Causes of the Civil War

Essay by concoin06High School, 11th grade December 2008

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The Civil War is caused by at least four main reasons between differences in the North and the South- constitutional disputes (federal versus states’ rights), economic differences between the industrializing North and the agricultural South, political extremism on both sides, and slavery. Ah, slavery, the growing moral issue in the North versus the defensive reason in the South. Slavery, the underlying issue of all conflicts and situations.

Let’s start with territorial expansion. While the North advocated forbidding slavery in any new, western lands acquired, the South viewed their attempts to restrict the expansion of slavery as a violation of their constitutional right to take/use property as they wished. The Compromise of 1850, proposed by Henry Clay, was beneficial yet negative for both the South and the North- admitting California as a free state empowered North’s political power but adopting the Fugitive Slave Act, a law that enforced fugitive slaves who had escaped to a northern state to be brought back and returned to their southern owners, was praised by Southerners, and vice versa.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 proposed that the Nebraska Territory be divided into Kansas and Nebraska, and the settlers there be free to decide whether or not to allow slavery. Of course, Northern Dems condemned the law as a surrender to the “slaver power.” Oh, did I mention this was the beginning of the antislavery Republican Party? I’ll fill you in on that later.

This Act was followed by “Bleeding Kansas”- a war between antislavery farmers and slaveholders from Missouri migrating in. This led to the caning of Senator Sumner, (obviously caned by Democrat Preston Brooks) which outraged the North, and then the Lecompton Constitution, a proslavery document that was rejected by the majority of antislavery Kansas settlers.

The changes of political parties took a toll on...