Civil War: Causes And Impacts Essay, Research Paper
The American Civil War
The American Civil War was one of the most momentous and controversial events in American history. The South wanted to maintain its way of life. Although the war was not fought over slavery directly, many causes were connected to slavery in some way. The South was tired of abolitionists and northerners in general criticizing them. Bloody Kansas angered both sides and John Brown s raid on Harpers Ferry was the last straw for some Southerners. Southern aristocrats claimed that events occurring in Harriet Beecher Stowe s Uncle Tom s Cabin did not occur. But most of all, the South was feeling the political power they had slipping away. With the introduction of the new purely sectional party, the Republicans, the South had had enough. Then the election of a Republican president, there was now a reason to declare independence. The South wanted the right to govern themselves. The south believed the north was economically dependent on them. They believed the North needed their cotton and their markets to sell manufactured goods. They also felt that their departure from the union would be not be stopped.
One political obstacle encountered by slave owners was foreign intervention. The South was depending heavily on foreign involvement. The common people of Britain and France were hoping for a Union victory and the possibility of the end of slavery. Therefore they would not allow their governments to recognize the Confederates as a separate nation. The South was angered at the emergence of the Republican party. They could feel their power slipping from their grasp and they did not like it. The new Republican party was a strictly Northern phenomenon. The crucial point was reached in the presidential election of 1860, in which the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, defeated three opponents Lincoln’s victory was the signal for the secession of South Carolina (Dec. 20, 1860), and that state was followed out of the Union by six other states (Columbia Encyclopedia). Bleeding Kansas also angered both sides. Lawrence was the only free-soil settlement in Kansas. Papers in Lawrence had been publishing antislavery reports for two years and many proslavery settlers were angered. A grand jury charged several citizens of Lawrence with treason and slavery s supporters now had a way to get revenge. A posse of eight hundred men had assembled on the ridge above Lawrence. And then charged down into the town burning and looting. They also threw the printing presses into the nearby river. The rugged Missouri frontiersmen, known as Border Ruffians, were a fearful sight as they rode across the Kansas plains the men swarmed into publishing offices, destroying whatever they could find when the newspaper offices lay in piles of rubble the sheriff and his gang moved on to the Free State Hotel. (Ray 52-53). John Brown angered many Southerners to the point of wanting to fight. Fighting slavery had been a life long mission for John Brown. When hearing of the incident in Lawrence he devised a brutal scheme to take revenge. With a small group of men Brown attacked and killed three pro-slavery families. This became known as the Pottawatomie massacre. The massacre at Pottawatomie marked the end of a week of violence across the nation. After only seven days, a town lay in ruin, Congress was in turmoil, and several settlers were dead. (Ray 65). The massacre was not the end of John Brown s plans. He wanted to attack Harpers Ferry. Brown tried to persuade his friend Frederick Douglass to join him. He described the scenario: They would attack the arsenal at Harpers Ferry and capture the guns. Emboldened by the news, a spontaneous army of slaves would rush to join them. They would then drive south, and the revolution would snowball. (PBS Online).
The South was crippled. Its already poor transportation was worsened partly due to Sherman s trek across the South. And its workforce was now dispersed. The slaves were now free and the common Southerners now felt that their beliefs of supremacy were threatened. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were passed, freeing the slaves, giving them citizenship, and giving them the right to vote. Also high-ranking Confederate officers were not allowed to hold office in government, but black men were. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. John Wilkes Booth, brother of the more famous Edwin Booth, had concocted a plot to assassinate all the principal officers of the government; a Southern sympathizer, he thought that this might undo the work of the Union armies and save the South. Entering Lincoln s box he sent a ball through the President s head; then leaped to the stage, shouting, Sic semper tyrannis! and made good his escape. (Commager 1,101) The Civil War also proved that a Democracy could secede in world of monarchies and dictatorships. Northern victory in the Civil War settled that question: the United States would survive as a single nation with a republican form of government. Since 1865 no state or region has tried to secede. (McPherson, History Channel.com)
The Civil War left a scar on American history. It preserved the union but at a cost. This war had the largest casualty rate Americans have ever seen. Three million fought and over six hundred thousand died. There were still sectional tensions but most were pardoned and most were glad to end the war.
Columbia Encyclopedia, The. www.us-civilwar.com. June 4, 2000. Columbia University Press, 1993.
Commager, Henry S. The Blue and The Gray. New York: The Fairfax Press, 1982.
McPherson, James M. www.historychannel.com. June 4, 2000.
Ray, Delia. A Nation Torn. New York: Lodestar Books, 1990.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/brown/. June 4, 200. PBS/WGBH, 1999.