African-American History

363 words | 2 page(s)

The Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act were some of the reasons behind the causes of the Civil War. The Missouri Compromise allowed the state to be admitted as a slave state and Maine as a free state and would allow slavery to be excluded north of a fixed line (History.com) Neither Northerners nor Southerners were happy with it, as it allowed the expansion of slavery, but also allowed the government to pass laws to regulate it (History.com). The Fugitive Slave Act required citizens to capture runaway slaves upon penalty, with federal agents being paid more for returning slaves than freeing them (History.com). This angered many Northerners who resented being ordered to return slaves, and several times, mobs would prevent slaves from being returned (History.com). These actions angered Southerners.

These acts impeded blacks from serving in the Civil War. For one thing, if they went into slave territory, they could be regarded as slaves, even if they weren’t, and risked being captured and sent into slavery. For another thing, while they may have been free, the prejudices of the time meant they were still seen as inferior to whites, and incapable of being good soldiers.

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Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation after the victory at the Battle of Antietam, to show that there was a rationale to fighting the war beyond just making the southern states rejoin the Union. He chose only the states which had seceded (U.S. National Archives & Records Administration). This was done in order to not alienate slave-holding states still in the Union, and also was a symbolic gesture, since the seceded states weren’t recognizing the federal government. Lincoln saw blacks to be not only capable of freedom, but also capable to be able to join the military (U.S. National Archives & Records Administration). This was different than some abolitionists, who, while they wanted the slaves free, still saw them as inferior human beings.

  • History.com Staff (2009), “Missouri Compromise”, A+E Networks, Retrieved from: http://www.history.com/topics/missouri-compromise
  • U.S. National Archives & Records Administration, “The Emancipation Proclamation”, Retrieved from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/transcript.html

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