History 11 12/17/2006 The root causes and precipitating events that led to the Civil War (1861-1865) The Civil War between northern and southern states was a consequence of contradictions of two social systems inside the country. At the basis of these contradictions was a question of slavery, completely determining economic and political interests of South. North strived to enforce Federal government power to protect their own economic stability. As a result the South wanted a separation and the North was determined to keep the country unified.
Therefore, besides slavery as a main root cause of the conflict, there were other causes as economic differences and political events which led to the Civil War. The independence from England and adoption of Constitution in 1789 were great steps for development of the United States. At the end of 1700’s the industry began to grow and along with new technological achievements the United States experienced industrial revolution. This happened on the North. The southern states remained using archaic form of slave exploitation and plantation system.
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At the Constitutional Convention the South had to agree to three-fifths compromise, when 5 slaves counted as 3 free men toward representation in Congress. This was probably the only case when Southern representatives mentioned that even though slaves are property they were human beings. Such “a sacrifice” ensured legal protection of slavery in the Constitution. The South felt important to defend itself on the political arena in order to protect their economic status quo. In the beginning of 1800’s when movement to the West became massive there were two streams of colonization ??? northern and southern.
Despite the fact that both systems ??? slavery and free capitalism ??? existed within one country, the laws of northern states forbade slavery. Their interest in Congress differed as well. Each side tried to ensure that the Union consisted of equal quantity of states of both kinds. Missouri Compromise of 1820 showed that matter of slavery existence on new lands became a national problem. The territory to the West of Mississippi was divided by 36??30′ parallel where no slavery was allowed above it. Actually it was a victory for the South which was able to expand slavery boarders.
The society of the North sympathized to slaves. However, majority of population didn’t want to get involved with slaves’ abolition because it would be directed at personal property of plantation slave owners. Sometimes slaves rebelled (the biggest rebellion happened in 1831) but more often they escaped through the northern states to Canada. Abolitionists organized the Underground Railroad to help slaves on their way to freedom. In 1833 the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded. A big part of the abolitionist movement was media: William L. Garrison began to publish “The Liberator” and Harriet B.
Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” which was spread around the world. The Compromise of 1850 was sought as a final solution to the question of slavery. California was admitted as a free state, New Mexico and Utah had a right to decide for themselves the status of slavery. Another contradiction of interests happened in 1854 with the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Both states were located to the north of 36??30′ but yet could allow slavery if so would be voted by electorate. This act literally nullified both Compromises of 1820 and 1850 and, therefore, became a cause of splitting the nation.
Many people from the North and South were drawn to Kansan to submit their votes. At one of the election posts it was counted that only 20 of 600 voters were residents. The struggle in Kansas became a violent precipitating event towards the war. The South was sure to be the main economical center of the country and the 5th largest economy in the world. They exported the most part of crops: by 1860 cotton export comprised 57% of all US export and the production of corn, tobacco and rice was very significant. Another important aspect to economic situation of the South was internal slave trade.
After 1808 when slave import was prohibited (though still about 250,000 slaves were imported illegally) the South became the main source of slaves supply. The level of imported goods in the South was great at that time to support all needs of rich plantation slave owners. This export-import trade was the source from which South derived its wealth. The economic power of the South blossomed. As the slave population grew (by 1860 there were about 4 million slaves) the political presence of the South grew as well based three-fifths representation. Thank to slavery the South became a very strong, powerful structure.
At the same time the South believed that the North had been pulling their capitals using different kind of tariffs or law / legal obligations. Therefore, the Tariff of Abomination (1828) which taxed import goods was extremely painful. Actually the proposal for this Tariff was made by southerners in Congress to turn southern population against the North in order to support the election of Andrew Jackson who supposed to be on southern side. In 1832 South Carolina resisted the collection of Federal tariff but had to agree because the President at that time Andrew Jackson threatened to send troops and push the collection.
In 1850 there was another attempt of the southern states to secede and again, then another President, Zachary Taylor, threatened to send the army. The goal of the South was to establish the US as a slaveholding country. They wanted the Congress to have no right to allow or forbid slavery in any state of the US. This could be done only through the Supreme Court. In 1857 the Supreme Court used Dred Scott’s case to announce that any law which forbids slavery was not a constitutional one. Simultaneously the fight between supporters and detractors of slave abolition was going on.
The migration stream from Missouri and other southern states encountered with more powerful stream of farmers from free states. The last ones were able to win in battle fields as well during election of 1860. By that time the Republican Party was growing. It united everybody who was dissatisfied with the policy of the South that was preventing a radical land solution in favor to great amount of farmers. Abraham Lincoln was a leader of the Republican Party who became The President of US in 1861. After his election South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas seceded.
Later three more states followed: Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Status of the states, 1861. — States that seceded before April 15, 1861 — States that seceded after April 15, 1861 — Union states that permitted slavery — Union states that banned slavery — Territories The war was inevitable, but the South was the one to start it. The election victory of A. Lincoln in 1860 meant the loss of political power and became a reason of arbitrary separation of the South from the US. The idea of united country was the main concern of A. Lincoln. The abolition of slavery in the southern states was not important to him.
If he could keep the country together without abolition he would do so. In his famous speech in 1858 Abraham Lincoln said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. Therefore, the abolition became a goal of the war only by the end of 1862 when Lincoln understood that the South would not give up. He announced the Emancipation Proclamation beginning January 1, 1963 and freed slaves in southern states. This act helped the North to win the Civil War because European opinion has changed and the South did not get any support from Europe afterwards.