Secession of the South: Causes for Tension

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Secession of the South: Causes for Tension

Throughout the 1840’s and 1850’s a growing tension developed between the Northern and Southern states of America. That tension was primarily focused on the existence of slavery in the Southern states. Most Northern states had abolished slavery by 1850 and made a promise to the people to end slavery completely. They wanted the South to begin to become similar to the North, and to live under the concept of free labor, and not rely on slavery for productivity. The resentment for the interference of the North angered southerners because they felt that it was not the place of the federal government to interfere. Ever since the American Revolution sectional differences arose, the first being those favoring greater states rights and those favoring greater federal rights. Ever since the Revolution more and more dissimilarities arose between the North and the South due to differences in modernization and societal development. These different ideals caused tensions between the two sections and difficulties in staying together as a single union. The Southern ways of life were being targeted and altered by the North’s inconsiderate decisions of their societies foundation, though the North had a strong basis. The southern secession in 1860 was in direct result of the inability for the North and South to cooperate and coexist, and was the only possible alternative, in the minds of the southerners, for the different methods of living to remain. There were many aspects that varied among the North and South states that lead to the Civil War and among these were economic, social and political differences. Economic and social divergences between the North and the South were one of the most prominent factors leading to Southern secession. The Southern economy was heavily supported on cotton, due to Eli Whitney’s invention of the Cotton Gin, which made cotton extraordinarily profitable for most southern plantation owners. The southerner’s focus shifted from all other previous crops to cotton, but cotton still required labor to be taken from the fields. Slavery became an institution that, in a sense, was the foundation for southern economy because of the fact that it was an inexpensive and vastly available labor source. Completely opposing southern society was that of the North, which was an industrial based economy instead of an agricultural one. The North utilized the raw materials and turned them into finish goods, making slavery neither an immediate necessity nor a foundation for their economy. The economic attitudes that differentiated the North and the South were exceedingly dissimilar and there was not a great deal flexibility for change. The southern reliance on slavery for labor and the northern perception of the institution as cruel and inhumane, were conflicts that challenged the southerners’ way of life and arose much tension between the two. Social differences between the North and the South coincided with their economic differences. The South, being agriculturally based could not relate and could not be related to by the North. The North experienced industrialization and drastically modernized, but the South continued with the traditional plantation system and strict social order it had began with, creating the lack of connection between the two due to two completely polar opposite societies. The North’s attitude towards the South was perceived as the attacking of another societies lifestyle and existence. With the limitations on the expansion of slavery, the growing abolitionist movement in the north and the election of Abraham Lincoln, secession was the only way to escape the North’s condemnation of the South as a whole. States rights versus federal rights, was a problem that arose from the time of the Revolution, a problem that undermined the union of the north and the south. After independence from Great Britain was acquired, the issue of states rights versus federal rights was in...
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