This lesson is designed to lead into the election of 1860/the Civil War. The lesson begins with a close read of Thomas Jefferson's 1820 "Fire Bell in the Night" letter about the Missouri Compromise. Students analyze primary sources from the Dred Scott decision, John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Caroline Hentz's The Planter's Northern Bride in order to evaluate and compare the complex and often conflicting views of slavery leading up to the Civil War. There are also documents for the Lincoln-Douglas debates; depending on class time all or some of these documents could be used as a jigsaw or station activity or in whole class discussion. There is an accompanying PowerPoint that is free to download.