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Cause Of The American Civil War Essay

CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I. Introduction to Civil War

The American Civil War was a war fought within the United States of America between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy) starting from 1861 and ending in 1865. This war was one of the most destructive events in American history, costing more than 600,000 lives. It was thought to be one that helped shape the character of the American individual today. From the Southern point of view, this war was a War of Rebellion, or a War for Southern Independence. From the Northern point of view this war was seen as a revolution. This unfortunate war started as a result of many years of differences between the Union and the Confederacy. It erupted after many years of conflict building up between the two regions. Between the North and the South there lay deep economic, social and political differences, but it is important to understand that Slavery was the root of cause of these differences.

II. Social Causes

There were many factors that contributed to the onset of the Civil War. Socially, the North and the South were built on different standards. The South, or the Slave States, was a slave-based community that followed a class-based system. This system consisted of aristocracy, middle class and then slavery. Many depended on slaves and were accustomed to this way of life, which was hard to change. Plantation owners had slaves working for them, and those who could not afford to own slaves would work on their own farm. The North, or Free States, had more immigrants settling in its areas, where labour was needed, but not the labour of slaves. Therefore it had a more industrialized society where most people worked in factories, and did not follow a class system. The Northerners opposed to Slavery as an institution in the South, as the Confederate States were the only region in the world that still legalized the ownership of slaves. This angered the Southerners and threatened their way of life. The election of Abraham Lincoln, as president was viewed by the South as a threat to slavery.

III. Economic Causes

By time, economic differences also developed between the two regions. The Southern states were agrarian states, and depended on agriculture rather than industrialization. After the Cotton Gin was invented, it increased the need for slaves and made cotton the chief crop of the South. The South was able to produce 7/8 of the world’s supply of cotton. This increased the South's dependence on the plantation system and its vital component, slavery. But by then, the North was prospering industrially. It feared that the South’s slave-based economy might affect their economy. The North depended on factories and other industrialized businesses. For this reason many of the new immigrants settled north, while very few settled south. This allowed the North to grow industrially, while making the South more hostile towards them. The Confederacy resisted any kind of industrialization and manufactured as little as possible. Southern economy opposed high taxes, as manufacturing was limited. But the Northern states welcomed high taxes to protect its products from cheap foreign competition. As a result, the South preferred not to accept most improvements that were made by the federal government, such as roads and canals, in order to keep taxes low.

Another major problem that occurred was the competition between the North and South for more land. Both regions wanted to expand socially and economically westwards. The South wanted more agrarian states, while the North wanted to be able to expand industrial-wise. Confederate states felt that more agrarian states would help protect their economy and society in the future. The Union also felt that expansion would help their future as an industrialized country. As competition grew between the two sides, unrest grew with it, eventually resulting in the Civil War.

IV. Political Causes

Politically, the States were not any more united in their point of views. They each feared each other’s political goals. Expanding westwards did would not only help each side socially, and economically, but also politically. More Slave states meant there would be more Southerners will be involved in congress. But if there were more Free States, there would be more northern representation in congress. This caused continuous unrest between the two regions. Also, both the North and the South had different views on how the government should operate. The south wanted less government control, and more state freedom, while the North welcomed the central power of a government. The South viewed the election of Abraham Lincoln, as president, as a threat to slavery. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the South threatened to secede from the United States that questioned “State Rights.” Were States allowed to secede from the nation or not? To make matters worse, the South was determined to start its own nation, by electing its own president, Thomas Jefferson. It started calling for International recognition as a nation from France and Britain. The South was persistent in becoming a separate country, but the North was not about to give up the South.

V. Aftermath

Eventually, the Civil War erupted. After four long years, the Union would win the War and the country would once again become united. There were many reasons why the North was able to overcome the South. Since Southern economy was agrarian, and they had very few factories, the value of manufactured goods was higher than crops by the start of the War. This made the North wealthier, helping it to produce ammunition and other warfare utilities. The South was poorer, do to the lack of money since cotton was no longer providing the income and had only a few sources for manufacturing goods. As a result they were always unequipped and could not keep up. The North had the ability to invent modern weapons while the South had to fight with older weapons. The North always had more people compared to the South who had fewer people. At war, the casualty rates were always equal, but the South suffered more because while the North could afford these loses, the South could not.

The Civil War lasted longer than it was expected to. But, unfortunately, the War was inevitable due to the great gap between the North and South socially, economically and politically. In fact, due to these circumstances, if the South had won the War, the country would have probably been divided into two separate countries. As any war would have ended, the War ended with great losses to both sides. More Americans were killed in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined from the colonial period through the later phase of the Vietnam War. Apart from the number of deaths and casualties, the great loss of property and money, the country now needed to work together in order to rebuild what was lost. Emotionally, it would take long years for many people to overcome the consequences of the war. The war was followed by twelve years of Reconstruction, during which the North and South debated the future of black Americans and fought bitter political battles. Yet, there was a good outcome of this war. Slavery came to an end as a legal institution. But the war did not bring equal rights for blacks, they still had their own war to win until those rights would be achieved.

...but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,

and the other would accept war rather than let it perish,

and the war came.

Abraham Lincoln, 4 March 1865

OUTLINE

THE CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I Introduction to Civil War

II Social Causes

A Differences in society

B Westward Expansion

III Economic Causes

A Differences in economy

B Westward Expansion

IV Political Causes

A Government

V Aftermath

A Costs of War

The Main Causes of the American Civil War

by

Nadine Soliman

Academic Writing EWR3AA-01

Ms. Mack

February 20, 2001

WORKS CITED

“American Civil War.” Encarta Online Encyclopedia[CD-ROM]. Microsoft Corporation.

2000 ed.

Fluhrer, Robert C. “Civil War.” World Book. 1996 ed.

Hux, Allan and others. America: A History. Toronto: Globe/Modern Curriculum

Press, 1989.

Stampp, Kenneth. The Causes of The Civil War. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc,

1965.

CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I. Introduction to Civil War

The American Civil War was a war fought within the United States of America between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy) starting from 1861 and ending in 1865. This war was one of the most destructive events in American history, costing more than 600,000 lives. It was thought to be one that helped shape the character of the American individual today. From the Southern point of view, this war was a War of Rebellion, or a War for Southern Independence. From the Northern point of view this war was seen as a revolution. This unfortunate war started as a result of many years of differences between the Union and the Confederacy. It erupted after many years of conflict building up between the two regions. Between the North and the South there lay deep economic, social and political differences, but it is important to understand that Slavery was the root of cause of these differences.

II. Social Causes

There were many factors that contributed to the onset of the Civil War. Socially, the North and the South were built on different standards. The South, or the Slave States, was a slave-based community that followed a class-based system. This system consisted of aristocracy, middle class and then slavery. Many depended on slaves and were accustomed to this way of life, which was hard to change. Plantation owners had slaves working for them, and those who could not afford to own slaves would work on their own farm. The North, or Free States, had more immigrants settling in its areas, where labour was needed, but not the labour of slaves. Therefore it had a more industrialized society where most people worked in factories, and did not follow a class system. The Northerners opposed to Slavery as an institution in the South, as the Confederate States were the only region in the world that still legalized the ownership of slaves. This angered the Southerners and threatened their way of life. The election of Abraham Lincoln, as president was viewed by the South as a threat to slavery.

III. Economic Causes

By time, economic differences also developed between the two regions. The Southern states were agrarian states, and depended on agriculture rather than industrialization. After the Cotton Gin was invented, it increased the need for slaves and made cotton the chief crop of the South. The South was able to produce 7/8 of the world’s supply of cotton. This increased the South's dependence on the plantation system and its vital component, slavery. But by then, the North was prospering industrially. It feared that the South’s slave-based economy might affect their economy. The North depended on factories and other industrialized businesses. For this reason many of the new immigrants settled north, while very few settled south. This allowed the North to grow industrially, while making the South more hostile towards them. The Confederacy resisted any kind of industrialization and manufactured as little as possible. Southern economy opposed high taxes, as manufacturing was limited. But the Northern states welcomed high taxes to protect its products from cheap foreign competition. As a result, the South preferred not to accept most improvements that were made by the federal government, such as roads and canals, in order to keep taxes low.

Another major problem that occurred was the competition between the North and South for more land. Both regions wanted to expand socially and economically westwards. The South wanted more agrarian states, while the North wanted to be able to expand industrial-wise. Confederate states felt that more agrarian states would help protect their economy and society in the future. The Union also felt that expansion would help their future as an industrialized country. As competition grew between the two sides, unrest grew with it, eventually resulting in the Civil War.

IV. Political Causes

Politically, the States were not any more united in their point of views. They each feared each other’s political goals. Expanding westwards did would not only help each side socially, and economically, but also politically. More Slave states meant there would be more Southerners will be involved in congress. But if there were more Free States, there would be more northern representation in congress. This caused continuous unrest between the two regions. Also, both the North and the South had different views on how the government should operate. The south wanted less government control, and more state freedom, while the North welcomed the central power of a government. The South viewed the election of Abraham Lincoln, as president, as a threat to slavery. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, the South threatened to secede from the United States that questioned “State Rights.” Were States allowed to secede from the nation or not? To make matters worse, the South was determined to start its own nation, by electing its own president, Thomas Jefferson. It started calling for International recognition as a nation from France and Britain. The South was persistent in becoming a separate country, but the North was not about to give up the South.

V. Aftermath

Eventually, the Civil War erupted. After four long years, the Union would win the War and the country would once again become united. There were many reasons why the North was able to overcome the South. Since Southern economy was agrarian, and they had very few factories, the value of manufactured goods was higher than crops by the start of the War. This made the North wealthier, helping it to produce ammunition and other warfare utilities. The South was poorer, do to the lack of money since cotton was no longer providing the income and had only a few sources for manufacturing goods. As a result they were always unequipped and could not keep up. The North had the ability to invent modern weapons while the South had to fight with older weapons. The North always had more people compared to the South who had fewer people. At war, the casualty rates were always equal, but the South suffered more because while the North could afford these loses, the South could not.

The Civil War lasted longer than it was expected to. But, unfortunately, the War was inevitable due to the great gap between the North and South socially, economically and politically. In fact, due to these circumstances, if the South had won the War, the country would have probably been divided into two separate countries. As any war would have ended, the War ended with great losses to both sides. More Americans were killed in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined from the colonial period through the later phase of the Vietnam War. Apart from the number of deaths and casualties, the great loss of property and money, the country now needed to work together in order to rebuild what was lost. Emotionally, it would take long years for many people to overcome the consequences of the war. The war was followed by twelve years of Reconstruction, during which the North and South debated the future of black Americans and fought bitter political battles. Yet, there was a good outcome of this war. Slavery came to an end as a legal institution. But the war did not bring equal rights for blacks, they still had their own war to win until those rights would be achieved.

...but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive,

and the other would accept war rather than let it perish,

and the war came.

Abraham Lincoln, 4 March 1865

OUTLINE

THE CAUSES OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I Introduction to Civil War

II Social Causes

A Differences in society

B Westward Expansion

III Economic Causes

A Differences in economy

B Westward Expansion

IV Political Causes

A Government

V Aftermath

A Costs of War

The Main Causes of the American Civil War

by

Nadine Soliman

WORKS CITED

“American Civil War.” Encarta Online Encyclopedia[CD-ROM]. Microsoft Corporation.

2000 ed.

Fluhrer, Robert C. “Civil War.” World Book. 1996 ed.

Hux, Allan and others. America: A History. Toronto: Globe/Modern Curriculum

Press, 1989.

Stampp, Kenneth. The Causes of The Civil War. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc,

1965.

Bibliography

“American Civil War.” Encarta Online Encyclopedia[CD-ROM]. Microsoft Corporation.

2000 ed.

Fluhrer, Robert C. “Civil War.” World Book. 1996 ed.

Hux, Allan and others. America: A History. Toronto: Globe/Modern Curriculum

Press, 1989.

Stampp, Kenneth. The Causes of The Civil War. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc,

1965.

Word Count: 2747


A common assumption to explain the cause of the American Civil War was that the North was no longer willing to tolerate slavery as being part of the fabric of US society and that the political power brokers in Washington were planning to abolish slavery throughout the Union. Therefore for many people slavery is the key issue to explain the causes of the American Civil War. However, it is not as simple as this and slavery, while a major issue, was not the only issue that pushed American into the ‘Great American Tragedy’. By April 1861, slavery had become inextricably entwined with state rights, the power of the federal government over the states, the South’s ‘way of life’ etc. – all of which made a major contribution to the causes of the American Civil War.

 

By 1860 America could not be seen as being a homogenous society. Clearly defined areas could be identified that had different outlooks and different values. This was later to be seen in the North versus South divide that created the two sides in the war.

 

The South was an agricultural region where cotton and tobacco were the main backbone to the region’s economic strength. The area relied on exports to markets in Western Europe and the class structure that could be found in the UK, for example, was mimicked in the southern states. The local plantation owner was a ‘king’ within his own area and locals would be deferential towards such men. The whole structure was portrayed in ‘Gone With The Wind’; a strictly Christian society that had men at the top while those underneath were expected and required to accept their social status. Social advancement was possible but invariably it was done within the senior families of a state, who were the economic, political and legal brokers of their state on behalf of the people in that state. Within this structure was the wealth that these families had accrued. It cannot be denied that a huge part of this wealth came from the fact that the plantation owners oriented the work on their plantations around slave labour. As abhorrent as it may be to those in the C21st, slavery was simply seen as part of the southern way of life. Without slavery, the economic clout of these premier families would have been seriously dented and those they employed and paid – local people who would have recognised how important the local plantation owner was to their own well-being – simply accepted this as ‘how it is’. When the dark clouds of war gathered in 1860-61, many in the South saw their very way of life being threatened. Part of that was slavery but it was not the only part.

 

The North was almost in complete contrast to the South. In the lead up to April 1861, the North was industrialising at a very fast rate. Entrepreneurs were accepted and, in fact, were seen as being vital to the further industrial development of America. You did not have to stay in your social place and social mobility was common. For example, Samuel Colt was born in Connecticut into a relatively poor background. He had an inauspicious start to his life but ended up a very rich man who left his wife $15 million in his will. Whether he could have done this in the South is a moot topic. It was always possible but most of America’s premier entrepreneurs based themselves in the North where the straitjacket of social class was weaker. Cornelius Vanderbilt is another example. Whether a man who came from the Netherlands could have forced his way into the social hierarchy of the South is again a question open to debate. The North was also a cosmopolitan mixture of nationalities and religions – far more so than the South. There can be little doubt that there were important groups in the North that were anti-slavery and wanted its abolition throughout the Union. However, there were also groups that were ambivalent and those who knew that the North’s economic development was based not only on entrepreneurial skills but also on the input of poorly paid workers who were not slaves but lived lives not totally removed from those in the South. While they had their freedom and were paid, their lifestyle was at best very harsh.

 

While the two sides that made up the American Civil War were apart in many areas, it became worse when the perception in the South was that the North would try to impose its values on the South.

 

In 1832, South Carolina passed an act that declared that Federal tariff legislation of 1828 and 1832 could not be enforced onto states and that after February 1st 1833 the tariffs would not be recognised in the state. This brought South Carolina into direct conflict with the Federal government in Washington DC. Congress pushed through the Force Bill that enabled the President to use military force to bring any state into line with regards to implementing Federal law. On this occasion the threat of military force worked. People in South Carolina vowed, however, it would be the last time. 

 

It was now that slavery became mixed up with state rights – just how much power a state had compared to federal authority. State rights became intermingled with slavery. The key issue was whether slavery would be allowed in the newly created states that were joining the Union. This dispute further developed with the ‘Louisiana Purchase’ of 1803 whereby Kansas, among others, was purchased by the federal government. Kansas was officially opened to settlement in 1854 and there was a rush to settle in the state between those who supported slavery and those who opposed it. The state became a place of violence between the two groups and Kansas got the nickname ‘Bleeding Kansas’ in recognition of what was going on there. However on January 29th 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a slave-free state. Many in the traditional slave states saw this as the first step towards abolishing slavery throughout the Union and thus the destruction of the southern way of life.

 

When South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20th 1860, the first state to do so, it was a sign that the state no longer felt part of the United States of America and that America as an entity was being dominated by a federal government ensconced in the views of the North. Whether this was true or not, is not relevant as it was felt to be true by many South Carolinians. The secession of South Carolina pushed other southern states into doing the same. With such a background of distrust between most southern states and the government in Washington, it only needed one incident to set off a civil war and that occurred at Fort Sumter in April 1861.

 

Further Reading:

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

James M. McPherson

BUY NOW

 

 

The Civil War: The Story of the War with Maps

M.David Detweiler

BUY NOW

 

The American Civil War

Richard S. Hartmetz

BUY NOW

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