Political Causes of the Civil War

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Political Causes of the Civil War Paper

        Today 130 years later, there is still a passionate debate regarding the “cause” of the Civil War. Although slavery was the moral issue that divided Northerners and Southerners, the average American in the mid 1800’s had very little interest in slaves or slavery.  In fact, most Southerners were small farmers that could not support slaves, and most Northerners had never even seen a slave.  However the crucial issue concerning the political leaders during this time was the States “rights” to have slaves, versus the “right” and wrong of slavery. These rights or right underlie another major difference between the North and the South, the role of federal versus state government.   Slavery at the time was primarily seen by the Southern states as an economic issue that each State should have the right to decide upon. On the other hand, Northern states thought slavery was wrong and ought to be outlawed at the federal level or at the very least contained.  Throughout westward expansion in the early 1800’s the issue of slavery was dealt with by a series of compromises, but as the issue moved from the background to the foreground, political leaders were forced to speak about it.  In 1858, Abraham Lincoln stated in his U.S. senate debate that “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall- but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it… or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.” (Danzer 324).   Lincoln also expressed his personal views of slavery insisting that slavery was morally, socially and politically wrong and that it should not be allowed to spread.  The election of 1860 of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, whom the South perceived as anti-states’ rights and antislavery was the catalyst to cause South Carolina to succeed from the Union bringing ten Southern states along to form the Confederate States of America.  Lincoln took the position that States did not have the right to succeed from the Union.   Hence, the primary cause for the collapse of the Union and the outbreak of the Civil War can best be attributed to political issues surrounding the role of government and the election of 1860.

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        “The power struggle between state and the federal government has caused controversy since the country’s beginning. At its worst the conflict resulted in the Civil War” (Danzer 322). In the mid 1800’s Northern states favored a strong federal government. The North needed a central government to fund the building of roads and railways, to protect its complex trading and financial interests and to control the national currency. Conversely, Southern states had little need for a strong federal infrastructure, and in fact viewed a strong central government as a threat to their independence and local economy. The Southern states firmly believed ...

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