The Antebellum era marks the significant background prior to the Civil War of the 1860s. It refers to the period in U.S. history when slavery was freely practiced as well as advocated, even by those who did not own slaves. Historyplex gives a brief timeline and summary of this important era.
These were laws in the states after the American Revolution that defined the status of slaves, and also established the duties of slave owners.
The word Antebellum, in Latin, means pre-war. There is a difference of opinion amongst scholars about the exact period this era defines. Some believe it to begin right since the year 1871, or the time of Declaration of Independence, whereas others understand it to begin after the War of 1812. The end of the era is marked by the beginning of the Civil War.
The Antebellum era is regarded as a period that increased polarization between pro-slavery and anti-slavery communities, which can largely be identified with the South (Confederate States) and the North (Union).
Here’s a list of important events during this era, as they happened.
Timeline of the Antebellum Era
– On December 24, the Treaty of Ghent, signed between the United States and Britain, ends the War of 1812.
– Louisiana becomes the 18th state, and the area left from the Louisiana Purchase turns into Missouri territory.
– The Missouri Compromise of 1820 separated the slave and free states at the 36º30′ parallel north.
– Gaslights are introduced in New York, followed by other cities too.
– Maine is separated from Massachusetts, to become a separate state.
– Anti-dueling laws are passed by the state of Maine, imposing a $1,000 fine against challenging a person or accepting a challenge to a duel.
– The American Temperance Movement is established to confine alcohol consumption.
– The first settlement in Texas is set up by Stephen Austin, after being approved of by the Mexican government.
– Property as a qualification for voting is abolished by New York and Massachusetts.
– East Florida, and parts of West Florida are combined to form one territory, on March 30.
– A slave rebellion, led by Denmark Vesey and others, is revealed, and they are executed.
– The Negro Seamen Act of South Carolina puts all slaves under arrest, till the time their ships leave port.
Cotton mills begin the production of cloth with water-powered machinery, in Massachusetts.
– Latitude 54º40′ North is agreed to be the lower limit of Russian possessions on North American land.
– John Quincy Adams is elected as President. Andrew Jackson forms the Democratic Party.
– A significant route is opened through the Erie Canal, which links New York state to Ohio and Mississippi valleys.
– Joint occupation of Oregon is accorded to the United States and Britain.
– Freedom’s Journal, the first newspaper owned and operated by Rev. Peter Williams, Jr., an African-American, is published.
Andrew Jackson is elected the U.S. President.
The stage drama ‘Metamora’, or ‘The Last of the Mohicans’, which became popular in the 1830s, stages its first performance on December 15. It is based on a novel by James Fenimore Cooper.
– A play ‘Lion of the West’ is written by James K. Paulding, which portrays a vernacular character based on Davy Crockett, an American folk hero, soldier, and politician.
– On July 24, the first penny press newspaper (cheap and affordable to the working classes) ‘Boston Evening Transcript’, an afternoon daily, is published. Benjamin H. Day founded the first penny press in the country, and introduced the daily ‘The Sun’ in New York.
– William Lloyd Garrison started publishing ‘Liberator’, an anti-slavery newspaper. It developed into a prominent voice in the Abolitionist movement.
– Nat Turner, an African-American slave, leads a slave rebellion on August 21 in Virginia.
– Prudence Crandall, a schoolteacher who is raised as a Quaker, opens a school for black girls in Connecticut.
– Beginning in this year, until 1861, around 75,000 slaves run away to the North through the Underground Railroad.
– Andrew Jackson is reelected as President of the United States.
– Cities in the United States are affected by the Cholera epidemic.
– Slavery is outlawed in Britain, with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.
– The first tax-supported public library of the United States is established in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on April 9.
– Oberlin College is founded as an abolitionist center.
– A lockstitch sewing machine is invented by mechanic Walter Hunt.
– The American Anti-Slavery Society is set up by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan.
– The Whig Party is established.
– Cyrus McCormick invents the mechanical reaper.
– The Ursuline Convent, near Boston, is burned. Anti-abolition riots erupt in New York.
Revolt breaks out in Texas against Mexican rule.
The country witnesses a huge financial crisis: the ‘Panic of 1837’, that lasts until the mid-1840s.
A ‘Gag’ rule is adopted by Congress, which hinders the anti-slavery discussion.
Louis Daguerre invents first photographic process, the ‘daguerreotype’.
Thomas Hancock is awarded the patent for the vulcanization of rubber.
An anti-slavery newspaper, the ‘North Star’, started by former slave Frederick Douglass, begins publishing.
Harriet Tubman breaks free from slavery, and goes on to lead the Underground Railroad.
– The Fugitive Slave Act passed by Congress mandates government participation in the capture of escaped slaves.
– A group of citizens in Boston storm a federal court to free Virginia slave Anthony Burns.
The Dred Scott v. Sanford case declares that, slaves (freed or enslaved) cannot be American citizens, and Congress has no right to regulate (or ban) slavery in the states.
Abraham Lincoln is elected as President of the United States, making the southern states angry.
Summary of the Antebellum Era
The Antebellum era, referring mostly to the period between the end of the War of 1812 and the beginning of the Civil War, is characterized by a growing sectional rift throughout the United States. The country witnessed a mix of different scenarios, where on one hand, it fought over abolishing slavery, and on the other hand, was undergoing a change in its economic system. Technological advances coming in through inventions were reflected into the overall sociocultural environment then. Printing was revolutionized, as a mass printing press could print a wide range of literature, from newspapers and advertisements, to novels. The North states were progressing with large-scale industrial manufacturing, whereas cotton plantations increased in the South. The invention of the cotton gin led to an increased demand for slaves. Also, slave codes of the Antebellum Era across all states considered slaves to be ‘property’.
Some argue that the history of this era is overshadowed by the Civil War, which had a major and rather larger impact on the nation’s history.