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Even though there may have been a couple of factors that cause the American civil war that happened between 1961 and 1965 it is indeed certain than slavery was one of the key reasons that led to the outbreak of the war. Whereas the North had become industrial based due to the inventions that had been made such as Eli Whitney’s invention of cotton gin, the South’s economy was mainly based on slavery and slave labor.
At first the Northerners did not have any issue with slavery in the South. Over time there were political challenges. These political challenges were mainly anchored on the different political ideologies that existed between the two regions. The south wanted to expand slavery to the rest of the nation while the North wanted to contain slavery to only existing areas (Ransom, pg. 371). These were the underlying situations at that particular time. As time went by there were increasing to end slavery. This was met by total resistance from the southerners who were willing to die because of protection of slavery. While the North championed for the end of slavery and with the backing of many abolitionists such as Fredrick Douglass who wanted slavery to end the South was ready to sacrifice everything just to ensure slavery remained.
How it works
At the early stage, slavery and slaves were used in tobacco plantations and over time the demand for tobacco declined hence the slavery system was no longer beneficial to some of the slave holders. Upon the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney, there was high demand for the cotton in the North. The South switch from tobacco to cotton and slavery was profitable once again. This means they were again given a reason to believe in slavery as its main economic institution.
There were so many slave markets where African slaves were sold. There were those that were being hired and the system was effective and seamless as far as the South is concerned. The Purchase of Louisiana in 1803 was the first time the issue of slavery finally became a problem to the nation to an extent there was Missouri compromise as a way of solving the deadlock. There 22 states in that the North had about 11 States and the South had 11 states.
They all wanted to have equal power that meant that if any stated was to be admitted to the Union on either side it would have offset the already existing balance unless there was a clear cut compromise that would have ensured that both parties get equal representation in the Union. The senate agreed by a vote of 24 to 20 to an amendment that prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the 36° 30′ latitude line, this was to be the case except for Missouri. Maine was also admitted as a free state. This provide the much needed balance but this not solve the already growing differences between the two regions.
As much as the South was claiming that the slaves were happy, there were many attempts that were devised by those in the North prove the contrary. This is well written in Uncle Tom’s Cabin a bestseller that was written in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe. In the book Stowe talked of the underground railroad and how it facilitated many slaves to move to the North. The fact that a huge number of them were yearning for the opportunity to run away showed that they were not happy unlike the claims by the South that the slaves were actually happy and they enjoyed what they were being subjected to.
The 1860 election was one of the most momentous part that led to civil war. The candidates in this election were quite many when compared to today’s presidential election. This is based on the fact the Democrats had two candidates that is the Southern Democrats: had nominated John Breckenridge on the platform called for slave code for territories. The Northern Democrats on the other hand had nominated Stephen Douglas on the platform endorsed Freeport Doctrine. On the other hand the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln on the platform denounced slavery but also Brown’s raid. The constitutional Union party on the other hand nominated John Bell.
The election debate, Stephen Douglas advocated for Freeport Doctrine in which each state was to be given the power to choose this destiny on whether they wanted to be a slave state or a free state. This was to be done through a referendum (Dew Charles). On the other hand, Lincoln advocate for banning of spread of slavery into the new territories and he wanted slavery to be confined to the areas where it already existed. In this election, Republicans focused mostly on corruption in Buchanan Administration whereas the Southern Democrats spread rumors of slave uprisings. On the other hand Stephen Douglas spent most of his last weeks of campaign in the South warning people of an impeding secession if Lincoln won the election.
Despite the massive competition from the Democrats, Lincoln won the election despite not getting even a single vote from the Southern. The Lincoln victory was immediately followed by secession of some of the states in the South. There was about 80% average approval of secession in state conventions and all the declaration made it clear that they were seceding mainly because of slavery related reasons. They were worried that with the election of Abraham Lincoln would mean an end to slavery since he was against its spread and expansion. The seceding states argued that the state sovereignty came first when compared against national sovereignty. They also claimed that they had a right to revolution. The Southern states met and formed what they called as a Confederate States of America with what was almost a duplicate of the Union’s constitution with much emphasis on states’ rights.
It is clear that the last attempt by the Senate to admit New Mexico as a slave state as well as calling for strict regard for Fugitive Slave law & repeal of personal liberty laws did not add much since the situation had actually gotten out of hand. This meant the war between the newly formed Confederate States of American and the Union was certainly imminent. In Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, he made a decision to resupply Fort. Sumter. This was a genius move that was in line with the inaugural address pledge of holding federal property in rebel states. This move actually forced the rebel states to be the ones to start the war. There were seven states that had already seceded immediately, Abraham Lincoln won the election.
These states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas This was followed by the move where Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee as well as Arkansas seceded and joined the Confederacy (DiLorenzo, pg. 143). Some of the border states also seceded to joining the confederacy. Some of these included Kentucky and Missouri.
The secession and the declaration for war by the Confederacy set in motion a war that was actually going to be fought for the next 4 years from the year 1961. The first battle was fought at Fort Sumter (Barnes Paul et al). This was the bombardment of Fort Sumter that was located near Charleston in South Carolina when the Confederate States Army started the war and there was a return gunfire that was followed by subsequent surrender by the United States Army. This sparked and spurred on the American Civil War which lasted about four years and left more than 650,000 people dead with the victims mainly being soldiers from the Union side.
In conclusion, were it not for slavery and the fear of the many challenges that came with it, then certainly the South would not have seceded to form the Confederacy. This is anchored on the fact that this was one of the reasons that led to the outbreak of the civil war since the free states that had remained in the Union fought the slave states that had seceded to form the Confederate States of America. This is to mean if the two sides had same economic systems for example if all had industrial economies then there would not have any conflict whatsoever.
Barnes, Paul, Tricia Reidy, and Bruce Shaw, eds. The Civil War. PBS Distribution, 2015.
Dew, Charles B. Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War. University of Virginia Press, 2017.
DiLorenzo, Thomas. “Yankee Confederates: New England Secession Movements Prior to the War Between the States.” Secession, State, and Liberty. Routledge, 2017. 135-154.
Ransom, Roger L. “The Civil War in American Economic History.” The Oxford Handbook of American Economic History 2 (2018): 371.
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