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The Antebellum United States and the Increase of Sectionalism

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After the Mexican-American war, as the United States slipped into an antebellum period following the acquisition of California through the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, manifest destiny once again consumed the minds of numerous Americans. When, in 1849, gold was discovered near Sutter's Mill in California numerous "forty-niners" overcome with "gold fever" quickly rushed to California hoping to strike it rich. The California gold rush attracted tens of thousands of people which quickly overloaded the feeble territorial government with miscreants, thus creating a dire need for the swift establishment of an effective governmental system to replace the current system of vigilante justice. California soon applied for statehood as a free soil state and the issue of slavery once again surfaced in the forefront of political debate. The country was faced with a dilemma; should the state be admitted as a free soil state the south would be forced to forfeit their senatorial equilibrium, however allowing the state to have slaves would evoke the wrath of the radical abolitionists in New England. Sectionalism rapidly convulsed the nation as the south bonded together more tightly in defense of slavery, New England turned evermore to radical abolition, and the west remained attached to traditional democratic principles. The debates following the Mexican-American war greatly mirrored the perpetually increasing sectional divide between New Englanders, Westerners, and Southerners due primarily to popular sovereignty, extremists on both sides of the slavery issue, and controversial legislation and provisions. Sectionalism amid New Englanders, Westerners, and Southerners became more predominant after the conclusion of the Mexican-American war due, i... ... middle of paper ... ...ong the various sections of the United States increased. The country, similarly to the democratic party, shattered along sectional lines due to the individual interests of the sections. The south, above all, was bonded in an effort to preserve and spread slavery through the usage of popular sovereignty. New England was bonded together with the conviction that slavery was immoral and that the spread of slavery should be hindered. The west was bonded together over a mutual appreciation of democratic principles such as popular sovereignty as well as an understanding that slavery was undesirable within their own states because it would add additional competition. As the nation turned upon itself there was no other alternative but war which would ultimately pit one section of the nation against the other in a battle of slavery, moral conviction, and personal liberties.
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