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Was the Civil War Inevitable?

Till the middle of the 19th century, the states within the country were linked together by an increasing number of the transportation networks, national economy, and political system. At the same time, the changes in America deepened the sectional disagreements. With the process of industrialization that took place in the North, the conflict between the North and the South increased. Less than half of the population of the North worked in agriculture. In addition, there has been an increase in the flows of migrants, who came to America in search of freedom and a better life. As a result, the North experienced growth of population and economy.

During the speech at the debate over the Compromise of 1850, John C. Calhoun indicated that the Union was under the threat. The main cause of the opposition between the North and the South was the issue of slavery (Calhoun, 1850). The Southern states could not be safe in the Union. Their existence was threatened by the agitation of the slavery issue in the North, the political inequality between the parts of the Union, and unfair taxation policy. According to Calhoun, the “immediate cause is the almost universal discontent which pervades all of the States composing the southern section of the Union” (Calhoun, 1850). Indeed, the situation of the 1850s was not favorable for the South. The industrialization had an impact on the growing demand for cotton and other agricultural products. At the same time, instead of developing the machinery, the Southern citizens acquired more slaves. Some politicians underlined the importance of the industrialization of the South to make it more independent from the North. While the North was becoming richer, the South was considered as its colony. However, as long as people had profit from cotton and slaves, the promotion of industrialization could not succeed. The Northern states controlled banking and commerce spheres, as well as imposed “storage and shipping charges, insurance, port fees, and commissions” (Davidson, DeLay, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff, 2012). The immigrants rarely settled down in the South as they could not compete with the cheap labor force. As a result, the population of the North increased comparing to the South. The citizens of the South were concerned with the fact that the North would gain control over the House of Representatives and settle the western territories of the country.

As a result, one of the choices of the South was secession from the Union (Calhoun, 1850). The disunion was already partially caused by slavery question and weakening of the economic and political positions of the South. According to Calhoun, that was only the matter of time when the conflict had to start. The only way to save the Union was to satisfy the needs of the South and provide its safety.

In May 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was adopted. The Act has repealed the Missouri Compromise on the prohibition of the slavery in the region and created two territories of Kansas, situated west of Missouri, and Nebraska, located west of Iowa and Minnesota (Kansas-Nebraska Act, n. d.). The status of slavery had to be decided by the popular sovereignty. The proslavery population of Missouri considered slave-free Kansas to be a threat, while the North wanted to end the slavery. In Kansas, the escalation of the tensions led to the armed skirmishes. According to the position of the US congressmen, the situation in Kansas made everyone feel as if the people were upon a volcano (Davidson, DeLay, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff, 2012). When the Kansas was settled by both proslavery and abolitionist settlers, the conflict over the slavery issue was inevitable. The events of Bleeding Kansas confirm Calhoun opinion that the worsening of the relations between the North and South was only a matter of time.

The North and the South were also divided by the politicians. In particular, during the elections of 1856, Republican described the North as “a society of opportunity where enterprising individuals could rise through hard work and self-discipline”, while the South was considered as “stagnant, hierarchical, and economically backward” territory (Davidson, DeLay, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff, 2012). Taking into consideration the events in Kansas, the South was seen as a threat to the liberties of the Northern citizens.

At the presidential election of 1860, Republican Abraham Lincoln won the position. According to Lincoln, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (Lincoln, 1858). Thus, the government cannot be half slave and half free. It had to be unified to provide the development and prosperity of the Union. The issue that has divided the citizens of the Union was slavery. According to Lincoln, the Negroes and the whites could not be completely equal. The debate over the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska only worsened the dispute between the North and the South, which wanted to expand their influence in the region. However, the Negroes had to be guaranteed the basic rights and freedoms determined by the Declaration of Independence, including the right to life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness. Similarly to Calhoun, Lincoln assumed that the Union was threatened by the division. Both politicians agreed that the only thing that could prevent the conflict between the North and the South was a compromise. However, while Calhoun underlined that the Union could collapse, Lincoln supported the statement that the Union was not going to dissolve.

Lincoln represented a sectional antislavery party. As a result, seven Southern states, threatened by the end of slavery, began to secede from Union and established the Confederate States of America. In general, the pattern of secession supported Calhoun’s argument, who advocated the right of the states to secede from the Union. Secession was considered to be the only possible way of the South equality and liberty protection. Among the first states to secede were South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Texas. Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, left the Union later (Secession map, n. d.). The first state to leave the Union was South Carolina. The decision was made under the influence of the unfair tariff policy. At the same time, the positions of some Southern states were pro-union. As a result, the states did not immediately secede. In addition, when Virginia left the Union, the western section of the state seceded from the Confederation. West Virginia was highly industrialized region. As a result, the possible sanctions from the Union could significantly undermine the economy of the region. The upper South and the border states, including Maryland, Missouri, Delaware, and Kentucky did not secede from the Union. The states hoped that the compromise between the North and the South still could be achieved. Such compromise was based on the division of the proslavery and free slavery states with the right to make it legal in the regions where it already existed. The slavery approach was not so visible in the border states. In addition, the industrialization and the economic growth of the states could be limited with the joining of the Confederation.

Thus, the Civil War was inevitable. It was determined by the increasing of the sectionalism and separatism within the Union. Despite the fact that the America experienced economic unification and establishment of a single national market, the industrialization worsened the division between North and South. While the North experienced development, the South remained predominantly rural society, which reinforced its traditional concepts of honor, hierarchy, and deference. The slavery was a determinant factor of the economic growth of the South. The northerners considered the slavery to be a threat to the Republican ideas. The weaknesses of the political system also contributed to the outbreak of the conflict. Finally, the process of the acquiring of new territories worsened the situation, as both North and South tried to introduce different ways of life based on freedom and slavery. Kansas-Nebraska Act divided the North and South and facilitated the beginning of the Civil War.

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