Washington Peace Conference, Facts

President John Tyler, Portrait

Also known as Washington Peace Convention Date February 4, 1861 – February 27, 1861 Location Willards’ Concert Hall, adjacent to the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. Notable participants Virginia Governor John Letcher, former U.S. President John Tyler Interesting Facts About the Washington Peace Conference of 1861 Twenty-one states (fourteen free and seven slave-holding) participated in … Read more

Washington Peace Conference, Summary

President John Tyler, Portrait

Washington Peace Conference of 1861 Overview and History On November 6, 1860, American voters elected Republican Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth President of the United States. Alarmed by what they considered to be extremist views held by Lincoln and Radical Republicans, Southerners began escalating their threats to leave the Union. On November 10, only four … Read more

Freedman’s Village, Summary

Picture of residents of Freedman's Village

Prelude On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed “An Act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia,” more commonly known as the “District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act,” or simply the “Compensated Emancipation Act.” Approved by the Senate on April 3, and by the House … Read more

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Summary

Abraham Lincoln, Portrait, Gardner

Background For over fifty years, the practice of slavery in the United States engendered a sectional schism between the North and the South that became so deep that the two sides could no longer peacefully coexist. When Southern states began leaving the Union on December 20, 1860, their secessionist leaders asserted that they were exercising … Read more

Reconstruction Acts, Summary

President Andrew Johnson, Photograph, LOC

What were the Reconstruction Acts? The Reconstruction Acts, passed by Congress, started the process of Congressional Reconstruction. Designed by the Radical Republicans, they imposed strict conditions on former Confederate States to rejoin the Union. Each state had to create a new constitution, subject to Congress’s approval. These constitutions had to grant voting rights to freedmen … Read more

Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, Facts

Portrait of George Washington

Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 in reaction to a dispute between Pennsylvania and Virginia over the kidnapping of a black man in Pennsylvania by three Virginians. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 consisted of four sections, two of which dealt with the interstate extradition of accused criminals, and two of which addressed … Read more

Force Act, Facts

Andrew Jackson, Portrait, Painting

On January 16, 1833, U.S. President Andrew Jackson requested that Congress grant him an extension of his executive authority to ensure that federal customs officials could continue to enforce U.S. tariff laws in South Carolina without interference from state officials. On January 21, 1833 Pennsylvania Senator William Wilkins introduced “An Act further to provide for … Read more

Dred Scott v. Sandford, Facts

Dred Scott, Portrait

Also known as: Dred Scott Decision Date: 1856 – 1857 Significance: Sometime between 1831 and 1833, Peter Blow or his heirs sold the slave Dred Scott to Dr. John Emerson, a military surgeon stationed at Jefferson Barracks, just south of St. Louis. On December 1, 1833 army surgeon Dr. John Emerson took his slave, Dred … Read more

Enrollment Act (aka Conscription Act), Facts

Portrait of Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson

A decline in voluntary enlistment in the Union’s armies in 1862–1863 prompted the federal government to abandon unwieldy and largely ineffective state-administered drafts with a new mechanism for implementing compulsory military service on a national scale. In February 1863, Congress enacted Senate Bill 511, entitled “An act for enrolling and calling out the national forces, and … Read more

Enrollment Act (aka Conscription Act), Summary

Portrait of Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson

Background After Southern forces fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, touching off the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called for state militias to provide 75,000 volunteers to put down the insurrection. Northerners responded enthusiastically and quickly filled state quotas. Some Unionists expected the Southern challenge to Federal authority to be as short-lived … Read more

Confiscation Act of 1862, Facts

Portrait of Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull

The Confiscation Act of 1862 is also known as the Second Confiscation Act. The official title of the Confiscation Act of 1862 is An Act to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate the Property of Rebels, and for other Purposes. The Confiscation Act of 1862 was enacted by Congress and … Read more

Confiscation Act of 1862, Summary

Portrait of Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull

Prelude When the American Civil War began in April 1861, many believed that the conflict, like other early American rebellions (e.g., Shays’ Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, Fries’s Rebellion, and the Dorr Rebellion) would be short-lived. As a result, neither Congress nor the war department had crafted a policy regarding the disposition of fugitive and captured … Read more

Compromise of 1850 – Facts

Portrait of Henry Clay.

The Compromise of 1850 was a collection of Congressional legislation enacted to resolve sectional problems in the United States regarding slavery. The author of the original proposals that constituted the Compromise of 1850 was Kentucky Senator Henry Clay. The need for the Compromise of 1850 was prompted by the addition to the United States of … Read more

Civil Rights Act of 1866, Facts

Portrait of Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull

On January 5, 1866 Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull introduced “A Bill to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and furnish a means for their vindication.” The U.S. Senate approved the Civil Rights Act of 1866 on February 2, 1866. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Civil Rights Act of … Read more

Civil Rights Act of 1866, Summary

Lyman Trumbull, Congressman, Illinois, Portrait

Prelude The Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States, became law On December 18, 1865, when Secretary of State William Seward verified that three-fourths of the states had ratified the proposal to amend the Constitution. Southern states responded to the new amendment by enacting “Black Codes” aimed at oppressing newly emancipated slaves. Left … Read more

John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry – Facts

Portrait of John Brown.

Date: October 16–18, 1859 Location: Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) Principal participants: John Brown, Robert E. Lee Significance: John Brown began planning his raid on Harpers Ferry as early as 1857. In January 1858 John Brown unsuccessfully tried to convince Frederick Douglass to support his plan to raid the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, … Read more