cotton gin.

When did slavery expand in the US? ›

The westward expansion carried slavery down into the Southwest, into Mississippi, Alabama, crossing the Mississippi River into Louisiana. Finally, by the 1840's, it was pouring into Texas. So the expansion of slavery, which became the major political question of the 1850's, was not just a political issue.

How and why did slavery expand in the United States? ›

Slavery spread rather than grew because it was an agricultural rather than industrial form of capitalism, so it needed new lands. And slavery spread because enslaved African Americans were forced to migrate.

How was the issue of slavery addressed between 1820 and 1850? ›

Compromise of 1820 has balanced the number of free and slave states. The Fugitive Slave Act, as a part of Compromise of 1850, has declared harboring slaves as federal offense. The Nullification crisis of 1830s has ended compromise on both sides and raised an alternative perspective on slavery issue.

What factors made slavery in the US an issue before 1850? ›

What factors made slavery in the United States an issue before 1850? slavery was already banned. some northerners only freed children. How did the compromise of 1850 seek to settle issues between North and South?

How did slavery grow between the years of 1790 and 1860 in the United States? ›

BACKGROUND. Between 1790 and 1860, American slavery expanded on a grand scale: federal census records show the 1790 slave population of seven hundred thousand increased to nearly four million in 1860, This growth was linked to the phenomenal increase in cotton cultivation in the South.

How did the ownership of slaves change between 1830 and 1850? ›

How did the ownership of slaves change between 1830 and 1850? Fewer people owned more slaves. What did the term "free soil" refer to? 40 percent.

How did the issue of slavery divide the nation in the 1800s? ›

The two sides of the debate over slavery were divided between the two main sections of the United States; the North and South. Many Northerners viewed slavery as evil and wrong and some were involved in the abolitionist movement. The North did not obey fugitive slave laws because they said they were cruel and inhumane.

Why did Southerners want to expand slavery westward? ›

The South was convinced that the survival of their economic system, which intersected with almost every aspect of Southern life, lay exclusively in the ability to create new plantations in the western territories, which meant that slavery had to be kept safe in those same territories, especially as Southerners ...

How did the expansion of slavery lead to the Civil War? ›

The war began because a compromise did not exist that could solve the difference between the free and slave states regarding the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in territories that had not yet become states.

How and why did slavery expand in the United States during the nineteenth century? ›

During the first half of the nineteenth century, demand for cotton led to the expansion of plantation slavery. By 1850, enslaved people were growing cotton from South Carolina to Texas.

In what way did slaves lead the way in the process of American expansion? ›

In what way did slaves lead the way in the process of American expansion? They cleared the land and made it ready for agriculture and settlement.

What 5 things did the Compromise of 1850 do? ›

It admitted California as a free state, left Utah and New Mexico to decide for themselves whether to be a slave state or a free state, defined a new Texas-New Mexico boundary, and made it easier for slaveowners to recover runways under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

How did the Compromise of 1850 harm African Americans? ›

The Act also denied a fugitive's right to a jury trial. After the Act was passed many African Americans in the North fled to Canada. Not only were slaves recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act, but without the right to a jury trial, many free men were also sent back to slavery.

What were the 5 points of the Compromise of 1850? ›

The Compromise of 1850 contained the following provisions: (1) California was admitted to the Union as a free state; (2) the remainder of the Mexican cession was divided into the two territories of New Mexico and Utah and organized without mention of slavery; (3) the claim of Texas to a portion of New Mexico was ...

What happened in 1850s in American history? ›

POP Culture: 1850

The September 18, 1850, Fugitive Slave Act provides for the return of slaves brought to free states. Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as the 13th President of the United States, following Zachary Taylor's death on July 9, 1850. "America" wins the first America's Cup yacht race on August 22, 1851.

What was the main reason for the Compromise of 1850? ›

The Compromise of 1850 consists of five laws passed in September of 1850 that dealt with the issue of slavery and territorial expansion. In 1849 California requested permission to enter the Union as a free state, potentially upsetting the balance between the free and slave states in the U.S. Senate.

What was happening in the U.S. during the 1850s? ›

The 1850s was a pivotal decade in the 19th century. In the United States, tensions over the institution of slavery became prominent and dramatic events hastened the nation's movement towards civil war. In Europe, new technology was celebrated and the great powers fought the Crimean War.

How many slaves were sold between 1820 and 1860 within the United States during the antebellum period? ›

Between 1820 and 1860, white American traders sold a million or more slaves in the domestic slave market. Groups of slaves were transported by ship from places like Virginia, a state that specialized in raising slaves for sale, to New Orleans, where they were sold to planters in the Mississippi Valley.

How many slaves were in the United States in 1860? ›

From that small beginning, the slave population grew rapidly. In 1790, the first census of the United States counted 697,624 slaves. In 1860, the eighth census counted 3,953,760.

How many slaves were brought to America between the 1500s and 1800s? ›

TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE VOYAGES

Over the period of the Atlantic Slave Trade, from approximately 1526 to 1867, some 12.5 million captured men, women, and children were put on ships in Africa, and 10.7 million arrived in the Americas.

How much did slavery contribute to the American economy? ›

The estimates based on this new approach suggest that the increase in output per enslaved worker was responsible for roughly a fifth of the growth in commodity output per capita for the United States as a whole between 1839 and 1859—between 18.7 percent and 24.3 percent.

What was the effect of the American Revolution on slavery? ›

The American Revolution had profound effects on the institution of slavery. Several thousand slaves won their freedom by serving on both sides of the War of Independence. As a result of the Revolution, a surprising number of slaves were manumitted, while thousands of others freed themselves by running away.

Who was the first slaves in history? ›

Beginning in the 16th century, European merchants initiated the transatlantic slave trade, purchasing enslaved Africans from West African kingdoms and transporting them to Europe's colonies in the Americas.

Why did slavery become such a major issue in the 1840s? ›

During the 1840s, the United States and Great Britain jointly administered Oregon. The idea that Americans had a divine mission to settle the continent, known by the end of the 1840s as “manifest destiny,” intensified in these years. America's acquisition of part of Mexico directly raised the issue of slavery.

What effect did the issue of slavery have on political parties in the 1850s? ›

As a result of disagreements over the issue of slavery, splinter parties formed. The Southern Democratic Party spun off from traditional Democrats to nominate John Breckenridge, an advocate of slavery in the West. Republican breakaways formed the Constitutional Union Party.

How was America divided in the 1850s? ›

By the 1850s the United States had become a nation polarized by specific regional identities. The South held a pro-slavery identity that supported the expansion of slavery into western territories, while the North largely held abolitionist sentiments and opposed the institution's westward expansion.

Why was the westward expansion a bad thing? ›

One of the drawbacks of U.S. territorial expansion was the proliferation of slavery. Although the Americans made a promise that they will not be taking the land of other people, like the Native Americans, without their consent and other than through peaceful means, history showed that this did not really happen.

Why did African Americans move west during westward expansion? ›

In addition to a significant European migration westward, several thousand African Americans migrated west following the Civil War, as much to escape the racism and violence of the Old South as to find new economic opportunities.

How did westward expansion affect the United States? ›

However, westward expansion provided the United States with vast natural resources and ports along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts for expanding trade, key elements in creating the superpower America is today.

What was the main cause of slavery? ›

European settlers brought a system of slavery with them to the western hemisphere in the 1500s. Unable to find cheap labor from other sources, white settlers increasingly turned to slaves imported from Africa. By the early 1700s in British North America, slavery meant African slavery.

What are the 3 main causes of the Civil War? ›

The reasons for the Civil War were disagreements over slavery, states vs. federal rights, the election of Abraham Lincoln, and the economy. After the inauguration of Lincoln in 1861, the South seceded and the Civil War officially started with the Battle at Fort Sumter.

What were the 4 main causes of the Civil War? ›

For nearly a century, the people and politicians of the Northern and Southern states had been clashing over the issues that finally led to war: economic interests, cultural values, the power of the federal government to control the states, and, most importantly, slavery in American society.

Why did slavery increase in the 1800s? ›

The invention of cotton gin

The increased demand and prices for cotton led to plantations owners to search for land in the west. The invention of cotton gin in 1793 allowed for much greater productivity than the manual separation of cotton. The result was an explosive growth in demand of slaves for cotton cultivation.

What was the expansion of slavery? ›

The westward expansion of slavery was one of the most dynamic economic and social processes going on in this country. The westward expansion carried slavery down into the Southwest, into Mississippi, Alabama, crossing the Mississippi River into Louisiana. Finally, by the 1840's, it was pouring into Texas.

Why did the expansion of slavery become the most divisive political issue in the 1840's to 1850s? ›

Why did the expansion of slavery become the most divisive political issue in the 1840s and 1850s? Those who weren't abolitionists wanted to keep slavery because they benefited from it. Morally, most rejected it because they knew deep down that it was a bad thing.

How was the issue of slavery addressed between 1820 and 1850? ›

Compromise of 1820 has balanced the number of free and slave states. The Fugitive Slave Act, as a part of Compromise of 1850, has declared harboring slaves as federal offense. The Nullification crisis of 1830s has ended compromise on both sides and raised an alternative perspective on slavery issue.

When did the westward expansion start? ›

A significant push toward the west coast of North America began in the 1810s. It was intensified by the belief in manifest destiny, federally issued Indian removal acts, and economic promise. Pioneers traveled to Oregon and California using a network of trails leading west.

Why did westward expansion cause the Civil War? ›

The philosophy drove 19th-century U.S. territorial expansion and was used to justify the forced removal of Native Americans and other groups from their homes. The rapid expansion of the United States intensified the issue of slavery as new states were added to the Union, leading to the outbreak of the Civil War.

What factors led to the growth of slavery? ›

This remarkable growth was the result of two factors: (1) continued importation of new slaves from Africa and the Caribbean; and (2) natural population growth, especially among American-born slaves, who lived longer lives and bore more children than African-born slaves.

How did the issue of slavery divide the nation in the 1800s? ›

The two sides of the debate over slavery were divided between the two main sections of the United States; the North and South. Many Northerners viewed slavery as evil and wrong and some were involved in the abolitionist movement. The North did not obey fugitive slave laws because they said they were cruel and inhumane.

How and why did slavery expand in the United States during the nineteenth century? ›

During the first half of the nineteenth century, demand for cotton led to the expansion of plantation slavery. By 1850, enslaved people were growing cotton from South Carolina to Texas.

What happened in the 1800s? ›

In the 1800s, America grew very fast. In 1803, the United States bought the Louisiana Territory from France. From 1800 to 1860, there were 17 new states. In the 1800s, millions of immigrants came from other countries.

Why in 1860 did white Southerners remain committed to the institution of slavery and its expansion? ›

Why in 1860 did white southerners remain committed to the institution of slavery and its expansion? Because cotton had become such a commodity in the south, it became a very profitable institution, making white southerners who owned slaves very rich and also making slaves more valuable.

Why did African slavery expand so rapidly in the late seventeenth century? ›

African slavery expanded so rapidly in the late 17th century, because The Royal African Company's monopoly was finally broken. The trade now opened to English and colonial merchants on a competitive basis, prices fell and the number of Africans arriving in North America increased.

What was Compromise of 1850? ›

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.

Why did slavery become such a major issue in the 1840s? ›

During the 1840s, the United States and Great Britain jointly administered Oregon. The idea that Americans had a divine mission to settle the continent, known by the end of the 1840s as “manifest destiny,” intensified in these years. America's acquisition of part of Mexico directly raised the issue of slavery.

What happened in 1850s in American history? ›

POP Culture: 1850

The September 18, 1850, Fugitive Slave Act provides for the return of slaves brought to free states. Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as the 13th President of the United States, following Zachary Taylor's death on July 9, 1850. "America" wins the first America's Cup yacht race on August 22, 1851.

What was happening in the US during the 1850s? ›

The 1850s was a pivotal decade in the 19th century. In the United States, tensions over the institution of slavery became prominent and dramatic events hastened the nation's movement towards civil war. In Europe, new technology was celebrated and the great powers fought the Crimean War.

How did the ownership of slaves change between 1830 and 1850? ›

How did the ownership of slaves change between 1830 and 1850? Fewer people owned more slaves. What did the term "free soil" refer to? 40 percent.

How did the expansion of slavery lead to the Civil War? ›

The war began because a compromise did not exist that could solve the difference between the free and slave states regarding the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in territories that had not yet become states.

In what way did slaves lead the way in the process of American expansion? ›

In what way did slaves lead the way in the process of American expansion? They cleared the land and made it ready for agriculture and settlement.

What was the 1800s era called in America? ›

The Gilded Age” is the term used to describe the tumultuous years between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century.

What was the 1800s era called? ›

The Victorian Era was a time of vast political reform and social change, the Industrial Revolution, authors Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, a railway and shipping boom, profound scientific discovery and the first telephone and telegraph.

How did the United States grow between 1800 and 1870? ›

The industry grew in the USA from 1800 to 1870 through the American Civil War. Explanation: Although at the end of the civil war the industry was still small and handwork was still spread all over the USA.

Videos

1. The U.S. in 1850-U.S. History #33
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2. Slavery and Missouri Compromise in early 1800s | US History | Khan Academy
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3. Sectional conflict: Regional differences | Period 5: 1844-1877 | AP US History | Khan Academy
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4. Openstax U.S. History - 14.1 The Compromise of 1850
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5. Ten Minute History - Westward Expansion and the American Civil War (Short Documentary)
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6. The American Civil War - OverSimplified (Part 1)
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