Was Slavery the Cause of the Civil War

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Category: Society
Date added
2021/01/15
Pages:  6
Words:  1848
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The Civil War was an all-consuming event in history. It is the point we choose to divide all of American history. Before the Civil War and after. Our history completely changed because of this one event. I would argue that no other event has had the same effect. The American Civil War began over several different issues including taxes, states rights, and slavery. Neither side was willing to budge on their viewpoint. The tipping point was the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States in 1860. He pledged that the new states would be free states. Almost immediately South Carolina succeeded from the Union and several others soon followed suit. They formed a new nation called the Confederacy which was not recognized as legitimate by the Northern states. The Confederacy believed they had freely joined in the age of forming a new constitution. They believed that the Constitution was an agreement that each state choose to work with each other but they had authority over their own state. The northern states believed that the south had no right to leave the Union and they could use whatever means necessary to recombine all the states into that union. The main fighting happened between 1861 and 1865. The major dividing line occurred between those northern states and the southern states. The northern half argued against slavery and the southern half argued for slavery. Both sides used biblical references to support their perspectives.

Religion arguably has been one of the most influential aspects of history, particularly United States History. America was founded on freedom and religion is no different. From the beginning of Jamestown and Plymouth, a group of people were accustomed to being persecuted for their religion. This large group of people then changed and grew with each new immigrant that came from a new country. They became more accepting during the Great Awakening and dissenters.

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The Great Awakening began in the early 1730s and would inspire new doctrines, theological debates and change the views of African- Americans. Jonathan Edwards was a minister from Massachusetts that shed the rigid academic style of sermon. He preached in a style that targeted the hearts and spirits of souls. Samuel Davies, a Virginian minister, is brought the Great Awakening to the south. He took a special interest in slaves, not only in their spiritual but physical and academic well-being. George Whitefield is one of the most influential Great Awakening ministers. He preached spiritual equality throughout all the colonies. His unique emotional style was particularly captivating to poor whites and slaves. Both of these groups finally began to embrace Christianity. These two groups had not been quite as inspired by Christianity as the other groups. With this newfound sense of freedom and liberty, nothing seemed impossible.

The Great Awakening was a moment that changed the United States both spiritually and politically. People were moving throughout the new territories; where they faced many difficult challenges and created new ideas. Many of the ministers of this changing time had a radical message that everyone was equal, all sins were the same so thus in Gods eyes, all people were equal. The Great Awakening was largely a humanitarian movement. It targeted emotions, especially those who had difficult lives. Many ministers spoke directly to the slave community, something rarely done before. Africa is such a large continent, encompassing many countries, tribes, languages, cultures, and religions. Enslaved individuals did not give up their culture but blended it with others and past it onto the next generation. The Great Awakening departed from the strict authoritative style and blended their own unorthodox style into Christianity. Growing Quaker and Anglican denominations became safe- havens for those who disliked the extreme changes and new style but Baptists and Methodists were there to accept the newly converted.

Specifically for slaves, the Great Awakening was a time where Christianity showed them a refuge, where they were accepted as humans and they were encouraged to display their feelings and emotions. Now that African- Americans had experienced evangelical religion. Some of them formed bonds with white people and Christ; this would last for many generations. Some African- Americans had learned to read and could read the bible for themselves. All of this arose many questions for the Slaves. These questions were targeted towards white people and they demanded an answer. Many of these questions had been answered before by saying Africans were uneducated, heathen, or savage. What happens when they could read and worshiped God in the same ways as those who enslaved them?

Before the Civil War, Slavery was viewed as owning property, just like a cow or horse; unlike today where we view it as a moral issue. The Slave Trade Act put an end to the largest portions of the slave trade in 1807. Although slave trading would continue for many more years, both legally and illegally. People benefited greatly from the millions of people captured and traded. American plantation owners, the Caribbean islands with major sugar productions, slave trades, ship owners, and many more all benefited from the trading and usage of slaves. For a large majority of them it was economic, not moral until the Great Awakening and after the Civil War, some could argue even until the late 1900s. These individuals often used the Bible to justify slavery.

The very first justification many people gravitated towards was that they were teaching “the heathens” Christianity so they could be civilized and go to heaven. Many looked no farther than the book of Genesis. In chapter 9, the story of Noah being drunk in a vineyard. He was naked and Ham, his son, saw him. Noah’s other sons also saw him covered him and dressed him without looking. Noah praised his sons Shem and Japheth but cursed Ham for seeing him and not covering him. Hams curse is known as the curse of Cannan. Noah said that Ham and his decedents were to be slaves for all eternity to his brothers and carry a mark of Cain. They stated that since Africans were already slaves, inferior, and had a different skin color then they must be the decedents of Ham. They argued they were destined to remain in slavery. Those who studied the new testament simply argued that the teachings of Jesus never condemned slavery, so it must be within their natural rights. Some argued that not only was is a natural or human right that was permitted by God but slavery was a positive good institution because it exposed them to Christianity so they could become a “civilized” people. This argument lasted until after the Civil Rights Movement and has withstood many counter-arguments.

Slaves had a large mix of reactions to religion; they used their own logic, logic forced on them, and often painful personal experiences. Some became atheists because of masters who they witness praying on Sunday but beat them on Monday. Some tried to find a difference in the Christianity they were forced into and the Christianity they had interpreted or seen for themselves. Others found ways to hold onto the African beliefs and mixed them into the traditions and found secret meeting places to worship for themselves. Once they were free from slavery, they were able to form churches of their own displaying a combination of their African heritage and religious beliefs. Fountain in Slavery, Civil War and Salvation attributes the persistence of Christianity among slaves to them making a link to emancipation, particularly during and after the Civil War.

Quakers are known as a more peaceful and friendly religious group. They were one of the most prominent of the slave trade during the earliest years of the trade. However, they were also one of the first to leave the slave trade and protest its existence. They began to fight not in Pennsylvania but in the south. Elected officials in Virginia and North Carolina, in particular, made it extremely difficult for Quaker abolitionists to fight against slavery. Quakers and many others have been calling for reforms and protesting since at least 1688. Finally in 1844, after an official petition had been published. Many consider this petition from Germantown was one of the first direct protests of the slave system. Soon many similar protests began to appear throughout North America. Many of these abolitionists paid excessively high costs for their beliefs such as isolation and ostracization, disowned, and even loss of business or life.

Quakers ideals to remain peaceful society and the belief that religion and politics should remain in two separate spheres (CHECK FOR QUOTE) often left them out of the major discussions during the 17 and 1800s, politics and war. There was a shift in the mid-1700s to support abolition. This was partly because some of the wealthy, slave owners who were involved in politics had passed away. This shift was mainly due to a new generation who were encouraged as anti-slavery reformers such as John Woolman and Anthony Benezet. Jordan in Slavery and the Meetinghouse does point out that there was a difference in individual conscience and community desire and peace. At some points, he questions the commitment to equality.

John Woolman began as a tailor and writer of wills. At a young age, he was asked to create a bill of sale for a female slave. He completed the task but was so troubled by the idea that he became an abolitionist. He began small staying mainly within Pennsylvania and New Jersey but also as far as Rhode Island and North Carolina. He would travel to slave owners in an aim to convince them to free their slaves. He would pay for any hostility from the slave owners, sometimes even paying the slaves himself. Quakers often wore clothes dyed in indigo. Indigo was produced by slave labor. Woolman refused to wear any dyed clothing which made him stand out from most other individuals. (He would typically attend the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Abolition was a highly controversial issue here.)

Anthony Benezet, a French Huguenot refugee, was a school teacher in Philadelphia. He actually opened the first school for African- American children in Philadelphia. He was an author of several anti-slavery books and correspondent with several prominent influences such as Englands Queen Mother Charlotte and John Wesley. Wesley being a convert to the antislavery cause by Benezet. Benezet also helped found the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, one of the first anti-slavery societies.

During the 1758 Yearly meeting decided to rule its members could not buy or sell slaves. They also urged members to visit slave owners and convince them to free their slaves. It is important to note that although the Yearly Meeting made the ruling in 1758 it was not put in effect until 1776. This was just the first steps for the Quakers in the anti-slavery movement. Benezet and Wesley influence the Quakers and Pennsylvania legislature to emancipate, gradually, slaves. Quakers, as a whole, prohibited slave ownership from any of their members in the colonies. Quakers were one of the first groups to accept abolition and were the ones who led not only in politics but by example through the Civil War and Reconstruction.  

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Was Slavery the Cause of the Civil War. (2021, Jan 15). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/was-slavery-the-cause-of-the-civil-war/