Michael F. Holt, in his article The Political Divisions That Contributed to Civil War, argued the American Civil War was caused by the breakdown of the two-party political system, which generated a local loss of faith in the entire political system, justifying the creation of a new political system in the South. It was the agency of individuals attempting to solve their political grievances. While Bruce Levine, in his article The Economic Divisions That Contributed to Civil War, maintained unresolvable economic divisions between North and South made the Civil War inevitable, as the two different economies could not indefinitely coexist. While the conflicting economies of the North and the South played a major role in fashioning the war, that factor alone cannot account for the formation of the Union and Confederate states. It was a combination of political and economic differences, which made the Civil War possible.
By 1860, the wealth of the industrial North and slave-owning South was concentrated in the hands of a few. Levine noted, “The richest 5 percent of northern adults held more than half the regions total property.” In the South “the chasm separating the average slaveholder and the average farm-operating nonslaverholder in the cotton kingdom was huge.” The southern economy was based heavily on slavery and slave labor, but even with production increasing, the percentage of southerners who owner slaves had been declining. Levine indicated, “a shrinking portion if the southern whites owned slaves: 36 percent in 1830…and only 26 percent by 1860.” The class divisions in each economy were very similar. The northern economic system produced a struggle between worker and capitalist, while it was between rich whites and poo...
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... trusted their state to be the safeguards of republicanism. (404) They saw the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln, a member of the “the anti-Southern Republican party,” as something the old system could not pacify. Holt rightly insisted the Southern dissatisfaction with national party politics entailed “succession itself was necessary to restore republicanism.”
The economic determinist argument of Levine did explain many of the divisions between the North and South. However, it failed to answer the direct cause of Confederate succession in 1860. It seems apparent the political atmosphere of the 1850s precipitated the decision of the Southern states, one that did not exist in the preceding decades. Directly contributing factors to secession, as alleged by Holt, were southern notions of republicanism and lack of faith in the national system to do so.
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