Before the civil war that tore the fabric of American life, there were three sections of American people with different economic, cultural and political attitudes. The balance of power was kept by different alliances, which came up in the pre-civil war period. The west was the balancing power and it was its shift that decided the course of American history. While it was allied with the south for economic reasons, a delicate balance was maintained. The minute the west allied with the north, the shift resulted in irreconcilable differences and led to war.

The boundaries of the sections were very fluid but the basic sections in the 1840s-1860s were the north, which included New England, New York. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the west which included the present mid-west from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa to Minnesota and the south which included Maryland to Texas and Missouri to Mississippi.


The northeast was comparatively advanced, industrially. The dominating class comprised of the bankers, manufacturers and merchants. The growth of industry of America was mainly in the north. The northeast section was known for its trading. The merchants realized more returns in manufacturing than the early agriculture so we see a gradual but definite shift to industrial investment, which signaled the beginning of industrialism.

The industrial capitalists were the ruling class in the north. They were the aristocrats because of their economic dominance, which also meant their dominance in the political system. In the political arena they were represented by lawyers articulating their position and their philosophy hoping to influence policy making. For example Daniel Webster, the politician from Massachusetts had the entire business community of that area behind him. The ideals from the time of the declaration of independence still remained, as there was no fear of tyranny of the majority over the minority. Checks and balances were maintained to protect the right to private property.

Numerous inventions were made with the number of patents increasing from 544 in 1830 to 4778 in 1860. Samuel Morse invented the electric telegraph system by the 1840s, which came into use by the 1850s. Charles Goodyear invented the new method of vulcanization of rubber in 1839which started being practiced in 500 odd places. It also resulted in the establishment of the rubber industry. The steam cylinder press was invented by Richard Hoe in 1846, which helped to make the printing of newspapers cheaply. Isaac Singer invented the sowing machine in this period as well.

The dominant economic business was the manufacturing of clothes, which diversified in this period with the use of steam as power. In the 1830s we see the introduction of railroads with coal replacing wood as the material for generating power. This led to the rise of the coal industry in the northeast as the main coalmines were situated there.

Agriculture in this area also diversified since it could not compete with the fertile virgin land of the west, which produced wheat, corn, cattle, sheep and horse.

There was a shift in agricultural products as with the growth of urbanization there was a need for dairy products, food and vegetables. New York began to produce apples, New Jersey and Maryland peaches and berries. Dairy products like milk and butter and cheese also were produced. Farmers who were engaged in agriculture in the northeast either diversified or migrated and became the labor class of the urban areas. Women and children also worked, often for long hours (12-15 hrs. a day) getting paid $4-10 per week for skilled and $1-6 for unskilled work. The labor was too weak to get organized into unions. Some states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania tried to regulate child labor by necessitating parental consent

The labor supply came mainly from the European countries like Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, France and Austria because of the population problem in the west. From 1840-1850, it is estimated that around 2 million immigrants came to the United States especially from Germany.


The west was the balancing section in the American union as it shared common features with both the north and the south. The economy was agrarian like the south but with industries like the north. True, the industrial growth in the west was slow when compared to the north, but it was faster than the south whose industrial growth was minimal. Industries like meatpacking in Chicago (Ill.) and Cincinnati (Ohio) and industrial centers like for meat, distilled whisky, leather, wooden goods, flour etc. were common.

The main economic occupation was predominantly farming with small farming communities unlike the large plantations of the south. The important economic activity was agriculture with the growing of corn and wheat accompanied by cattle raising.

Due to the large number of small farmers and few planters thee was no dominant class in the political system of the west. The agricultural products had readymade markets in the industrial northeast. So one can conclude that there was greater interdependence between the northeast and the west than between the west and the south. Though the west had a market in the European continent, their main market was still the home market.

We see that there were many improved farming techniques like new varieties of seeds of wheat for example and better breeds of animals like hogs from England and Spain. The farm machinery in 1850s and 60s was more efficient like harrows, mowers and cast iron ploughs. The manufacturing of machinery in these areas was also an important economic activity. For example the replacing of the sickle with the macronic reaper resulted in the establishment of a factory in Chicago in 1847.

The west has always been considered more democratic than all the other sections because of the fact that there was no economic domination of any one section of society in contrast to the merchant-dominated north and the planter-dominated south. The west had both agriculture as well as industries though agriculture was the more dominant occupation.


Prior to 1793, little cotton was produced in the United States as the process of the separation of the fibers from the seeds had to be done by hand which was too time consuming and thus ceased to be profitable. The cotton gin invented in 1793 by Eli Whitney revolutionized the production of cotton. It now became profitable to raise short staple cotton with the soil and climate favoring this and soon cotton production stretched from Georgia and South Carolina westwards till Texas. With the growth of British textile industry, cotton growers were assured of a market. Efficient cotton growing could take place in both large and small plantations and slave labor was an important part of cotton production. The move to diversified agriculture retreated to the background as cotton growing seemed more profitable. Plantations flourished, as did slave labor.

The anti-bellum south witnessed the growth of an agrarian economy with the rise of king cotton and a revival of slavery. Cotton was ‘king’ since production of cotton doubled every 10-12 years from 1812 onwards, 50% of American exports were of cotton and the seaboard started a profitable slave trade with cotton planters. Economic prosperity resulted in political domination by planters.

The economy of the south was very different than that of the other sections though it was closer to the west as it was agricultural. There were three main features of the southern economy-the cash crops of cotton, tobacco and sugar, the European market for its products and the plantation system that required slaves as a labor force.

It was the slave system that distinguished the south from the other sections of the west and the north.

The dominant class of society in the south was the planter class. Other important people in the south were bankers and merchants, all of who were closely linked to the planter class and on whom they were dependent. The industry of the manufacture of textiles was a very important industry in the south but as is obvious, it was also closely connected to the planter class.

The planter class was not a uniform class with subdivisions based on the size of the plantation- big, medium and small plantations. Even within the white population there were divisions. The banker class dominated the economic sphere of southern life but the plantation owners had more social status and so we often see an alliance between these two classes.

It is firmly believed that the south had the maximum degree of culture and unity in terms of Southernism. It was the strongest section in the United States as in the sectional solidarity and the awareness of its entity. It had a cultural unity despite the diversity, a coherence that led many historians to name this period as the anti-bellum period while referring to the uniqueness of the south.

Even the climate has been attributed as a feature of this southern uniqueness. The hot weather in the predominantly agrarian setup is seen as another facet in the southern makeup. There was the existence of the plantation style cultivation based on the slave labor produced tobacco, cotton and sugar which was mainly for export. The southern planters had trade through merchants with England. Urbanization had not really occurred on the scale of the northern section. There was a rural character with few towns and cities consisting of a diffused population of 13 persons per square mile including the slaves. The majority of the people were Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.


The Southernism referred to by many historians consisted of certain features like the rural character, the plantation system, slavery and the social organization and the very different products of this region.

The rural character of the southern section is attributed to the people’s love for their land. There was also a devotion to the English culture and a conscious effort to recreate English society in the lifestyles of the affluent of the south. The society was mainly conservative, liking the status quo with no changes in their style of living. The society was quite orderly with a clearly defined class organization though not a rigid one. Social mobility was possible but not as easily as in the north or the west as there was minimum class competition. Often the climate has been given to explain the comfortable life enjoyed by the southern people. Everyone had an easy life without much effort, as they were free from the necessity of conquering the environment, as the soil was very fertile and easy to till. The southern people had a lot of spare time to enjoy life. Though this would be an exaggeration, it is true that there was a lot of leisure time especially among the higher classes. There was a belief or a passion for pleasure more than toil with a firm conviction that it was more important to have pleasure than to have profit.

The second feature often put forward to explain the uniqueness of the south is the plantation system with salves as the labor force. U.B. Phillips believes the slave system to be the main reason for the Southernism talked about. The south was the only area where slavery was institutionalized and a vast number of slaves of different color and race were found here. The people of the south were determined to keep the south as the white man’s south. Slavery was more than a labor force-it was a device of white supremacy. Slavery was an institution supported by white people and the unifying factor for all southerners be it planter or poor white was their superiority over the blacks.

From 1820s onwards, slavery was being criticized within the United States. It was condemned by the northerners who were supported by the Latin Americans, British and other Europeans. Slavery had been abolished all over the world and the only place where it remained was in the south section of the United States. The people of the south were aware of the criticism directed at their institution and knew that they defied world opinion. They were under tremendous pressure and suffered from guilt over the issue. They were probably uncomfortable with their separate identity. The dilemma deepened when the majority of the south did not want slavery and its criticism while for the planters, abolition was impossible. They realized the isolation due to this issue but could not solve the problem.

The social organization of the southern society was very different from other areas of the United States. There were 8 important groups of free population in the south. Slaves were considered as property and the differences within their group were not taken into account.

The eight main groups of society were-

1-Major Planters – They were the apex of society and were the aristocrats of the south. They were called cotton or tobacco nabobs. They lived in huge palatial mansions using slaves for their plantations. They numbered not more than 8,000 in the 1860’s. This class was the ideal of the south and every white man aspired to be part of this elite.

2-Medium planters.

3-Small planters-Together the medium and small planters were 18,000 people.

The planters got the best education in the south. In a typical planter family, the elder brother became the planter while the younger brothers generally tried for Senate representation. They were trained to represent their class. The planter’s class was dependant on the merchants and the bankers for their life of luxury. They were the trendsetters and led public opinion. This class considered itself superior to the rest but the class distinctions were not rigid. If someone moved into a new area, he could hope to become a major planter slowly.

This class formed a leadership top southern white society. They were the focus of all moral and social aspirations of southern society. They were the ruling class and the system continued to exist because of their superior feeling.

The small farmers were not exploited and his ambitions did not interfere with the major and medium planters so the system continued. The major and medium planters had the lion’s share of income but since the small farmers were quite well off there were no economic grievances against slavery. In fact, there were more slaves owned together by the medium and small planters together than the major planters as they aspired to be major planters.

This class liked the English culture gleaned mainly from English literature and imitated their way of life. Most white people were of the pure Anglo-Saxon race and racial discriminations became a way of life with them. Slavery was a part of their cultural and social life and it was very difficult to break this.

4-Manufacturers and bankers-Industry in the south existed basically in a formative stage. Few businessmen invested money outside a plantation. Planters with excess cash preferred to invest in slaves. Factories for manufacture of textiles, iron, flourmills were set up in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Brokers and merchants were very important people as they marketed the cash crops of the south. This class was mainly situated in New Orleans, Charleston, Savanna, etc. They became bankers or planters. They aspired to become planters, as it was a socially dominant class. Though they played an important role in southern economy and society, they were not recognized. After the 1850’s, they were a neglected class.

5-Professional Classes-It comprised of lawyers, editors and doctors. They were linked to the planter class as their well being depended on the planter’s prosperity. They generally agreed with the views of the planters and could be from a planter family.

6-Highlanders-They lived in the southern mountains in the Appalachian range in Mississippi. They were a group of whiter people whose cultural pattern differed greatly from southern society. They had a crude subsistence culture. As they lived outside the main community, they were considered primitive and did not own any slaves. They believed in the old ways, ideas and values. They had an almost emotional devotion to nationalism and did not believe in State’s rights. They were the only people in the south who defied sectionalism and during the Civil War they resisted secession. They mainly lived in the areas covered by West Virginia and Tennessee.

7-Poor Whites-They were a degraded class and after 1850, numbered almost half a million. They were different from poor farmers and ranked just above slaves. They were characterized by laziness, ignorance and lack of ambition. They were often called “uncomplimentary” people, “crackers”, “white trash” and occupied infertile land usually swamps and barren tracks. They did not have a balanced diet and engaged in hunting, fishing and growing vegetables at home. Their origin is obscure and one theory suggest that they were the less competitive frontier population who were pushed back because they were less enterprising. They were often afflicted by diseases like hookworm, malaria, etc. and their situation only improved in the twentieth century with proper food and health care.

8-Free Negroes-They were a displaced group as they were not slaves legally but race-wise they were not free either. They often had to prove that they were free. It is estimated that there were almost 250,000 free Negroes in 1860. They mainly lived in Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and North Carolina. Very few ever attained wealth and prominence and the majority lived in poverty. Many avenues were closed to them by law and they were viewed by the Whites as a danger to the institution of slavery. Citizenship was denied to them and they were forbidden from attending legislative assemblies without permission from and supervision by Whites. They could not hold property in White areas.

The crops grown in the south were generally cash crops like tobacco, rice, sugar and cotton. Agriculture was diversified in Virginia and central Kentucky. Most farmers tried to produce food grains for their family and their slaves so 80% of all peas and beans came from the south.

Other things like apples, peaches, peanuts, sweet potatoes, hops, mules etc. despite aspiring to self-sufficiency, corn and salted pork for the slaves had to be imported from the northwest.

Tobacco was grown in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, northern and western Tennessee, Missouri and Mississippi valley. It was grown in the tideland of the regions and required 6 months for their production. Rice required 9 months and a constant supply of water for its growth and was generally grown in South Carolina, Georgia and other coastal regions. The time needed for the growth of sugar was 9 months and had the largest area under production. Cotton was grown from North Carolina to Texas and was the principle product of the south with the exception of the coastal area. It was produced in Alabama, Georgia, northwest Mississippi, southwest Tennessee, southern Arkansas, Louisiana and eastern Texas.

The farming methods employed which resulted in the exhaustion of soil as no crop rotation was practiced. Some improvements were suggested by Edmund ruffle in “Farmer’s Register” like fertilization, rotation and deep ploughing.

Slavery as an institution was established by law and was regulated by law. The slaves had no property rights, could not leave their master’s premises without his permission, could not congregate with other slaves except at church, couldn’t carry firearms, couldn’t strike a white man even in defense, were not allowed to read or write, were denied the right to testify in court against a white and were not allocated any provision for the legalization of their marriage and divorce. Anyone who might have slave ancestry would be a slave until he could prove otherwise. If a master killed his slave, he could not be taken to court.

Most laws pertaining to slaves and their treatment were unevenly applied and were not enforced strictly. A slave's fate rested on his master and most slaves were treated harshly. They could be punished by flogging or branding if they tried to run away or resist. Major offences committed by slaves like one slave killing another were referred to court.

The daily routine of a slave was regulated by his master. The head of the administration was the owner. If he was a small planter, direct supervision of the slaves was carried out. If the planter was a medium or large planter, an overseer and an assistant were hired for example if the planter was involved in politics fulltime, the planter owned large estates or needed the help. The slave drivers or the foremen were usually slaves themselves and could have sub slave drivers etc. The methods for making the slaves work were of two types-the task system where the task to be done by the slave could be done in as much time as it took in a day and this was used for rice production or the gang system where slaves worked as groups with slave drivers and they worked for a specific number of hours decided upon by the overseer and was used for the growing of sugar, cotton and tobacco.

The physical condition of the slave was supported by an adequate rough diet of corn mill, salt pork and molasses and the slaves were encouraged to grow their own garden. Fresh meals could be issued on special occasions. Slaves started working early in life with light work, which increased as they grew. Their workday was often as long as northern farmers with time off to hunt, fish, attend church and other social activities of the white family. They wore cheap clothes and shoes and lived in log cabins or slave quarters. Their medical care was looked after by the mistress of the house.

Generally the conditions of the house servants were much better than the badly exploited field hands. Slaves could be privileged butlers, nurses, skilled craftsmen and filed workers.

It may be pointed out here that according to figures, very few people actually owned slaves. In the 1860s, of the total population of 8 million people of the south, only 4.3% owned slaves. Of this miniscule numbers, most people had around 2-9 slaves. In the 1830s, for the first time, political and intellectual leaders began to opine that slavery was not an evil but a good and it should be regarded as a permanent institution. This proslavery propaganda was accompanied by a hardening of public sentiment. The support of the south for the institution of slavery came not just from the whites who owned slaves. They were supported by the white population of the south who saw slaves as an inferior race and this fed their sense of superiority. They also feared competition from freed slaves for their trades.

The economic viability of slavery is a debatable issue. Slavery as an efficient labor system was not feasible, as the slaves did not have enough compulsion to do more than would be extracted from them by force. Slavery made the south’s economic system less flexible and progressive. The success of plantation agriculture hindered the growth of a more diversified economy. The reluctance of white men to work as a free labor force due to the social stigma attached to it meant that the economy never progressed beyond the rural character to industrialization uniformly. Huge profits were made by businessmen at the expense of the planters who were often indebted to the merchants both of the south and the north.

Causes Of The Civil War


Charles Bearde gives economic issues like the high tariff, the homestead law and the transcontinental railroad as the causes of the civil war. The high tariff issue has always been a bone of contention between the north and the south. The primary source of federal revenues until the outbreak of the civil war was duties imposed on imports. This taxation gave protection to internal industries against foreign competition, which favored the north as they had the maximum of industries. Acts like the embargo act and the non-intercourse act encouraged the growth of manufacturing in the north. The south not anticipating any major developments were strongly opposed to protectionist measures. They also believed that the high tariffs increased the prices of their imports and restricted the market for their exports. This issue brought the north supported by the western states in conflict with the southern states.

The immense land acquired by the government by the end of the Mexican war was to be distributed according to the homestead law. The north favored the giving away of land at a cheap price to the common people while the south wanted the land to be given to the highest bidder so that plantation land could be expanded. According to the homestead law, any person was given 160 acres of land, which he had to cultivate for 5 years and he paid a small fee on the acquiring of land. The law was criticized by the south, as their aim of extending plantation style agriculture was defeated.

Trans continental railroads were to be built with federal aid across the American land. The north and the west were unanimous in their support to the building of the railroad, as it would greatly benefit their development. The south did not see any benefit to them and refused to pay taxes for something that they said they did not need.

These economic causes have been criticised as the tariffs were not always high except in 1816, 1828 and 1832 and was usually lower. Also when the markets for southern goods declined in Europe and the south turned to local markets, the railroads were supported by them as well.

Westward expansion

In 1819, there were 22 states in the American union, 11 of which were free states and 11 were slave states. Due to the increase of population in the free states, their representation in the house of representation was greater than that of the slave states. But in the senate, where every state had a single vote, a balance was maintained between the slave states and the free states. To maintain this balance, admission of new states was usually done in pairs as far as possible with a free state entering the union along with a slave state. Many compromises were made like the Missouri compromise of 1820. This compromise meant that the states above the 36º30' were to be given the status of a free state and the states below this line were to be slave states. This became the center of controversy later on as its repeal further widened the schism between the north and the south.

Texas was admitted as a slave state when after vacillation the American union was not admitting it, they applied to Britain and this worried the Americans enough to allow Texas to enter the union unaccompanied by a free state. The ending of the Mexican war resulted in Texas asking for more territory, which the northerners were against, as it would mean the extension of slavery. The fact that the capital of the country still had slavery was according to the north a disgrace. The north-south rift grew when many northern organizations helped fugitive slaves to escape to Canada. The question of whether the congress had the authority to decide if slavery should be allowed or not was very worrying and which led to the controversial Dredscott’s decision. The Wilmot proviso saying that areas acquired from the Mexican war should be free states was opposed by the south.

Clays compromise, fugitive slave act, the Kansas-Nebraska act.

Slavery- describe the institution of slavery, ‘slavery as a cause of the civil war” tutorial.

One can conclude that though slavery was not the sole cause of the civil war, the issue of slavery was both an important factor in the sectionalism, which was one of the reasons for the war, and it symbolized and disguised many other differences between the north and the south.

Political Causes

Ever since the federal convention in 1787, there had been a tacit political balance between the 2 great sections along the old Mason-Dixon line and the Ohio River, which divided the slave holding states and territories from which slavery was abolished and in the process of extension. Ever since the birth of the nation, a series of compromises had held the 2 sections together. At the time of framing of the constitution, the conflict was settled by deciding the percent of representation to the House of Representatives and accordingly only three-fifths of the black population would be taken into account and the senate would have equal representation from all the states irrespective of size of population.

This system worked well so long as the number of free and slave states remained equal but at the close of 1819, when the territories of Missouri and Maine applied for statehood, tension between the 2 sections mounted again on the grounds of whether they should be admitted as free or slave states which was resolved by the Missouri compromise of 1820.

By the late 1840s, the sectional conflict was beginning to affect national political parties. The Whig party was split into those who opposed slavery openly and those who supported it because of their trade with the southern planters and the latter had powerful backing from the south.

The democrat party was becoming more and more an instrument of the south. The northern democrats became resentful of the pro-south leaning of the party and this led too their joining with the abolitionist Whigs to form the Republican Party in 1854.

The problem of slavery in the new territories was reopened in 1848 when Oregon, California, new Mexico and Utah needed to be admitted to the union. The Missouri compromise was unacceptable to the both the northern and southern extremists. This issue was avoided in the election of 1848 when the Whig party’s Zachary Taylor was elected as president. The emergence of the free soiler party, which polled enough votes to ruin the chances of the Democratic Party, is important in this election.

The question of admitting California and New Mexico had to be resolved but the situation became more difficult when California adopted a constitution in 1849 by which it became a free state and in 1850, the people of New Mexico did the same. Henry clay tried to introduce a compromise which would solve the above problem as well as the problem of slavery in Washington D.C., the boundary between Texas and new Mexico, the war expenditure of Texas which was not being assumed by the government and the personal liberty law and how it was to be applied to the fugitive slaves.

Clays compromise was greatly discussed and debated and finally accepted in 1850 with many concessions to the south. California was admitted as a free stat, New Mexico was organized as a territory when Texas relinquished control over it in return for $3 million as the war debt. Utah was organized as a territory. Slave trade in Washington D.C. was abolished and in return the north had to enact a stringent fugitive slave act by which a Negro accused of being a fugitive was denied his day in court and his status was to be determined by a united states judge or a circuit court commissioner who would usually be bribed. Federal marshals had to do their best to catch fugitive slaves and any citizen who helped a fugitive would be heavily penalized.

Though this compromise solved the immediate problems of the nation, it did not stem the crisis of secession of 1860.

The transcontinental railroad problem was another issue, which showed the sectionalism rife in the United States.

There was a widespread desire for sectional harmony after the Missouri compromise of 1820 and this was evident in the election of 1852. The democrats reaffirmed the compromise and nominated a dark horse, Franklin pierce of New Hampshire to break a deadlock over the selection of leaders. The Whigs were weaker in the defense of the compromise in comparison and lost when they nominated Winfield Scott. The decline in the anti-slavery feeling was obvious when the free soil party’s votes dropped dramatically from their maiden election of 1848.

Nicaragua and Honduras- the pierce administration of 1853-1857 pursued an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy, which was mainly for the benefit of the south. Southerners were very interested in acquiring Cuba where slavery was legal and the government was negotiating for its sale to America by Spain. Though this failed, it was publicized and the northerners thought that the southerners were trying to acquire a new slave state and insisted that there was a southern conspiracy. Southerners were also interested in areas in the South American continent where slave states might be carved out. A southern adventurer, William walker led an expedition to Nicaragua in 1855, where he was dictator for some time and tried to raid Honduras as well. All these incidents were seen by the northerners as a move by the southerners to extend slavery and avoid abolition.

*The expansion of American business was spreading from an early time. In 1819 missionaries went to Hawaii where they established connections, which later helped in annexation. In 1830, china was being opened up and commercial treaties were being signed. In 1853, commodore Perry led a naval expedition to Japan, which led to the signing of a commercial treaty.

In the Canadian border, there was a conflict between England and America over the fishing rights of the Americans. In 1854, the problem was solved through the reciprocal treaty, which gave the privilege to Canadians for passage of goods from and to the United States without the custom duties in exchange for American fishing rights. *

The transcontinental railroad question was also being discussed and the route for the railroad was to be decided. The northerners wanted a northern route for the railroad, which would run through Chicago or st. Louis while the south wanted a route through New Orleans along the Mexican border till Los Angeles. In 1854, senator Douglas (Ill.) presented the Kansas-Nebraska bill, which recommended the repeal of the Missouri compromise with the issue of slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty in the new regions to be created- Kansas and Nebraska.

This bill was strongly backed by the pierce administration and was passed despite huge opposition and hostile public opinion. The bill did not specify when popular sovereignty should be applied to the territory. While the southerners felt that slavery should be allowed and only when admission was sought, then popular sovereignty should be exercised, Douglas believed that the first settlers should decide and that the earliest elections were important. Utah, New Mexico and Nebraska were not being discussed by the southerners as possible slave states because the region was too arid. But Kansas was situated close to the slave state of Missouri and the soil was suited to slavery.

Northern anti-slavery states set up aid societies to help northerners to settle in Kansas hoping to make it a free state. The settlers were mainly against both slavery and slaves and had no sympathies with either the abolitionists or the southerners.

In the election of 1855 in Kansas, many Missourians came and voted for slavery electing pro slavery candidates. The government formed was pro slavery and supported by the pierce administration. While the abolitionists formed their own government and drafted a free state constitution, the pro slavery government established a slave state and drafted a constitution.

Initial hostility between the two governments in Kansas escalated into full-scale violence and Kansas was referred to as “bleeding Kansas”.

John brown, a northern abolitionist further worsened the situation when he led a band of armed men and killed 5 proslavery inhabitants of Kansas in 1856. In 1859, he captured an arsenal in Virginia and hoped to lead an attack to free the slaves in the south. Though he was caught and executed, he was martyred by the north and vilified by the south further deepening the rift between the two sections.

In 1856, senator Charles Sumner who was a radical anti slavery proponent was talking of violence in Kansas, accused senator butler of South Carolina. Butler’s nephew, Preston brooks beat Sumner unconscious later. This act of violence shows the deep feeling of the two sides.

The north, infuriated by the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska bill and the fugitive slave bill passed many personal liberty laws, which made the capture of fugitive slaves very difficult. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was a book written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and first published in 1852. It greatly increased the resurgence of anti-slavery feeling, with its emotional force and dramatic effectiveness. It was an extremely influential book and fuelled the abolitionists’ fervor and broadened their public support.

The formation of the Republican Party by the combination of Whigs and democrats and the free soilers all of whom were anti slavery occured during this time. Their support base was from the western farmers and eastern businessmen. Charles Sumner and William Seward were the main leaders of the party.

In the election of 1856, the democrats nominated James Buchanan who supported popular sovereignty, the republicans nominated john Fremont and the Whigs nominated Fillmore. Though Buchanan won the election, the success of the republican candidate in the north showed that without the northern democrats, the republicans were poised to defeat the democrats in 1860.

The Buchanan showed a decided southern bias in its work especially when the tariffs were lowered in 1857, the veto of the Homestead Act and pro-southern policies. Buchanan’s ineffectiveness in administration was further aggravated by the Dredscott's decision of the Supreme Court.

Dredscott was a slave who belonged to an army surgeon who was from Missouri, a slave state. He was taken by his master to the free states of Illinois and Wisconsin and then brought back to Missouri. Later he sued that since he had resided in areas where slavery was prohibited by law he was a free man. His case was picked up by abolitionists who helped him. Six judges of the Supreme Court agreed that since he was living in Missouri, he was a slave. Chief justice Taney further went on to say that since Dredscott was not a citizen of the country he did not have the right to bring the case to court. He also said that the congress could not abolish slavery from any sates since that interfered with the right of private property of a citizen, thus making the Missouri compromise unconstitutional and making slavery legal all over the country.

A convention was held in Kansas by the proslavery faction, which drafted a constitution legalizing slavery. Buchanan supported this constitution called the Lecompton constitution. The new governor of Kansas, Walker established free and fair election, which resulted in the freesoilers gaining control of the government, but Buchanan dismissed walker.

Now the Democratic Party split with the northern wings led by Douglas and the southern wing still loyal to the administration.

In the reelection for Douglas for the senate ship he was opposed by Lincoln. There were a series of debates and though Douglas was reelected, Lincoln became a national figure. In the presidential election of 1860, he was elected and his election precipitated the secession of the southern states.

On 20 december1861, South Carolina unanimously voted for secession from the union. Less than a month later, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas joined South Carolina in secession, though minority groups opposed it. The confederacy was formed with Jefferson Davis as the president. The union, under president Buchanan offered a compromise to reverse their secession. When this failed and Lincoln took over on 6 March, 1861he had to deal with this problem. Lincoln sent reinforcements to fort Sumter in South Carolina. When South Carolina attacked this force, war was declared in April 1861.

Four of the remaining slave states joined the confederacy- Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. The western counties refused to go into war and formation of a new state of West Virginia occurred in 1863.

Civil war

In 1861, the United States was plunged into a four-year struggle, which proved to be the greatest civil war in history and the first modern war in which victory was decided by industrial strength. The north eventually won the war because she blockaded the confederate ports and imposed economic strangulation. The confederate army was led by general lee while the union had many able generals like grant, mc Dowell etc.

Effects Of The Civil war

The American civil war proved to be the greatest civil war waged in history. It was the war fought between the northern and southern states of the American union. The sectional conflict caused by different reasons resulted in people on both sides getting antagonized with each other. The war raged all over the country, from Volved, New Mexico to St. Alban, Vermont. More than 3 million Americans fought the war and more than 600,000 men died in it. Also it was the first modern war in which victory depended primarily on industrial strength. There was also the newness of the war where plenty of new weapons, new strategies of destruction, new standards of generalship combined with the birth of photography which permanently could remind the people with all that had been photographed. Around 50,00 books have been written on this event. Although Walt Whitman said that the real war will never get in a book, but this did not deter the people from writing.

No one could have predicted the magnitude it brought America following the first shot at fort Sumter in South Carolina by the southern states (called the confederacy) on 12th April 1861. The war turned out to be the most defining and shaping event in American history so much so that we cannot imagine American history without it. In the 50000 books written, there are countless diaries, regimented history, biographies, social analyses, pictorial essays and other works that have treated the subject of the civil war in different ways. This was an event that had such great effects on the country that it conditioned the entire culture of America. It became a focus of myth and the anchor of meaning for the whole society; such was the power of its fascination.

10 billion dollars of property was laid waste in the south while two-fifths of its livestock was destroyed. The south was completely devastated after 4 years of war.

No other single event in the history of America has brought such momentous changes in all spheres of life. Never again was there a problem of secession. The defeat of the south settled forever the question of secession, giving triumph to nationalism over sectionalism.

The emergence of the Negro as a free citizen, created a new dimension in the political and social life of the nation, making vast changes in the arrangement of classes and in the course of industrial development. This is probably why Bearde called it a second American revolution.

The war destroyed the planting aristocracy leading to the triumph of capitalist and free laborers. Also it augmented the power of the federal government at the cost of the rights of the state. It pushed forward the power of the constitution.

Thomas Cochran also pointed out that though there was clear symptom of rising industrialization before 1860, it was during and after the war that the real course of industrialization took place. And the structure of American business began to assume a shape, which became familiar in the later years. This view is supported by Faulkner and Hacker.

The most dramatic effect of the civil war was on the south. It was vanquished, demoralised and had to orient itself to a new economic and social system because the war had destroyed its old basic structure. So remarkable was the impact of the war that the post-bellum south has also been called the new south. Historians differ according to their pro-south and anti-south treatment. For example Thomson, who was pro-south, found that the southern leaders after reconstruction were honest and dedicated men but lacked the qualities of vision. This has been challenged by C. Van Woodward. He suggests the southerners were not honest and characterized their leaders as redeemers, who advocated industrialization and reconciliation with the north and adopted by and large a more liberal attitude towards the Negroes.

Amongst the social classes the Negroes were the most profoundly affected by the civil war. Apthekar’s viewpoint is useful in understanding the condition of the Negro in the civil war. Dr. potter says that the civil war put an end to “chattel slavery”. It was the biggest act of confiscation in history. The civil war freed the American chattel slaves and now there was an overwhelming shortage of labor. Immigration was encouraged after 1864. The southern economy fell into disarray. The confederate money and lands were valueless and its holders impoverished. The plantations were ruined and cotton production had declined and whatever manufacturing that existed was destroyed. There were wounded war veterans and broken families. In many places, the civil government had disintegrated. The war also saw the triumph of northern capitalism. However the efforts of assessment of the effects of the civil war are still continuing.


Word Count: 7514

Related Essays on Civil War