Assess the extent to which slavery was the principal cause of the American Civil War.
The American Civil War of 1861 – 1865 occurred principally because of slavery. Although other catalysts contributed to the outbreak of war, all were inextricably bound to the institution of slavery, which ultimately upset the equilibrium between the North and the South. Economic differences highlighted through agriculture and industry, states rights and the admission of new states as slave or free and the constitution which saw slavery detrimentally ignored by the Founding Fathers would not have existed without the presence of slavery, again confirming its principality as the cause of the civil war.
Slavery was the principal cause of the American Civil War as it created a significant economic tension between the North and South. To begin with, a statement from Gordon Leidner, American historian, which completely supports slavery’s principality as the cause for the civil war. ‘Today we recognize slavery as a moral issue. But in the early nineteenth century, it was seen as a economic issue first, moral issue second.” The Southern states economy depended entirely on agriculture, which relied completely on slavery. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin exploited this, seeing the introduction of over 3.9 million slaves to assist in cotton production. This saw the south production of cotton increase from 160 million pounds in 1820 to 2.3 billion pounds in 1860, a growth of 230%. With the south now able to produce cotton at much higher rates, increased demands worldwide were made, making the per capita wealth in the South $3,978 compared to the North’s $2,040. In response to this, the North industrialized at a very rapid rate in the lead up to 1861, introducing banking, factories and mechanical production. With machinery rather than slaves, many groups in the North were convinced that the immorality of slavery could be avoided, especially for economic gain. Economically, the south and...
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