The Events that Led to Civil War
There were series of events that contributed to the civil war in America. Much of it was due to differences between the northern and the southern America. They disagreed on issues pertaining freedom and slavery. They had differences in economic activities. The northern America was industrialized, while Southern America specialized mostly in plantation, especially in cotton, which was grown on a large scale. The other pertinent issue that brought differences was the operations of states and the federal government. Population composition played a major role in triggering the civil war. The States, which popularized slavery, received criticism from those that were against it. There were differences between the white population and the African Americans, as well as the advocates of equality rights.
There were states with variety in population composition, where economic or social differences had little impact on the interaction of people. Acts and legislation that were passed did not favor the whole population (Stampp 25). The disagreements acted to widen the gap between the American people. These factors led to the Civil War of April 1861, which lasted for more than four years (Morrison 92).
Civil War resulted from differences in economic and social status between the northern and the southern states. Slavery was an important determinant in the economic operations of the southern states. The main economic activity of southern states was mainly growing cotton plantations. This was mainly encouraged by introduction of cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 (Morrison 114). This event improved the quality of cotton by separating the seeds from cotton. Much labor force was needed, which was provided by the slaves of African-American origin. Thus, the southern states depended much on slavery.
Northern states’ economy, on the other hand, was mainly based on industries. About eighty five percent of North America was industrialized, thus accommodating people from different social classes and cultures. Due to industrialization in the North, part of American cotton from the south was purchased and processed to finished products. Differences between the northern and the southern states grew due to their different perception of slavery. The southern states supported slavery, while the Northern part was against the practice.
There were differences in opinions on whether the new parts, which proponents incorporated to the union, would be free or enslaved states. America expanded its territory after gaining land from Louisiana Purchase and conquering New Mexico (Guelzo 80). New states would be incorporated as either free or slave states. This was a major cause of disagreement among the leaders. In 1820, Missouri Compromise was also passed. It ruled that from the former Louisiana Purchase latitude 36 degrees north, slavery was prohibited except for Missouri. What would happen on the new territories after America won the war against Mexico? In 1846, David Wilmot suggested a legislation which would ban slavery in the newly gained territories. The proposed rule was known as Wilmot Proviso (Morrison 98). Nevertheless, this did not help to explain the fate of new territories; instead, it heightened animosity among the states.
The Compromise by Henry Clay in 1850 mainly focused on equilibrium between free and slave states in consideration to northern and southern states interests. The provisions included the Fugitive Slave Act of 1860, which stated that all slaves, who had escaped, must to be recaptured and be held captives to their masters. What is more significant, the impending war required that the citizens were to facilitate those who were capturing slaves. The law stated that any official who failed to capture and arrest a runaway slave would be liable to pay a fine of $1,000.
Law enforcing agency around the United States was tasked to arrest any suspect who was a fugitive slave. It also stated that suspected slaves were not in a capacity to testify on their behalf or ask for a jury trial. If a native was found providing food or shelter to a runaway slave, he/she was liable to a fine of $1,000 (Morrison 103). The shift in balance made California a free state angered most of the proslavery.
Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 acted as a catalyst of war. It provisioned states on basis of popular sovereignty to dictate their position if they will be free or slave state. The impact of this law was first felt in Kansas. The proslavery Missourians urged for its existence as a slave state. They named themselves “Border Ruffians.” As a result, there was an eruption of violence in Lawrence Kansas. It occurred on May 21, 1856 and was motivated by the establishment of the union slavery (Morrison, 195). This war did not only affect the civilians but also the senators. For example, Charles Sumner, who was an antislavery activist, was hit on his head by Preston Brooks, the South Carolina’s senator. Kansas was bleeding as a result of the war (Morrison 223).
Most people, especially from the northern part of America, rose against slavery. This was backed up by publication of articles and books against slavery. Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which was based on variety of slave sagas, first appeared as a book in 1852. He sold more than three hundred thousand copies that year. The book was categorical on slavery and its effects on lives of the victims (Guelzo 120). This book was not only sold locally but in the whole world as well, giving reflection of the effects of slavery. Among other published books, this one encouraged people to rise against slavery and slaveholders. This was a springboard, which sparked off the civil war.
On the onset of revolution, there was an emergence of two camps. One group was in favor of the idea that states should have great power. The other group held the view that federal government should be given ultimate power. After the American Revolution, the first government was created under the Articles of Confederation. Out of all American states, thirteen states were under loose confederation with ineffective federal government. This made calling meetings a problem, since it was difficult for leaders to come together because of the lack of organization and clear structures. The Constitution Convention, which held a sitting without presence of majority of its members secretly, created the United States Constitution (Guelzo 102).
Those who were championing the greater powers for the states were absent at this meeting. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, just to name a few, were not present. Majority of the people supported the idea that constitution disrespected rights of states. The states continued to act independently. Those who were in favor of the opinion that states should have more power disagreed with the other group, which was supported the idea of federal government to have more power. It made room for nullification of the federal government’s possibility to act against the constitution for defiance of states’ rights (Stampp 192). When the states realized that nullification would not work, the other choice was for the states to secede (Delia 58).
In 1857, the Lecompton Constitution, which advocated for proslavery was passed. It was the second legislation of the state of Kansas. It was the response to Antislavery Topeka Constitution of 1855. The Constitution protected slavery and slaveholders’ rights. When both Lecompton and Topeka Constitutions were presented to the congress, they were not accepted. This angered the Kansas state, since it was seen as the rejection of their demand.
In June 16, 1858 Abraham Lincoln, when accepting Senate Republican nomination, said that a house, which was not united, was at the verge of falling. This actually meant that the country could not remain divided on grounds of free and slave trade. In his speech at cooper union in New York in 1861, Lincoln was categorical in his stand as for slavery. He did not wish slavery to take its root to the territories (Delia 83). The purpose of his speech was to solidify a predilection for his person as the preferred republican candidate among voters. Six months later Abraham Lincoln was elected as the16th president of the United States of America and the first republican president that was elected.
Even before Abraham Lincoln became the president, the union suffered a blow. Seven states seceded from the union. His winning election was perceived as an economic threat to the southern economy. South Carolina declared its causes to secede from the union. It claimed that Lincoln was serving the interest of the northern part, and that he was in favor of antislavery policy. Apart from South Carolina, other states that seceded from the union included Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia. The south depended on slaves as a cheap labor force. These states formed Constitution of Confederacy State and Jefferson Davis from Mississippi was inaugurated as the president in February (Stampp 153). This was even before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the president. The confederate states captured St. Sumter controlling Charleston port. This made Abraham Lincoln call for volunteers to suppress the insurrection.
The election was the height of the differences between the northern and southern states and also the beginning of the Civil War in America. The drift widened when Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas states refused to join the Confederacy states adding them up to eleven states with a population of about nine million people. Out of the whole number, one third was slaves. On the other hand, the union comprised twenty three states with a population of approximately twenty two million people.
In conclusion, different events took place prior to the Civil War that took place from 1861 to 1865, most of which were related to slavery. Some of the events included the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin book, the Compromise Act, and the Louisiana Act among others. It is worth noting that most of them were related to the contentious issue – slavery. Before the Civil War, slaves ran the economy of America. They provided cheap labor force because they were not entitled to wages. The slaves’ masters forced their serfs to do the hardest work. On the other hand, their reward was not proportional to the work they did. Moreover, they were working under poor conditions, accompanied by mistreatment by their masters. This made a number of Americans join anti-slavery movement, including President Abraham Lincoln as well.
Delia Ray. A Nation Torn; A Story of how Civil War Began. New York: Penguin Books Inc., 1990. Print.
Guelzo C. Allen. Lincoln’s Emancipation: the End of Slavery in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Print.
Morrison Michael. Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War. Raleigh, N.C: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. Print.
Stampp Kenneth. The Causes of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959. Print.