Abraham Lincoln and his Opponent
In the midst of the United States’ western expansion, often known as manifest destiny, issues began to resurface that would change the destiny of the country for good. A union was on the verge of being completely split, and the election of 1860 was very important for the future of the nation. During the election of 1860, as well as the prior election, western expansion and slavery were topics that were at the forefront of campaigns.
Abraham Lincoln and his opponent William H. Seward had to face these issues in 1860 (Shi, 473). The country wanted to expand its territory, but should it also expand the southern practice of slavery that was denounced by the other half of the country, as well? Southern states thrived on slavery, as a means of production, and demanded that it should expand along with the southern territory. Southern states would not even list Abraham Lincoln’s name on ballots, as his view on the expansion of slavery was very clear – There would be no expansion of slavery under a Lincoln administration. This frightened the southern states, as they knew no expansion of slavery would eventually lead to the demise of slavery as a whole. This is a significant reason in the secession of southern states shortly after the election of Lincoln.
The gluttony of the southern states, slavery, and states’ rights were three of the main roots that sprouted the tree of civil warfare, which casted its dark shadow over a divided nation. Slavery was heavily relied on for the southern states’ economic well-being. To maintain its economic significance, the southern states were not only just protecting slavery, but attempting to protect their money, as well. With no slavery, production decreases, sales would fall, which further implies that money would eviscerate for the southern states. This is where the argument of states’ rights comes into play for the southern states.
From their view, it appears the federal government is controlling the means that the southern states make revenue, further impeding their economic growth. If the federal government is supposed to protect domestic interest, why would they further obstruct our economic growth? is a question many southern states must’ve asked themselves. Gluttony, in my opinion, was the main reason for the civil war.
The southern argument was to make more money. To do so, we need more land. To increase prosperity of the land, an increase in production is needed, and to increase production slavery was instrumental. In 1860, the southern cotton economy produced 60 percent of all American exports (Shi,474). Southern states were fearful of Lincoln’s power to hamper their growth. In Alabama’s ordinance, it mentions how the election of Lincoln shows the open hostility towards domestic institutions, in other words slavery. They believed this hostility was stemming from several infringements of the constitution.
This was Alabama’s argument as to why they decided to secede. (AL Ordinance Document).
Texas took the stance of states’ rights and the battle against Federal intervention in their ordinance document. Texas stated, The recent developments in Federal affairs make it evident that the power of the Federal Government is sought to be made a weapon with which to strike down the interests and property of the people of Texas, and her sister slave-holding States, instead of permitting it to be, as was intended, our shield against outrage and aggression. (Texas Ordinance Document) This was such a powerful stand by Texas and provides great insight about how the southerners felt towards the government.
With the three main causes of the Civil War being Expansion, Slavery, and Greed, you can clearly see these issues manifest in the ordinances provided by the seceding states. Some may consider Racism as a motive for the civil war, and that is not entirely false. Greed was keeping slavery alive much more than racism was. Much of the racism during this time was greed driven, even from the start. Slavery as an institution was greed driven. It was a way for plantation owners to hire cheap labor, to maintain a larger profit. Slavery being abolished or choked off by the prevention of its expansion westward was not so much of an issue as was the money that would be lost in one of the largest American economies at the time.