What Were the Causes of the American Civil War? Essay
What Were the Causes of the American Civil War?
The Civil War happened due to the many differences between the North and the South. For example economic, social, cultural and political differences. These all helped lead America to a Civil War. But to an extent, the most important cause was the fact there were many disagreements with states’ rights versus federal rights.
It was clear that there was always going to be a conflict between the federal government and the state governments because the federal government has the power to discuss bills and proposals for new laws. Whereas the state governments only has power to deal with policing, education and health care. And issues like slavery created tension between the two because the federal government wanted to abolish slavery but the southern states disagreed with this as this was their way of life and it should be their decision to abolish it or not. “Southerners believed that state laws carried more weight than Federal laws, and they should abide by the state regulations first.” (http://americancivilwar.com/kids_zone/causes.html) It was mostly the southern states that didn’t want to abolish slavery and most of the northern states went along with the federal government, so this caused a clash between the North and South and divided the whole nation. In addition, the South claimed that because of the Tenth Amendment, which declares that any power that is not granted to the federal government in the constitution is given to the individual states in the Union. So this means that any state is free to make laws outside the constitution for their own area of authority. Therefore the federal government has no right to abolish slavery in every state against their will. But then again the federal government has to maintain the authority so they can overrule the state laws, so they can make sure that everyone is treated equally. As the historians Sean Wilentz and John Ashworth describe, the North’s commitment to capitalism and modernisation it was the context for abolitionism and for the free labour ideology of Abrahams Lincoln’s Republican Party. And the South’s commitment to essential production of goods and slave labour was reflected in the region0s distinctive cult of honour, and its defence of social inequality.
The South heavily relied on slavery to keep their economy stable, although not their only source of money, but by abolishing slavery and making it illegal it would damage their economy quite badly. And so this caused a lot of tension between the North and South because they were very different economically. The South is much more agricultural, and is reliant upon exports as well. The North on the other hand is in complete contrast to the South. The North industrialised very fast and many people of poor background and some African-American succeeded and made a lot of money. It isn’t very clear that if they had lived in the South if they could have achieved this much success, but those in the North faced a lot less discrimination compared to the South. “Because the economics of the dynamic industrializing North and the static agrarian South were incompatible, the two societies were on a collision course that led inexorably to war” (http://civilwartalk.com/threads/historians-evolving-views-of-civil-war-causality.21223/) Many historians agree that this was not a major cause. According to economic historian Lee A. Craig, “In fact, numerous studies by economic historians over the past several decades reveal that economic conflict was not an inherent condition of North-South relations during the antebellum era and did not cause the Civil War.” Charles A. Beard a historian, had said in the 1920s, that because of these differences between the North and South it had caused the war rather than slavery, states’ right versus federal rights and all the other causes for the civil war. Due to the fact that trade in the North was more successful made it intense between the North and South because it meant they would have to compete and instead of working together to the make the United States of America a better place there was a clear division.
There was a lot of tension between the North and South and this emphasised the separation of the nation’s political parties. The two major parties within the nation, the Whigs and Democrats started to disagree with each other and slowly started to divide. The northerners favoured the Whigs, who became the Republicans. The Republicans were anti-slavery, and they really wanted to focus on education and industrialising the nation. However, the southerners disliked the Republican Party and saw it as a “divisive element and one that could lead to conflict.”
(http://www.historynet.com/causes-of-the-civil-war) When Abraham Lincoln had won the elections it was a big thing because he was the first Republican to become president. The South were not entirely happy when Abraham Lincoln became president, this was because they were afraid that he was going to abolish slavery as he was a Republican and mostly the northerners favoured him and they were all anti-slavery. This is the reason that there was a massive division between the nation which created the tension. Therefore is a stepping stone towards the civil war, although not a major cause of it, it could be considered to be an important cause that showed the differences of the nation as a whole.
As soon as Abraham Lincoln became president, South Carolina seceded. This showed that the state didn’t feel part of the Union because it believed that the president was going to want to abolish slavery and South Carolina was reliant on slavery. So, because they seceded more states after them, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. Already before the war it was clear that the United States were dividing into the North and South. Historian Arthur Cole wrote, ” Lincoln was pictured in many quarters not only as a black Republican but as an Abolitionist, a fanatic of the John Brown type.” Fundamentally, this means that the South saw Lincoln as a “black Republican” who is definitely going to break up the Union, and so this is what it led to, the secession of 11 states. The southerners believed that Lincoln was an Abolitionist because of the John Brown raid, who was from the North. He was against slavery, and was extremely violent compared to the other Abolitionists. Him and 18 other men attempted to raid the government armoury at Harper’s Ferry. He was captured and hung. This just shows the hatred that there was towards the northerners, and that because of this, it helped build up the tension between the North and South and then lead to the secession of the southern states. As the historian Walter Edgar says, that when Lincoln did come to power, it was a shock for the southerners, and that they because of this the nation began dividing and causing war.
The secession of the states, led to the battle of Fort Sumter. It could be considered as the last straw, but not as the main cause of the civil war.
Although some people do believe that it was the main cause of the civil war. However, it had not been, because before the civil war broke out, some events occurred that led to the civil war. All the events that happened before built tension with the nation which made it extremely hard for everyone to work together and sort the problems out. When Fort Sumter was attacked, there were strikes within the South so that the commander that was stationed at Sumter would surrender. And so troops were sent down to sort things out and causing the civil war to begin. In order for the civil war to break out all the North and South needed was that last straw to be pulled. Some historians suggest that the North and South deprecated war, and that either the South or the North would cause the war or accept it. Additionally, because the states seceded, they created their own Union, which intensified the situation because Abraham Lincoln wanted to maintain the Union and keep all the states in one whole nation so they could work together and have a strong economy.
Overall, most historians suggest that slavery was a cause for the civil war, but it is clear that it was not the main cause, even though it all fell back on slavery, for example the economic differences, the South relied heavily on slavery. Also the issue of slavery was important, because the South feared that Abraham Lincoln was going to abolish slavery, so that is why they seceded as he did not appeal to the southerners. In addition, the state governments believed that they had the right to decide whether to abolish slavery or not within their state. This was because they depended on slavery and it was their way of life, and it was clear that it was not up to the federal government to abolish it. It was also due to the fact that the Tenth Amendment stated that the states have the power to make new laws in the Constitution as they wish. According to Dubois, the civil war was not only a war of the economic systems of the North and South but also a war of ideas and ideologies.