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Essay/Term paper: Causes of the civil war

Essay, term paper, research paper:  American Civil War

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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 because there was four decades of great sectional

conflict between the two. Between the North and South there were deep economic,

social, and political differences. The South wanted to become an independent

nation. There were many reasons why the South wanted to succeed but the main

reason had to do with the North"s view on slavery. All of this was basically

a different interpretation of the United States Constitution on both sides.

In the end all of these disagreements on both sides led to the Civil War,

in which the North won.

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. This was more roads, railroads, and canals. The South, on the

other hand, did not want these projects to be done at all. Also the North wanted

to develop a tariff. With a high tariff, it protected the Northern manufacturer.

It was bad for the South because a high tariff would not let the south trade

its cotton for foreign goods.

The North also 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.

Now the main reason for the South"s secession was the Slavery issue. Basically

the South wanted and needed it and the North did not want it at all. The South

was going to do anything they could to keep it. This was the issue that overshadowed

all others. At this time the labor force in the South had about 4 million

slaves. These slaves were very valuable to the slaveholding planter class.

They were a huge investment to Southerners and if taken away, could mean massive

losses to everyone. Slaves were used in the South as helpers in the fields

in the cultivation of tobacco, rice, and indigo, as well as many other jobs.

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 plantation owners in the


could not understand why the North wanted slavery abolished that bad.

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. Southerners said that slaveowners 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. But after the American Revolution slavery really 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 not important. All of t

hese 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. But the North opposed to this and wanted to

stop the extension of slavery into new territories. The North wanted to limit

the number of slave states in the Union. But many Southerners felt that a

government dominated by free states could endanger existing slaveholdings.

The South wanted to protect their states rights. 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


orth 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. But in 1848 the Union acquired a huge piece of territory from Mexico.

This opened new opportunities for the spread of slavery for Southerners.

But the distribution of these lands in small lots speeded the development of

this section, but it was disliked in the South because it aided the free farmer

than the slaveholding plantation owner. So now Congress passed the Compromise

Measures of 1850 during August of 1850. It 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 par

t 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. Many Northerners set up underground railroads where

the runaway slaves could hide and get food and be directed to Canada for freedom.

This angered many Southerners. 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

slaveholders and antislavery settlers. This measure outdated the Missouri Compromise

of 1820. All these compromise measures resulted in a gradual intensification

of the hostility between the slave and free states. Again another law was

passed in 1854. It was 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 Missour

i 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 slaveholding.

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 also. The

northern Whigs joined antislavery Democrats to form the Republican party in

July 1854. A conflict developed in Kansas between proslavery settlers from

Missouri and antislavery newcomers who began to move into the territory from

the northeastern states. This was what known as "Bleeding Kansas." There were

also many people in the North known as abolitionist

s who made the South look

very bad. 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 a black editor.

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 felt that they could not survive without it. Now they felt there

was nothing more they could do. 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 for

self-preservation." This was officially the end and now the South wanted to


ucceed. Lincoln said 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.

Many 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.

But it 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 big 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

is what kept the South running. But when the South seceded 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 inevitable." These were all the reasons why the South seceded

from the Union and there was really no other way to avoid succession because

the North and South had totally opposing views.


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