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Causes of the U.S. Civil War

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An essay on the actual causes of our four-year Civil War.
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  America's civil war was caused by our country's srcinal and continuingregionalism and lack of unity. In fact, the Civil War was the end of an era. Thatera began in 1789 with the establishment of a new constitutional government bornin compromise and with promises unfulfilled. Our country was, in fact, a nationincomplete. That incompleteness was characterized by a union of diverse andseparate states, who actually had no real sense of nationhood, as they kept toold habits of regional loyalties and put local considerations above any loyalty tothe Federal union.From its first day of existence, the United States was a nose-holding series ofcompromises. Take slavery, for instance. Southern states would have never ratifiedthe Constitution without significant concessions on the part of the northerners.Southern states representation in the House of Representatives was also basedslave population. Slaves, of course, could not vote, but individual slaves werecounted for the purpose of population as three-fifths of a person.Until about 1820, American attention was diverted from the issue of slavery as thenew country struggled to stay out of the way of Napoleon and eventually gotinvolved with a second war of independence with England. But the slavery issueonce again promised to tear the country apart when Missouri (a slave territory)applied for statehood. Abolitionists violently opposed admission of an additionalslave state with two more pro-slavery votes in the Senate.Again, the leadership sought compromise. In the end, Maine, a free-state wasbrought into the union along with Missouri. Also, lawmakers agreed on a north-south demarcation line (Missouri's southern border) below which slavery would beallowed. Known as the Missouri Compromise, this agreement would hold until 1850,when Senator Stephen Douglas would engineer an unsatisfactory group of compromiseto allow Kansas and Nebraska territories to enter the union, where the residentscould vote on whether to accept or prohibit slavery. Dissatisfied northerners sawDouglas' work for what it was: the wreckage of the Missouri Compromise, and thebasis for a shooting war in Bleeding Kansas. Between 1850 and 1861, the Union hung by a thread, as a series of weak, pro-southern presidents bent over backwards to meet southern demands. Egregiousjudicial decisions, such as the famous Dredd-Scott case, continually demonstratedthe minority southern states' strangle hold on the federal government, and theNorth was getting sick of it. Dredd Scott was the black slave of an army officerwho accompanied the officer to Ohio, a free-state, and sued for his freedom. Inthe Dredd-Scott decision, pro-southern Chief Justice Taney ruled that slaves(black persons) were not human beings, and could have no rights. Further, Taneyruled that free-states could not prohibit slavery.The last straw for the North was the Fugitive Slave Law, which allowed southernagents to travel north, hunt down, and forcibly return escaped slaves to theirformer bondage. This law and a growing disinclination on the part of the Northerncitizenry for continued compromise contributed to the formation of the RepublicanParty in 1856. Stephen Fremont was the first Republican presidential candidate. Helost to Democrat and pro-southerner James Buchanan, whose final year in office ofa week and disgraceful presidency was marked by the first seceding southernstates.When Black Republican Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election without a singleelectoral vote from any southern state, the Confederacy welcomed the remainder ofthe 11 other seceding southern states into its fold, wrote its own constitution,and established its first capital in Alabama, later moving to Richmond, Virginia.The unfinished business of the United States before the shooting war began was  whether slavery could coexist with the democratic principles in a representativeRepublic. The North would allow slavery to exist where it was; the South wantedthe unrestricted spread of that institution into new territories. The North viewedits wealth in growing immigration, urbanization, and industrial growth; theSouth's major assets were human slaves, and they feared the bankruptcy that wouldresult when the Republicans forcibly abolished slavery.The second item on the agenda of unfinished business of America was whether anystate could dissolve its relationship with the national government and join upwith other states who felt the same way. The South believed that the Union was avoluntary arrangement, and that states' rights came before federal authority; theNorth believed that any government that included the means for its own dissolutionwas not a government, but an oxymoron. The south had a fair and arguable point;the north had the manpower and weaponry to ensure the continuation of the Union.The Civil War, then, resolved two issues that caused America to be unfinished. The slavery question was solved by the Emancipation Proclamation and lateramendments to the Constitution. The issue of secession was solved by a four-yearblood-bath that left the South in ruins and over a half a million Americans dead.The War by no means completed us as a nation; that was the unfinished business ofthe civil rights movement and the growing power of our national government. TheWar did resolve the problems that, had our founders faced them head on,ironically, we might never had become a Republic to begin with.
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