Causes of the Civil War
The American Civil war is by all means one of the most controversial, less understood and excessively unique wars in the history of America due to a number of reasons that range from it being the most destructive wars as well as being the only war in the history of America that was fought entirely on the American soil. Several years have passed ever since this unique war came to an end, but there has always been a hot debate over its most on-point cause. Glatthaar and Gary note that there is no war in the history of America that has ever been fought with remarkably poorly trained soldiers like the civil war.1 Often times referred to the “War Between the States”, the Civil war began in 1861 and lasted for four years bringing to an end the widespread slavery.2
One of the leading causes of the civil war was the socio-economic difference between the North and South. As Segal, Gerdes, and Steiner acknowledge, by the 1860s, the social and economic differences between the North and the South led the United States into the Civil War.3 During the period in which the America civil war occurred, slavery was the moral issue that divided most politicians even though the citizens of Americans were somewhat not interested in the issue of slavery. Notably, the economy of Southern part of America was overly reliant on farming (for instance cotton and tobacco) whose primary source of labor was slavery while the Northern part was “industrialized”.4 In what can be perceived as a move to safeguard their economy, southern leaders were by all means determined to ensure that slavery was not abolished as that would mean that the slaves who provided labor to the cotton firms were to be remunerated on similar terms as the whites; this, according to the leaders, could only lead to an imbalance in the socio-economic system in the South. However, leaders of the northern parts of America were negatively opinionative about the issue of slavery and virtually all of them would go public about their lack of support for slavery leading to their constant discernment as the abolitionists.
In the same light, during 1860s, the U.S. constitution had not yet been ratified and there was an eminent controversy over the supremacy of the national government and the rights of the individual states. The slavery issue was far from ending, and the disagreement between the industrialized North and the Agricultural South soon led to a conflict between the two divisions on grounds of the sovereignty of the of state rights and the federal nationalism in what is currently term as the states vs. federal rights issue.5 Before 1861, the American system of dual federalism permitted the states to have some extent of control over matters pertaining to social and economic relations leading to disagreements between the states especially on how each state was supposed to manage its economy and social issues.6 This controversy was compounded further by the fact that America was a richly cultured country. Admittedly, this was not the first time that the states vs. federal rights issue was being witnessed in America. The Nullification Crisis is an exemplar crisis that arose as a result of the varied positions that the various states, majorly divided on North and South basis, upheld regarding “who was to make vital decisions for the states”. 7 The crisis, as asserted by Pugh, arose when the state of Carolina claimed that it that the power of nullifying the federal laws that it disliked prompting the federal government to respond with a military threat. The law in question was a law that was purported to be benefiting the Northern states more than the Southern states.8
Again, during the 1800s, America was keen on expansion and was rapidly expanding using purchases and gained land from wars. The Louisiana Purchase as well as the inclusion of land gained from the Mexican war, as pinpointed by Adeuyan, presented yet another controversy on whether the newly acquired states admitted into the union were to be slave free or not.9 To settle this matter, the Missouri Compromise passed in 1820 was used which made a landmark ruling that states from the former Louisiana Purchase to latitude 36 degrees and 30 minutes north except Missouri were to be slave free.10 Even so, there was an obvious imbalance between the pro-slave states and states that were against slavery. In 1850, Henry Clay formulated another Compromise to get rid of this imbalance. As Adeuyan asseverates, one of the key facets of Henry’s Compromise was the Fugitive Slave Act that dictated that all slaves who sought to run away to be returned to their lords upon being captured.11 This further increased tension between the slaves and nonslave proponent stated hence heightening the chances of the occurrence of the civil war. Furthermore, the 1850 Compromise maintained that the freedom of slaves could be determined through the use of popular sovereignty and in response several states began to form networks in a bid to influence other states on matters pertaining to slavery.12 For instance, Missouri other states entered Kansas in an endeavor to force the state into being a pro-slavery state.13 It warrants, therefore, that the stance on slavery as maintained by the state in the U.S. was also another cause of the Civil War. The epic of the tension arrived when slavery was finally abolished in America and was further heightened with the election of Abraham Lincoln as the U.S. president in 1860; Lincoln was widely known as an antislavery hence most pro-slavery stated were openly opposed to his presidency.14
Concisely, it can be noted that there were five principal causes of the civil war; the socio-economic difference between the North and the South, controversy because of the states vs. federal rights issue, controversy between the states the stood against slavery and pro-slavery states, the abolishment of slavery as well as the election of Abraham Lincoln to presidency.
Adeuyan, Jacob Oluwatayo. Return of the Tidal Flow of the Middle Passage. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2011.
Bardes, Barbara A., Steffen W. Schmidt, and Mack C. Shelley. American Government and Politics Today: The Essentials, 2011-2012. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2012.
Glatthaar, Joseph T., and Gary W. Gallagher. The American Civil War. Oxford: Osprey Military, 2001
Mooney, Christopher Z., Todd Donovan, and Daniel A. Smith. State and Local Politics: Institutions and Reform. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth, 2010.
Pugh, Shannon M. TAKS Texas High School Social Studies Exit Exam. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 2007.
Segal, Elizabeth A., Karen E. Gerdes, and Sue Steiner. An Introduction to the Profession of Social Work: Becoming a Change Agent. Belmont, Calif: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning, 2010.