One hundred years prior to the Civil War, our country fought a Revolutionary War against Great Britain. With a common enemy, the colonies were brought together, resulting in the United States of America. However, we later found out that our country was divided between north and south and that these tensions only grew. With such disjointed ideas and opinions, our nation broke apart and was torn even more with the Civil War. The Civil War was caused by many things. At the time, there were so many opposing opinions that it’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s not. Lots of people think that the main cause of the Civil War was slavery, but at the time not all people wanted to end slavery.
Old ethics made it seem as if slavery and racism were okay. But it wasn’t and never will be. Today, we look back and see how slavery was a cause of the Civil War, but also that there were many other factors dividing our nation. Here are some.
Economic and social differences between the North and South
The North’s economy was focused on city life and industry, while the South’s economy focused on growing crops and cotton in the plantations. In order to do so, they needed slaves to do the cheap labor. Although the North wanted slavery to end, they were kind of trapped from doing so because they needed the cotton, which was produced by slaves.
Also, if the economy were to change, and slavery were to end, African Americans would be without jobs and homes, considering the North was already supporting immigrants and other whites with jobs and the South previously used them as slaves, not workers.
Back then, people were just beginning to see African Americans as people and citizens, rather than seeing them as cattle. It’s sickening to see that racism could run so long through their minds and lead them to treat people so differently just because their skin was a different color. Now, some people still can’t bear the idea that an African American is the president of the U.S. These traces of racism and hatred, while supposedly stopped by the Civil War, still run through so many veins and still lead people to believe that it’s okay to judge books by their covers. But that isn’t true, because look at how many people are totally different than you’d expected by looking at them. I just wish that more people would look more at who people are rather than what they are.
This was a law set up to regulate and equalize the amount of free and slave states. The Missouri Compromise was supposed to create boundary line of where slavery was allowed and where it wasn’t. In the beginning, there were 15 free and 15 slave states. Afterwards, California was admitted to the Union as a free state, which ruined the balance of free vs. slave states. This
Compromise was also declared unconstitutional during the Dred Scott Decision, because you couldn’t ban slavery from an area; slaves were property, and property rights were protected by the Constitution.
At the time, they hoped that keeping slavery only in the South would stop it from spreading, at that it would eventually stop on its own. Do you think that’s possible? Years ago, when our country was just starting its government, they decided that slaves could be imported for 100 more years.
African Americans had children, but their families were torn apart at slave auctions. No mat
ter what the government did about selling slaves couldn’t stopped, considering they would illegally trade slaves if they wanted to. The only way to stop slavery was to ban it everywhere in the United States and give African Americans human rights so they could at least defend themselves in court or anywhere else.
Slavery [Proslavery vs. Antislavery]
During this time, states would choose whether to be free or slave states. They would use the system of popular sovereignty by holding a vote where the citizens of the state would vote. At one point, the free and slave states were at equal amounts. Afterwards, California was admitted to the Union as a free state, ruining the balance in the House of Representatives.
Many people say that the Civil War was caused by slavery. I had always thought this to be true. After learning about this era of our country, I see that many things affected people, who were just learning about the cruelty of slavery, while the slaves were trying to find a way out themselves. Before the Civil War and all the commotion during that time, people weren’t even aware of how terrible slavery was. Today, we look back and see all the harm done, but aren’t quite sure how to stop our hatred entirely.
To look at it in a simpler way, slavery was bad. Terrible people were doing terrible things to innocent people. Onlookers began to see what a mess the whole idea was and decided, “Well, this can’t be right. I don’t want to be seen with people who could be so cruel.” Slaveholders went back and said, “If that’s how you feel then I’ll get rid of my slaves and you won’t have any more cotton in your mills up north.” So the arguments went on and on, while some people joined the abolitionist movement and others continued to support slavery. Just remember that there were other tensions tied into the slavery issue. It went on and on until it turned into total chaos: a country divided in two and determined to find out who was stronger and who was right, giving us the American Civil War.
To equalize the number of free and slave states, Missouri citizens went to Kansas and manipulated the vote, ending with the outcome of Kansas as a slave state. Missouri citizens, later known as “border ruffians,” returned and created violence in the state. The land was later called “Bleeding Kansas” due to all of the violence in it. For example, John Brown, an anti-slavery man, led a raid in Kansas and killed four proslavery men.
Growth of Abolitionist Movement
Many more people began to see how unfair slavery was. They saw that slaves were treated badly, and that slavery would have to be ended. More events happened, such as the Dred Scott Decision, the publishing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the ratification of the Fugitive Slave Law, and people finally became aware of the cruelty of slavery. This was the time when slavery was not only affecting the everyday lives of slaves but also began to affect civilians who had were now able to see slavery as a bigger issue than they had thought.
Dred Scott Decision
Dred Scott was an enslaved man, however slavery was illegal in the state he and his slave owner were in. He brought this case to the Supreme Court, but they said that he had no right to sue under the Constitution because of his race. Being an African American, he wasn’t considered a citizen or even human. They even said that slaves were considered property and that property rights were protected by the Constitution. This meant that (1) the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and that (2) the law still didn’t care about blacks and didn’t even give them human rights of defending themselves in front of the law. This infuriated many northerners, and led to an increase of abolitionists, as well as a stronger hatred and disgust against slavery and the racism within it.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a story about a slave named Uncle Tom. He was very kind, yet suffered for many years due to the brutality of his slaveholders. One day, he died after a severe beating by his master.
This story became a bestseller, and opened the eyes of people who were unconcerned about slavery before. This was when many people realized that slavery wasn’t a just a political problem, but was also a human, moral problem. However, Southerners believed that it was propaganda meant to start a war.
Fugitive Slave Act
The Fugitive Slave Act was created during the Compromise of 1850, in favor of the South. It gave any white the right to say that a black was a runaway slave, or a fugitive. After asking another white if this was true, the black would be sent back to his or her slaveholder and then be sent back to work and/or killed.
What aggravated people the most was that pro-slavery and cruel whites could simply go to any black man or woman and declare them a fugitive, even if they had been free for their entire lives! It would be like giving people the right to go to anybody of a particular race and saying, “This person ran away from their job! Kill him right now!” The worst part was that all citizens, including abolitionists, would be called for help by authorities. They would then have to help get an innocent African American back to their supposed home because they were considered runaways. Even though they weren’t.
States vs. Federal Rights
The South had very few spots in the federal government, and when they weren’t given the powers of nullification, they realized that their voice wouldn’t be heard. Over time, they decided that they would secede in order to be heard in their own government, thus leading to the Civil War that would break up and later reunite the nation.
Election of Abraham Lincoln
When Abraham Lincoln was elected, he was the first president of the Republican Party. Although he never said that he would fully abolish slavery, he brought many changes to the U.S. government, and the South did not agree with his ideas. This led them to finally secede and create the Confederacy, and it would later take a war to mend our country back together.