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The Civil War Essay Sample

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The Civil War Essay Sample

While the causes of the Civil War can be attributed to various factors, the principal cause is considered to be sectionalism. Sectionalism is a term that describes a situation in which the needs or desires of individual parts become more important than the well-being of the greater whole. Such was the situation between the Northern and Southern states leading up to the Civil War. The two regions were marked by various differences, and the war was ultimately the result of both sides staunchly refusing to concede to the other on specific issues. Sectionalism was one of the causes of the Civil War. The Southern states seceded from the Union because they didn’t want President Lincoln to free their slaves. The South depended on their slaves to help with their farms; the slaves were part of the South’s life. When Abraham Lincoln became President, the South didn’t want to be part of the Union. They became the Confederate States of America. After the Civil War though, the South was united again with the North and slavery was abolished.

Many Americans are confused by the causes of the Civil War. While the slaves were freed in territory captured by Union armies by the Emancipation Proclamation during the war, and all forms of slavery ended by the 13th Amendment after the war, recent films such as Gods and Generals have portrayed Southern generals as hoping for an end to slavery, and as fighting first for their state and its rights under the Constitution.

The Constitution had given all rights not specifically “enumerated” (specified) as belonging to the President, Congress or Federal judges to the states. For example, the Constitution doesn’t give the Federal government the right to run a nationwide school system; therefore each state operates its own.

Before the Civil War, many Southerners felt that their states’ rights were being ignored. Now, this was primarily in the matter of slavery. The main problem was that slaves would head north when escaping their masters. The Constitution had guaranteed that all such slaves would be returned to their masters.

The concept of states’ rights had been an old idea by 1860. The original thirteen colonies in America in the 1700s, separated from the mother country in Europe by a vast ocean, were use to making many of their own decisions and ignoring quite a few of the rules imposed on them from abroad. During the American Revolution, the founding fathers were forced to compromise with the states to ensure ratification of the Constitution and the establishment of a united country. In fact, the original Constitution banned slavery, but Virginia would not accept it; and Massachusetts would not ratify the document without a Bill of Rights. The debate over which powers rightly belonged to the states and which to the Federal Government became heated again in the 1820s and 1830s fueled by the divisive issue of whether slavery would be allowed in the new territories forming as the nation expanded westward.

States’ Rights are the theory that state and local government’s actions and laws in dealing with social and economic problems supersede federal actions and laws. The theory goes back to the founding of our nation. Jefferson and Madison advocated states’ rights in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. John C. Calhoun’s Theory of Nullification, the South’s justification for declaring independence from the US, also advocates states’ rights. The argument of the States’ Rights theory is that the Constitution is a compact between states, not between people. The states created the national government and gave it only limited power. States’ Rights supporters believe that the state is closest to the citizen and can better reflect their wishes. This was one of the major causes of the Civil War. The South claimed that the North and West were ignoring the rights and needs of the South; therefore the South had the right to nullify its compact with the other states and declare its independence.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was the sixteenth president of the United States during one of the most consequential periods in American history, the Civil War. Before being elected president, Lincoln served in the Illinois legislature and lost an election for the U.S. Senate to Stephen A. Douglas. Nevertheless, his fierce campaign earned him a nomination for the presidency. The first Republican president ever, Lincoln led the Union to victory in the Civil War and ended slavery in America.

Despite being remembered today as “The Great Emancipator,” Lincoln maintained a moderate stance on the emancipation of slaves, never vowing in his campaigns to abolish slavery, as it was vital to the southern economy. He even stated in his presidential inaugural address that he would not use his executive power to interfere with the institution in any state where it existed. Still, Lincoln vehemently opposed the expansion of slavery into new western territories and served as one of the most influential advocates of “free soil.” For this reason, the president posed a significant threat to the economic and political interests of the slaveholding South. Thus, in response to his 1860 election victory, seven southern states seceded from the Union. Lincoln was determined to prevent disunion by any means necessary, but his attempts at negotiation failed miserably; within the first months of his tenure, the divided nation was engaged in a full-blown Civil War. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, seven slave states left the Union to form the Confederate States of America, and four more joined when hostilities began between the North and South. A bloody civil war then engulfed the nation as Lincoln vowed to preserve the Union, enforce the laws of the United States, and end the secession.

The war lasted for more than four years with a staggering loss of more than 600,000 Americans dead. Midway through the war, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves within the Confederacy and changed the war from a battle to preserve the Union into a battle for freedom. He was the first Republican President, and Union victory ended forever the claim that state sovereignty superseded federal authority. Killed by an assassin’s bullet less than a week after the surrender of Confederate forces, Lincoln left the nation a more perfect Union and thereby earned the admiration of most Americans as the country’s greatest President.

Born dirt-poor in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1809, Lincoln grew up in frontier Kentucky and Indiana, where he was largely self-educated, with a taste for jokes, hard work, and books. He served for a time as a soldier in the Black Hawk War, taught himself law, and held a seat in the Illinois state legislature as a Whig politician in the 1830s and 1840s. From state politics, he moved to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1847, where he voiced his opposition to the U.S. war with Mexico. In the mid-1850s, Lincoln left the Whig Party to join the new Republican Party. In 1858, he went up against one of the most popular politicians in the nation, Senator Stephen Douglas, in a contest for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln lost that election, but his spectacular performance against Douglas in a series of nationally covered debates made him a contender for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination.

When thinking about the causes of the American Civil War, it’s worth thinking about the Kansas-Nebraska Act as a cause of the Civil War. The Act in itself was a significant contributor to the tensions that followed, and it is no accident that the Civil War broke out just six years after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed. The question remains, of course, whether it is better to see the Kansas-Nebraska Act as a cause of the Civil War, or as a symptom of the underlying problems that caused the Civil War. It’s important to understand, first of all, what the Kansas-Nebraska Act did. In 1854, congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Act, among other things, repealed the Missouri Compromise that was originally put forth in 1820. The Act was designed such that those who settled in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska would be allowed to choose whether or not slavery would be legal within those territories. This idea of “popular sovereignty,” in many ways, helped make the Kansas-Nebraska Act an important cause of the Civil War. By the time we reached the Kansas-Nebraska Act, tensions were already high on the issue of slavery between the North and the South. This sectional struggle, however, had largely been muted, and had been fought in the congress rather than on the battlefield or in the streets. The root cause of the Civil War – this sectional struggle – is what ultimately led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Dred Scott (1795-1858) was a slave who, in the 1840s, chose to sue his master’s widow for his freedom. He argued that his master, John Emerson, escorted him onto free soil in Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory, and thus had legally—even if inadvertently—granted him freedom. In 1857, the case reached the United States Supreme Court. The Justices ruled against Scott. John Emerson’s widow had since remarried, and she returned Scott, his wife, and his daughters to their owners, the Blow family, in May 1857, just months after the ruling. Both Dred and Harriet Scott died shortly thereafter, never to witness the legacy of their fight. The Dred Scott case was a major event on the road to the Civil War. The Supreme Court’s provocative opinion—which stated flatly that blacks had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect” and rejected the right of any territory to ban slavery within its own borders—inflamed public opinion in the North, leading to a hardening of antislavery attitudes and a surge in popularity for the new antislavery Republican Party. -6-

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