The civil was of 1861–1865 in the United States was a war about the split of southern territories from the northern part of the country in the face of multiple social and economic reasons. Secession of the southern territories from the rest of confederate States of America was declared by eleven states with adopted slavery norms. At the same time, the rest of twenty five northern states have remained in favor of the slavery free federal government. At the end of the civil war, slavery has been abolished in the United States in both northern and southern areas of the country. Even though some of the original problematic issues that have caused the war were resolved after the war, some of them remained to be unsolved in the post war period.
The original causes of the civil war in the United Stated that took place in the 60’s of the nineteenth century have been an issue in historical studies of the nation. There have been numerous explanations of potential reasons of the civil war soon after the war took place along with attempts of some individuals to predict the coming crisis. However, there is no consensus in the literature with respect to the main reasons that have contributed the most to the emergence of the civil war in the country. Therefore, there are a number of the hypothesis that have been developed over time, discussing economic, social, constitutional and other background causes of the American civil war.
A lot of scholars agree that a number of factors have contributed to and facilitated the civil war. However, at the same time, the largest discussion is focused on defining fundamental and the largest in magnitude causes that have contributed the most. Different levels of regional economic development, social issues of slavery, territory expansion as well as constitutional problems are among the most discussed original factors of the civil war in the historical literature.
Economic and Social Differences
Economic and social differences in the development of the northern and southern regions of the United States have been significant factors that had contributed to the emergence of arguments and civil war in the country. By the mid of the nineteenth century, United States had become a country comprised of two economically and socially different and distinct regions. States in the northeast and Midwest of the country that were free from slavery had experienced a rapidly growing economic development. Latter was based on the growing number of family farms, development of various industries, including mining, transportation and commerce. At the same time, northern part of the country had experienced a considerably larger degree of urbanization compared to the southern counterpart. Urbanization of the North had been largely influenced by relatively high birth rates and substantial inflow of immigrants, primarily from the Great Britain, Ireland and Germany.
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On the contrary, southern states of the country were operating under the long established plantation system that had been primarily based on the slavery. Even though a minor increased the growth of the population had taken place in the southwest regions, like Texas, however, it was stimulated by higher birth rates without considerable inflow of European immigrants. At the same time, due to the agricultural character of the southern economy, it did not have a lot of large cities. Majority of the salve owners were empowered to control political and economic life of the southern states in the country.
In general, population in the northern parts of the country had been growing a lot faster compared to the population in the southern regions. Consequently, it had brought complications for the southern regions to exercise a substantial impact on the political and economic life on the national level. Therefore, by the time of elections in 1860, southern states had considerably smaller amount of votes in the Electoral College and, as a result, election of Lincoln was an expected outcome. Hence, the loss of control in national policies and governance raised concern about the possibility of extensions of the slave free policies on the southern regions of the country.
State versus Federal Rights
During the nineteenth century, the issue of the role of states’ versus federal rights had been widely discussed and debated. A lot of state governors felt that the federal government had been crowding out the power of individual states for governance. According to Stampp, federal governments have been using arguments from sections about states’ rights in the most convenient interpretation in some cases, and had altered these arguments to more favorable in other situations. For instance, adopted in 1850 Fugitive Slave Act had been justified by the federal government as that every state has a right to have its property being respected by other states. However, there is evidence that in practice rights of states have never been vital or independent from the federal government in political, social, economic matter.
Nullification and Succession of Territories
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the United States had pursued the policy of quick economic modernization, introduction of the protective tariffs on particular goods, provision of internal improvements at expenses of the federal government along with the national bank, in order to attain the sustainable economic development of various industries. Due to the fact that the majority of the raw materials, including iron, water power and coal were located on the northern territories, introduction of the new tax plan was expected to cause resentment in the southern territories since the latter was focused on agriculture.
During the economic downturn in the second decade of the nineteenth century, the state of South Carolina had been particularly affected. As a result of the economic downturn along with the adoption of the highly protective tariff “Tariff of Abominations”, a number of arguments and disagreements spread across the state. Facing no changes from the new government of Jackson, the most active part of the population in the state had started advocating for the tariff nullification and succession of South Carolina.
Slavery, Mexican War and Nebraska Act
The issue of slavery and its presence or elimination in the American society has been one of the primary and fundamental reasons of the civil war in the nineteenth century. Incompatibility of slavery with the system of Republican views in the United States or its compliance with the Constitutional norms had been a widely discussed issue before the war started. Proponents of the anti-slavery strategy had been in favor of stopping the slavery expansion to the new territories, as well as its complete gradual abolition. However, these ideas had been considered as a contradiction to the Constitution of the southern states. Anti-slavery legislation had been adopted in the northern states along with gradual approval of bordering states. However, in the southern states, they have been using mainly slave labor on their cotton fields (the highest profitable industry in the southern regions) and, thus, severely refused from slave abolition.
Back to the 1820, there has been a certain disagreement between the northern and southern states about admitting Missouri to be a slave state. This controversy had resulted in the Missouri Compromise that had regulated slavery in the western American territories. Later, attainment of Texas as a slave state had caused further disagreements about the status of slavery on territories that were gained during the war between Mexico and the United States. Latter was ended with the Compromise of 1850. The Wilmot Proviso was one of the most influential events after the Mexican war that had led to the civil war in the United States by attempting to ban slavery on territories that were acquired in the war. Consequently, multiple disagreements over the issue of slavery had brought the split of the Democratic Party between the northern and southern parts of the country. After that, slavery issue had exploded again with the expansion of the territory of the United States with Kansas and Nebraska. Adopted in 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act had replaced the Missouri Compromise abolition of slavery on the newly acquired lands with the sovereignty right. Latter allowed people on new territories decide themselves through voting about the establishment or abolition of the institution of slavery.
Hence, the issue of slavery had been a fundamental reason of the civil war in the United States. However, latter had been put into focus particularly in the context of the newly acquired territories. For instance, Mexican war has brought numerous disagreements on the abolition of slavery or its introduction on new territories. These arguments have been further extended with the introduction of the sovereignty option on new territories that have allowed people to choose abolition or establishment of slavery. Inconsistency regarding the slavery issue had brought numerous arguments that had ultimately resulted in the civil war.
Abolition Movement and Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Abolition movement in the United States has started with the adoption of the Northwest Ordinance Act in 1787. According to it, slavery has been prohibited by the Congress of the Confederation on territories that are located northwest from the Ohio River. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, abolitionist movement has been growing in the north regions of the country, along with adopting legislation against the slavery in the majority of states northern to the Ohio River, as well as the Mason-Dixon Line. Even though slavery was not fully abolished in Massachusetts, the newly adopted the constitution in 1780 had declared the equality of rights among the people. However, despite the increased abolitionist movement in the north, emancipation process had been gradually adopted in some states.
One of the most significant abolitionist tracts, which had been published during the growth of the abolitionist movement in the north of the country, was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. It was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852. It had become a best-selling play and novel of that time. The Fugitive Slave Law that was adopted in 1850 had been utterly discussed in the everyday news at that time. Severely annoyed by it, Stowe had vividly depicted all horrors of slavery that abolitionists been claiming for a long period of time. Depiction of the malevolence owner of slaves, Simon Legree, as a transplanted Yankee who had murdered Uncle Tom, had considerably affected the public opinion of Britain about the South, as well as inflamed slave owners in the South who had been attempting to show that a lot of southern slave owners are humanitarian and kind to their slaves.
Hence, the growth of the abolitionist movement in the northern part of the United States have been gradual but steady in propagating slave free society and agitating for the abolition of slavery on the rest of the country’s territory. Spread and popularization of the slave free philosophy in one part of the country has caused criticism and protests in the rest of the country that has been using the slave labor for a long time. As a result, the growth of the abolitionist movement had been accompanied with increased tensions in the society and attracted attention of the international community.
Role of the Lincoln’s Election
In the course of the civil war in the United States, the election of Abraham Lincoln in the late fall of 1860 to the post of President has played a crucial role for the secession process. After the failure of “Corwin Amendment” along with “Crittenden Compromise”, the majority of the southern leaders were afraid that President Lincoln will be determined in the elimination of slavery extension along with its complete abolishment in the country. During that time, southern states that were slave oriented have already lost the majority in the Parliament’s House of Representatives. With the election of Lincoln, they have faced potential of becoming the minority in the Senate, as well as in the Electoral College along with the strengthened role of the northern states. As a result of these expectations, before Abraham Lincoln had taken the office in spring of 1861, seven southern states had announced their secession and further establishment of the Confederacy.
Civil war in the United States in the mid of the nineteenth century had come as a result of numerous social, economic, political and legal issues. Different level of social and economic development of the northern and southern parts of the country had brought regions to multiple conflicts of slavery expansion to newly acquired territories after wars, or its complete abolition. A number of factors have contributed to the burst of the civil war. However, even though slavery was abolished after it, a number of other arguable issues remained unsolved after the end of the war.