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Analyzing Primary Source Documents –
Conflict and Compromise Prior to the Civil War
Who might have
When do you
Why do you think Which event does
created this
think this source
the source was
the source refer
was created?
Document A
Document B
Document C
Document D
Document E
Document F
Document G
Document H
Directions: Discuss whether each document shows a spirit of compromise or conflict. If you think the
document shows a spirit of compromise, move it to the right of the timeline. If you think the document
shows a spirit of conflict, move it to the left of the timeline. Make sure that your events are in the
correct chronological order and explain why each event is either a conflict or compromise.
Teacher Key
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and described the cruelties of slavery. It
showed a spirit of conflict because it turned many Northerners against slavery. Some Northerners went
as far as ignoring the Fugitive Slave Law.
Bleeding Kansas (1856)
On May 21, 1856, pro-slavery forces raided the anti-slavery town of Lawrence, Kansas. Two days
later, John Brown and others killed five men in the proslavery town of Pottawatomie. This event
showed a spirit of conflict because antislavery and proslavery settlers committed acts of violence
against each other.
Dred Scott decision (1857)
The Supreme Court ruled that Dred Scott, a slave who had lived for a few years in a free state with his
owner, was not a citizen and could not sue for freedom in court. It showed a spirit of conflict because it
struck down the Missouri Compromise as unconstitutional.
John Brown’s raid (1859)
He attacked a federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia with the intention of arming slaves and
leading a slave rebellion. Brown was convicted of treason and executed. It showed a spirit of conflict
because many Northerners saw Brown as a martyr, while southerners were shocked and feared a slave
Election of 1860 (1860)
Abraham Lincoln, a Republican with antislavery views, was elected President. It showed a spirit of
conflict because he refused to support the extension of slavery to the western territories and
southerners were afraid he would work to abolish slavery. He was elected without the support of the
South (regional lines during election very clear).
South Carolina secedes (1860)
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Six more southern states would
follow. It showed a spirit of conflict because these states had withdrawn from the union, and Lincoln
stated that secession was wrong and unconstitutional. This would lead to civil war.
Compromise of 1850 (1850)
This agreement was proposed by Henry Clay to allow California to enter the Union as a free state. It
showed a spirit of compromise because Clay included provisions that he hoped would please both the
North and the South, such as ending the slave trade in D.C., but reinforcing the Fugitive Slave Act.
Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854)
This act allowed the Kansas and Nebraska territories to use popular sovereignty to vote on whether or
not to permit slavery. It showed a spirit of compromise because it allowed people to decide the status
of slavery in their territory themselves.