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Essay: Slavery – the Root Cause of the Civil War

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Not only do I feel that slavery is the root cause of the War, because without it there probably wouldn’t have been one, but there were many differences between the North and South when it came to ideals, economies, and just their ways of life in general. The North and South seemed to developed very differently since the birth of our country. The South remained, for the most part, an agrarian economy while the North became a little more industrialized as time passed. In these times, the average, or even most of Americans, looked at slavery as a “necessary evil” and for us to look back at the time period with our mindsets, we wouldn’t think the same way. We can’t take our modern day thoughts and judge them on the choices they’ve made. In Lincoln’s  second inaugural address in 1865, Lincoln said of slavery, “All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war”.

Slavery started to become more and more of an issue as time passed, and in that time the states were beginning to grow as well. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was created to maintain the balance of free states and slave states. This would only be a provisional solution when it comes to the growing slavery plight, it only lasted 25 years until a new compromise needed to be arisen.

In 1850, congress passed an act having optimistic faith in settling the slavery question by showing some flexibility and giving satisfaction to both the North and South. The Compromise of 1850 allowed slavery to continue but banned and prohibited slave trade in Washington D.C. The Compromise made California a free state as part of the Union (North) and also let other incoming states have the right to choose if their new territories would allow slavery or not. This compromise also included the fugitive slave law, which made northerns obligated to return the run away slaves to their owners. Not all northerners obeyed this law, and one of the most intriguing books of the time period based off of this law was the novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The North was gradually getting rid of slavery as the South was increasing the strength of their grip on it. The North was becoming more industrialized with factories, railroads, and the telegraph. There was a remarkable growth of immigrants in the North that were German, and also men from Ireland came because of their potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s. So the North was really not seeing the need for slaves anymore, which made them frown upon the Southern lifestyles.

The South’s cotton and other plantations needed slavery to reduce the encumbrance of the work load. It wasn’t until the invention of the cotton gin till slavery ceased just a little bit. Because even then, slavery was big in the South. The slaves weren’t just farmers, but they basically did absolutely everything for their owners. The Southern states really became accustomed to this lifestyle, and disagreed with the North for “not having the need for slaves”. This started to sow the sweater for the Civil War.

One major confusing problematic case that happened during this time was the Dred Scott Decision. This case resolved constitutional issues for the western territories to have slavery. Slaves were not citizens and as a result they weren’t capable of suing for freedom, which Dred was trying to do. He was trying to be free, and the Supreme Court denied his plea. They said how anyone with African blood could never be a citizen, but besides denying citizenship for the African people, it countermanded the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

This case contributed to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1859. Lincoln was very politically aggressive and was one of the major reasons why the North won the war.

When Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election as the Republican candidate, and our 16th president, the Southern fear started to grow. Which in turn made them retaliate and think ahead to far that their lifestyles would soon end and slavery would diminish. The succession started with South Carolina on December 20th,1860.

The Southern states feared the loss of slavery, its like they saw it coming. In 1860 and early 1861 a secession took place when the Southern Confederacy Formed. Lincoln’s message of anti-slavery made the Southerners feel that it was really soon till they were going to lose their slaves. Once they broke away, they elected Jefferson Davis as the president of the Confederacy.

The secession of the southern states, creating the Confederacy, was the prelude to the Civil War. The South’s capability to succeed was due to the weak central government at the time. Lincoln really couldn’t do anything about the fact of them leaving except give them a warning not to. He also couldn’t wage war against the states that weren’t rebelling, meaning he couldn’t take action against the states that weren’t fighting back. The states that were surrounding Washington D.C. were in that group, and it was very wise of Lincoln not to promote anything. At the end of the succession movement, the Confederacy was said to start the Civil War. It all started with the attack on Fort Sumter, which was a Union fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.

The Battle of Fort Sumter was the “starting point in the war” and it was all because Union troops were occupying the Fort and refused to vacate it. So the Confederates shot their cannons in opened fire, which made the Union surrender without a problem, but led to the beginning of the war.

The Civil War lasted from 1861 starting with Fort Sumter to 1865 ending with a Confederate surrender. The war was a very bloody and aggressive war, it had a lot of major battles including Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and the infamous invasion on Atlanta of Sherman’s March. Each of these battles took many lives, but these were not the only battles. There were skirmishes all over the country, and a record of 600,000 American lives were lost during the Civil War. It is the most American deaths because both sides were American. The soldiers were not very trained or educated, most were farmers or artisans of the age range of 18-30, even tho there were some children fighting. The lives of the soldiers were extremely difficult, especially because hygiene wasn’t a consideration and the medical advancement had not taken place. The soldiers needed many amputations from the new minié bullet, and the mixing of the battle tactics including: Napoleonic, modern, and the old fashioned “up close and personal”. The amputations were made from the spread of gangrene, a disease of rotting flesh, and this disease was strong until the use of bromine during medical procedures.

It was a long four years for the soldiers, and even after the war they lived some difficult lives due to their condition.

Finally, on April 9th 1865, the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in the town of Appomattox Court House in Virginia and the Civil War was over.

President Abraham Lincoln did not get to see the United States in action, considering he was assassinated at Fords Theatre five days later on April 14th 1865. He died the next morning April 15th 1865 around 7:22 a.m.

In conclusion, as you can see, the Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865 and was one of the bloodiest wars and had the most deaths in American history. The root cause of this war to me was definitely slavery, because the only reason they were fighting was because of the anti-slavery movement and the South fearing the lost of their society. The South did not want a change, so they fought for their rights or in their eyes, their independence. If it wasn’t for slavery, this war between the North and South would have never happened. I think its funny because the Founding Fathers of this country recognized slavery as morally wrong to begin with, as Thomas Jefferson said, that slavery was like “holding a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.”

Works Cited

  • ajhall, . N.p., n. d. 28 Apr 2013. <http://www.americancivilwarforum.com/slavery-the-root-cause-of-the-civil-war-187.html>.
  • N.p.. Web. 28 Apr 2013. <http://www.historynet.com/causes-of-the-civil-war>.
  • N.p.. Web. 30 Apr 2013.<http://library.thinkquest.org/J002421F/Civil%20War/causes.htm#>
  • Pierson, P.. N.p.. Web. 28 Apr 2013. <http://www.historynet.com/missouri-compromise>.
  • Stanton, L.. N.p.. Web. 28 Apr 2013. <http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-slavery>.
  • Wallace, G.. N.p.. Web. 28 Apr 2013. <http://www.historynet.com/dred-scott>

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