The Civil War in the United States started in 1861 and lasted for four years claiming about 0.6 million of lives. The major players were the Southern States and Northern States (Henretta and Edwards 2). It is the tension that had characterized the country in past that triggered the American Civil War. Even though it is the confederate troops that started the war by attacking the union army at Fort Sumter, many reasons contributed to civil war. This paper explores the real cause of civil war in the context of who started it and contributing factors. In detail, it discusses the contribution of the federal government, Northern States and Southern states.
Federal and States Rights
Two sides had emerged since the time of American Revolution. Some people held the view that the federal government needed more powers, while others argued that states needed more rights (Henretta and Edwards 23). The first American government after the Revolution was formed under the Articles of Confederation. The confederation was like an organization involving only thirteen states. The shortcomings associated with the Articles of Confederation made some states unanimously agree on some laws, which ended up being the Constitution of the United States.
With this, a number of people felt that the constitution tempered with the rights of individual states to function autonomously. In addition, there were some people who felt that states should be allowed to decide whether they have to accept certain federal legislations (Henretta and Edwards 35). The idea of nullification was incepted. With this, some states would decide or have the power to rule certain federal acts as null and void. However, the federal government did not cede to this demand by states. It was based on this reason that some states started threatening to secede.
Differences in social and economic aspects between the South and the North
The South was established on agricultural foundation relying mainly on cotton and slavery. The North, on the other hand, established itself on industrial economy, where raw materials were obtained from the South (Henretta and Edwards 123). Disparities in terms of development between the North and the South turned worse and worse as time went by. The Northern residents acquainted to city and cosmopolitan life while the South remained conservative depending on agriculture to survive. This difference in development also contributed to Civil war. The Southerners felt that the federal government was only supporting the North.
Expansion of the Abolition Movement
More and more, the Northern States and their inhabitants became more sensitized against slave trade. With this, sympathies started to increase for members who formed the abolitionist movement as well as against slavery (Henretta and Edwards 45). This matter took place right after some key events had happened. Some of these events included the passage of the fugitive slave act, which held that people should be accountable for protecting fugitive slaves.
The conflict between Non-Slave State and Slave state
As the United States started to enlarge, some issues arose as to whether the newly admitted states would be free or enslaved. To begin with, the Missouri compromise, which came into effect in 1820, outlawed slavery from states that were acquired through the purchase of land from Louisiana. In fact, at the time of the Mexican War, disagreement arose about what would take place particularly with the new states that US was expected to acquire. Things started by suggesting to abolish slave trade in those states but it was subjected to heated debate. In 1850, compromise drafted to help bring both the South and the North to some agreement. The compromise recognized all the interests advanced by the North and the South but it seemed it did not yield much fruits. One of the Acts included in the compromise was the renegade (Fugitive) Slavery Act.
The 1854 Nebraska-Kansas Pact is another issue that elevated tensions. This happened because it created an opening for states to employ popular sovereignty to whichever direction they wanted to be: free states or enslaved states (Blight 56). Not enough, the real conflict or confrontation took place in Kansas where people who supported slave trade strongly agitated for adoption slave trade in Missouri. This resulted in violence in Kansas. In addition, the fight also involved the senate where some senators went at each other on the floor of the senate.
Abraham Lincoln’s election
The election of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president of United States in 1860 facilitated to occurrence of Civil war. Upon his election, South Carolina immediately issued its intentions to secede (Förster and Nagler 4). This occurred because they thought that Lincoln was going to favor Northern states and more so, was anti-slavery. In fact, many Southern states had showed secession interest following the election of President Lincoln.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the late 1860 (Förster and Nagler 35). To many other states and their inhabitants, it was perceived as an indication that the state was not anymore a part and parcel of the United States and that United States of America as a whole was being run by a federal government entrenched or primed in the ideologies of the Northern states. Even people may want to know whether this was the situation at that time, it is irrelevant for now; the truth is that a good number of people from Southern Carolina thought so. The decision by South Carolina to secede pushed many states in the South into undertaking the same move.
Generally, with such an environment of mistrust between the federal government and the southern states, only one incident was actually needed to trigger a civil war. This incident took place in April 1861 at Fort Sumter.
In conclusion, it is fair to state that whilst many people still debate the causes of civil war, what is clearly understood is that the Civil War started as a result of uncompromising differences between the Northern states and Southern States mainly over the power of the federal government to abolish slavery even in states that had not joined the Union. When Abraham Lincoln became a president, seven states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America because he had promised to abolish slavery in America.
In short, by 1860, prior to the Civil war, the United States of America could not be viewed as a homogenous society or one nation, there were two societies divided on the basis of the factors mentioned above. In addition, clearly defined points between the North and the South could be identified easily because they had dissimilar values and different outlooks. These points or areas that were later observed in the Northern and Southern divisions created two opposing sides in the Civil war.
Blight, David. Race and reunion: the Civil War in American memory. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2001. Print.
Förster, Stig and Jörg Nagler. On the road to total war: the American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861 – 1871. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.
Henretta, James and Rebecca Edwards. America: a Concise History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin Printer, 2012. Print.