this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.

Writing about the Missouri Compromise in the spring of 1820, as the Academical Village was under construction, Thomas Jefferson mourned the future of the nation. He saw that there was no easy resolution to the widening political divide over the issue of slavery.
Jefferson’s home state was deeply dependent upon the institution of slavery. Not only did Virginia have the largest slave population in the nation, in the decades preceding the war, the slave trade itself was the state’s largest industry. In Richmond, slave labor was proving valuable in factory work, railroad construction, and other burgeoning industries. Although some Virginians, including a number in the western part of the state, wanted slavery abolished, its defense was essential to much of the state’s economy.
The war was to end in Virginia, and it arguably started there too, with John Brown’s 1859 raid of the armory at Harpers Ferry. Brown was defeated by U.S. troops led by Virginian Robert E. Lee, and hanged for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. His radical attempt to begin a slave insurrection fed the anger of the slave states and aroused the fervor of Northern voters. Lincoln's election to the presidency triggered the rapid declaration of secession by seven Southern states.