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Expansion, Slavery, and Civil War Timeline
1619 Slavery introduced in Jamestown.
1787 Northwest Ordinances ban slavery in new territories of the Northwest.
1789 Constitution ratified ? acknowledges the existence of slavery indirectly and appears not to give  Congress the power to abolish slavery, but sets 1808 as the date when Congress may abolish the  slave trade.
1791 Amendment X ratified, guaranteeing states rights.
1808 Congress abolishes the slave trade.
1820 Missouri Compromise issued ? admits Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state; slavery is to be banned in future states above the 36° 30í line.  In the constitution written by the Missouri territory, free blacks and free mulattos are barred from the future state. 
1821 Mexican Independence from Spain ? Mexico begins to invite Americans to settle Texas territory  under the conditions that the settlers convert to Catholicism and observe Mexican laws,  including the abolition of slavery. 
1830 Mexico passes anti-colonization law to prevent Americans from further colonizing Texas.
1831 Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator.
1831 Nat Turner leads an uprising of approximately 70 slaves in Southampton, Virginia ? 100  Virginia slaves are slaughtered in search of Turner; Turner is executed when found. The uprising  so shakes Southern states that they pass more stringent laws related to slaves, increase  censorship against abolition, and make military preparations to halt further uprisings. 
1832 South Carolinaís Ordinance of Nullification ? South Carolina legislature also adopts measures  to enforce this ordinance, even allowing for military preparations and secession if the Federal  government resorts to force. 
1833 Britain abolishes slavery in her colonies ? America is becoming increasingly isolated as a  nation that allows slavery 
1835 Santa Anna, President of Mexico, proclaims a unified constitution for all Mexican territories,  including Texas ? North American settlers in Texas announce that they intend to secede from  Mexico rather than give up their "right" to slavery, which Mexico had abolished.
1836 The Battle of the Alamo ? President Santa Anna leads a siege on the Alamo , in an attempt to  defend his idea of a unitary state. Mexican soldiers overwhelm the fort, but the Texansí heroic  defense of the Alamo inspires North American settlers to secede.
1836 Texans declare independence from Mexico ? they name Sam Houston commander of their army,  and adopt a constitution that formally legalizes slavery in Texas.
1836 Texans defeat Mexicans and capture Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto. The Texans ratify  their own constitution, elect Sam Houston as President, and send an envoy to Washington to  demand annexation or recognition of the independent Republic of Texas.  Annexation of Texas  will remain a controversial issue for the next nine years, as it pits pro-slavery Southerners  against anti-slavery Northerners. 
1840 Whig William Henry Harrison is elected President, and John Tyler is his Vice President. 
1841 William Henry Harrison dies of pneumonia after only one month in office. Vice President John  Tyler becomes the first American to succeed to the presidency. 
1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty between the United States and Great Britain is signed, settling  boundary disputes between the U.S. and Canada. 
1843 Santa Anna, President of Mexico, warns that he would consider the American annexation of  Texas as tantamount to a declaration of war against Mexico. 
1844  James Polk , Democrat, defeats Whig Henry Clay for the presidency. Polk is somewhat  unknown, but his aggressive expansionist views on acquiring Texas, Oregon, and California  strike a receptive chord among Americans. 
1845 President Polk decides to treat Texas as a state, though it is still Mexican territory under  international law. He sends a detachment of the U.S. army, led by Zachary Taylor, to the  southwestern border of Texas to guard against "invasion" from Mexico. 
1845 The term, "Manifest Destiny" appears for the first time in the expansionist magazine the  Democratic Review, in an article by the editor, John OíSullivan.
1845 Polk commissions John Slidell to negotiate with Mexico for the purchase of Texas, New Mexico,  and California.
1845 Texas joins the Union as the twenty-eighth state.
1845 Potato famines in Ireland begin to force great numbers of Irish immigrants to America. The  migration will continue for the next several years with about 1.5 million Irish arriving. 
1846 John Slidell reports that his negotiations with Mexico have been unsuccessful. Polk orders  General Taylor to move the American troops further south, to a position near the left bank of  the Rio Grande River, which has always been recognized as Mexican territory. 
1846 Mexican forces strike Fort Texas, a fort constructed by Taylorís men. At the request of President  Polk, Congress approves a declaration of war with Mexico. This war is yet another divisive  issue between the North and South.
1846 Oregon boundary dispute between U.S. and Britain is settled.
1846 Wilmot Proviso introduced in the House by David Wilmot, representative from Pennsylvania,  which states that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of  territories that might be acquired from Mexico."  This bill does not pass.
1847 Abraham Lincoln takes his seat in the House of Representatives for Illinois.
1848 The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed by the Senate, ending the war with Mexico. The United States gains over 500,000 square miles which include what shall become the states  of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.  Texas is also conceded to the U.S., with its boundary at the Rio Grande. The U.S. pays $15  million.
1848 The Free Soil movement begins, opposing the spread of slavery into the new territories.
1848 Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican War, is elected President. Millard Fillmore is Vice President. 
1849 Thoreau publishes "Civil Disobedience," an essay that grew out of his refusal to pay taxes  supporting the Mexican War. 
1850 President Taylor dies of cholera and vice-president Millard Fillmore assumes office. 
1850 Congress adopts the Compromise of 1850, based on the five resolutions as drawn up by Henry Clay.  California is admitted as a free state; the territories of New Mexico and Utah are organized without any restriction on slavery, to be decided by popular sovereignty; slave trade is abolished in the District of Columbia; a more stringent Fugitive Slave Act is issued. 
1851 Uncle Tomís Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, begins to appear as a serial in the anti-slavery  publication, The National Era. The complete novel is published in 1852. It will sell over one million copies within a year. It will also be adapted as a stage play and thus reach even more people. 
1852 A resolution against the Fugitive Slave Act is submitted by Senator Charles Sumner.
1852 Democrat Franklin Pierce is elected President over General Winfield Scott. William R. King is  Vice President.
1853 Gadsden Purchase ­ for $10 million, Mexico agrees to cede a rectangular strip of territory along  the present-day border of Arizona and New Mexico, which provides part of an ideal route for a  railroad to the Pacific Ocean.
1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act passes Congress ­ creates two new territories with "squatter" or  "popular sovereignty" concerning the question of slavery. The act effectively repeals the Missouri Compromise. Opponents to this act form the basis of the new Republican Party. The party is made up of former Whigs, anti-slavery Democrats, and Free-soilers.
1854 The "Ostend Manifesto" is drawn up by American foreign ministers in Cuba ­ they argue that  Cuba must be annexed as a slave state, and that if Spain refuses to sell the island, it should be taken by force. When the document is published in the U.S., the public reaction is negative and the proposal falls from view.
1854 The Know-Nothing Party holds its first meeting in Cincinnati.
1854 "Bleeding Kansas" ­ small scale civil war erupts in Kansas between free-state and slave-state factions.  Battles will continue until 1856 and beyond.
1855 Frederick Douglass publishes his autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom
1856  "The Caning of Sumner" ­ Charles Sumner, the outspoken anti-slavery senator from  Massachusetts, gives a speech against the pro-slavery elements in the Senate; three days later,  South Carolina representative Preston Brooks beats Sumner unconscious with a cane.
1856 Democrat James Buchanan is elected President. Republican Frémont second, sweeping the  Northern states. John C. Breckenridge is Vice President.
1857 Dred Scott case ­ in Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court declares that the Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional. 
1857 Hinton R. Helper publishes the Impending Crisis of the South ­ he argues that slavery has  impoverished Southern whites; it is banned in the South.
1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates ­ the two candidates for representative of Illinois meet for a series of  seven debates. Slavery is the main subject.
1859 John Brownís raid on Harpers Ferry ­ Brown leads a group of whites and blacks to attack the  Federal arsenal. Brown is tried for conspiracy and then hanged.
1860 Republican Abraham Lincoln elected President ­ he wins with a clear majority of electoral  votes but only a plurality of the popular votes. He defeats Breckenridge, Douglas, and Bell.  Hannibal Hamlin is his vice-president.
1860  In his final message to Congress, President James Buchanan stresses that states have no legal  right to secede, yet neither does the Federal Government have the basis to prevent such an  action. 
1860 South Carolina legislature convenes and votes to secede from the Union. Meanwhile, Congress  convenes in an effort to work out some compromise; the Crittenden Compromise is proposed, which would restore the Missouri Compromise line across the continent. The compromise is ineffectual in the face of the events at hand. 
1861 March 4, Abraham Lincoln inaugurated president.
1861 March 11, The Confederate States of America adopts a Constitution.  The Confederacy  presently includes only the seven states of the Deep South ­  Alabama, Florida, Georgia,  Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.
1861 April 12, South Carolina troops fire on the Federal arsenal at Fort Sumter.  The Civil War begins.  The states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas will secede from the Union in coming months.  Though they are slave states, the "border states" of Delaware,  Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri will remain loyal to the Union.
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