Civil War Derived From Abolition Essay Research

Civil War Derived From Abolition Essay, Research Paper

?If our fundamental principle is right, that no man can rightfully hold his fellow man as property, then it follows, of course, that he is bound immediately to cease holding him as such?Every slaveholder is bound to cease to do evil now, to emancipate his slaves now??

This quote by Angelina Grimke represents the feelings of abolitionists towards the idea of slavery (Hawkins xiii). Over the course of America?s history were many wars that helped shape it into the society it is today. One of the most prominent wars, however, was the Civil War. There are many theories as to what caused this war to come about. Some believe it was due to the secession of the South from the Union or from the election of President Lincoln. Others believe that it was instigated by westward expansion or industrialization. The most common belief, though, is over the question of right and wrong: slavery or non-slavery. The real cause lies behind the latter. During the Antebellum era, abolitionism grew in size and strength and became more aggressive towards ending slavery. This ultimately led to the war that acted as a catalyst to the feud that led to the termination of slavery; it caused the Civil War.

Abolition is the belief that slavery is evil. It became a powerful movement against slavery during the pre-Civil War years. Even before slavery was a big issue, problems arose between the northern inhabitants and the southern ones. The civilization of the North was very rough and materialistic where as the South was refined and sentimental. The North tended to think of the Southerners as inferior barbarians. They believed this way because the south was full of wastelands, forestry, and swamps. They didn?t have the picturesque towns and lavish homes with vast internal improvements, as did the North. This made the Northerners start to wonder why the South was unable to expand and excel as rapidly as they were (Rozwenc 9). Many of them turned towards blaming slavery as the source of all the South?s problems. They thought that the practicing of enslavement caused the South to lack in the ability to expand and become civilized. This is how minor forms of the idea of abolition came about; clearly this created conflicts throughout when two people from the different regions came in contact.

The earliest form of abolition came in 1817, where white Virginias came up with the American Colonization Society (ACS). This was the very first anti-slavery organization in America. The purpose of this organization was to slowly free the African Americans by colonizing them on a different country. This movement was funded by state legislatures and private charity. Unfortunately, this was not a real popular act among the majority and got off to a bad start (Rogers 15). Eventually, southern farmers began to grow cotton in the south and the slaves were a bigger necessity for them than before. This early form of anti-slavery created minor opposition of those in the south, already creating friction.

Twenty years later, William Lloyd Garrison, from Massachusetts, founded the New England Antislavery Society in 1832. The society had great success in influencing Americans to not support slavery. Almost a whole year later, he founded the American Antislavery Society hoping to have the same amount, if not more, success. With in a few years the society grew more than 10 times is original size. This expressed the amount of support that antislavery was gaining and how influential he and the society had been (Rogers 25). Part of the reason for this success was how other reform movements were being conducted during the same era. They used their ability to make people see different views in a whole new light. A very respect abolitionist, Theodore Dwight Weld, wrote (Brinkley 417):

?No condition of birth, no shad of color, no mere misfortune of circumstances can annul the birthright charter, which God has bequeathed to every being upon whom he has stamped his own image, by making him a free moral agent.?

However, just like the first Antislavery Society, they caused more opposition and determination within the southern planters to fight abolition.

Playing a substantial role in influencing abolition was the writers and poets of the time. One of the first acts began with the creativity of a free-born Negro of Wilmington, North Carolina. He published in Boston, four articles which once combined would form the Appeal. In this piece of work, he insisted that slaveholders were cruel and should be murdered for their work. He wrote of how the white man would take shiploads of Negroes and kill them by letting them drown in the sea. In order to counter the statement that blacks never fought back for anything, he wrote (Hawkins 4):

?Get the blacks started, and if you do not have a gang of tigers and lions to deal with, I am a deceiver?let twelve black men get all armed for battle, and they will

kill and put to flight fifty whites?kill or be killed.?

This brought fear towards the Southern slaveholders. This forced the government to pass laws in order to repress the blacks and their ability to accomplish a social status any higher than their current position. In August of 1830, the British Parliament announced their plans to end slavery. This stirred American abolitionists to more vigorous and determined attempts in abolishing slavery.

One of such abolitionists was Garrison. He also published an influential abolitionist magazine, in Boston as well, called the Liberator. Garrison?s method of persuasion was a more mental than physical force. However, his perversion of facts and vicious attacks towards all slaveholders, led to a more physical action of abolition. One of the major causes of conflict was his demand for immediate freeing of slaves rather than a gradual one. On July 23, 1831, he published a ?Song, Supposed to be Sung by Slave in Insurrection,? in which he urged them to have their vengeance among the slaveholders (Hawkins 5). Almost a month later, in Southampton County, Virginia, under the leadership of Nat Turner, a bloody slave uprising took place. Although neither the Appeal nor the Liberator influenced Nat Turner in this mutiny, they both, still, inspired the hundreds of slaves that participated in the only slave insurrection in the nineteenth century South. This conspiracy among the slaves caused some new laws to be passed that limited the slaves freedom even more than it was already and caused tension between the people of both North and South (Brinkley 390).

Frederick Douglass, one of the most outstanding orators of the time, was an outspoken abolitionist. He purchased his freedom in 1847, and then founded an antislavery newspaper called the North Star. It was published in Rochester, New York. His own biography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass also brought him fame from around the country. These two pieces of literature help to spread his ideals of antislavery and gave courage to many of the blacks and whites to stand up for what they believed in. Because of his persuasive force, he was able to unite the black abolitionists with the white ones, further increasing their political power.

By far the most powerful document promoting abolition was Uncle Tom?s Cabin written by Beecher Stowe. Between 1851-1852, this novel was originally published as a series until, in 1852, it was published as a book. Within a year it sold over 300,000 copies, and was issued over and over again making it the best selling novel in America?s history. Her name became a household item (Lacy 20). All over the country people were learning of the heart-warming story either by reading the book themselves or by watching the countless amount of plays reenacting the events of the novel. In both the north and the south, her work created a feud that was began to take place with a much more passionate outlook.

The way in which abolitionists responded to the deeds done by those who were proslavery added to the continuing of the steps toward severed ties between the North and South. In 1839, a ship, called Amistad, on its way back to Africa, after being sold to Cuba, but became over ran by the Africans themselves, was seized by the U.S. navy and brought before the court. With the abolitionists? support, they were announced free before the Supreme Court despite the refusal of this from the ex-president John Quincy Adams. Some ambitious antislavery groups funded their safe return back to Africa.

In 1842, the day of the Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the court took the next step in ending slavery. Prigg was a slave that was captured by the state of Pennsylvania. In 1793, a law was passed saying that the state official could assist in capturing runaway slaves and returning them to their owners. Prigg appealed to his arrest and got the support of abolitionists that helped him take the case to the Supreme Court. Here, they ruled that the previous law can be thrown out, which abolitionists, later, secured the ?personal liberty laws.? This allowed the slaves to runaway and gain their freedom in a free territory. The abolitionists also petitioned for to Congress banish slavery where they had no authority over the citizens and in the District of Columbia. Congress opposed at first but because of the abolitionists? determination, they finally succeeded with this goal.

The abolitionists were not able to fight for these rights without opposition from the anti-abolitionists. These conflicts caused disorientation and a weakening of the unity between the North and South. In the 1830s, Prudence Crandall admitted several African American girls to her school in Connecticut but she was quickly arrested. The officials threw waste down into her well and made her close her school down (Brinkley 419). Acts of violence, such as this, grew rapidly as the antislavery movements grew too. In 1834, an angry mob in Philadelphia burned the abolitionist headquarters down and continued to riot and kill blacks as well as whites that opposed slavery. Less than one year later, Garrison was attacked on the streets but was saved by the police by being thrown into jail.

Abolitionists had a great passion for what they believed in and would stop at nothing to accomplish what they wanted to do. Elijah Lovejoy, editor of an abolitionist newspaper in Alton, Illinois, displayed a tremendous amount of courage when being attacked by a mob. On three separate occasions, a mob came into his office and destroyed his printing presses. On each of the three separate occasions, he rebuilt the presses and kept on delivering the papers (Brinkley 419). When they tried to attack him a fourth time, Lovejoy bravely tried to protect his press but they set fire to his building in order to get him out of there. As he was fleeing the burning building, they shot and killed him. Another example of their determination was expressed by the thoughts of the famous writer Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At one point in the story, Jim, a runaway slave, is telling Huck, the anti-society, runaway boy, what he is going to do once he gets to Cairo and becomes a free man. He tells Huck that he is going to save all of his money and not spend a dime in order to buy his wife that lives on a cotton plantation in another state. Then, he proclaims that if they won?t allow him to buy his wife, he will hire an abolitionist to go and steal his wife for him (Twain 85). This simple statement by Jim shows that the author, who has a first hand experience with abolitionists, feels that abolitionists will risk their lives in order to save another.

The influence of westward expansion and industrialization on the Civil War cannot be stated without mentioning slavery behind the cause of the two factors. In order to industrialize, the government of the territory that is doing so needs to have a steady income and abundant supply of money in the treasury. The most income for America came from the cotton fields, ran by the planters who were enslaving. As the industries and territories expanded so did the need for slaves. Thus, only creating more problems for the abolitionists and the slaves. To be able to expand westward, the frontiersman needed money as well (Stampp86). The government usually supplied them because the government wanted the frontiersman to claim the lands for America. The government gained the majority of its money through the exports of cotton, which again, leads to the rise in enslavement of blacks.

A major turning point towards war was the secession of the South from the Union. A total of seven states seceded before the battle at Fort Sumter, which marked the first day of the Civil War. Those states included: South Carolina (December 20, 1860), Mississippi (January, 1861), Florida (January 10), Alabama (January 11), Georgia (January 19), Louisiana (January 26), and Texas (February 1) (Brinkley 468). Though it is true that the secession of these states added to the call for civil war, if you look behind the secessions and see what caused them to do so, there will be found the conflicts of cultural life (Rozwenc 33). The cultural life, obviously, was to enslave the blacks in order to gain more profit in the crop businesses because the blacks provided cheap labor. The abolitionists saw this as cruel and inhumane. These states seceded because the work done by the abolitionists threatened their way of living and prospering. They believed it was their God given right to do enslave the Negroes. With them still part of the Union, they would have to follow and abide by laws that were passed in order to abolish and stop the spreading of slavery. When President Lincoln, who opposed the spreading of slavery, therefore being for antislavery, was elected to office, it sent the south over the top in tolerance and made them fight for their lifestyle. It was the mere fact that abolitionists challenged the rights of slavery to a point of sheer violence that caused the South to react in such a manor (Rozwenc 34).

??so wherever the Slave Power was in the ascendant, people did not even dare to mention its name, for fear of touching upon too dangerous a subject. It was on this condition only that such an institution could maintain itself in a prosperous and intelligent community. It would have perished on the very day when the people should be at liberty to discuss it.?

Abolitionist and antislavery efforts ultimately led to the Civil War. Because of the determination of these two groups and their undying passion for stopping slavery, tension arose between the dominant North and the independent South. Mini-battles were fought amongst those that supported antislavery and those that were proslavery. This caused a rising anger between the two that continued to build up during the decades that passed. It was due to the fact that slavery and those who opposed it were behind most major conflicts that brought the Civil War. During the Antebellum Era, slavery was the root of all that?s evil and the abolitionists consistent effort to stomp out that evil was the final factor in engaging in a war to settle many controversial issues that needed to be ended.


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