Have Historians over Emphasised the Slavery Issue as a Cause of the Civil War?

Topics: American Civil War, United States, Slavery in the United States Pages: 5 (2008 words) Published: December 12, 2006
The American Civil War has caused many debates amongst a wide range of historians resulting in many different views being formed on all aspects of the War. The argument whether slavery has been overemphasised is one of great debate. Some historians like Michael F. Holt concur that the slavery issue was nearly the only reason and cause of the American civil war. Others disagree, Joel H. Silbey agrees that this is a reason but not the only one other ideas to need to be looked at to the cause of the outbreak of war in America. I will look at this issue and others which caused the beginning of the civil war. The civil war dominates American history from the Jackson age and up to the end of the civil war in 1861. Many scholars have tried to identify the different issues and trends that would affect the causes and outcomes of the civil war. Historians would have gathered a wide range of information from various sections of the area of study. Diaries, memoirs, political writings, newspapers and official documents would have been looked at to gather their information and to formulate their opinion. New historians have applied the techniques of modern day in analysis of voting patterns and election returns. We should treat this complex question in relation not only to the political events, important though these are, but also other factors like social and cultural forces must also be contributors to the situation which occurred. Thus close attention must be paid to all immediate origins of the conflict. The slavery issue is one of mass debate throughout historians and many differing views have been created. It came to the forefront in 1819 after when some Northern congressmen proposed that slavery be banned from the states being carved out of the Louisiana Purchase. The debate continued, a compromise arose and in 1821 a line was drawn that preserved the balance between free and slave states. That prohibited slavery north of the 36 degree latitude. This curbed the slavery debate for some years. It did however re-occur when there was the annexation of Texas in 1845 and the acquisition of several states including Utah and California. There were factors to why slavery continued throughout America. Territorial expansion was one key factor to why it expanded. The new land meant that there was a need for labour thus they used slaves to enforce the existing work force. Alexander H. Stephens insists that this issue was not so important because he expected slavery to expand westward, because it involved the important principle of constitutional right and equality. Another reason why slavery continued was the market economy, this affected the continuation of slavery. As the economy grew the demand for further workers increased. The question of whether or not to annex Texas to the union, after she gained her independence from Mexico in 1836, scared politicians from all sections because they were afraid of upsetting the political balance between free and slave states. Attempts of trying to make an agreement between both parties were unsuccessful and only accelerated the situation. Acts which repealed the Missouri Compromise, allowed the citizens of those territories to decide whether or not they wanted slavery. Kansas, for the next three years, became a battleground between pro-slavery forces and ‘free-soldiers' who voted to keep slavery out of the territory. The Kansas-Nebraska act which repealed the Missouri Compromise had severe political implications. This was the "most significant political manoeuvre of the decade " according to some distinguished historians. The year 1854 was a major tuning point that most southerners were eager to turn. This backs up Michael Holt's view that the slavery issue was a key cause to the start of the American civil war. Although the slavery issue was pointed at by many as a major cause of the civil war other issues can be pointed at. In July 1862 William E. Forster talking in the House of Commons believed...

Bibliography: Brian Holden Reid, The Origins of the American Civil War: 397
James Ford Rhodes, Lectures on American Civil War, 2-16
Joel H. Silbey, Taking Sides: 313
Michael F. Holt, Taking Sides; 326
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