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The Causes of The American Civil War - Essay Example

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The Causes of The American Civil War

However, by 1860 events and policies enacted since the nation's birth had moved the US to the brink of civil war. If slavery was not really at the heart of America's motivation for going to war, then what were the reasons The reasons why nations go to war are usually various and complicated, and the American Civil War is not an exception. Although the main reason which provoked the two sides in the Civil war was slavery, three different aspects of the impact of slavery were at the center of the disagreements. These aspects are political, economic, and social.
Slavery was certainly a moral issue in regards to the Civil War and was always a contributing influence to the multiple causes of war. Since America's inception its leaders, such as Thomas Jefferson, well understood that slavery must soon be abolished. In an 1805 letter to William Burwell, Jefferson wrote, "The value of the slave is every day lessening; his burden on his master daily increasing. Interest is therefore preparing the disposition to be just; and this will be goaded from time to time by the insurrectionary spirit of the slaves".1 However, the founding fathers failed to include slavery in the original documents. In addition, the Federation was designed as a weak federal government with significant states' rights. States' rights, a central issue of the Civil War, had been heavily debated since the Continental Congress. The Articles of Confederation, the first US Constitution, confirmed that the Federal government should be weak and the states should retain their individual power.2 The need to abolish slavery, and the weak federal system helped perpetuate the issue towards ultimate war.
The conflicting goals of States' Rights and abolishing slavery resulted in a series of events in the first half of the 19th century that would further drag the country down the road to civil war. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 insured that slavery would be a permanent institution. The Compromise mandated that for every free state admitted to the Union, one slave state must also be admitted. The compromise was condemned by the abolitionists and free labor advocates as this moved slavery beyond the Mississippi and into the West. Phillips argues that, "these New Northwestern critics pointed out the intrinsic incompatibility of slave labor with a truly modern society, characterizing slave society as stagnant, degraded, reactionary, and inefficient while positing free-labor society as dignified, industrious, egalitarian, and above all else, progressive".3 Tensions were building between the North and South as early as 1820 as states' rights and a weak federal system was incapable of dealing with the issue of slavery.
By the 1850s, the Missouri Compromise had given way to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This act reasserted states' rights in regards to slavery. While the Missouri Compromise had prevented slavery from entering the territories in the Northwest, the 1854 Act allowed states to act with sovereignty, and the Fugitive Slave Act gave the slave states legal protection against the North's abolitionist desires. During this period, the North was becoming more ...Show more


The American Civil War is the most studied, debated, and analyzed event in US History. By 1860, the tensions between the North and the South threatened to dissolve the Union and forever change the shape of the future of the country. While there were many reasons behind the widening gap in the ideals and goals of the North and the South, slavery came to the forefront as the emotionally charged issue that could mobilize public opinion…
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The Causes of The American Civil War essay example
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