Causes of the American Civil War
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Published: Tue, 19 Dec 2017
The United States maintain their position of the world as the strongest, most influential country for many decades. Observing their history closely, we can see that they had gone through many ups and downs, and harsh yet necessary battles within the nation and with other countries. In order to examine the Civil War and reconstruction of the United States, we need to understand the causes of the war, what happened during the war, and the changes that the war had brought. I believe that the Civil War of 1861 played a significant role in building the stronger nation; likewise, I will discuss three major causes of the war – which are the slavery, the conflicts between the North and South states, and the Presidential election of 1860 – describe how dreadful the war was, and how the slavery, the relationship among the states, and the economic and political situation changed after the war. Moreover, I will present my own views on the Civil war.
First, the slavery was one of the greatest causes of the Civil War. The Slavery in all across North America has had existed for 168 years. Eventually, by 1804, most of the Northern states abolished slavery institution, but the invention of cotton gin in 1793 increased the use of slaves in the South and the slavery became very important for the South. Before the Civil War, the tension between the North and the South was invested in Slavery. The North was insisting that America should become free country and need to industrialize the South. On the other hand, the South was opposing the North by being pro-slavery for their agricultural industry.
The U.S. Constitution was clearly permitting slavery even though the document did not include the words slaves and slavery. For example, in U.S. Constitution Section 2 of Article IV said “held to Service or Labor in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another” (Constitution On Slavery). It shows the fugitive slaves must be returned to their owners. Moreover, the Bill of Rights in 1791 did not mention about slavery, yet on the Fifth Amendment, it says “Be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (Constitution On Slavery). According to the Fifth Amendment, the slaveholders were given an absolute right to take their property with them. Since the slaves were equaled properties, they could take their slaves even to the free Northern states. It developed into negative conflicts between the North and the South.
However, America gained huge part of the West from the victory in the War with Mexico, including California, Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory. In Addition, the amount of gold that was discovered in California was huge and it led the Gold Rush in America, which did not last for long. The issue of whether the new states in the West should be opened to slavery or should be free from the slavery brought a big political confusion.
The state of California was extremely important for the both powers. The North was asserting completely opposite opinions from that of the South. Since California got so much richer quickly, if the slavery in California got abolished, the South states would significantly lose their political and economic power. In contrast, if the slavery got permitted and protected by the federal government, the South states would be able to gain more power. The South was saying that they would leave the Union if California becomes a free state. “Eventually, the issue drove the South to assert their opinion, which was to elect two different presidents between the North and the South”
The old compromiser Henry Clay addressed the Compromise of 1850 in order to keep the peace between the two different powers. Clay, Calhoun, and Webster proposed that California should be admitted as a free state, and while the slave holding could be legally admitted, the Slave trade should be abolished in Washington D.C. For the South states, they offered stronger fugitive slave act, which was to return the runaway slaves back to their owners by using force. “Also, the other new territories in the west such as New Mexico and Utah were opened to slavery” (Keesee 265). The Compromise of 1850 was debated for around 8 months and finally passed. The president Taylor disagreed with the Compromise, saying that it could divide the territories and extend slavery. His anticipation turned into reality when the fugitive slave act brought a counter result, awakening people in the North about the slavery issue. Likewise, the Whigs party changed their name as the Republicans.
After the Compromise of 1850, another controversy arose when the Kansas-Nebraska Act was proposed. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois envisioned constructing a transcontinental railroad which connects the East and the West, and the railroad had to go through the unorganized part of the Louisiana Purchase. When the region required an organized government for the construction, many Southerners resisted territorial organization; hence, “Douglas sought to win Southern support for his railroad by a clever piece of legislation” (Keesee 270), which was the “Kansas-Nebraska Act”. The Act stated that Kansas and Nebraska states would choose on the status of slavery for themselves, and the Southerners welcomed this idea because they want to expand the slavery. Also, the South and the North both wanted those states in order to gain more power in the House of Representatives.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act “resulted in two events which eventually destroyed Democratic dominance of American politics: the rise of the Republican Party and a virtual civil war in Kansas” (Keesee 270). In an attempt to win the region, proslavery “border ruffians” from Missouri and antislavery “free-staters” clashed in Kansas. On May 21, 1856, border ruffians ransacked the town of Lawrence, Kansas, which was known to be a staunch free-state area. (Martin), and the fighting known as “Bleeding Kansas” had begun. The brutal attack happened in Lawrence triggered another outrageous event. One of the most publicized events that occurred in Kansas was “Brooks-Sumner Episode” (Keesee 272). In Washington D.C., Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, representing the angry North, made a speech that apparently disdaining and criticizing Andrew Butler, a senator of South Carolina. As a consequence, Preston Brooks, a relative of Butler’s, got angry and confronted Sumner. Brooks “hit him repeatedly with a cane” (Keesee 272) and Sumner got badly injured. This scandalous event worsened the conflicts between the North and the South, and led to a violent solution.
Furthermore, the event which finally triggered the Civil War was the Election of 1860. The Presidential Election of 1860 contained four presidential candidates from different parties: Stephan Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, Abraham Lincoln and John Bell. The Northern Democrats nominated Stephan Douglas and the Southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckinridge. John Bell was nominated by the Constitutional Union Party.
In the end, Abraham Lincoln who was representing the Republicans got the most votes. When Lincoln got elected as the President of the U.S., the secession began. “Leaders in the Deep South had insisted that if Lincoln won, they would not submit themselves to what they considered a hostile, strictly Northern party; likewise they would secede, or leave the Union” (Keesee 280).
On December 20th of 1860, the first Ordinance of Secession began by South Carolina. South Carolina declared independency by leaving the Union, and other Southern states considered following South Carolina’s path. Ultimately, the 10 other states from the South joined South Carolina by 1861, under the name of “Confederate States of America [C.S.A].” Jefferson Davis, a Senator from Mississippi was elected as the president of C.S.A. Southern diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote, “We are divorced, North and South, because we have hated each other so” (South Carolina Secedes).
Secondly, as the Union and the Confederates were separated, they began the bloodiest war of the U.S. History. The Union was willing to force the Confederates to rejoin, but the Confederates kept refusing. However, on March 5, 1861, the Fort Sumter in Charlestown Harbor, South Carolina was in need of supplies. Abraham Lincoln was notified by Robert Anderson, the Commander of the Fort, saying that “they had less than a six week supply of food left in fort” (Fort Sumter). In Addition, the Fort Sumter was located in C.S.A. governed area, so the Confederates wanted the Fort to be evacuated.
Consequently, the General P.G.T. Beauregard, the Commander of Charlestown was ordered by Confederate government to clear out the Fort. Anderson announced to Beauregard that the Fort will evacuate by noon on April 15 unless the additional supplies arrive. Beauregard replied that the announcement was unacceptable and stated that their guns will no longer hold fire more than an hour. On April 12th, 1861, the Confederate soldiers began to fire, and even though the Fort did not have enough supplies of food nor guns, they bravely defended over 30 hours. At last, they surrendered and went back to the North. (Fort Sumter)
The battle was not slaughter because the soldiers from both sides did not die or seriously injured; however, the Battle of Fort Sumter significantly gave rise to the most slaughter and violent war of U.S. History.
The Civil War began with the Battle of Fort Sumter. As the time passed on, the War got more violent and serious. Brothers killed each other and thousands of men died. The War had numerous battles yet the Battle of Gettysburg was the most significant battle of all.
Lincoln addressed the Union army to surround the little town of Gettysburg in order to defend the Confederates. On July 1st, 1864, the Battle began. General Robert E. Lee was in charge of the Union army and Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade was in charge of the Confederate army. On the first day of the battle, Union army was forced to retreat to south of Gettysburg. Moreover, they retreated up to the hills, which gave them an important advantage to possibly win the battle. “On the third day, the Union army ruled the battle by successfully defending Confederate’s sudden attack with 12,500 soldiers. The Confederates were defeated and retreated to Virginia” (Borade).
Eventually, the Union won the battle by pushing the Confederates back to the South. In fact, both sides had close number of casualties. “As a result, 51,000 casualties from both side and 28,000 were Confederates” (Kelly). It was the bloodiest battle of all the other battles during the Civil War. Also, it was the climax of the War and a key battle for the Union to conclude the whole War.
On April 3, Richmond fell to Union troops as Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia in retreat to the West pursued by Grant and the Army of the Potomac. A running battle ensued as each Army moved farther to the West in an effort to oust flank, or prevent being out flanked by the enemy. Finally, on April 7, General Grant initiated a series of dispatches leading to a meeting between the two commanders (Surrender at Appomattox, 1865).
According to the text, Lee eventually retreated back to the South and finally gave up on the Civil War. On April 9th, 1865, Lee and Grant met at Appomattox Court House. Grant suggested Lee to surrender and offered a chance to surrender with honor. “The Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered 26,765 troops of the Army of Northern Virginia with honor” (Lee Surrenders to Grant at Appomattox, Ending Civil War).
Thirdly, on 1865, the congress passed the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery. The victory of the Union gave them power to free all the blacks across America. The government of U.S. had to reconstruct the whole country. Unfortunately, they faced other difficulties on legislating laws to give full citizen ships to the all freed blacks.
Confederate defeat and the end of slavery brought far-reaching changes in the lives of all Southerners. The destruction of slavery led inevitably to conflict between blacks seeking to breathe substantive meaning into their freedom by asserting their independence from white control, and whites seeking to retain as much as possible of the old order. The meaning of freedom itself became a point of conflict in the Reconstruction South. Former slaves relished the opportunity to flaunt their liberation from the innumerable regulations of slavery. Immediately after the Civil War, they sought to give meaning to freedom by reuniting families separated under slavery, establishing their own churches and schools, seeking economic autonomy, and demanding equal civil and political rights (America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War).
The slaves got the freedom and privileges that they always dreamed about, but they also faced on the harsh discriminations. The increasing discriminations were the white Southerners’ response to the end of slavery. The discriminations were getting seriously violence and the Ku Klux Klan appeared in 1866. “Schools, churches, and other community institutions, symbols of black freedom, became the targets of violence, as well as private homes and individual African-Americans” (America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War). It was not easy for the nation to combine together again when they were separated and had the bloodiest War in the history.
During the Reconstruction period, President Andrew Johnson’s plan was rejected by the Congress. Eventually, the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 was passes over President Johnson’s veto on March 2nd. “Johnson’s veto of these measures moved many moderates into the radical camp, and inaugurated a bitter conflict over control of Reconstruction policy, which culminated in 1868 when he was nearly removed from office by impeachment” (America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War). The 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment were each ratified on 1868 and 1870 by the Congress. By the end of the Reconstruction, when South’s violent discriminations and terrorisms would not stop, the North retreated from having responsibility of equality.
After the War, the North was on the way with industrial revolution. The Civil War resulted differently in the North than in the South. Unexpectedly, their economy apparently benefited from the War. Instead of fighting in battles, they had rebuilding to do.
There were new markets for products used by the Union Army. Northern factories were producing more than ever before. Booming factories meant that bankers and investors were making profits. This money supported new inventions and better ways to produce goods. New technologies sprouted from this period of growth. While the Civil War was in progress, Cyrus Fields of Massachusetts developed the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. The cable was laid on the ocean floor in 1866. At this same time, Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter. Alexander Bell developed the telephone, testing it successfully in 1876. Thomas Edison was experimenting with the phonograph and the light bulb. Both these inventions were made public in the 1870s as well. During the war, the need for weapons and other metal products had caused a boost in steel production. Raw materials were plentiful. Now, mining and refining of metals became the backbone of Northern industry. (Robinson)
Nowadays, people think of America as a country full of freedom. Slavery was a terrible condition and nobody wanted to be under the condition. The Civil War ended and brought freedom to nearly 8 million slaves. It also brought a dramatic transition from slavery to citizen ship. The Civil War was inevitable and necessary since there were the “anti-slavery” Northerners and the “pro-slavery” Southerners existed in the same country. Slavery must have been banned because all human beings are created equally and should be treated equally.
The United States’ 16th President Abraham Lincoln said, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy” (LINCOLN’S DEFINITION OF DEMOCRACY – As He Would Not Be a Slave, So He Would Not Be a Master. – Article – NYTimes.com). Lincoln was elected in the year of 1860. He was also the President of the Union side and kept his position during the Civil war. He was legendary and famously known as the Father of the United States of America. People say that Abraham Lincoln blew in freedom to the country by purposing freedom of the slaves.
In Conclusion, The Civil War was caused because of the slavery, numerous conflicts between the North and the South and the Secession of 11 States eventually caused by the Election of 1860. I believe that the Civil War of 1861 played a significant role in building the stronger nation because it gave freedom to the country by freeing slaves, the outer conflicts between the North and South states were concluded by Union’s victory, and the War affected positively on the Industrial Revolution of the America. By observing the Civil War, we can learn that the War within the nation night be necessary in building stronger and more stable nation. In fact, the United States of America has the strongest position in the world now.
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