Civil War the Great Divide

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The Great Divide

The issue of slavery was discussed in many ways. People talked about the morality of the institution (or lack thereof), the economics of slavery, and the political issues that came about because of it. No matter how it was discussed, the North and South could not agree. Northerners thought Southerners were corrupting the soul of America, and Southerners thought Northerners were hypocrites. No matter which way they looked at slavery, the North and South had two antithetical views that could not coexist in the same country.

The first issue that comes up when thinking about slavery is morality. Many Northerners were ignorant of what slavery really meant until escaped slaves moved north and told their stories—stories about a violent and inhumane institution. Northerners were shocked. They couldn’t believe it was happening in their country, “the land of the free.” Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave a clear image of slavery and helped Northerners to realize that slavery was more of a moral issue than anything else. The reactions to the book differed greatly in the North and South. After reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin many people in the North were disgusted with slavery and joined the abolitionist movement. Southerners got defensive and tried to justify slavery. They didn’t think slavery immoral, they thought it was the southern way of life. People in the South felt that abolitionists were trying to destroy something that they knew nothing about. They tried to justify slavery by saying masters took a personal interest in their slaves, while Northern factory owners could not care less about their workers. In his 1857 book, Cannibals All!, George Fitzhugh expressed this opinion: “They who work for you, who create your income, are slaves, without the rights of slaves.”

Another major divide concerning slavery was economy. The North had a mercantile economy and profited by thinking about the future. The North built factories and paid its...
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