The American history has been marked by several conflicts, but none threatened the unity of the nation like the civil war. The civil war came at a time when America was gaining foothold in terms of political and economic prosperity. The civil war rose because of major differences that existed between the northern and the southern states. Leaders were faced with the dilemma reconciling the nation, which had diverse perspectives on many issues. This essay will explore the causes of the civil war. They include slavery, states versus federal rights, the election of Abraham Lincoln, socioeconomic differences and the new territories (Keegan 12).
Slavery had become a contentious issue in the country and influenced the politics of the northern and southern states. Although it was not the only factor that led to the war, it played a critical role. The economy of the southern states depended on slavery. Large cotton and tobacco plantations in the south formed the backbone of the economy. The slaves provided cheap labor to drive the plantations. On the other hand, the northern states were becoming industrialized at a fast rate and its economy was driven by industrialization. Work in the northern states was done using cheap labor that was provided by many immigrants who came from Europe. The northern states wanted slavery to be abolished while the southerners were strongly opposed. The divergent views on the issue of slavery formed the basis upon which the country would be divided into two.
The federal and states' governments were involved in a tussle on the rights of the states to make decisions affecting them independently. The southern states were convinced they had the right to decide the future of slavery in their states and the national government had no right to interfere. Supporters of the states' rights argued that states were to be given power to decide whether the national government's Acts were constitutional or not. The proponents of states' rights advocated for the concept of nullification where the states could debate the constitutionality of the federal government's laws. The national government denied them the power to nullify the Acts. The supporters saw the federal government as undermining them. As a result, they decide to secede from the union and form the confederate government.
The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was another cause of the civil war. He won the elections even without the support of ten states from the south. His election cemented the need for the southern states to separate themselves from the union. They felt that Lincoln was anti-slavery and supported the interests of the north. They believed that he could not represent their welfare and thus the need to secede. Although they had been planning to separate from the union, they used the election as the final determiner of their actions.
The differences in the social and economic status of the two sides also played a role in the civil war. Their social structures were very different. The southerners were more conservative than the northerners. They had a stratified society based on social classes. People who belonged to the upper class owned plantations and had amassed immense wealth. Those in the lower class were peasants who could not be accepted in the upper class. The northern side welcomed entrepreneurs and inventors as long as they could contribute to the industrialization. They had equal chances of rising to the social status of their choice through hard work. While the economy of the south was based on agriculture, the northern one was supported by industrialization. Both sides viewed the other's political moves as strategies to advance their social and economic agendas and gain control over the legislature.
The Mexican war and the purchase of Louisiana created new territories for the country, which should have been viewed as a benefit. However, the debate on whether they would be free or support slavery became dominant. An anti-slavery bill on the newly acquired territories was voted down because its passage would have caused further alienation of the south. The legislators made a compromise by making the fugitive slave Act, which held people harboring runaway slaves responsible. The Nebraska Act of 1854 created two new territories that were given the right to decide whether they wanted to be free of slavery or not. The tension that emerged from them led pro-slavery people from Missouri invading Kansas to force it to support slavery. A fight broke out between supporters and those who opposed slavery, which increased the conflict further. It became so severe that some of the legislators in the senate also fought.
All these factors led to the civil war because they widened the division between the northern and the southern parts of the country. The secession of the southern states led to the formation of the confederate government. Its president ordered the attack on Fort Sumter, which was still under the federal government. The attack sparked the conflict that culminated into the civil war.
In conclusion, slavery, socioeconomic differences and the election of Abraham Lincoln created conflicts that led to the civil war. The standoff between the state and the federal government over rights and gained land promoted hatred that eventually became the war. Therefore, the war erupted from the tension that had been building up over time. When the disagreements reached uncontrollable levels, the civil war provided a channel to bring out the frustrations.
Keegan, John. The American Civil War. New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2009. Print.