American Civil War





American Civil War

Slavery and westward expansions were the leading causes of the American civil war. The North and South were divided on the two issues. The manifest destiny was the belief that the United States was destined to expand its territory towards the west. For example, the country went to war with Mexico over the state of Texas. The United States won, being the stronger of the two nations. Slavery was part of the controversy of expansion. Critics opposed to the expansion based their argument on the fact that westward expansion would inevitably lead to the spread of the institution of slavery into the new states. The North and the South found it increasingly difficult o compromise on matters of economy and morality regarding slavery and expansion, and things came to a head in the Civil War.

The South depended on plantations of cotton as the mainstay of its economy. Therefore, a lot of labor was required in these plantations. Slavery was the most accessible source of labor. This is because the slaves were essentially the property of their masters; they had no rights. The masters drove the slaves to work in the plantations and their homes without any pay. Because of the free labor, the plantation owners made huge profits without any wage bill to their name. Without slave labor, the economy of the southern part of the United States would inevitably collapse. During the mid-1800s, slavery made up a significant part of the economy.

The North was quite different. The central part of its economy was industry. Because of the availability of employment in the industries, many immigrants moved to the North. There was no shortage of cheap labor to work in the industries; therefore there was no need for a system of slavery. The North was opposed to the institution o slavery on economic grounds as well as moral grounds. On the economic side, their industries prospered without the need for free labor. The moral reason for opposing slavery was that every man had the right o be free. No man could own another as his property; each man should be free. The idea of free labor was also shocking; the Northerners believed that a person should be paid for the work that they did. The expansion of the United States into the west would also lead to the spread of slavery; therefore the North criticized both slavery and westward expansion.

Some of the leading proponents of the westward expansion was John O’Sullivan who coined the phrase ‘manifest destiny.’ He and others who shared his beliefs claimed that there were three main reasons for the expansion of the United States. One of the reasons was that the country was that the white race was more superior compared to others such as the blacks and the Indians. The other purpose was that God ordained westward expansion, and the people of the United States were bound to fulfill their Godly duty. Finally, the third reason was that the other parts of the continent should be fashioned after the United States (O’Sullivan).

Before the Civil War, several attempts at compromise were made between the years 1820 and 1854. The first of these compromises was the Missouri Compromise. It was made in the year 1820 when Missouri wanted to enter the Union as a slave state. As the United States continued to expand, the debate arose as to whether the new members would be allowed entry as Free states or slave states (Wilsey). Missouri brought to light what had earlier been a controversial issue but kept out of the limelight. The solution to the problem was to have an equal number of members in the Union so that slavery would not dominate the whole country. The Missouri compromise can hardly be considered a solution to the festering tempers between states in support of slavery and those against.

The Compromise of 1850 was the second compromise between the second and the South. It happened after the war with Mexico. As a result of this war, the United States acquired new territories such as New Mexico, California, and Arizona. The question as to whether slavery should be allowed in these states came up once again. It involved several bills passed by Congress regarding slavery that managed to delay the Civil War but did little to decrease the tension between the warring factions. The third compromise made between the North and the South to suspend the Civil war was the Kansas-Nebraska Act (Wunder). The act allowed people who lived in the two territories to make up their minds on whether slavery should be allowed within their borders. Illinois senator Stephen Douglas authored the act. The Act led to several acts of violence involving the abolitionists and supporters of slavery.

One of the notable opposers of slavery and westward expansion was President Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation declaration which marked a massive moment in history. The Civil war came about as a result of this declaration. The declaration abolished slavery in the United States (Lincoln). The South was deeply unhappy with this and decided to go to war with the North who supported the abolition. Stephen Douglas, Senator of Illinois, held a different view of slavery from Lincoln (Guelzo 16). In their debates that happened before Lincoln joined politics, the two men exchanged words regarding their opposing stances. Douglas stated that the new territories should be allowed to decide whether they would permit slavery or not. Lincoln on the other hand completely opposed slavery spreading into the new territories.

The Civil War is a clear sign that the United States was unable to sustain a democracy. Slavery and westward expansion were the leading causes of tension between the South and the North. The North was abolitionist while the South supported the institution of slavery. The North also fought against westward expansion as it would lead to further spread of slavery into the new territories. Despite three legislative compromises in 1820, 1850 and 1854, the North and South were unable to reach an agreement and the simmering tension culminated in the American Civil War.

Works Cited

Guelzo, Allen C. “Lincoln Lost, Douglas Won.” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life 289 (2019): 14-16.

Lincoln, Abraham. “Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, Maryland.” April 18.1864: 301-302.

Wilsey, John. ““Our Country Is Destined to be the Great Nation of Futurity”: John L. O’Sullivan’s Manifest Destiny and Christian Nationalism, 1837–1846.” Religions 8.4 (2017): 68.

Wunder, John R., and Joann M. Ross, eds. The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854. Vol. 10. U of Nebraska Press, 2008.