Causes Of American Civil War

Topics: Slavery in the United States, American Civil War / Pages: 31 (10338 words) / Published: Jul 14th, 2015
The question of whether the Civil War was an 'irrepressible' or a 'repressible' conflict has been a central issue of debate. Causes of the war have been variously identified as: 1) conflict over slavery 2) states rights and nationalism 3) differences between an industrial North and an agricultural South 4) the mistakes of blundering politicians and extremists (the 'repressible conflict' argument) 5) a combination of several different factors, with chance and circumstance playing their part.


In his second inaugural address in March 1865, Lincoln stated that slavery was 'somehow' the cause of the war. Many historians have since agreed, with James Ford Rhodes claiming that 'it may safely be asserted that there was a single cause, slavery'. Although progressive and revisionist historians veered away from this approach, more recent historians such as Alan Nevins and Carl Degler have returned to the view that slavery was the underlying issue. They point out that disputes over slavery, and particularly the expansion of slavery into the new territories, were at the root of the sectional conflict which led to the outbreak of war in 1861. During the 1850s both North and South became more entrenched in their attitudes. The South saw slavery's expansion as crucial while the North became more convinced of the need to curtail it.

Slavery is linked to the outbreak of war in the following ways:

a) Southern support for slavery versus Northern opposition to slavery

By 1820 both Britain and the U.S. had declared the slave trade illegal and slavery was ended in virtually all the Northern U.S. states. As the North's industrial development outstripped that of the South, the differences between Southern and Northern society became increasingly entrenched. The South was developing its system of slavery based on plantation agriculture, with capital increasingly being invested in slaves. Slaves were the principal form of wealth in the South - the market

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