The Causes of the American Civil War

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The America greatest civil war of 1860-65 emanated from many years of disagreement on the institution of slavery. The issue of slavery began to raise political, economic, and social difference between the south and the North, leading to sectional division (Nelson). By 1850, southerners had depended on slavery for over 200 years in their agricultural activities and considered the practice an integral part of their economy. The north by that time was becoming urbanized, and it had many industries and modern infrastructures compared to the south. The southerners attributed the leading cause of their backwardness to high profits amassed by businessmen from the North. However, the Northern had a different ideology of the backwardness of the south and attributed it to the peculiar institution of slavery that needed to be abolished.

The manifest destiny that saw America acquiring new territories augmented the debates centered on whether new states should enter the Union as free or slave states. For instance, a new territory of Missouri from the Louisiana Purchase in 1819 applied for statehood, stirring the Missouri Crisis (Nelson). Since Missouri had over 10,000 slaves, it was to join the union as a slave state, but the Northerners opposed due to political power issues. The northerners feared the creation of the voting bloc by southerners over the regional division along the slavery line would be difficult for them to overcome in the future. The Tallmadge bill that required the amendment of the statehood application of Missouri with concerns of liberty violation promised in the Declaration of Independence, but it was faced with fierce resistance from the southerners. Due to its support by many northern members of Congress, Tallmadge amendment passed in the House of representative but defeated in the Senate (Nelson). Consequently, a compromise was proposed to end the Missouri Crisis. The 1820 Missouri Compromise required Missouri to be declared a slave state and to balance power, Maine would enter as a free state. A line along 36030’ latitude was to divide the rest of the Louisiana Purchase. This compromise ended the rivalry without splitting the Union.

Until 1954, the Missouri Compromise arrived in 1920 seemed to work and slavery was limited to existing areas. However, the issue revived after America acquired a vast territory, 1.3 million kilometers squared after the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty with Mexico. The new lands included Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, California, and some sections of New Mexico. Just like during the Missouri Crisis, the new lands revived differences creating sectional division. The south saw this as an opportunity to extend the slavery institutions while Northerners wanted the new territory to be declared free-states. Northerners were assisting slaves escaping from the south and hoped that the peculiar institution would end by natural course if it remained restricted only in the existing states as per 1820 Missouri Compromise. Texas entered the Union as a slave state since it had been practicing slavery before applying for statehood. However, conflicts arose on the status of new lands acquired like California, Utah and New Mexico (Nelson). In 1848, gold discovered in California augmented the need for the declaration of the territory as either slave or free state. It led to the formation of the 1850 Compromise similar to the Missouri crisis. The new compromise required the entrance of California into the Union as a free-state, while Utah and New Mexico be divided without mention of slavery, and system (Fugitive Slave Law) of preventing runaway of slaves to be initiated. Once again, for the next three years, the compromise worked in settling the dispute. However, the system of catching slaves offended the Northerners, and they refused to take any part in it; some Northerners still assisted runaways and even developed Underground Railroad prompting more slaves to escape.

Another crisis followed when Kansas applied to enter the Union as a free slave. Missourians feared that being surrounded by three neighboring states (Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas) that prohibit slavery will force it to abolish the institution. The proposed bill by Douglas (Kansas-Nebraska Act) stirred heated debates and precipitated the formation of a new crisis. The bill passed in 1854, allowing those supporting slavery and antislavery to enter the territory (Nelson). Consequently, antislavery and slaveholders occupying Kansas engaged in armed conflicts, coining the name “bleeding Kansas”. These events together with judicial sanction tied to the Supreme Court on the Scott case in 1857 brought the Union closer to upheaval.

Question 2

During the 1800s Americans moved from the Eastern regions to the West in search of better opportunities in life. Initially, they traveled by wagon trains or foot before the construction of railways, roads, and canals by the collaboration between the federal and state governments (Tily 80). The introduction of transport technologies like railway lines and the steamship, led to the transportation revolution. This revolution brought order and progress in the US and by the start of the civil war, the country had transited further into extensive construction of contemporary means of transport. The most iconic part of the transport revolution was the construction of turnpikes and roads and highways (Atack etal. 950). Consequently, the new infrastructure benefitted farmers and settlers across the US who relied on the built canals like the Erie Canal and artificial rivers for easier and faster transportation of their goods, thus saving time and money. Additionally, the construction of railroads led to the invention of steam engines to replace the horse-drawn locomotives due to its efficiency (Tily 71). As a result, the demand for coal, steel and iron intensified leading to the construction of more railway lines across the country. Furthermore, the transportation revolution led to the development of steel, iron and coal industries, the industrial revolution, thus creating more job opportunities for the Americans. Due to the expansion and introduction of Euro-American settlers following the connectedness of communities, the culture and way of life of the American Indians was greatly influenced by the arrival of the western civilization. The growth of industries and the ease of transportation led to many Native Americans working for low wages and long hours due to poverty. Slavery intensified due to the increased demand for the workforce where the immigrant women were most affected due to the long working hour. Moreover, people in the middle-class increased as the number of farmers and workers in the cash economy expanded. Due to the improved transport and rise of agriculture, America underwent the Cotton revolution before the civil war (Atack et al. 950). The Southern states of America grew both in population and economically due to the antebellum created by cotton farming. Consequently, society became more diversified, wealthier and educated as social classes clearly emerged among the natives. However, slavery of Africans and African Americans remained intact as internal slave trade intensified as farmers demand cheap labor on their cotton plantations increased. The prices of slaves rose depending on the age and race. In some states, female slaves of childbearing age were more expensive as compared to unskilled men.

In the early 1900s, the US experienced market revolution due to the change in the system of manual labor starting from the South headed to the North and later to the entire world. Such changes in production and labor included a rise in wages following the growth of internal trade in the US. Developments in agriculture, transport, industry and communication sectors led to the increased economic independence of America led to the diminishment of traditional commerce. The construction of the Erie Canal bridged the western market for agricultural produce to manufacturers in the northeast while the steamship and railroads eased the mobility of markets (Kowalski et al. 132). Consequently, farmers ventured into commercial farming, while accumulating wealth used in slavery to increase their productivity. The market revolution increased women empowerment in the industries. Consequently, the Lowell Factory Girls Association was formed by women operatives during the 1830s in which they advocated for reduced working hours. The invention of the cotton engine increased wealth among the plantation owners, and with already-established transportation and ready market, more slaves worked in the cotton farms set the pace for both market and industrial revolutions.

Question 3

The causes of the American Civil War in the 1800s are divided into long-term and short-term triggers. Apart from the contentious issue of slavery, several other factors played an important role in instigating political instability which predisposed the country to civil war. During the economic boom in the early 1800s led by the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, Congress sought to introduce a policy that warranted the expansion of slavery into the vast territories in the West (Atack et al. 950). Missouri's compromise initiated opposition and varied opinions across America, which only intensified when the legislators received the Congressional majority making Missouri a slave stated while Mane remained slave-free. Consequently, this became the foundation of differences in ideologies between those who approved the slave trade and those who sought its abolishment forming a foundation for civil war. In 1931, there was a slave revolution instigated by Nat Turner across the plantations in Virginia (Atack et al. 950). Turner and his followers killed about sixty white people causing militia deployment to suppress the rebellion. A lot of slaves died during the uprising, and the Congress reduced slaves' rights and freedom. Additionally, the Wilmot Proviso that sought to outlaw slavery in the land acquired by the US triggered the 1850 Compromise despite its rejection by Congress. The compromise made California free-state and cease controlling slavery in the remaining areas of Mexican Cession. Nonetheless, it strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act, thus compelling the Northerners to return slaves to the South (Atack et al. 950). However, this agreement partially resolved the political differences between the North and the South for a little while, but on the other hand, it reinforced the existence of structural differences dividing the US. It further aggravated depolarization among the opinionated citizens.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln ran for the US presidency as a Republicans who oppose slavery. He ran against John Breckenridge, a Southern Democrat, Steven Douglas, Northern Democrat, and the Constitutional Union Candidate John Bell. The popularity of Lincoln had grown after running for the Senatorial seat against Steven Douglas in 1858, where he excelled in the Electoral College despite the poor performance in the preliminaries. Lincoln's fight against slavery dictated that he be under maximum protection immediately after being elected as president due to the rumors of his planned assassination (Atack et al. 950). Previously, the Southerner had threatened to secede upon the election of a Republican president, which immediately began after Lincoln became president. As a result, seven states had seceded within the first four months of Lincoln's reign together with the formation of the Confederate States of America which was led by John Davies, and after one month of instability, the civil war began. The secession of the Southern States resulted from the interruption caused by the Republican government on slavery causing doubt among the Southerners who formed a union that sought protection for their rights (Atack et al. 950). Despite several attempts to arrive at a compromise, more states seceding from the union to create the Confederate. Despite warning the defecting sates of the consequences of seceding, the secession matured into civil war.

Before the election of Lincoln as president, the commander in charge of Fort Sumter in South Carolina sent a message to him indicating the reduction in supplies and the pressure to surrender from the Confederates. In reply, Lincoln wrote to the South Carolina governor that an unarmed boat with supplies was on its way to Fort Sumter and promised that his troops would not shoot at the confederates unless they were forced to. However, the Confederacy leader Jefferson Davies ordered his forces to fire at the Sumter before the arrival of the supplies. The violence went on for two days before the fort surrendered which caused Lincoln to ask for volunteers to join the US army while more states were joining the Confederacy and thus starting the civil war (Atack et al. 950). The first Battle of the Civil War was the gun firing confrontation of Fort Sumter. Though both long term and short term causes of Civil War interacted in intensifying the chaos, the battle of the Fort Sumter is iconic in the causing the war. Its intensity and forces that forming the Confederates reacted against both anti-slavery attitudes and the election of a Republican President.

Works Cited

Atack, Jeremy, Matthew Jaremski, and Peter L. Rousseau. "American banking and the transportation revolution before the civil war." The Journal of Economic History 74.4 (2014): 943-986. 

Kowalski, Kamil, Rafał Matera, and Mariusz E. Sokołowicz. "Cotton Matters. A Recognition and Comparison of the Cottonopolises in Central-Eastern Europe during the Industrial Revolution." FIBRES & TEXTILES in Eastern Europe 26.6 (2018): 132.

Nelson, Cary. "About The American Civil War". English.Illinois.Edu, http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/civilwar/about.htm. Accessed 14 Dec 2018.

Tilly, Charles. "From mobilization to revolution." Collective Violence, Contentious Politics, and Social Change. Routledge, 2017. 71-91.

November 13, 2023
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