Causes of the U.S. Civil War

The Civil War as a main and crucial event in the U.S. history started in 1861 and ended four years later. It determined in what nation the Americans wanted to live. The war could resolve two basic questions that revolution did not manage. It was necessary to decide whether America should be an indivisible country with a sovereign government or a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states. Should the USA continue its existence as the largest slaveholding nation in the entire world having declaration of equal human rights to liberty?

The war occurred because of the irritable slavery issue, in particular, the extension of slavery into the Western states. Foreign authorities did not interfere in a war. Four years of bloody battle led to the destroyed infrastructure of South and almost six hundred thousand dead soldiers. The Confederacy collapsed, and slavery was abolished. The exhausting Reconstruction process of ensuring rights to freed slaves and recovering national unity started. Slave and free states could not find a compromise over the power of national authorities to ban slavery in the territories that have not been established as states (Blight, 2009).

Being the first republican who won the election in 1860, Abraham Lincoln promised to abolish slavery. Seven South slave states separated and formed the Confederate States of America as a new nation. The majority of the Northern representatives and Lincoln’s administration rejected the legality of secession. They believed that it would divide the United States into enemy and small states.

I consider the social and economic differences between the South and North one of the causes that led to the war. With the cotton gin invention in 1793, cotton became very beneficial and profitable. The machines could reduce time to separate seeds from the cotton. However, the record increase of plantations willing to work with cotton indicated a substantial demand for a considerable amount of slaves as a cheap labor. Therefore, the southern economy was considered a crop economy depending on both slavery and cotton crop. From one side, there was the northern economy that possessed an extensive plantation system. The changes of the North indicated that society developed and progressed, and humans of various classes and cultures have to come and work together. From the other side, there was the South that continued holding the obsolete social order.

The other cause of the war that I consider an essential one is the states opposition to the federal rights. Two camps emerged since the Revolutionary Era. One camp argued for the substantial states rights while the other one argued about more control that the federal government required. The Confederation Articles were a basis of America’s first organized government. Weaknesses of these Articles led to the creation of the U.S. Constitution in a secret way. The majority considered that this new constitution disregarded the rights of states to act and live independently. They claimed that the states should have a right to decide if they were ready to accept enacted federal laws and acts. This led to the idea of nullification that supposed the following: the states had a right to ignore the federal laws if they disagreed with them. When the federal government rejected this’ right, Americans felt no respect and moved toward secession.

Another cause of the American Civil War was the fight between the non-slave and slave state supporters. As the U.S. began its expansion with the lands conquered from the Mexican War and the land deal, the Louisiana Purchase, there was a question of whether states admitted to the union would be free or slave. During the Mexican War, there were controversies over the new territories that America expected to conquer (McPherson, 1988). The Compromise of 1850 supposed to manage the balance between the southern and northern territories, free and slave states. The Kansas-Nebraska Act enacted in 1854 increased tension. It established two new territories and allowed the states to use sovereignty and define whether they would be slave or free. In Kansas, the pro-slavery Missourians advocated for being a slaveholding state.

Cruelty and frequency marked the Civil War. In the global military history, a record number of wounded and dead people characterized both fighting sides. As a central event in history, the U.S. Civil War proved to be one of the fiercest wars ever fought.


Blight, D. W. (2009). Race and reunion: The civil war in American memory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

McPherson, J. M. (1988). Battle cry of freedom: The civil war era. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press.