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Slaves in the Western American Territories

As the west began to expand with more and more Americans, many of them were bringing their slaves with them to continue the way of life they were familiar with. It was not strange or out of the ordinary but it have huge impacts for the future of the country. As the politicians began to see how the number of slave owners could impact the balance of free states once the territories became states it did become important. Keeping the number of free versus slave states was not going to be as easy as they had thought. The number of slaves in the territories was increasing. It was going to tilt the political balance drastically. This was something politicians could not afford. Yes, more slaves were leaving the states into the territories. (1) This meant fewer slaves and slaveholders which helped the cause for those that wanted slavery out of the nation. For those against slavery, that was good. The problem would appear as the territories would become more slave than free resulting in problems when they applied for statehood. The “them versus us” mentality would only get worse as slavery was used as the rope in the federal versus states’ rights war. Tensions began to mount as the South saw their rights being pulled further away. Whenever the federal government leaned toward bringing a state in as free, the South saw more power being pulled from them and favored toward the North. They felt as though they were getting the preverbal slap from a glove challenging them to fight for what they considered the rights they fought for during the Revolutionary War. Slavery was one of the tools used to enter that fight and make it a full blown battle beginning at Fort Sumter. Slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, but it was a major issue that drove the nation to the point of a bloodbath. The war of words was going to go far beyond that. It was going to be deadly.

(1) Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America: 1815-1846, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 415.

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