THE INEVITABILITY OF THE BREAKUP OF THE UNION
By Sam Tooker
The breakup of the Union was inevitable. The south was always going to secede; it was just a question of when. The southern and northern states varied on many issues. There were deep economic, social, and political differences between the north and the south. All of this was a different interpretation of the United States Constitution on both sides. In the end, all of these disagreements led to the Civil War. There were reasons other than slavery for the south’s secession.(5) The south relied heavily on agriculture, as opposed to the north which was highly populated by factories. The south grew cotton, which was its main cash crop. Many southerners knew that heavy reliance on agriculture would hurt the south, but their warnings were not heeded.(1) Constitutionally the north favored a loose interpretation of the United States Constitution. They wanted to grant the federal government increased powers. The South wanted to reserve all undefined powers to the individual states. The south relied upon it for their economic well being. The north’s economy was not reliant on such labor. This issue overshadowed all others.(5)
Southerners compared slavery to the wage-slave system of the North. Southerners believed the slaves received better care than the northern factory workers did. Many southern preachers proclaimed that slavery was sanctioned in the Bible. Thomas Dew, a professor from William and Mary, said that all of the patriarchs of the bible were slaveholders. Abraham had more than three hundred. (4) After the American Revolution slavery died in the North, just as it was becoming more popular in the South. By the time of 1804 seven of the northern most states had abolished slavery. During this time a surge of democratic reform swept the North and West. There were demands for political equality and economic and social advances. Northerners said that slavery revoked the human right of being a free person. When new territories became available in the West, the southern states wanted to expand and use slavery in the newly acquired territories. The north opposed this and wanted to stop the extension of slavery into new territories. The North wanted to limit the number of slave states in the Union. But many Southerners felt that a government dominated by free states could endanger existing slaveholdings.(5)
The South wanted to protect their states’ rights. The first evidence of the North’s actions came in 1819 when Missouri asked to be admitted to the Union as a slave state. After months of discussion Congress passed the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This compromise was legislative measures that regulated the extension of slavery in the United States for three decades. Now the balance of 11 free states and 11 slave states was in trouble. Maine also applied for statehood in 1819, in which it was admitted as a free state. This brought about the Missouri Compromise. To appease the south, slavery would be permitted in Louisiana Purchase territories south of 36° 30'. Southern extremists opposed any limit on the extension of slavery, but settled for now. Missouri and Maine were to enter statehood simultaneously to preserve sectional equality in the Senate. For almost a generation this Compromise seemed to settle the conflict between the North and South. But in 1848 the Union acquired a huge piece of territory from Mexico. This opened new opportunities for the spread of slavery for Southerners. The distribution of these lands in small lots speeded the development of this section; it was disliked in the south for it aided the free farmer than the slaveholding plantation owner. So Congress passed the Compromise Measures of 1850 during August of 1850. It dealt mainly with the question of whether slavery was to be allowed or prohibited in the regions acquired from Mexico as a result of the Mexican War. This compromise allowed abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia and admission of California as a free state. The compromise also included the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which provided for the return of runaway slaves to their masters.(5) But many free states in the Union passed personal liberty laws in an effort to help the slaves escape. The poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote of his support of the black slaves which escaped and made it safely into New England.(3) The compromise also stated the territory east of California given to the United States by Mexico was divided into the territories of New Mexico and Utah. These territories were opened to settlement by both slaveholders and antislavery settlers. This measure outdated the Missouri Compromise of 1820. All these compromise measures resulted in a gradual intensification of the hostility between the slave and free states.
Again another law was passed in 1854. It was called the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It authorized the creation of Kansas and Nebraska, west of Missouri and Iowa and divided by the 40th parallel. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise, stating that the inhabitants of the territories should decide for themselves the legality of slaveholding. The removal of the restriction on the expansion of slavery ensured southern support for the bill, which was signed into law by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. This act split the Democratic Party as well as the Whig Party. The northern Whigs joined antislavery Democrats to form the Republican Party in July 1854. There were many people in the north known as abolitionist s. The abolitionists were against slavery and its.
The last main conflict that led to succession was during the presidential election of 1860. The newly formed Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln on principles that opposed the further expansion of slavery. As Lincoln was elected the south felt expansionism being threatened. The south felt expansion was vital to the survival of slavery. The south felt their very way of life being threatened. Because slavery was economically important to the southern states, the south felt that they would not prosper without it. The south was convinced that they should make a bid for independence by succeeding rather then face political encirclement. Lincoln stated his belief that succession was illegal and said that he intended to maintain federal possessions in the south. Southerners hoped the threat of succession would force acceptance of southern demands, but it did not. Finally on Dec. 20, 1860 South Carolina adopted an ordinance of succession. On February 4th delegates from all these states met in Montgomery, Alabama where they drafted a constitution for the Confederate States of America. This outraged the North and what was led to the Civil War.(5)
The existence of slavery was the central element of the conflict between the north and south. Some say that the Civil War could have been avoided if the north and south had been more sensitive to each other’s needs, but the only way to avoid the war was to abolish slavery in itself. The south never would have gone along with that willingly. When the south declared independence from the union Abraham Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." Because slavery formed two opposing societies, and slavery could never be abolished, the Civil War was inevitable.(5)
(1)-An argument against single-crop economy
(2)-Racial Prejudice in the North
(3)-A Northern Poet’s View of Slavery
(4)-In Defense of Slavery
(5)-United States History Textbook
Word Count: 1208