Farragut moves his family north

During the late 1850s, Farragut became concerned about the hostile atmosphere that was building between America's Northern and Southern regions. The two sides had become bitterly frustrated with each other over several emotional issues, including slavery and the concept of states' rights. Many Northerners believed that slavery was wrong and wanted to abolish it. They also defended the idea that the federal government had the authority to pass laws that applied to all citizens of the United States. But the economy of the South had been built on slavery, and Southerners resented Northern efforts to halt or contain the practice. In addition, they argued that the federal government did not have the constitutional power to institute national laws on slavery or anything else. Fearful that the national government might pass laws that would interfere with their traditional way of life, white Southerners argued that each state should decide for itself whether to allow slavery. Finally, America's westward expansion worsened these disputes because both sides wanted to spread their way of life—and their political ideas—into the new territories and states.

In late 1860 and early 1861, a number of Southern states became so angry that they finally followed through on their long-time threat to secede from (leave) the United States and form a new country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America. The U.S. government, though, declared that those states had no right to secede and that it was willing to use force to make them return to the Union. In the spring of 1861, the two sides finally went to war over their differences.

The Southern-born Farragut watched all of these events unfold with great sadness and anger. He and his wife, Virginia Loyall Farragut, had by this time settled in Norfolk, Virginia, a Southern town that they liked very much. But Farragut fiercely opposed secession. Determined to do his part to restore the Union, he quickly packed up his family and moved them north to a cottage in New York. He then reported for duty as a member of the U.S. Navy.

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