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New Article for Review--Civil War

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  Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: New Article for Review--Civil War
    Posted: 23-May-2007 at 11:11
Note: there are references for this paper, but they didn't get to our system. Please comment.



EAGLECAP
History 534
Dr. Conlin
6/11/01


The Cause of the Civil War

     The cause of the civil war is an extremely political and complicated issue. It is as complex as always when there is the human drive for power, dominance and a misguided idea of individual human rights based racial dominance. To look at the heart of the issue the cause of the war was fear. It was the fear of the loss of control and the fear of change. There was no one single cause, but there were many issues that agitated this fear both in the North and South. It is in this paper that we will bring up the some of the vital points of contention that inflamed tensions on both sides. Slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, but it played a major part in the decisions that led to civil war. Slavery intertwined almost every issue such as politics, economics and moral values. There was a lot of agitation between various anti slave groups such as the abolitionist and pro slavery groups such as the Fire Breathers. This sectional tension is reflected in the constant compromises over whether slavery should be allowed into the newly conquered territories. Even though the war was not primarily about slavery, it was the main inflence t that fueled secession attitudes.   
The creation of this war involved numerous issues and some of the influences were the political moves made in the 1840s and 50s that would eventually lead to this tragic war after the election of Abraham Lincoln for President. Some of the key points that flared up this constant bickering between the North and the South are as follows: the Mexican war, State sovereignty, the Wilmont provision, the differences in culture and values, the Dred Scot case, the Missouri compromise, the Lecompton crisis and the election of Abraham Lincoln. The issue is very complicated and scholars still debate the cause.
      One of the major issues was over state sovereignty versus federal control. This issue over state rights started when United States Invaded Mexico. The intentions for this invasion had everything do to with the expansion of slavery into the southwest and California. David M. Potter believed, For the Mexican war was a highly unpopular war throughout this part of the country; it was regarded as a war unjustified aggression on behalf of the evil institution of slavery.1 It was at that point in history that a conflict over the right to expand slavery into the conquered territories flared up. The issue was state sovereignty and the constitutional right for the south to be able take their property into the new territories. The North did not want slavery to expand into the new territories, so this led to a sectional divisiveness between the northern antislavery states and the southern proslavery states. According to Potter, The American victory over Mexico and the acquisition of the Southwest had sealed the triumph of national expansionism, but it had also triggered the release of sectional dissension.2 The conquest of these new territories had threatened the balance of power between the North and the South. So long as the opposing sections were evenly balanced and their growth rate stabilized, they might have gone on peacefully, according to Potter.3     
It was the Wilmont amendment that really escalated the issue over state rights and exasperated nationalism that was already being threatened by sectional division. This provision had permitted slavery in areas where it had already been, but where slavery had not existed or free territory it had been excluded. Potter stated, neither slavery or involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory.4
     The passing of this bill caused a political upheaval in the House of Representatives and created dissension. This division was not between the Whig and Democratic parties, but between southern and northern politicians. This exploded into even more sectional division between the parties and further complicated any resolve over their differences. The south believed it was their constitutional right to take their property (slaves) into the new territories. They feared that closing the territories to slavery would create an imbalance between the states that would lead to an amendment being passed in Congress that would altogether ban slavery throughout the nation. The southern slave powers feared this and believed that this was a threat to their values and way of life. Slavery was a vital part of their culture and lifestyle. According to Potter, They wanted the constitution which protected slavery, to be honored and the Union which protected slavery, to be honored, and the Union, which was a fellowship with slave holders to be preserved.5 On the other hand the anti slavery North feared that the South had wanted to force the issue of slavery on them. In fact some northerners took the opinion that the North was not worth saving unless it embodied the idea of freedom for all. This was just the start of the fear and anger that would eventually lead would lead to civil war.
     Another firebrand that added to the fuel of dissention was the difference in economics and way of life. The North was on the doorstep of the industrial revolution and even though it was mostly an agrarian society it depended on free labor and not slave labor. In contrast the South was an agrarian society and depended on slave labor to help run its large cotton plantations.
The South had always felt threatened by the economic advantage that the Northern cities had over them and the tariffs that were designed to shelter the industrial north and inadvertly hurt the, slave based, southern agrarian economy. Slavery was a major issue, but the loss of rights was the most prominent cause of anti union feelings. The South had wanted more control of their economy and their right to take their property into the new territories.. Potter states, Southerners were almost wholly united in their purpose to maintain southern rights.6 They believed that to lose this right would destroy their cultural values and equal freedom as United States citizens.
     The North looked at the southern society as being backwards and because of its slave institution they also had viewed it as being a throwback to barbarism. In contrast the southerners looked at slavery as being a noble institution and considered the evils found in the northern, free labor, economy such as: child labor, poor working conditions and wages. The south had a superiority complex towards the North and romanticized the southern lifestyle. The slave powers portrayed the free labor economy as exploitive and morally evil. This is the type of attitudes that further divided these sections and brought them closer to the brink of disaster. The Slave powers also saw that their dominance over the Negro was moral and good for the black race, because they believed they had civilized these savage Africans.
     Cultural differences played a part, but overall this was still a power struggle, between the two sides, over identity and the ability to controls their own affairs and values in life. Potter said, Thus from this point of view, a conflict of values, rather than a conflict of interest or conflict of culture lay at the root of the sectional schism.7 The differences in a slave society from a non-slave society would be cultural, economic and ideological. A court case over the freedom of a black slave would be the next hot coal that would help fuel the fires of rebellion.
     With all the issues that inflamed the radicals on both sides one of the most prominent ones was the Dred Scott case. In this the long ordeal, of a slave named Dred Scott, it was the outcome of the court case that had significant influence over state sovereignty versus federal control and whether the territories had the right to allow slavery or not. This court decision overturned the Missouri compromise of 1820 and legalized slavery in the new territories through a popular vote. Kenneth Stampp says, the courts ruled that the Missouri compromise violated the rights of the slaveholders in the territories, thus making their rights paramount to the authority of Congress.8
     This court decision further alienated the North from the South and had brought the Union closer to being dissolved. To the Republicans the Dred Scott decision was the last chain of sinister events beginning with the annexation of Texas and including the war with Mexico, the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the adoption of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, according to Stampp.9 The newly formed Republican Party saw this as part of a conspiracy promoted by the slave powers in the South. The Republicans believed that the ultimate goal of this slave power was to expand slavery nationwide.
     The next significant influence would take place in the Nebraska-Kansas territory. This encompassed a violent period between pro slavery and anti slavery forces that would be known in history as Bleeding Kansas. Stampp stated, That decision of the court made less of an impact on the northern electorate than the events in Kansa10 Kansas would become the battlefield between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces. The violence in this territory would eventually lead to the creation of a constitution for Kansas at the Lecompton convention.
The Lecompton Convention had a major impact that not only created more sectional division, but also caused a major split in the Democratic Party. The Lecompton conventions vote, on this constitution, was filled with fraud, because most of the delegates did not represent the free soil majority in Kansas. Governor Walker had threatened to oppose the Lecompton constitution unless it was brought to popular vote. Many of the provisions in the Lecompton constitution were enough to have brought it to popular vote, but article VII, which legalized slavery was the initial point in this issue. The whole Lecompton convention permeated with voter fraud and it was President Buchanans support of this constitution that turned Democratic Senator Stephan Douglas against him. Senator Douglas believed strongly in state sovereign rights and that the issue should be decided by the free soil majority. This infuriated the radical slave powers but not because of their beliefs in the sovereign rights of each state. In a hypocritical move the pro-slavery advocates had attempted to force the issue onto the free soil majority in Kansas through this voter fraud. It was President Buchanans support of this fraudulent constitution that caused the Senator to support the Republican Party. This action led to a major split between the northern and southern Democrats. Many of the northern Democrats turned to the Republican Party and this in turn allowed Abraham Lincoln to be elected. Stampp states, that to force a proslavery constitution on the unwilling citizens of the Kansas territory would add thousands of Republican votes in every state.11   
     The southern pro slavery radicals feared that if a Republican got into office this would lead to a constitution amendment that would emancipate the slaves throughout the nation. It was not so much the election of Abraham Lincoln but the fear of what he might do. Abraham Lincoln was a moderate and simply wanted to contain slavery and keep it out of the territories. Lincoln believed that slavery was morally wrong, but he was not the threat that the slave powers made him out to be. Potter said, Lincoln recognized the right of the southern states to determine the question for themselves.12 It was their fear of the unknown and what the new president might do that was one of the last straws on the camels back that led to civil war. It was the souths fault for creating of false image of Lincoln and the Norths fault for not seeing the growing attitudes in the South for secession. this election was a crisis and not just another hurrah campaign-to the northern people, that the Union was on the verge of dissolution and to the southern people they talked about secession, according to Potter.13
     Each of these issues played an important role in creating fear on both sides of the slave debate, but the most prominent issue was the fear that each side would loose their right to choose. For the south it was the fear of a constitutional amendment being made that would dissolve slavery and for the northerners it was the fear that, despite their own values and morals, the institution of slavery would be forced on them.
     Each of the decision and blunders made by the politicians only added more fuel to the fire that would lead to war after the election of Abraham Lincoln as president. Slavery was the major influence, but overall the primary cause was the souths fear of losing its sovereign right to create its own values and identity. Avery O. Craven says, Not until the election was over and war was a reality did men discover that the issues which the fighting would untimely settle had to do with nationalism, the abolition of slavery, government by the people, for the people. The right to have had equal protection under the constitution of the United States and the guarantee that an amendment will not forever alter their way of life.14
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  Quote poirot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-May-2007 at 16:03
Recently, I have been reevaluating the American Civil War.  What determines that a war is a civil war?  If we go by the definition of two or more governments/entities struggling for control of a country, then the American Civil War, in a sense, cannot be a termed a civil war. 

The Russian, Spanish, Chinese, even English Civil Wars, perhaps.  But the American Civil War is, in a sense, a second war of independence.  Had he Confederacy come on up (however unlikely the situation would be), we would be calling it the Second American Revolutionary War, because it was one government fighting for self determination, while another trying to take back recently independent lands.  We don't have two governments fight for control of one country, because the Confederacy had no intentions of controlling the entire Union. 

Look at it another way: the British called the American Revolutionary their civil war.  Had the British prevailed in Saratoga and Trenton, we would also be calling the American Revolutionary War the Second English Civil War instead. 
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  Quote Maharbbal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-May-2007 at 16:58
I don't know if your paper is meant to be 100% political but the fact that slavery is not approached from an economic point of view is for me a major mistake.
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  Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-May-2007 at 09:54
Originally posted by poirot

Recently, I have been reevaluating the American Civil War. What determines that a war is a civil war? If we go by the definition of two or more governments/entities struggling for control of a country, then the American Civil War, in a sense, cannot be a termed a civil war. The Russian, Spanish, Chinese, even English Civil Wars, perhaps. But the American Civil War is, in a sense, a second war of independence. Had he Confederacy come on up (however unlikely the situation would be), we would be calling it the Second American Revolutionary War, because it was one government fighting for self determination, while another trying to take back recently independent lands. We don't have two governments fight for control of one country, because the Confederacy had no intentions of controlling the entire Union. Look at it another way: the British called the American Revolutionary their civil war. Had the British prevailed in Saratoga and Trenton, we would also be calling the American Revolutionary War the Second English Civil War instead.


This is a very good point, Poirot. I guess the name of Civil War was the one point that the North stressed to push the idea that the Union was indivisible.

Interesting if you think about how this is one of the few points, together with saying that slavery played a major role in the war, where the Northern perspective of the war prevails in popular culture. Otherwise, the Southern view is the dominant one.
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  Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-May-2007 at 10:01
Eaglecap,

Maybe you want to qualify more your main thesis statement.
From

"Slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, but it played a major part in the decisions that led to civil war."

qualify with something like

"Slavery was not the single cause of the Civil War, but it played a major part in the decisions that led to civil war."

This better reflects the whole of your paper.

Besides that, I liked it the rest. It is a good introduction into the subtleties of the cause of the war to those who already understand the basic timeline of it.
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  Quote Emperor Barbarossa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jun-2007 at 17:53
Great essay, eaglecap. I do like the premise of the essay, and if you implement hugoestr's suggestion, it will even be better.

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  Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Jun-2007 at 15:32
Originally posted by Emperor Barbarossa

Great essay, eaglecap. I do like the premise of the essay, and if you implement hugoestr's suggestion, it will even be better.


Many thanks!! It was a class I had to take for my degree. I am most more interested in Roman-Greek history. I find American history boring but I do like to watch documentries about the American Civil War. Part of my roots were in America prior to the Civil war but old world history is more interesting to me. I would be interested in any documentries about the Greek War of independence.

I will have to find my sources and put them on here.
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  Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Aug-2011 at 18:09
Thought I would bring up this old dinosaur again-
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Aug-2011 at 18:32
Yep well done...I enjoyed in particular your identification of pre-war difficulties involving expansion ie. 'manifest destiny'..annexation of Texas and the M/A war. Course because of the fact.. I am from the region....I admit I am always looking to catch someone failing to do this and usually concentrating solely on the economic issues and or slavery solely.
 
Call it regional pride.....Big smile


Edited by Centrix Vigilis - 23-Aug-2011 at 18:33
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