Elliott West (Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, University of Arkansas)
January 11, 2011
In the middle years of the 19th century two great events transformed the United States: the Civil War and the acquisition of 1.2 million square miles of western territory. Expansion to the Pacific aggravated old tensions between North and South and raised new, difficult issues concerning the institution of slavery. Those tensions and questions contributed greatly to the gathering political crisis that erupted finally in the secession crisis of 1860–61. It is not too much to say that the expansion of the 1840s lit the fuse of the Civil War.