Upon reviewing past readings and conducting further research on the Civil War between the South and the North, it can be easily concluded that it was impossible to avoid the conflict. Some claim that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. As a result, they claim that it could have been avoided if the slavery issue had been resolved. Slavery had a role in the conflict, but it was far from the sole one. Other disparities between North and South included economic and social issues, territorial expansion, and slavery. These differences, which numbered in the hundreds, eventually led to an unavoidable battle. The Civil War began in 1861, just after Abraham Lincoln was sworn in, and lasted more than a half-century. Thousands of people died as a result of the civil war. Even though the dispute over slavery was seen as the conflict’s core issue, the events leading up to it were far more complicated. Even if these events had not occurred, there would probably have been a war. This would be due to the tensions between the southern and the northern states. The Civil War was not solely about slavery. This paper has discussed the civil war’s origin, causes of civil war, and how and why the US’s west expansion policy led it into political and social collapse.
Origin of Civil War
The U.S. Civil War was the most destructive and most significant war in Western history between 1815 and 1914 during the world war. A bitter dispute over the union government’s ability to abolish slavery in the unincorporated territories led to the Civil War (Ponsa-Kraus). After the election of Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican president of the United States in 1860, several states from the South withdrew from the Union and fashioned the Confederate States of America. Secession was not recognized as legally valid by the new Lincoln administration and the vast majority of Northerners. By splitting the now-defunct United States into several small, feuding republics, they believed it would taint democracy and create a dangerous precedent.
Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay was the site of a triggering incident in April 1861. Confederate forces launched an assault on the federal garrison that day, claiming control and compelling federal forces to capitulate by lowering the American flag. As a result of the rebellion, Lincoln called in the militia. The Confederacy obtained another four slave regions after its seceding. By 1861, thousands of men fought on a 1210-mile front from Missouri to Virginia. A novel state of West Virginia was formed as a result of Union victories around Manassas Junction in Virginia
The big engagements, however, did not commence until 1862. Engagements such as Shiloh in Tennessee, Antietam in Maryland, and Fredericksburg in Virginia set the stage for bigger campaigns and battles to come. President Abraham Lincoln’s original aim of limited war to reinstate the Union was abolished in the face of the novel approach of a “total war” aimed at destroying the South and its essential institution of slavery. The Confederate army was defeated in several battles, which led to its surrender to the federal government. The main Confederate troops gave in by the spring of 1865 (Matsui). On May 10, 1865, Union troops captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Georgia, ending the Civil War.
Causes of Civil War
Conflicts Over Slavery
One factor contributing to the Civil War was the North and South’s differing attitudes regarding slavery. Slavery was usually linked to the conflict over state sovereignty. Even though the issue had long been a cause of disagreement between the states, it did not receive much attention until 1820. As part of the Louisiana Purchase, the Missouri Compromise ended slavery that year. Missouri became a slave state as a result, whilst Maine became a free state (Freeman). Slavery was abolished north of 36°30′ latitude in all newly constituted states and territories. At first, this was an excellent idea, but it soon became redundant, serving only to showcase the North and South’s contrasting characteristics.
Economic Causes of the Civil War
The discrepancy in economic advancements between the North and the South was one of the fundamental reasons for the conflict. The rapid construction of a rail line network resulted in the Southern states gaining a strong place in the economy. Cotton production, which required low-cost labor, benefited Southern states as a result. Furthermore, as the speed of immigration to the South lessened, the Southern States’ reliance on slavery grew. Farmers had little choice but to continue growing agricultural industries, namely the cotton trade, despite rising slave costs during that period. Slavery’s abolition would have exacerbated the disparity between Southern and Northern states. Therefore, when debates over slavery broke out in the South before the Civil War, they had little option but to oppose abolition.
The Imbalance of Power
From a political perspective, the Southern states felt threatened by the power imbalance that resulted in the Civil War. The South feared that the North was attempting to colonize it with its commercial and financial power. The attitudes of the Northern States, along with the commissions and fees they received, were primarily shaped by the North-South economic relationship and the industrialization process. Even though the idea of the South’s colonialism was doubtful, Southerners’ beliefs influenced how they reacted to political imbalances, leading to heightened tensions.
The power struggle was worsened by legislative inconsistencies, making long-term agreements hard. The Nebraska-Kansas Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise, demonstrated this unpredictability. In 1854, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois introduced the bill, which sparked a surge in anti-slavery sentiment. The law was drafted in response to efforts to unite Nebraska’s territory to encourage railroads. Taking action towards organizing the South included explicitly reversing the Missouri Compromise, which Douglas needed the support of Southern senators. Therefore, Douglas drafted legislation in response to their concerns. Increased tensions arose as a result of the power imbalance, leading to civil war.
How and Why US’s West Expansion Policy led it into Political and Social Collapse
The United States began an aggressive westward expansion throughout the continent after 1800. According to the concept of manifest destiny, the US was obligated to conquer the continent and spread the advantages of the “superior” civilization it had developed. The desire for Western domination in the mid-nineteenth century resulted in the annexation of Texas and the Mexican–American War. The United States entered an era of tremendous expansion during the administration of James Polk (1845–1849). Taking western areas from native people and expanding the republic by fighting Mexico were major accomplishments for the republic’s efforts. This expansion, however, resulted in disagreements regarding the future of slavery. Many northerners began to worry about the South attempting to control US politics so that slaveholders could protect their human property. National unity weakened as tensions rose and both sides leveled accusations. Antagonistic sectional conflicts substituted the vision of a unified, democratic republic, making compromise nearly impossible. Finally, the North and South fought each other, leading to the collapse of American democracy and terrible civil war.
In establishing an economic balance and a balance between the North and the South, the Missouri Compromise may have ended the Civil War’s most stubborn roots. The conflict might have had even more severe effects had it started later in American histories, such as the permanent secession of several states. The Civil War was not just about slavery. This paper has discussed the civil war’s origin, causes of civil war, and how and why the US’s west expansion policy led it into political and social collapse.
Freeman, Mary T., et al. “Panel# 2: The Maine-Missouri Crisis and the Politics of Slavery.” (2019).
Matsui, John H. “The Army of the Potomac in the Overland and Petersburg Campaigns: Union Soldiers and Trench Warfare, 1864–1865.” Civil War History 65.1 (2019): 101-103.
Ponsa-Kraus, Christina D. “A perfectly empty gift.” Mich. L. Rev. 119 (2020): 1223.