In the period between 1790 and mid 1860s, the social values, economic systems, and political ideologies of the Northern and Southern American States became increasingly at odds with each other. Within the same period, slavery was exercised at varying extents in the two parts of the divide, with the southern communities upholding slavery, and relying on it as its major economic wheel. Most feel that the varying ideologies held by the Northern and Southern communities then, were the major precursor to the American Civil war. This paper looks back into time to examine the contribution of slavery to the civil war, particularly between 1790 and 1860, since it was the period that saw the beginning of the revolution and abolishment of slavery in the United States. Three major developments that took place within the same period will also be discussed.
In the period between 1790 and 1860, slavery was a major topic of concern at a time when the American states sought to unite and thus establish a uniform social-political system. The topic of slavery therefore emerged in discussions regarding states rights, and the morality and ethicality of running a state on forceful human labour. This was particularly evident among various political and social platforms, after the United States coast survey developed and produced a map that showed how the slave population was distributed among the South American States. The map revealed that there had been approximately 4 million slaves forcefully running the southern economy.
As this transpired in the south, the Northern American community had demonstrated less reliance on slave labour. The Northern states had invested on industrialization and entrepreneurship. Despite the fact that colored people lived under harsh conditions in those states, they remained free. These variations in opinions and perspectives regarding slavery between these groups of states sunk the wedge deeper, and appeared to drive a rift in their political ambitions of uniting. The result was that states affiliated to the northern community abolished slavery, while those in the south clung on it. As such, slavery was the major source of conflict that brought the civil war.
The three main developments that could have sparked the civil war, and regarding slavery are; The move by South Carolina to have slavery abolished in 1832; The purchase of Kansas by the federal government, what is otherwise known as The Louisiana Purchase; and finally, the seceding of South Carolina from the union in 1860. All this developments indicated the growing rift and rebellion within the union. The major topic of concern in this case was slavery, states that had abolished slavery appeared to have been in rivalry with those united. Internal strife also grew from the diverging opinions about abolishing slavery, and the traditional economic system of the South.
The move by the federal government to force South Carolina into submission through military power was a precursor to civil strife. Slavery and a states right became a twin-topic. For states to gain freedom from the federal government, slaves had to also have them.
The conflict and disputes from the move to purchase Kansas by the federal government also drove the wedge deeper. The state was divided into two groups, those that wanted slavery abolished, and those who did not. This also drove the United States towards the civil war.
Finally, the move by South Carolina to secede and stick to its views weakened the Union. This was the first sign of states willing to use whatever means to break free from the federal government, and in the process abolish slavery. It is therefore fair to conclude that the American civil war was a direct result of slavery disputes.
Potter, D. M. (1977). The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861. Harper Collins.
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