Table of Contents
The main cause of Civil War was slavery. However, in itself, slavery does not explain why the Civil War happened. Thus, to better understand the roots of the Civil War we need look and slavery as well as issues related to slavery. These issues include political compromises that were made in relation to slavery, the question of whether slavery was moral and economic related to slavery power. These issues had arisen because the Northerners wanted the slavery to be abolished while the Southerners were against the idea. In the beginning of the Civil War, the Northerners wanted to reunite all the states even those that had seceded to become one country. However, the Southerner’s aim was to become them to become an independent nation where slavery will be allowed permanently. Slavery was allowed in the South states to enable them maintain their economic and political status quo. The slavery politics was closely connected to the politics of a purpose. If the country was to remain united, one side had to comprise. In order to maintain balance, the northerners and southerners formed a series of compromise that would have enabled them to prevent slavery conflict from interfering with the political process. There were three compromises made.
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First, in 1819, Missouri applied to become a slave state; this would tip the balance of power in the Senate between north and south. The debate on slavery was extended and Maine entered as a free state. However, it was a temporary solution because it failed to answer how the balance will be maintained. The compromise of the 1850s was enacted after the Mexican-American war to as a result of new territory gained after the war. It increased the powers of the slave owners to capture those who had escaped (Browne-Marshall, 2013). The Kansas Nebraska of 1854, however enabled the formation of two territories: Nebraska and Kansas which enabled Douglas to gained support from the Southerners and opened slave trade thus repealing the Missouri Compromise 1820.
The moral issue of slavery divided the nation into two regions: north and south. The pro-slavery argued that in free labor was a commodity determined by laws of the market. In such system, slavery was considered to be necessary because it led to the development of a new class that was different from capitalist system. They also argued they had a right to own slaves which was guaranteed in the constitution. The Anti-Slavery proponents argued ownership of slaves was immoral and died them basic personal liberties which were constitutionally protected. North was dynamic and enterprising region based on free-market ideologies while the south was an agricultural area dominated by slave-owners who relied on forced labor.
Slavery was also seen as an economic issue. The Southerners believed that slavery was necessary for the profitable production of cotton, a major source of wealth. On the other hand, the North was industrialized and relied on machinery and wanted to remove the slave power in the south. This contradicting issue on slave trade intensified conflict between north and south; hence Civil War was unavoidable.
The Scott decision ruled that African Americans were not recognized by the constitution as Americans citizens. This led to the enactment of the Kansas-Nebraska Act through Congress by Stephen Douglas. The bill replaced the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and it was an indication that the national government had allowed expansion of slavery in the country. Initially, it was assumed that this decision would settle the secession conflicts; however it seems to have exacerbated the problem.
The Illinois Senate race put the sectional issue on full display. One of those who didn’t agree with the decision was Douglas political rival, Abraham Lincoln. He scheduled 3 public speeches as a response. In one of the speech, Lincoln outlined economic, legal, moral and political argument against slavery but he was unsure of what to do with the slaves. However, Douglas countered that the party was bent on racial equality.
In his Peoria speech, Lincoln said that slavery was unjust and admitted he did not know what should be done about the freed slaves (Burt, 2002). He contemplated that they could be sent back to their own native land. The Peoria speech epitomizes Lincoln views into the Civil War. He agrees that slavery should be abolished but fails to say how to do it. At this point, Lincoln did not perceive the black people to be a key component of the American society. He believed they are foreign and was brought into the United States unjustly. At this time Lincoln appeared to support this kind of colonization that the slaves should be freed and sent back to their own native land. Lincoln also supported the idea of abolishing slavery gradually and compensating the slave owners.
However, it was not until the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring freedom of the slaves in 10 states that Lincoln publicly changed his earlier views publicly. The Emancipation Proclamation rejected Lincoln earlier idea that slavery was gradual and there would be compensation of the slave owners. However, there are a number of factors that led Lincoln shift of views regarding slaves. First, both slaves and their owner never supported the idea of colonization. Second, slavery had begun to collapse in the south. Lastly, the Union Army was enlisting willing black Americans to become soldiers.
When the Union Army went to enlist new soldier into the South, slaves ran away from the plantation to join the army, and slavery question became a national agenda. The federal government started to make policy to treat black America as free and suggested that they won’t be sent into slave-holding regions. By the end of Civil War, about 200,000 African American served in the Army. The idea of black American as soldiers and their roles was the stimulus in Lincoln’s change in terms of racial attitudes.
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The goal of Confederacy was to secure independence from North; the war was a campaign for white people democracy. The main aim of the Union was uniting states that had abolished slavery. It was based on the assumption that Southerners had no right to secede and this act necessitated an act of war. When the war began, Union had more men a total of 16,000 men in the U.S. Army but they were mostly dispersed across the West. One-third of them joined the Confederacy. Many officers are appointed for political reasons and were ineffective. Most of the men in the army had lived in the cities and towns and thus were unfamiliar on how to use horses, firearms and camp life. On the other hand, Confederacy had no army at the start of the start of the war. Most of them were volunteers and were untrained. They had a strong southern tradition of horsemanship, marksmanship and outdoor living. In regards to naval support, the Union had 42 ships in U.S. Navy when the war began which grew to almost 700 by the end of the war. The naval superiority of the Union led to blockade around Confederacy. On the other hand, the Confederacy has no navy at the start of the war. They concentrated on blockade-running and commerce-raiding.
As the war continued the goals of Confederacy remained the same, however, the Union goals changed. When it was now clear to Lincoln that the Union might lose the war, he changed the reason for fighting. In the beginning of the war, no blacks were allowed to join either Confederate or Union armies. However, in July 1862 the Union admitted black soldiers but at a lower pay than their white counterparts. As a result, the Union had a higher population of potential soldiers, more railroads to transport troops, much industry capacity giving them greater ability to fight.
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The advantage of blocking the navy into the Confederation, the Union were able to exploit the clear-cut advantage. They were able to begin the war with more 40 warships against none from the Confederation and thus cutting of which hindered Confederate army ability to transport men and resources. However, the Union navy was faced with the challenge of blockading South’s 3500 miles of the coast (McPherson, 2003). On the other hand, soldiers of the Confederate had an added advantage because they were united and dedicated to a common cause and the leaders were more effective.
- McPherson, J.M. (2003). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford University Press Paperback, Madison Avenue, New York.
- Browne-Marshall, G.J. (2013). Race, Law and American Society, Second Edition. Routledge, New York.
- Burt, J. (2002). Lincoln’s Peoria Speech of 1854. Retrieved from http://people.brandeis.edu/~burt/peoriachapter.pdf