“A house divided against itself cannot stand. ” Abraham Lincoln uttered these words on June 17, 1858 at the Republican state convention in Illinois. Three short years later, the first shots of the Civil War would be fired at Fort Sumter. Brothers fighting brothers, killing 620,000 of their own. This would be the start of the bloodiest war in American history. The debate over popular sovereignty, the conflicting opinions on slavery, and the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin all lead to the inevitable declaration of a civil war.
In Lewis Cass was the first to introduce the idea of popular sovereignty, or the belief that the people chose the laws of the society. When the United States acquired new territories, such as Kansas, Nebraska, and California, the idea of popular sovereignty always came up when it came to the question of slavery. Stephen Douglas was a strong supporter of popular sovereignty, and he stated in 1854 “Why… can we not… leave the people, under the Constitution, to do as they may see proper in respect to their own internal affairs… and leave the people thereof to the free enjoyment of all their rights. (Doc. D). Jefferson Davis used the term “squatter sovereignty” in his book A Short History of the Confederate States of America, to refer to the influx of new citizens in new territories to manipulate the votes. Since the first person uttered publicly their opposition to slavery, it was a heated issue between the states. Daniel Webster stated, “Sir, there are those abolition societies, of which I am unwilling to speak, but in regard to which I have very clear notions and opinions. I do not think them useful” (Doc B).
The Southern economy, as well as the Northern, depended so greatly on slaves, and they refused to abolish slavery. The South claimed that anyone anti-slavery was against their way of life. However, the North did not agree with the capturing, selling, and treating humans inhumanely. In 1859, John Brown led a slave revolt, which ended in five being killed. Frederick Douglass claimed, “If John Brown did no end the war that ended slavery, he did, at least, begin the war that ended slavery…” (Doc H). Slavery had always been an issue in the United States, and some will argue that it was the main reason the Civil War broke out in 1861.
When Harriet Beecher Stowe published her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in 1852, the Southerners reacted by defending their way of life. They claimed that Stowe was exaggerating, and that the way they were portrayed in the book was false. “Didn’t I pay down twelve hundred dollars, cash, for all there is inside yer old cussed blackshell? An’t yer mine now body and soul?… we’ll see-we’ll see!… give this dog such a breakin’ in as he won’t get over this month! ” (Doc C). Over 300,000 copies were sold in the first year of circulation, proving to be the most popular book in the 19th century.
Abraham Lincoln greeted Stowe, the first time they met in 1862, by saying there is “the little women who wrote the book that made this great war. ” Uncle Tom’s Cabin unveiled all the details that the South tried to cover up, and just added fuel to the abolitionist’s claims and protest. Although some believed that the Union would never split, many issues lead to the bloodiest war in American history. The conflicting beliefs on popular sovereignty, slavery, and the publication of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin all proved that the Civil War was in fact inevitable, and that brothers fighting brothers never ends well.