What were the main causes for the start of the American Civil War?
- MyeLv 41 decade agoFavorite Answer
The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a sectional conflict in the United States of America between the federal government (the "Union") and 11 Southern slave states that declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America, led by President Jefferson Davis. The Union, led by President Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party, which opposed expansion of slavery, rejected any right of secession. Fighting began April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces attacked a Federal fort at the Battle of Fort Sumter.
Causes of the War
1. Slavery and antislavery
The root problem was the institution of slavery, which had been introduced into colonial North America in 1619. The Compromise of 1850 included a new, stronger fugitive slave law that required federal agents to capture and return slaves that escaped into northern free states. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 overthrew the Compromise of 1820 and led to the new antislavery Republican Party. The Compromise of 1820, which had been confirmed in 1850, had outlawed slavery so far in the territories north and west of Missouri.
The Supreme Court decision of 1857 in Dred Scott v. Sandford added to the controversy. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney's decision said that slaves "have no rights which any white man is bound to respect", and that slaves could be taken to free states and territories. Lincoln warned that "the next Dred Scott decision" could threaten northern states with slavery.
Since fewer than 800 of the almost 4 million slaves escaped in 1860, the fugitive slave controversy was not a practical reason for secession. The number that escaped was offset by Northern blacks who were kidnapped as slaves. And secession only did away with enforcement of the fugitive slave law altogether. Kansas had only two slaves in 1860 because the territories had the wrong soil and climate for labor-intensive forms of agriculture. Allan Nevins summarizes this argument by concluding that "Both sides were equally guilty of hysteria."
There was a strong correlation between the number of plantations in a region and the degree of support for secession. The states of the deep south had the greatest concentration of plantations and were the first to secede. The upper South slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee had fewer plantations and rejected secession until the Fort Sumter crisis forced them to choose sides. Border states had fewer plantations still and never seceded.
2. Rejection of compromise
Until December 20 of 1860 the political system had always successfully handled inter-regional crises. All but one crisis involved slavery, starting with debates on the three-fifths clause in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Congress had solved the crisis over the admission of Missouri as a slave state in 1819-21, the controversy over South Carolina's nullification of the tariff in 1832, the acquisition of Texas in 1845, and the status of slavery in the territory acquired from Mexico in 1850.
However, in 1854, the old Second Party System broke down after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Whig Party disappeared, and the new Republican Party arose in its place. It was the nation's first major party with only sectional appeal and a commitment to stop the expansion of slavery.
One Republican leader, Senator Charles Sumner, was violently attacked and nearly killed at his desk in the Senate by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina. Brooks attacked Sumner with a gold knobbed gutta-percha cane, which his Southern admirers replaced with similar canes with inscriptions like "Hit him again."
Open warfare in Kansas Territory, the Dred Scott decision of 1857, John Brown's raid in 1859 and the split in the Democratic Party in 1860 polarized the nation between North and South. The election of Lincoln in 1860 was the final trigger for secession. During the secession crisis, many sought compromise—of these attempts, the best known was the "Crittenden Compromise"—but all failed.
A deeper reason for the rejection of compromise was the fear that conspiracies threatened to destroy the republic. By the 1850s, two loomed most threatening: the South feared the supposedly abolitionist Republican Party (the "Black Republicans"); Republicans in the North feared what they called the Slave Power.
The Second Great Awakening of the 1820s and 1830s in religion inspired reform movements, one of the most notable of which was the abolitionists; these were later supported by Transcendentalism. Unfortunately, "abolitionist" had several meanings at the time, and still retains some ambiguity. The followers of William Lloyd Garrison, like Wendell Phillips, or Frederick Douglass demanded the "immediate abolition of slavery", hence the name. Others, like Theodore Weld and Arthur Tappan wanted immediate action, but that action might well be a program of gradual emancipation, with a long intermediate stage. "Antislavery men", like John Quincy Adams, did what they could to limit slavery and end it where possible. In the last years before the war, "antislavery" could mean the Northern majority, like Abraham Lincoln, who opposed expansion of slavery or its influence, as by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, or the Fugitive Slave Act. Many Southerners called all these abolitionists, without distinguishing them from the Garrisonians. James McPherson explains the abolitionists' deep beliefs: "All people were equal in God's sight; the souls of black folks were as valuable as those of whites; for one of God's children to enslave another was a violation of the Higher Law, even if it was sanctioned by the Constitution."
Slaveowners were angry over the attacks on their "peculiar institution" of slavery. Starting in the 1830s, there was a vehement and growing ideological defense of slavery. Slaveowners claimed that slavery was a positive good for masters and slaves alike, and that it was explicitly sanctioned by God. Biblical arguments were made in defense of slavery by religious leaders such as the Rev. Fred A. Ross and political leaders such as Jefferson Davis.
Beginning in the 1830s, the Postmaster General refused to allow the mails to carry abolition pamphlets to the South. Northern teachers suspected of any tinge of abolitionism were expelled from the South, and abolitionist literature was banned. Southerners rejected the denials of Republicans that they were abolitionists, and pointed to John Brown's attempt in 1859 to start a slave uprising as proof that multiple Northern conspiracies were afoot to ignite bloody slave rebellions. Although some abolitionists did call for slave revolts, no evidence of any actual Brown-like conspiracy has been discovered. The North felt threatened as well, for as Eric Foner concludes, "Northerners came to view slavery as the very antithesis of the good society, as well as a threat to their own fundamental values and interests".
4. Uncle Tom's Cabin
The most famous antislavery novel was Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Inspired by the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 which made the escape narrative part of everyday news, Stowe emphasized the horrors that abolitionists had long claimed about slavery. Her depiction of the evil slaveowner Simon Legree, a transplanted Yankee who kills the Christ-like Uncle Tom, outraged slaveowners. Stowe made Simon Legree a transplanted Yankee to show that she was attacking not the southern people but slavery as an institution. She published a Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin to prove that, even though the book was fiction, many events in the book were based on fact. According to Stowe's son, when President Lincoln met her in 1862, he commented, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!"
5. John Brown
John Brown has been called "the most controversial of all nineteenth-century Americans." His attempt to start a slave rebellion in 1859 electrified the nation. Uniquely among the Garrisonians, he resorted to violence. Most historians depict Brown as a bloodthirsty zealot and madman who briefly stepped into history but did little to influence it. Some scholars, however, glorify Brown, giving him credit for starting the Civil War and arguing "it is misleading to identify Brown with modern terrorists."
John Brown started his fight against slavery in Kansas. Border Ruffians used bowie knives and vote fraud to establish a pro-slavery government at Lecompton. There was Border Ruffian violence in Lawrence, Kansas. And Border Ruffians kidnapped and killed six Free-State men. So Brown and his band killed five pro-slavery people at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas.
His famous raid in October, 1859, involved a band of 22 men who seized the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, knowing it contained tens of thousands of weapons. Brown, like his Boston supporters, believed that the South was on the verge of a gigantic slave uprising and that one spark would set it off. Brown's raid, says historian David Potter, "was meant to be of vast magnitude and to produce a revolutionary slave uprising throughout the South." The raid was a fiasco. Not a single slave revolted. Instead, Brown was quickly captured, tried for treason (against the state of Virginia) and hanged. At his trial, Brown exuded a remarkable strength of character that impressed Southerners, even as they feared he might be right about an impending slave revolt. Shortly before his execution, Brown prophesied, "the crimes of this guilty land : will never be purged away; but with Blood."
6. Arguments for and against slavery
William Lloyd Garrison, the leading abolitionist, was motivated by a belief in the growth of democracy. Because the Constitution had a three-fifths clause, a fugitive slave clause and a 20-year extension of the Atlantic slave trade, Garrison once publicly burned a copy of the U. S. Constitution and called it "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell."
In 1854 he said:
I am a believer in that portion of the Declaration of American Independence in which it is set forth, as among self-evident truths, "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Hence, I am an abolitionist. Hence, I cannot but regard oppression in every form—and most of all, that which turns a man into a thing—with indignation and abhorrence.
Wendell Phillips, one of the most ardent abolitionists, attacked the Slave Power and presaged disunion as early as 1845:
The experience of the fifty years… shows us the slaves trebling in numbers—slaveholders monopolizing the offices and dictating the policy of the Government—prostituting the strength and influence of the Nation to the support of slavery here and elsewhere—trampling on the rights of the free States, and making the courts of the country their tools. To continue this disastrous alliance longer is madness.… Why prolong the experiment?
Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that the cornerstone of the South was "That the ***** is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition."
Jefferson Davis said slavery "…was established by decree of Almighty God… it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation… it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts."
Robert E. Lee said, "There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil."
7. State Rights
The "States' Rights" debate cut across the issues. Southerners argued that the federal government was strictly limited and could not abridge the rights of states as reserved in Amendment X, and so had no power to prevent slaves from being carried into new territories. States' rights advocates also cited the fugitive slave clause in the Constitution to demand federal jurisdiction over slaves who escaped into the North. Anti-slavery forces took reversed stances on these issues.
Jefferson Davis said that a "disparaging discrimination" and a fight for "liberty" against "the tyranny of an unbridled majority" gave the Confederate states a right to secede.
South Carolina's "Declaration of the Immediate Causes for Secession" started with an argument for states' rights for slaveowners in the South, followed by a complaint about states' rights in the North (such as granting blacks citizenship, or hampering the extradition of slaves), claiming that Northern states were not fulfilling their federal obligations.
In 1860, Congressman Keitt of South Carolina said, "The anti-slavery party contend that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States."
The South defined equality in terms of the equal rights of states, and opposed the declaration that all men are created equal.
- Regional economic differences
The South, Midwest and Northeast had quite different economic structures. Charles Beard in the 1920s made a highly influential argument to the effect that these differences caused the war (rather than slavery or constitutional debates). He saw the industrial Northeast forming a coalition with the agrarian Midwest against the Plantation South. Critics pointed out that his image of a unified Northeast was incorrect because the region was highly diverse with many different competing economic interests. In 1860-61 most business interests in the Northeast opposed war. After 1950 only a few historians accepted the Beard interpretation, though it was picked up by libertarian economists. As Historian Kenneth Stampp -- who abandoned Beardianism after 1950, sums up the scholarly consensus:
"Most historians of the sectional conflict, whatever differences they may have on other matters, now see no compelling reason why the divergent economies of the North and South should have led to disunion and civil war; rather, they find stronger practical reasons why the sections, whose economies neatly complemented one another, should have found it advantageous to remain united. Beard oversimplified the controversies relating to federal economic policy, for neither section unanimously supported or opposed measures such as the protective tariff, appropriations for internal improvements, or the creation of a national banking system. Except for the nullification crisis of 1832-33, economic issues, though sometimes present, were not crucial in the various sectional confrontations. During the 1850s, federal economic policy gave no substantial cause for southern disaffection, for policy was largely determined by prosouthern Congresses and administrations. Finally, the characteristic posture of the conservative northeastern business community was far from antisouthern. Most merchants, bankers, and manufacturers were outspoken in their hostility to antislavery agitation and eager for sectional compromise in order to maintain their profitable business connections with the South. The conclusion seems inescapable that if economic differences, real though they were, had been all that troubled relations between North and South, there would be no substantial basis for the idea of an irrepressible conflict."
The regional economic differences of the North and South frequently appeared in the government's tariff policy. The debate centered around whether the tariff schedule should favor free trade and duties for revenue only, or protectionism to encourage factories for manufactured goods. As the northeastern economy industrialized protective tariffs became their favored economic policy—particularly in the iron mills of Pennsylvania, western Virginia (West Virginia) and New Jersey and the textile factories of New England. Most northern merchants, bankers and especially railroads wanted low tariffs.
Meanwhile, the South, in addition to much subsistence agriculture, depended upon large-scale production of export crops, primarily cotton and (to a lesser extent) tobacco, raised by slaves. The slaveowning plantation areas—which comprised only approximately ⅓ of the white population—were export-dependent and thus some leaders opposed protective tariffs, which threatened to provoke foreign retaliation and reduce international trade with Great Britain. Cotton was in such heavy demand that Britain and France had no choice but to buy southern cotton. Cotton fed industrial production and profits everywhere it was sent, to Europe or the northeastern United States. James M. McPherson suggests that what South Carolina nullifiers really feared was not so much high tariffs but centralization of Federal government power, which might eventually threaten slavery itself.
- Free labor vs. pro-slavery arguments
Historian Eric Foner (1970) has argued that a free-labor ideology dominated thinking in the North, which emphasized economic opportunity. By contrast, Southerners described free labor as "greasy mechanics, filthy operators, small-fisted farmers, and moonstruck theorists." They argued that only a slave-owning society allowed the leisure for education and cultural refinement. They depicted slavery as a positive good for the slaves themselves, especially the Christianizing that had rescued them from the paganism of Africa.
9. Slavery in the territories
The specific political crisis that led to secession stemmed from a dispute over the expansion of slavery into new territories. The Republicans, while maintaining that Congress had no power over slavery in the states, asserted that it did have power to ban slavery in the territories. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 maintained the balance of power in Congress by adding Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. It prohibited slavery in the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase Territory north of 36°30'N lat. (the southern boundary of Missouri). The acquisition of vast new lands after the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), however, reopened the debate—now focused on the proposed Wilmot Proviso, which would have banned slavery in territories annexed from Mexico. Though it never passed, the Wilmot Proviso aroused angry debate. Northerners argued that slavery would provide unfair competition for free migrants to the territories; slaveholders claimed Congress had no right to discriminate against them by preventing them from bringing their legal property there. The dispute led to open warfare in the Kansas Territory after it was organized by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This act repealed the prohibition on slavery there under the Missouri Compromise, and put the fate of slavery in the hands of the territory's settlers, a process known as "popular sovereignty". Fighting erupted between proslavery "border ruffians" from neighboring Missouri and antislavery immigrants from the North (including John Brown, among other abolitionists). Tensions between North and South now were violent.
10. Southern fears of modernization
In a broader sense, the North was rapidly modernizing in a manner deeply threatening to the South, for the North was not only becoming more economically powerful; it was developing new modernizing, urban values while the South was clinging more and more to the old rural traditional values of the Jeffersonian yeoman.
11. Southern fears of Republican control
Southern secession was triggered by the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln because regional leaders feared that he would make good on his promise to stop the expansion of slavery and would thus put it on a course toward extinction. Many Southerners thought that even if Lincoln did not abolish slavery, sooner or later another Northerner would do so, and that it was thus time to quit the Union. The slave states, which had already become a minority in the House of Representatives, were now facing a future as a perpetual minority in the Senate and Electoral College against an increasingly powerful North.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Slavery wasn't the cause of the Civil War. The southern states wanted more freedom from the federal government. Just like now, the federal government tries to impose itself in our daily lives which technically goes against the Constitution. Another cause was the industrial northern states charging high prices for manufactured goods while paying southern agricultural states very little for farm goods. This caused a shift of money to the North while keeping the South impoverished.
- beardsLv 44 years ago
That sounds like an exceedingly ordinary question yet once you initiate interpreting it the info get very complicated. finished disclosure.......i'm a Southern united states of america Boy through and through. regrettably people attempt to discover ordinary expansions to complicated issues. Volumes upon volumes were written about the Civil warfare and its motives and that query nonetheless has no longer been obviously replied and area and time does no longer enable an intensive communicate right here. yet i will attempt. people contained in the North had a number of chance to get rid of slavery going back to the assertion of Independence era. for virtually 100 years they time-honored it. So if it develop into completely about slavery why wait hundred years and why wrestle a warfare for some thing that they obviously had the skill to get rid of through regulation. So some thing else might want to were on the middle and that some thing develop into Abe Lincoln's determination to maintain the Union. contained in the South ninety% of the Southerners did not personal slaves. Having no possession of slaves maximum Southerners who extremely fought the Civil warfare had no activity contained in the Slavery Questions. in the journey that that they had no activity contained in the Slavery question why did they wrestle valiantly? They fought valiantly because as one Soldier stated "you all are right here". i do not think that query will ever be satisfactorily replied yet I do discover The Civil warfare in touch and can want to communicate about it better than we've time or area right here.
- 1 decade ago
There was also the Economic reasons for the war. The South wanted to open it's ports to trade at a lower incoming goods tax then what was being charged by the northern states. If this had happened, it would have shifted the economic center of this country south, and affectivly plunged the north in to a depression like state. In a nut shell.
- How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Gee, I seem like such an idiot and the rest of you people are just so damned erudite. Nevertheless, my humble answer would have to be:
"What were the main causes for the start of the American Civil War?"
- people shooting at one another.......
- Anonymous1 decade ago
well the discrimination of african-americans. The yanks believed that slavery was wrong and the southerners believed otherwise.
- 1 decade ago
stupidity. We brought them over here to exploit, then we tried to really suppress them. We also did that to the chinese. Africans did not try to come here, we brought them here against their will. I am caucasian, raised to be prejudiced, thank God I rose above that.
- 1 decade ago
americans are so possessive ...
they killed 4 million mayans to live there ...
after that ,,, they didn't find anyone to kill
so they started killing each others !