Among all the historical events that have taken place in the history of the United States, the civil is ranked as the most important. From the day when the first gun shot was fired at Fort Sumter in 1861, the civil war changed the history of the United States forever. A lot of books have been written on this important topic with different authors giving different opinions (Guelzo, 2012). Based on this, there has never been consensus among Americans on whether the civil war was inevitable or not.
Although there had been years of tension between the northern and southern states, the war erupted after a number of southern states made public their desire to break away from the union. The breakaway states formed what was known as the Confederacy while those that remained loyal in the union were known as the union.
The first reason why the American civil war was inevitable was slavery. For a long time, the main economic activity in the southern states was agriculture.
The demand for increased cotton production came in1793 after when Eli Whitney discovered the first mechanical gin. Although there were slaves in the united even before the eruption of the civil war, the number of slaves in the country grew by large proportions after the gin was discovered. On their part, the northern states were not agricultural and very few of them had slaves. These states were opposed to slavery and were pushing for abolition (Wagner et al, 2002). This ideological difference on the topic of slavery among the northern and southern states made the civil inevitable. The southern states were not ready to abolish slavery because that would have a huge impact on their economy. In addition, they felt that the northern states were infringing on their right to economic growth. None of the two states was ready to soften on their as far as the issue of slavery was concerned and this made the civil war inevitable.
The second factor that made the American civil war inevitable was the increased sectionalism among different states. As noted earlier, there were major ideological differences between the northern and southern states on a number of issues. Although sectionalism had existed in the country for a long time, it reached dangerous heights between 1800 and 1860. The northern states that were more industrialized than the southern ones became more economically powerful and built better cities. This made the southern states whose economy was agriculture based envious (Wagner et al, 2002). However, the fortunes of the southern states changed after the discovery of gin which created more demand for cotton. As abolition gained widespread attention, the southern states were living in constant fear of revolts by the slaves. In support of their stand, the southerners argued that they were preserving the culture passed down to them from the founding fathers of the country many of whom owned slaves. These differences caused a major rift in the largest denominations in the country namely Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodists. In addition, it resulted in a mass movement of whites from the south to the north making the south adopt a hard-line political position.
The third factor that made the American civil war inevitable was the increasing protectionism between the northern and southern states. As noted earlier, there were huge economic differences between the northern and southern states. Whereas agriculture was the main economic activity in the southern states, the economy of the northern states was based on industries. Despite the increasing campaign against slavery in the northern states, the southern states were not ready to abolish. This was because the slaves offered cheap labor therefore eliminating any need to incur costs on mechanization. In addition, the southerners did not see any need for industrialization and were comfortable with buying manufactured products from other parts of the country instead of building industries (Guelzo, 2012). Although the economy of the northern states was doing well, their industries were faced increased completion from the full fledged European industries. More importantly, this made it hard for them to compete for cotton with Europeans who were offering very high prices for cotton from the south. Based on this, the northern states were in favor of trade tariffs and protectionism while the southerners were opposed to it. On their part, the southerners were in favor of free trade. These differences created negative competition between the two sides culminating in the civil war (Fuller, 2008).
The years preceding the civil witnessed a territorial expansion of the country through acquisition of new lands. Many of the new territories entered the union as slave states and the southerners wanted to acquire more slaves to work on these new lands. On their part, the northerners wanted to stop any further acquisition of slave territories (Stampp, 1990). This resulted in bitter disputes between the two sides making the civil war inevitable.
In conclusion, there were major ideological differences between the northern and southern states prior to the outbreak of the war. These differences were difficult to resolve amicably due to the hard-line stances adopted by both sides. The major central issue that caused the tensions between the northern and southern states was slavery. The northerners were opposed to slavery while the southerners believed it part of cultural inheritance.
Bestor, Arthur (1964). The American Civil War as a Constitutional Crisis. American Historical Review
Edward Pessen (1980). How Different from Each Other Were the Antebellum North and South .The American Historical Review, Vol. 85, No. 5. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1853242
Fuller, Howard J (2008). Clad in Iron – The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press
Guelzo, Allen C. (2012). Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Covers
Holt, Michael F. (2004). The fate of their country: politicians, slavery extension, and the coming of the Civil War Hill and Wang, New York.
Krannawitter, Thomas L. (2008). Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest President. Rowman & Littlefield, London.
Miller, William L. (2009). Abraham Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman Vintage Books.
Quarstein, John V. (1999). The Battle of the Ironclads. Arcadia Publishing
Stampp, Kenneth M. (1990). America in 1857: a nation on the brink. Oxford University Press, New York.
Wagner, Margaret E. Gary W. Gallagher, and Paul Finkelman (2002). The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference .