Mason Warren Warren1
26 November 2018
The Cause of the Civil War
Slavery is not only part of the United States’ history, but in some ways, it is part of the world’s history. Slavery was different for many cultures, nationalities, and religions from past times to even present day. Slavery in most instances was a time of harsh treatment and when individuals could buy, sell, and trade other humans called slaves. Slavery was a harsh reality as some slaves were split from their family and were beaten if they acted against their owner’s commands. The slaves were used for labor and could not opt out of being bought or sold. Slavery was brought into the United States and has written its own history as it divided the country into a pro-slavery region and an anti-slavery region. The concept of slavery split the country in half, and the region of pro-slavery, better known as the Confederates from the South, and the anti-slavery region in the North known as the Union. The Union was totally against the idea of minimizing other humans like those in the South who were capable of working but got others to do it for them. The Confederates were in favor of using slaves on the plantations that covered the region to grow cash crops which profited the South with free labor. With two opposing sides of the slavery issue within the United States, tension began to grow between the
North and the South. The South eventually seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. When Abraham Lincoln was President of the Union, tension continued to worsen between the two sides causing revolts and attacks which lead to the beginning of the Civil War. Slavery indirectly played a part in the beginning of the War Between the States,but the effects of the Southern states succeeding from the Union was the main reason for the Civil War.
Ancient slavery dates back as far as during Biblical times. In 1619 slavery was a widespread practice throughout parts of the world. Slavery has been dated back all the way to Mesopotamian Code of Hammurabi which would be around 1860 BC, which refers to slavery as an established way of life as it was common among the people of that time. Slavery started in the Americas around the time of 1619 when a Dutch ship brought the first African slaves into Jamestown, Virginia. Virginia was a small settlement populated by men who were striving to make the colony profitable for England. The Dutch ship then brought African slaves as well as food and resources to help the struggling colonist; however, the slaves joined and later took over the poor white European indentured servants. These slaves ended up taking over the European indentured servants because the African slaves had no connection to English common law which made them susceptible workers without rights. Slavery at the time when it was first introduced into the states was a harsh treatment, but the number of slaves were few. “Slaves in the antebellum South constituted about one-third of the southern population. Most slaves lived on
large plantations or small farms; many masters owned fewer than 50 slaves” (History of Slaves). Slaves were numerically a problem in the South, but the treatment of most of the slaves was unbearable as some old stories have told of owners having their most rebellious slaves wear collars with bells on the collar so if the owner could hear the bells he knew the slave was close and had not run away. Slaves where fully dependent on their owner and where restricted from learning how to read or write and even their behavior and movements were limited to their master’s wishes. Slavery has been dated to as far back as when the first settlers arrived in the Americas, continued through the Colonial time, and has affected the history of the American country ever since.
While slavery was thriving, most of the plantation owners had many slaves because the slaves were doing all the work on the farms to grow cash crops. The slaves had no say so in their daily lives, and everything they did was restricted by the strict plantation owners. Those enslaved worked from sun up to sun down all while they got no payment. Slaves received heavy punishment if they tried to rebel or ventured to attempt not following the demands of their owners. “The south wanted slavery mainly because they wanted to be able to have workers, but not have to pay them. This way the South could make more money to either buy more slaves, more land, and be able to pay their taxes” (Slavery During the Civil War). This use of slave labor allowed the slave owners to not do any work but get paid because their slaves were producing the cotton and tobacco which made money for the owners. Plantation owners then spent that
money on more slaves, or more land for the slaves to work and produce even more cash crops which made the plantation owners even more successful. Often a plantation owner’s wealth was not only measured by money but also the number of slaves they owned and how much land they farmed. The South used slaves for manual labor in the fields, but the north had no need for slave labor because the economy in the North all focused on working in the factories and textiles. The North was almost considered jealous of the South because they got to use slaves to do work for them, but the North had no use and space for the slaves to help do the work in the factories and textiles. By 1860 there were almost four million enslaved African Americans and in some states the slaves outnumbered the free white men in that state. Slavery was helping the South thrive, while the people in the North were working long hours under excruciating conditions in the factories for little to no pay. This separation of the need for slavery split the country which eventually led to the succession of the Southern states before the beginning of the Civil War.
The North and the South both had heavy opinions on slavery, and they both stood by what they believed was morally correct by the constitution. The South saw no problem for slavery as the people where just objects of property. This lack of respect for human life was the problem for the North; they believed that people should not be treated as property. Northerners viewed keeping people enslaved unjust; therefore, they ruled their states free from slavery. “After the Revolutionary War, and its promise that “all men are created equal”, the states north of Maryland abolished slavery. But Southerners believed that without slaves their economy
would be ruined” (Slave Life). The North believed that the South was going against what the states fought for when they won the Revolutionary War and signed the Declaration of Independence. Not only did the North think that slavery was economically wrong, but they believed that there was a race issue. In the United States all the slaves were of color meaning they were usually African American or Indian which showed the race war and difference on how the South viewed the colored people. Once again, with the slaves all being people of color it showed that the South was not supporting the reasoning after the Revolutionary War of “all men are created equal”.
On October 16, 1859 an American abolitionist named John Brown led a couple of raids on the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. John Brown led an army that consisted of both blacks and whites to the attack on Harpers Ferry. He ended up taking sixty men from the armory as hostages hoping that the freed slaves would join his rebellious army freeing other slaves in the South. John Brown’s fearless attacks on the pro-slaveries in the South eventually created sectionalism which was a major reason for the North and the South beginning the Civil War. The states heavily disagreed on slavery leading to sectionalism between the states. Sectionalism, in this situation, is referring to the South withdrawing themselves from the United States and forming the Confederate States of America. In 1860, almost a year after John Brown’s attack in Virginia, South Carolina was the first state to succeed and declared its independence from the United States. South Carolina, as well as, the state of Alabama and every southern state heavily depended on slavery as their way of life. Slavery was their means of success on growing cash crops and allowed them to make money with free labor. The Southern
states seceded from the Union because they knew that the Union would eventually try to abolish slavery. The South had no desire to end their way of life in which slave work on plantations was their main economy. Once Abraham Lincoln became president the southern states decided it was time to seceded because they knew he was an anti-slavery supporter and that the south had no chance to continue pursuing slavery as a way of life. With the rest of the southern states agreeing with why South Carolina seceded, they all decided to be seceded from the union as well. This separation of the country now caused great tension among the once United States of America. As stated in an article on the topic of the causes of the Civil War, “on April 15, 1861, Lincoln stated in his Call For Troops that the only cause of the Civil War was secession in the Southern states, and that troops were being called upon in order to “suppress the rebellion” and force the states back into the Union” (Civil War Causes). Slavery itself was not the cause for the Civil War, but slavery caused the action that separated states leading to the War Between the States. The attacks between the states from John Brown and other anti-slavery advocates helped push the call for war, but one of the biggest and maybe the main reason was because all the southern states seceding from the union caused the president to call for the infantry.
The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861 and ended in the spring of 1865 when General Robert E. Lee and his troops surrendered to the Union General Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia on April 9, 1861 although the treaty was signed on June 2nd of that same year. General Grant for the Union used a war tactic called total war which was aimed toward not only
destroying the opposing army but to destroy the opposing army’s will to fight. In November, Grant ordered Sherman and his troops to start moving south-east toward Savannah, Georgia and South Carolina destroying everything in their path that would help the Confederates continue to fight at all. Sherman’s march destroyed most of the Confederate’s land and resources. This put an end to what was called America’s deadliest war where about 620,000 soldiers died. After President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed to abolish slavery in the South on September 22 of 1862, he executed his plan to abolish slavery when he created the Emancipation Proclamation which declared that all the enslaved southern Americans would be free as of January 1, 1863. This did not directly allow the ex-enslaved to be American citizens, but it allowed the ex-enslaved to have the same rights as a white citizen in America. “After more than two hundred years of bondage, America’s slaves were freed when the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was passed in December 1865” (A Life of Freedom). Although the slaves had been freed, they were still not treated the same as other free white men so after the 13th amendment “The next thing the Radicals did was to write the Fourteenth Amendment. Here is a key part of it: No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (Slavery and States Rights). This amendment stated that no one can be stripped of their rights by the state and everyone should follow the constitutions rights. After all the slaves had been freed, there had to be somewhere for them to go so the government set up the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency that allowed the ex-enslaved to house, eat, and clean. Surprisingly some went back to their master’s plantations in
the south and continued to cultivate the farms for little but some pay. The slaves went back to their plantations because they grew up there and knew no better than to help their masters who now had to pay them. Lincoln followed what he planned to seek which was to abolish slavery, but he also planned to reform the states and rebuild the states deep divisions.
Slavery indirectly played a part in the beginning of the War Between the States, but the effects of the Southern states succeeding from the Union was the main reason for the Civil War. Slavery itself did not cause Abraham Lincoln to call for war; however, the strong opposing views that were a direct result of slavery created the tension between the states leading to the Civil War. The South seceding from the Union, the Union placing high tariffs on the Confederates, and all the riots showing the extreme hatred between the North and South led to Abraham Lincoln calling for troops to settle the disputes. A little over ten years after the Civil War was over, the country started a time period called Reconstruction. It took many years for the once divided country to rebuild. The enslaved soldiers who had fought in the war for the Confederate army had to take an oath of allegiance after the war so that they might be able to enjoy some of the qualities of being a citizen. Although those freed from slavery enjoyed new freedoms some never gained the right to vote. Some of the newly freed slaves were encouraged to vote, and some of the freed African Americans gained highly appointed local government positions and some were even elected into the United States House of Representatives. During the Reconstruction era, the United States had to once again work together to rebuild a country
that was based on the principles that the founding Fathers so many years before fought to protect. Hopefully, the country would not allow a practice like slavery to lead to such division among its states. The Civil War was not caused strictly by slavery, but strong opposing views on slavery led to the secession of Southern states eventually leading to the bloodiest war fought on American soil.
“Slavery in America.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery.
“Why Did the South Want Slavery? – Slavery during the Civil War.” Google Sites, sites.google.com/site/ssprojectonslavery/the-underground-railroad/why-did-the-south-want-slavery.
Napoleonic Linear Tactics: American Civil War, www.thomaslegion.net/civilwarcausesstatesrightssecession.html.
Stanchak, John E. Civil War (DK Eyewitness). Dorling Kindersley. Chapter 2, Slave Life
Stanchak, John E. Civil War (DK Eyewitness). Dorling Kindersley. Chapter 27, A Life of Freedom
Hakim, Joy, and Deborah Parks. Reconstruction and Reform. Oxford University Press, 1994. Chapter 4, Slavery and States’ Rights