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What Caused the Civil War? Essay

Proslavery and antislavery civilians clash. The “tea cup sitting close to the edge of the table” (Background Essay) begins to rattle heavily and almost fall off. The Civil War has begun. This “war between the states” shows that extremity of differences in opinions can lead to violence and death. There were over 618,000 casualties by the end of the war, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. So, what lead to this wildness? The Civil War was caused by three main reasons: economic differences, interpretation of the Constitution, and moral beliefs.

The North and the South were very different economically. The South had little industry; it was based off of an agrarian economy (Doc B). Slaves picked cotton off the plantation and the farmers sold these bales to make money (Doc A). The Southerners wouldn’t be able to keep their wealth without slaves working for free. If slavery was abolished, then the farmers would have to pay their slaves to do this back-breaking work, which will cause the farmers to go broke. This is why slavery was so vital in the South. Now, the North didn’t care much about slavery because it didn’t affect them greatly. The economy of the North was based off of industry, unlike the South. Both the Northerners and the Southerners relied on each other economically. The North depended on the South for cotton and tobacco (Doc D), and the South depended on the North for industrial materials, such as utility, the making of railroads and canals, etc. (Doc C).

Everyone interprets the Constitution differently; this problem arose between the North and the South. Many states in the South wanted to secede and felt the Constitution gave them that right (Doc E). But, the President, Lincoln, enforced the federal rights, saying that they could not do so. He believed that “the Union of these States is perpetual.” (Doc F). The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law…” During the Dred Scott Decision, it was said that because of the Fifth Amendment, the Missouri Compromise (which prohibited a citizen from owning slaves in the North) is unjustified by the Constitution and is therefore void. Slaves were considered an article of property (Doc L).

Finally, many thought that slavery was morally wrong. Abolitionists, such as Frederick Douglass, gave monumental speeches on the issue of slavery that moved many. Douglass was a slave himself, and he gave his speeches taking the view of a slave. “What, to an American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him…gross injustice and cruelty…To him, your celebration is a sham;…your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless…” (Doc G). Others held proslavery views, such as George Fitzhugh. Fitzhugh published a book called _Cannibals All!_. He claimed that “The Negro slaves of the South are the happiest…the freest people in the world.” (Doc H).

John Brown, a major abolitionist, “led a band of 18 men into Virginia to seize the federal arsenal there, distribute the captured arms to slaves in the area, and create a general slave uprising.” (Doc I). He was hanged, but this action caused a great stir between the North and the South. A long-time Union supporter even claimed, “I am willing to take chances of…disunion, sooner than submit any longer to Northern insolence and Northern outrage.” (Doc I).

618,000 people died and about 60,000 men lost limbs in a matter of 4 years. Economic differences between the North and the South, interpretations of the Constitution, and the thought that slavery was morally wrong/right is what caused the Civil War to occur. These states that were supposed to work together as a Union to share a common goal backfired and fought against each other instead. The “tea cup sitting at the edge of the table” was luckily saved by the Emancipation Proclamation from completely crashing apart. In a way, the Civil War was needed; slavery nearly completely ended after this disaster and the African-Americans were freed.

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