Evaluate the multiple causes of the Civil War

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Question I: Evaluate the significance of the multiple causes of the Civil War.
Answer I: The Civil War was caused by a myriad of conflicting pressures, principles, and prejudices, fueled by sectional differences and pride, and set into motion by a most unlikely set of political events. In the days of the American Revolution and of the adoption of the Constitution, differences between the North and the South were dwarfed by their common interest in establishing a new nation, although sectionalism steadily grew stronger. Throughout the early 19th century, the South remained almost completely agricultural, with an economy and a social order largely founded on slavery and the plantation system. These mutually dependent institutions produced the cash crops, especially cotton, from which the South derived its wealth. The North had its own great agricultural resources, was always more advanced commercially, and was also exponentially expanding industrially. Through these basic economic differences, including the institution of slavery, the sectionalistic and nationalistic tensions of the two regions derived its roots. Hostility between the two sections grew perceptibly after 1820, the year of the Missouri Compromise, which was intended to solve the question of the extension or prohibition of slavery in the federal territories of the West. In addition, difficulties over the tariff, which led Calhoun and South Carolina to nullification and to an extreme states rights stand, and troubles over internal improvements were also involved, although the territorial issue nearly always loomed the largest. Since slavery was inadaptable to much of the territorial lands, which eventually would be admitted as Free states, the South became more anxious about maintaining its position as an equal in the Union. This initial anxiousness led to a period that might be called the era of compromise, although with each compromise and apparent resolution, however, raised the emotional conflict between North and South and postponed the ultimate settlement of the slavery question.
The Fugitive Slave Law was passed by the United States Congress in 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850 between Southern slaveholding interests and Northern Free-Soilers and abolitionists. One cause of conflict between the Southern slave states and the Northern Free States was the lack of assistance given by northerners to southern slave-owners and their agents seeking to recapture escaped slaves. Southerners interpreted this as support for abolitionism and a refusal to respect Southern states’ rights. The Fugitive Slave Law brought the issue home to anti-slavery citizens in the North, since it made them and their institutions responsible for enforcing slavery. Even moderate abolitionists were now faced with the immediate choice of defying what they believed an unjust law or breaking with their own conscience and belief. In addition, the law brought a defiant response from Methodists and made Canada the destination of choice for slaves using the underground railroad.
The gain of new territory at the close of the Mexican War aggravated the hostility between North and South concerning the question of the extension of slavery into the territories. The antislavery forces favored the proposal made in the Wilmot Proviso to exclude slavery from all the lands acquired from Mexico. This, naturally, met with violent Southern opposition. When California sought admittance to the Union as a free state, a grave crisis threatened. Also causing friction was the conflict over the boundary claims of Texas, which extended far westward into territory claimed by the United States. In addition, the questions of the slave trade and the fugitive slave laws had long been avoided. There was some fear that, in the event of strong antislavery legislation, the Southern states might withdraw from the Union altogether. John C. Calhoun and other Southerners, particularly Jefferson Davis, maintained that the South should be given guarantees of equal position in the territories, of the execution of fugitive slave laws, and of protection against the abolitionists. Clay proposed that a series of measures be passed as a compromise bill. The measures were the admission of California as a free state; the organization of New Mexico and Utah territories without mention of slavery, the status of that institution to be determined by the territories themselves when they were ready to be admitted as states; the prohibition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia; a more stringent fugitive slave law; and the settlement of Texas boundary claims by federal payment of $10 million on the debt contracted by the republic of Texas. Many people, North and South, hailed the compromise as a final solution to the question of slavery in the territories. The measures temporarily defused sectional tensions in the United States, postponing the secession crisis and the American Civil War. However, it repudiated the oft proposed Wilmot Proviso, which if enacted would have banned slavery in Federal territories or at least those acquired from the Mexican-American War. The Compromise further endorsed the doctrine of "Popular Sovereignty" for the New Mexico Territory. The various compromises lessened political contention for four years, until the relative lull was shattered by the divisive Kansas-Nebraska Act.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act divided the region into the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska Territory. The most controversial provision was the stipulation that each territory would separately decide whether to allow slavery within its borders. This provision contradicted and repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had prohibited slavery in any new states to be created north of latitude 36°30' since Kansas and Nebraska would be north of that line and could now choose whether or not to allow slavery. The Kansas-Nebraska Act split the nation and pointed it toward Civil War. The turmoil over the act split both the Democratic and Know Nothing parties and gave rise to the Republican party that soon controlled most of the Northern states. Settlers rushed into Kansas, and immediately started violent fights over slavery. Both pro- and anti-slavery supporters attempted to muster settlers of their own persuasion to settle in Kansas. Pro-slavery settlers known as Border Ruffians, crossed the border from Missouri in order to influence elections and votes. Abolitionist John Brown brought in his abolitionist supporters to fight them, and killed five farmers in the Pottawatomie Massacre. In effect, the attack escalated into a relativly small civil war in which anti-slavery and pro-slavery supporters met violently in a series of battles known as Bleeding Kansas. The ending result included the ratification of an anti-slavery constitution for Kansas and its acceptance as an anti-slavery state. This further widened the gap between the North and the South.
The Sumner incident was a violent assault on Senator Charles Sumner by Preson Brooks. Brooks’ uncle was an opposing Senator, and was insulted by Sumner days earlier. The outrage heard across the North was loud and strong, the act revealed the increasing polarization of the Union in the years before the American Civil War, as Sumner became a hero across the North and Brooks a hero across the South.
The Dred-Scott case was a lawsuit decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1857 that ruled that people of African descent, whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States, and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories. The decision sided with border ruffians in the Bleeding Kansas dispute who were afraid a free Kansas would be a haven for runaway slaves from slave state Missouri. It enraged abolitionists. The polarization of the slavery debate is considered one of many factors leading to the American Civil War. The decision was a culmination of what many at that time considered was a push to expand slavery. The expansion of the territories and resulting admission of new states meant that the longstanding Missouri Compromise would cause the loss of political power in the North as many of the new states would be admitted as slave states. So Democratic party politicians sought repeal of the Missouri Compromise and were finally successful in 1854 with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which naturally ended the "compromise."
The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 were a series of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas for an Illinois seat in the United States Senate. Notable among the most important issues were the two contenders' views on slavery, and African-American equality in general. Lincoln was opposed to any expansion of slavery into new United States territories, while Douglas supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty, believing that a territory's residents should vote on whether or not to allow slavery. Douglas could no longer support this doctrine legally, because of the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision. Instead, he stated that the people could still control slavery in the territories by not passing laws to protect slave owners and return run away slaves. These debates characterized the sectionalized political differences at the time between Democrats and Republicans. The Democratic party assumed a position like Douglas, in support of Popular Sovereignty, however the Republicans subscribed to the school of thought presented by Lincoln that supported a containment of slavery.
John Brown was a white abolitionist, the first to use insurrection as a method of achieving abolition. Browns most famous deed was the raid he led on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown's subsequent capture by federal forces, his trial for treason to the state of Virginia, and his execution by hanging were an important part of the origins of the American Civil War, which followed soon after. Directly after Brown’s death, Southern slaveowners, fearful that other abolitionists would emulate Brown and attempt to lead slave rebellions, began to organize militias to defend their property, both land and slaves. Much of the general public in the North, however, especially in the Transcendentalists and Abolitionist circles, viewed John Brown as a martyr who had been sacrificed for the sins of the nation.
Chaos ensued in the presidential election year of 1860. The Democratic Party split badly. Stephen Douglas became the nominee of the northern wing of the party. The southern faction broke away from the party and nominated John Breckinridge. The remnants of the Whig party nominated John Bell. Into this confusion the new Republican Party put forth its nominee, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a moderate Republican. As such he was a compromise candidate, everybody’s second choice. He was convinced that the Constitution forbade the Federal government from taking action against slavery where it already existed, but was determined to keep it from spreading further. South Carolina, in a fit of stubborn pride, unilaterally announced that it would secede from the Union if Lincoln were elected. Lincoln was victorious, he had gathered 40% of the popular vote, but the vote had been so fragmented by the abundance of factions that it had been enough. South Carolina, true to its word, seceded in December, 1860. Mississippi and Florida left in January, 1861. Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed.
Another cause of the Civil War that I found significant, was the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Using a character that people could easily connect with, and exaggerating the events in order to incite rage, this novel focused Northern anger at the injustices of slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law. In addition, as a novel, it was one of the best selling books in American history next to the Bible. And since it was so widely read, it incited sympathy and mercy for slaves while inciting anger and hatred for the southern planters who, in reality, were did not treat slaves as badly as was expressed in the novel.
Therefore, the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law, the Kansas- Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, the Sumner Incident, the Dred Scott Case, the Lincoln-Douglas Debate, John Brown, the Election of 1860, and the publication and selling of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, all served as catalysts for a war that, as long as slavery existed, was destined to happen at one time or another. The nation could not longer exist as half slavery and half free. The collision between the North and the South was not an accidental or unnecessary event, but an irrepressible conflict between two opposing cultures within a nation. Divisive forces had been at work for over half a century; however they developed with increasing intensity after 1848 when the dispute over the expansion of slavery into the territories began. And although economic, cultural, political, constitutional, and emotional forces all contributed to the developing opposition between North and South, slavery was the fundamental, enduring force that underlay all others.[/size:9598bb24ed]

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