Everyone knows that the American Civil War is a pivotal point in United States history. When deciding which US History course to take in college, is it not always a Before or After 1865 option? The years between 1861-1865, while representing a great fight for humanity and equality for all, are looked upon as a negative time for our great nation. The Civil War was gruesome and took more American lives than any other war we fought in. No one had anticipated the length of time and heavy bloodshed that would occur as a result of the South’s secession. While there is too much history to cover in just one entry, this entry is intended to fill you with the knowledge to comprehend the reason for war.
There is a lot that would lead to “a house divided”, as Abraham Lincoln put it, but without a doubt, the leading factor was slavery. Since America rallied together, signed The Declaration of Independence, and fought a war for our freedom, one would assume that as a nation we would remember the significance and the meaning behind these actions; sadly, no. What a mockery–that a country, whose founding document, The Declaration of Independence, fought for injustices such as this and claimed that “all men are created equal”, continued the barbaric tradition of slavery. There were many who felt that slavery was wrong, and slowly but surely America put a stop to it. The first step to discouraging slavery was the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, which was passed in 1808. This law no longer permitted slave trade, but slavery was still legal. As time went, the Northern states outlawed slavery and their internal moral alarm started to wail. In 1860, the United States completed its eighth census and determined that 1 in 8 people living in America were slaves, which boils down to a slave population of roughly 4 million.
The ‘last straw’, if you will, that led to the Civil War was the Dred Scott court case. This Supreme Court case, usually refered to as the Dred Scott Decision, determined that not only did Dred Scott not have any rights to claim freedom or citizenship (since he was an African American), but that he was by law property at his former residence and by crossing into a state where slavery was illegal did not negate the fact that he was owned property. This enraged the North that the Supreme Court would allow slavery to continue in their states, and while the South was pleased with the verdict, it proved that the U.S. Supreme court could control the Southern States and overthrow their State’s Rights. (Oddly enough, through a chain of events, Dred Scott and his wife received their freedom three months later!)
No one will argue that the Civil War was not almost entirely based on slavery, but it is important to realize that hundreds of thousands of people did not die just for that.
Economics: The North was dipping into the industrial revolution, they did not feel the urgency of free labor cutting into profits. The South’s entire economy focused on agriculture growth, such as tobacco and cotton, and someone had to pick that cotton.
Fear: Slave owners were afraid of ex-slave revolts. Once all these men were freed, what kept them from seeking revenge?
State’s Rights: Each state has its own rights. The North’s ideologies, such as the Dred Scott Decision–especially if the Dred Scott Decision had gone the other way–would remove rights that the states were guaranteed.
Tariffs: The Northern states directly affected the tariff laws and taxes that were a burden more to the South than the North.
With the election of Abraham Lincoln (who made public his opinions against slavery) to President of the United States, the South saw their very way of life flashing before their eyes. From here it would be only a short time before the Southern states seceded.
Hang around, the establishment of the Confederate States of America will be next! Feel free to √Follow me for updates!