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The Hypocrisy of the Civil War

The American Civil War is among the main events that defined the future of the United States. The American revolution of 1776 was responsible for the formation of the first government in the United States. However, when the revolution came to an end in 1783, not all the issues that led to its eruption were addressed. The unaddressed issues continued to affect the people and led to the Civil War that broke out in 1861. The American Revolution did not address whether the United States would remain a confederation of independent states that would be dissolved in the future or it would remain a united nation with one sovereign central government.

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The revolution also did not adequately address the issue of slavery and human rights. The Civil War was fought between the South and the North, with the two regions disagreeing on westward expansion, states’ rights and slavery. When Abraham Lincoln was elected as the United States’ president, seven states from the South seceded from the Union and joined hands to form the Confederate, with four more states joining later. During the Civil War, the South was left behind in terms of economic growth, and industrialization was booming in the North (Hall 659). The South felt abandoned and did not see the benefits of being part of the Union. Hence, the essay argues that slavery was not the main initial reason for the American Civil War, as there is evidence that points to the hypocrisy towards the destiny of African Americans and the end of slavery.

During the war, families were divided, and individuals were separated since everyone was picking their sides; this, in turn, led to discrimination even after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Several people did not adhere to it and still possessed slaves in Southern countries. However, those people who did not have slaves still perceived the African American people as property and lesser beings. The Civil War also led to segregation; slavery existed before the Civil War, but it never got to the point where blacks were regarded as equals after the war. Individuals who used to back slavery and Southern lawmakers passed a law known as the black codes. The black codes restricted the blacks’ rights and segregated them from whites. Lastly, racism was evident in that some people still perceived the blacks to be inferior after all the work others did to make African American people free.

America was a divided nation because of the conflicts between the North and South’s political prominence. Notably, the South possessed an agricultural economy founded on the slavery establishment, while the North was a manufacturing and economic center. Subsequently, the political leaders strived to relieve the sectional disagreement since the Southern plantation proprietors dreaded that the mighty North would bring slavery to an end. For instance, they passed laws such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which allowed the recognition of Maine as a free region and Missouri as a slave state. Nonetheless, the politicians’ efforts to retain equilibrium between free and slave states failed due to other instances like the Fugitive Slave Act, whereby the South coerced the North into returning incarcerated slaves to them.

There is a number of documents that point out the present racist attitudes within both Southern and Northern states. This contradicts the notion that the cause of war for the Union was to abolish slavery. For example, in the 1863 letter from Samuel Shenk, a Union soldier, the attitudes towards race are shown. He states that the Union’s government “.. they take better care of the Negroes then they do of a Poor white Soldier” and argues that if poor white soldiers were treated better, the war would end quicker. Although it shows the intentions of the North to use Black soldiers in their operations, the Union’s soldiers did not see it as a goal but rather as a measure of achieving the victory.

There are other pieces of evidence that point to this argument. For example, the hesitation of Abraham Lincoln to abolish slavery. Famous abolitionists such as Henriette Tubman and John Jay III had sent numerous letters and propositions to the president, but they remained unaddressed until the emancipation in 1863. In the letter called “Kill the Snake Before It Kills You”, Tubman warns that the Confederacy would never be defeated unless slavery was defeated first. “God won’t let Mater Lincoln beat the South until he does right thing… He can do it by setting the Negroes free.” (Tubman). John Jay also saw the Civil War as an opportunity to abolish slavery as he hoped for such actions from the Union “demanding the abolition of slavery not from their Christian regard for the rights of the slave but from motives that partake rather of self-interest” (Jay). Thus, the hesitation in providing emancipation to slaves proves that the government was not as concerned about the abolishment of this inhumane practice. Instead, slavery was abolished when it gave the North a necessary strategic advantage.

The defeat of the Confederacy marked the beginning of the end of slavery in the western hemisphere. After the end of the Civil War, the United States passed the Emancipation Proclamation and amended the constitution to introduce the Bill Of Rights (Schwartz 590). These changes provided an avenue to bring human slavery to an end. Only Brazil and Cuba remained actively involved in the trade. Nonetheless, the Civil War was a global event as the result of the war determined the fate of democracy in the world. By the mid-19th century, before the American Civil War, the United States was regarded as the father of democracy. Kingdoms and empires all over the world were becoming aware that the people wanted to be ruled by leaders of their choice.

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After the end of the American Revolution, the United States passed a constitution and set up the very first democratic government in the world. The whole world was watching to see whether democracy would yield any good results. The experiment in democracy worked, and the United States was able to flourish economically and gain stability. Thus, if the Union lost the battle against slavery, democracy would be deemed a failure. By the time the Civil War started, there was a worldwide antislavery movement. If the Confederacy won, then slavery would have continued, and freedom would not have a place in the world. Therefore, the abolishment of slavery can be considered one of the greatest achievements of the American Civil War. However, as the documents point out, the hesitation of Abraham Lincoln to provide emancipation as well as the attitudes towards African American in the Union Army prove that slavery was not the initial cause of the war.

Works Cited

Hall, Andrew B., Connor Huff, and Shiro Kuriwaki. “Wealth, Slaveownership, and Fighting for the Confederacy: An Empirical Study of the American Civil War”. American Political Science Review 113, no. 03, 2019, 658-673.

Jay, John III. The Civil War as an Opportunity to Abolish Slavery and Destroy the Slave Power. 1861. Gilder Lehrman Institute

Schwartz, Barry. “The Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln’s Many Second Thoughts.” Society 52.6 (2015): 590-603.

Shenk, Samuel. A Union Soldier Describes His Attitudes Toward Race. 1863. Gilder Lehrman Institute

Tubman, Harriet. “Letter from Lydia Maria Child to John G. Whittier”, Letters from Lydia Maria Child. January 21, 1862.

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