Causes Of The Civil War

Causes Of The Civil War

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"The Northern and Southern perspectives on the causes of the War were radically different."

The South, which was known as the Confederate States of America, seceded from the North, which
was also known as the Union, for many different reasons. The reason they wanted to succeed was the result
of four decades of great sectional conflict between the two. Between the North and South there were deep
economic, social, and political differences. The Southern states had tried to resolve their problems by
becoming their own separate nation. Although these two distinctly contrary regions had been linked
together by a common Constitution, they had drastically different perspectives on the reasons for their
entrance into war.
While the reasons for the division of the nation were ambiguous, the primary cause was the
differing view on slavery. All of this was basically a different interpretation of the United States
Constitution on both sides. There were a few reasons other then the slavery issue, that the South disagreed
on and that persuaded them to succeed from the Union. Basically the North favored a loose interpretation
of the United States Constitution. They wanted to grant the federal government increased powers. The
South wanted to reserve all undefined powers to the individual states. The North also wanted internal
improvements sponsored by the federal government such as roads, railroads, and canals. Contrary to the
Northern views, the South, did not want these projects to be done at all. Also the North wanted to develop a
tariff which would serve as a protective shield for the Northern manufacturer. It was controversial in the
South because a high tariff would not let the them trade their cotton for foreign goods. The Contrary to the
Jacksonian legislation, the North wanted a good banking and currency system and federal subsidies for
shipping and internal improvements. The South felt these were discriminatory and that they favored
Northern commercial interests.
While numerous problems had clearly been prevalent in the United States, the war could have been
averted if a settlement had been reached on the slavery issue. The abolitionist of the time had strongly
opposed the concept, but a large number of Northern residents had remained pacifistic on the subject. The
South had developed slavery to such an extent that without it, their economy would suffer enormous
setbacks. This was the issue that overshadowed all others. At this time the labor force in the South had
about 4 million slaves.

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These slaves were very valuable to the slave-holding class much in the same way
that land was. The South especially needed more slaves at this time because they were now growing more
cotton then ever because of the invention of the cotton gin. Cotton production with slaves jumped from
178,000 bales in 1810 to over 3,841,000 bales in 1860. Within that time period of 50 years the number of
slaves also rose from about 1,190,000 to over 4,000,000. The Southern slave holders often found it
perplexing that the north had seen the gradual mental breakdown of these captive people as detrimental to
society. Southerners compared it with the wage-slave system of the North. They said that the slaves were
better cared for then the free factory workers in the North, and that slave owners provided shelter, food,
care, and regulation for a race unable to compete in the modern world without proper training. Many
Southern preachers proclaimed that slavery was sanctioned in the Bible.
The history of the American slave system is especially relevant when determining the validity of
this statement. This is because it emphasizes the Northern opposition to the Southern ideals. Shortly after
the American Revolution slavery virtually died it the North, just as it was becoming more popular in the
South. By the time of 1804 seven of the northern most states had abolished slavery. During this time a surge
of democratic reform swept the North and West. There were demands for political equality and economic
and social advances. The Northerners goals were free public education, better salaries and working
conditions for workers, rights for women, and better treatment for criminals. The South felt these views
were of minimal importance. All of these views eventually led to an attack on the slavery system in the
South, and showed opposition to its spread into whatever new territories that were acquired. Northerners
said that slavery revoked the human right of being a free person. Now with all these views the North set out
on its quest for the complete abolition of slavery. When new territories became available in the West the
South wanted to expand and use slavery in the newly acquired territories. The North wanted to limit the
number of slave states in the Union in order to tip the scales in the congressional vote. But many
Southerners felt that a government dominated by free states could endanger existing slave holdings.
The first evidence of the North's actions came in 1819 when Missouri asked to be admitted to the
Union as a slave state. After months of discussion Congress passed the Missouri Compromise of 1820.
This compromise was legislative measures that regulated the extension of slavery in the United States for
three decades. Now the balance of 11 free states and 11 slave states was in trouble. Maine also applied for
statehood in 1819, in which it was admitted as a free state. To please the South, slavery would be prohibited
forever from Louisiana Purchase territories north of 36° 30'. Southern extremists opposed any limit on the
extension of slavery, but settled for now. Missouri and Maine were to enter statehood simultaneously to
preserve sectional equality in the Senate. For almost a generation this Compromise seemed to settle the
conflict between the North and South. The monumental balance of power was severely shifted in
1848 when the Union acquired a huge piece of territory from Mexico. This opened new opportunities for
the spread of slavery for Southerners. The distribution of these lands in small lots speeded the development
of this section, and made the area especially important. Congress subsequently passed the Compromise
Measures of 1850. This piece of legislation dealt mainly with the question of whether slavery was to be
allowed or prohibited in the regions acquired from Mexico as a result of the Mexican War. This
compromise allowed abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia and admission of California as
a free state. Another part of the compromise was the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which provided for the
return of runaway slaves to their masters. But many free states in the Union passed personal liberty laws in
an effort to help the slaves escape. Even though this ,measure was taken by certain northern areas, the
South was happy to be insured that their economically significant property would be returned. This
compromise also said that the territory east of California given to the United States by Mexico was divided
into the territories of New Mexico and Utah, and they were opened to settlement by both slave-holders and
antislavery settlers. This measure outdated the Missouri Compromise of 1820.
Each of these compromise measures resulted in a gradual intensification of the hostility between
the slave and free states. Again another law was passed in 1854 called the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It
authorized the creation of Kansas and Nebraska, west of Missouri and Iowa and divided by the 40th
parallel. It repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 that had prohibited slavery in the territories north of
36° 30', and stated that the inhabitants of the territories should decide for themselves the legality of
slave-holding. This act was sponsored by the Democratic senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. He hoped
to simplify construction of a transcontinental railroad through these states rather than through the southern
part of the country. The removal of the restriction on the expansion of slavery ensured southern support for
the bill, which was signed into law by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. This act split the
Democratic party and destroyed the Whig party as well. The northern Whigs joined antislavery Democrats
to form the Republican party in July 1854. A conflict developed in Kansas between pro-slavery settlers
from Missouri and antislavery newcomers who began to move into the territory from the northeastern states.
This was what known as "Bleeding Kansas."
The abolitionists played a major role in shaping the views of many Northerners. These people were
fully against slavery and its expansion and most of the time took matters into their own hands to get their
point across. Some of the most famous abolitionists were William Lloyd Garrison of Boston, Wendell
Phillips, who in 1836 gave up his law practice because he couldn't support the United States Constitution,
James G. Birney of Ohio who gathered all anti-slavery forces into one unit called the Liberty Party and
Frederick Douglass, who was an escaped slave who became an editor. These people were all opposed to
slavery, but saw drastically different approaches to it's demise.
The last main conflict that led to succession was during the presidential election of 1860. The
newly formed Republican party nominated Abraham Lincoln on principles that opposed the further
expansion of slavery. Now with Lincoln being elected the South really felt that expansionism was being
threatened, and because expansion was vital to the survival of slavery they also felt their way of life was
being threatened. Because slavery was such a important part of Southern society, the South argued that they
could not survive without it. They were convinced that they should make a bid for independence by
succeeding rather then face political encirclement. It was all described when a Southern man said "We have
at last reached that point in our history when it is necessary for the South to withdraw from the Union. This
has not been our seeking...but we are bound to accept it or self-preservation." This was officially the end
and now the South wanted to succeed. Lincoln had made claims that succession was illegal and said that he
intended to maintain federal possessions in the South. Southerners hoped the threat of succession would
force acceptance of Southern demands, but it did not. Finally the day came on Dec. 20, 1860 when South
Carolina adopted an ordinance of succession. The other states to follow and succeed were: Mississippi on
Jan 9, 1861, Florida on January 10, Alabama on Jan 11, Georgia on January 19, Louisiana on January 26,
and Texas on February 1. On February 4 delegates from all these states met in Montgomery, Alabama
where they drafted a constitution for the Confederate States of America. This outraged the North and what
was led to the Civil War.
Several different efforts were made to save the Union and prevent a war. James Buchanan
believed the Constitution did not allow the North to take any action against the South. An effort was made
on February 4th by the Virginia Legislature who called a conference of the states at Washington D.C.
Representatives were sent from 7 slave and 14 free states. An amendment was passed saying Congress
could never interfere with slavery in the states. This legislation was not ratified by the necessary number of
states and was forgotten when the Civil War began.
The existence of slavery was the central element of the conflict between the North and South.
Other problems existed that led to succession but none were as momentous as the slavery issue. The only
way to avoid the war was to abolish slavery but this was not able to be done because slavery was essentially
the fuel in the Southern machine. It was said by Abraham Lincoln that "A house divided against itself
cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." Because
slavery formed two opposing societies, and slavery could never be abolished, the Civil War was virtually
inevitable. The slavery issue accompanied by the severely differentiated societies in the United States had
resulted in the Civil War. In the Southern point of view, slavery and other differences were valid, and
necessary for the growth of the region. The north had viewed these as potential faults to overcome.
Because of limited time, and growing tension, the result was war.
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