The Civil War in America occurred in the periods 1861 to 1865 during the regime of Abraham Lincoln. Presently, scholars have waged various debates as to the main impetus for the warfare with the main rationales accorded for the conflict. Alexander Stephens in the year 1868 proposed that the warfare majorly stemmed from the political dissensions between devotees of the confederate movement and those of a nationalistic perspective. In 1913, James Rhodes noted that most historical incidents have multiple causes yet with the Civil War, he notes an interesting aspect that it was founded on solitary cause namely slavery. Frank Owsley provided another explanation for the war as being sectionalism accorded to the various cultural, ideological and societal divergences rampant across the various ethnic groups in America before the warring period. This perspective was forwarded in the year 1941. James Randall in 1947 affirmed that slavery engaged a critical element in the war yet the main actors were a disagreement involving the confederacy and the union. A majority of the scholars have attested that, “the war had many causes, but the major issue was slavery” (Evan-Moor Educational Publishers, 2007, p.6), a position that this discussion will support.
Slavery practice in America was established before any of the other mentioned issues. The American continent traces its discovery to the period 1492 through the expedition of Christopher Columbus with the resident being the Native Americans. Massive relocation and interaction between the Native Americans and Europeans was noted with the advent of the sixteenth century with the latter trading in animals and animal products while the former offered agricultural products in return. The relations proved to be fatal for the Native Americans as they contracted illnesses from the foreigners leading to massive demises. As more foreigners acquired permanent habitation in America, colonization spread within the nation, with the Britons being the strongest rulers with thirteen camps established within the seventeenth century. Slavery was the main source of labor for the foreigners and this lead to the rise of the Revolutionary War in 1775 as the natives opposed the tyrannical leadership imposed by the colonizers leading to American autonomy a year later.
The initial headship of acquired by George Washington in the year 1789, marking a notable political and economical transformation in America, yet the practice of slavery persisted. The nation was highly agricultural before the industrialization era was long realized. With land reclamation and the level of autonomy acquired in the period, most Americans obtained settlement quarters where they upheld cultivation practices. Catton and James (2004) assert that, the new settlement practices were faced with a notable constraint in that, “two very different societies had developed in America, one in the North and the other in the South…most infernally complicated by the existence in the South of the institution of chattel slavery” (p.7). The southern region had preserved slavery due to their high agricultural production sustained by their large farms. As the industrial era dawned on the nation, machines enhanced the level of production notably on cotton farming. With affordable labor sourced from the slaves, the southerners maintained the unfair practice perhaps as an acceptable practice owing to their predecessors.
The north region focused on the institution of industries and therefore refrained from such practices. Grant (2010) notes that owing to this sectional arrangement, “historians often argue that state loyalties had always been stronger than national loyalties, that long established differences between the states made a powerful central authority inappropriate and impossible,” (p.3). Washington’s leadership therefore only achieved collective political identity that often resulted to an obsolete factor when confronted with state allegiance as evidenced by slavery. As noted by Owsley, sectionalism was indeed a significant contributor in the war but Catton and James (2004) note that “although there were serious differences between the sections, all of them except slavery could have been settled through the democratic process” (p.10). One of these differences was religious interpretations on the aspect of the new liberty, with the argument that slavery should be eliminated for a non-discriminatory realization of the same within the micro level. The Quakers lobbied in support of this in the 1780s.
The impact of this initial movement was weakened by the prioritized need of creating a unified nation by the fact that the nation had only acquired its autonomy in four years. Following this action, a few of the states revised their dealings with slave hood and slave trade though the political groups and interests did not get involved in the issue. The Constitutional Convention however argued for the government’s reluctance in the issue by stating that the law charter had not created any stipulation with regard to the same and therefore limiting their participation. Many continued to oppose this stand and in 1808, slave trade was officially prohibited as a criminal activity yet the divergence still waged, as the existing slaves were not covered by the bill. Catton and James (2004) note “many attempts to compromise these issues had been made. All of them worked for a while…they postponed the conflict until the nation was strong enough-just barely so-to survive the shock of the civil war” (p.10-11).
Sectionalism only gained considerable influence in the 1800s with divergences in political, economic, and cultural ideologies between the two areas and slavery was a focal point in all the identified aspect. In the political fronts, the northerners had formed the Union, which did not agree to slaving practices while the southern group highly recommended and observed the practice due to the economic value attached to it. The latter community therefore had a mixed society that had slave supporters and counter-supporters, who respectively were categorized into the Confederacy and Union factions. The Confederacy’s main agenda was the preservation of disparate rights to preserve slavery consequently with their form of nationalism being a regional one. The rights accorded to the states were also divergent with the central problem being slavery. The northerners had offered a liberalized environment in its location with strict observances in migratory elements with an edict that a southerner who decodes to move into the northern region would not be allowed to practice slavery.
The Confederacy opposed this by arguing that personal rights in nature could be shifted offering a projection of southern practices in the north. With the escalating disparities, Kingseed (2004) observes that “war erupted in 1861 because each side accepted armed conflict as the only means to settle the divergence of interests that had split the United States into two competing economic, social, and political camps” (p.3). The contention concerning the utmost cause of the war is still upheld to the present with no form of change regarding the various perspectives created. The inability to acquire change in these perspectives is attributed to the fact that all historians consent to the view that the Civil War was a complex situation enhanced by the various issues that contributed to the warfare. This opinion is undisputed yet the only issue is to what level of degree each problem contributed in the warfare. From a subjective viewpoint, personal convictions and interpretation of the historical event have been the source of this debate with every individual exalting his or her position as the correct one.
The only issue that has acquired a consensus concerning the war is the economic impact of the war on the American nation. Charles Beard attributes a political highlight into the nature of constitutional rights as it paved way for the creation of a superior document through the amendment clauses that have earned a high form of equality up to the present (Ransom, 2010). The economic issue was embedded in the early society during the Civil War as related to the monetary gains that the south acquired by the use of slavery and with the soaring opportunity cost attached to the use of skilled labor, the Confederacy viewed it proper to oppose the view. Currently, the same practice of constitutional reviews is conducted on various matters because of the initial revisions enhanced by the question of slavery and rights.
Catton, B., & James, M. M. (2004). The Civil War. Bellmawr, NJ: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Evan-Moor Educational Publishers. (2007). The American Civil War. Monterey, CA: Evan-Moor.
Grant, S. (2010). Themes of the American Civil War: the war between the states. Florence, KY: Taylor & Francis.
Kingseed, C. C. (2004). The American Civil War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Ransom, R. L. (2010). The Economics of the Civil War. Economic History Association. Retrieved from http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/ransom.civil.war.us