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Congress, with representatives from all of the states, agreed the United States was much stronger if all states were part of one country. There was no question about that. But there were questions about what rights states had to govern themselves.

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Events Leading Up to the American Civil War

Arguments about states' rights had continued to explode in Congress since the country was first formed in colonial times. Congress wanted to decide major issues that would affect all the states. Individual states, especially in the South, wanted the right to decide major issues for themselves. 

As various issues came up, compromise had been achieved several times by representatives in Congress fighting for the rights of their individual states, but each compromise never seemed to solve things for long. Compromise was achieved again by Congress in 1820 and again in 1850. In the following decade, several things happened that made continued compromise more difficult. By 1861, states in the North and states in the South were at war over the question of states' rights.

This civil war has been assigned many names by historians including simply The Civil War, as well as the War of Northern Aggression, the War of Southern Independence, and the War Between the States. But it was never assigned the name the War to End Slavery because that was not why this war broke out between the states, not in the beginning, although laws affecting slaves were something Southern states wanted to decide for themselves.

(1) The Election of Abraham Lincoln (A New Political Party) 1860
(2) South Carolina secedes from the Union, 10 additional Southern states follow
(3) Shots fired at Fort Sumter 1861

How one piece of legislation divided a nation (video)

Causes of the Civil War - Popular sovereignty and western expansion (the balance of free states & slave states)

Path to Civil War (3 minutes, The Election of Abraham Lincoln & the balance of slave and free states was the tipping point, History Channel)

How the Civil War Got Its Start (Smithsonian, video)

Animated Atlas - Brief, cool visual of events leading up to the Civil War

Events leading up to the Civil War (Quia)

Brink of the Storm (Quia)  

Evaluating Evidence - Causes of the Civil War (learner)

Slavery in the Civil War - Cause and Catalyst (brochure)

Timeline of events leading to the American Civil War

Events leading up to the Civil War

Slavery in America for Kids (Special Section, Donn)

Plus ...

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stow

The Liberator, Garrison's newspaper

John Brown and the attack on the armory at Harper's Ferry

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad

Abolitionist Movement

States Rights (background)

See Also:

Lesson Plans: Causes of the Civil War for Teachers

The Civil War for Kids, Index

Civil War Interactive Games & Activities for Kids

Civil War Presentations in PowerPoint format

Civil War Video Clips

Civil War Clip Art for Kids and Teachers

Civil War, Free iPad & iPhone apps

American Civil War Lesson Plans for Teachers