Causes of Civil War

Introduction

The American civil war is a conflict that was experienced in the United States in the 19th century. This war was fought between the Northerners and the Southerners in which the fate of slaves was the bone of contention. The Northerners were against the slavery institution in the South, and this was resented by the Southerners. This paper will provide an analysis of the American civil war with particular reference to slavery as the main cause.

Slavery as the cause of Civil War

Slavery was a very sensitive issue in the United States during 19th century. The United States Constitution was relatively tolerant in respect to the slavery institution for the sake of uniting the country. The Constitution included a clause on slavery so as to avoid questions related to America’s peculiar institution of African slavery.

Slavery was regarded as the appropriate status for the Africans by the slave-holding states. Stephens observed that slavery “was an immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution”[1]. Even though it was included in the Constitution, Jefferson predicted that African slavery was “rock upon which the old the old union would split”[2].

Jefferson and other statesmen of the time were of the view that African slavery was illegal and ideally wrong. What was clear is that these statesmen did not have a clue on how to handle the situation but they hoped that in some way or the other, this vice would diminish. This idea was not entrenched in the Constitution despite dominating the minds of many people at the time. In fact, the Constitution secured essential guarantees to slavery for as long as this institution lasted.

Without a Constitutional backing, the ideas held by the various statesmen that slavery would diminish with time were not to be realized. The government that was put in place entrenched the concept of African slavery in that the Africans were regarded as lesser humans and unequal to the whites. The position of the Africans as slaves was justified as being in line with nature[3].

The constitutions of various states in the United States included clauses that entrenched the enslavement of African Americans. However, on many occasions, the Federal Government would step in to act in violation of these provisions that emphasized on slavery. The states that encouraged slavery saw this as an encroachment of the Federal Government to the rights of the states. This prompted many of the states to contemplate withdrawing from the Federal Union[4].

South Carolina’s case

States like South Carolina became frustrated with the encroachments that were being advanced by the Federal Government and opted to secede when it could take no more. South Carolina held on the principles that it had the rights like any other state to govern itself without interference from outside. Also, it was asserted that the people did have the right to abolish a government when it was deemed as not adhering to the intended functions[5].

South Carolina, in presenting its case for secession, it argued that some of the states had for a long time deliberately refused to adhere to the Constitutional provision which required states in the North to return fugitive slaves that escaped from the South[6].

In fact, these states had enacted statutes which did not encourage slavery and the return of fugitive slaves to the South. It was argued that various states such as Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa had put legislations in place that nullified Acts of Congress, or thwarted any efforts to implement such Acts[7].

In most of these states, the fugitive slaves were discharged from service labor. In this regard, the slave-holding states argued that the Constitutional compact had been deliberately violated. The slave-holding states claimed that the non-slave holding states had assumed the right in which they wanted to decide on the domestic institutions of other states. The non-slave holding states were also accused of having violated the Constitution by denouncing the slavery institution that was protected by the Federal Constitution.

These states were also accused of having allowed the formation of societies that agitated for the abolition of slavery thereby disturbing peace and tranquility in the slave-holding states. In addition, these states were accused of offering assistance to the slaves in their quest to leave their ‘homes.’ With all these accusations being leveled against the Northern states, a line was drawn between the northern states and the Southern states[8].

The Northern states were accused of being determined in their quest to eliminate slavery which was embraced in the Southern states. This drew a lot of resentments from the slave-holding states.

The Southern states feared that the south would be excluded from main issues in the country. It was also feared that the guarantees of the Constitution was at risk of being trounced and that there shall be no equal rights being enjoyed all states. Those states that upheld slavery feared that they stood to lose their self-government power and that the Federal Government was perceived as an enemy[9].

Texas’ Case

Texas had opted to join the United States with the promise from the former that it would be regarded as an equal state just like the others. This proposal was accepted by the people of Texas in December of 1845 and Texas was admitted to join the Confederate Union.

The main reason for joining the Confederated Union was to enable Texas to enhance its well-being. In this case, Texas hoped that the Confederated Union would be beneficial to her in the promotion of the states’ welfare; insuring domestic peaceful co-existence; and securing the benefits of peace and liberty of the state to its people[10].

Texas joined the Confederated Union while keeping its own state constitution with guarantees from the Federal Constitution and the Compact of annexation that Texas, like any other state, would be allowed to realize its potential. Texas joined the Confederated Union while still holding onto the institution of slavery which asserted that the Africans were to serve the Whites.

The people of Texas expected that this institution was to be protected and upheld even in the future. Texas, as a slave-holding state, established a very strong connection with the states of the Confederated Union that encouraged slave-holding. The ties between Texas and these states were enhanced by association as they shared something in common[11].

Texas was suspect of the position taken by the non-slave holding states that looked determined to frustrate the much valued slavery institution. The Northern states, which had a controlling majority in the Federal Government, were accused of pushing for the destruction of the slavery institution that was highly valued in Texas and other slave-holding states[12].

The Northern states were accused of being disloyal whereas the Federal Government was accused of not protecting the interests of the slave-holding states. In reference to the Northern state, it has been noted that, “infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws …”[13] The Northern states were also accused of waging a war on the property of the Southern states.

As the Northern states were being accused of working hard to destroy the slavery institution of the Southern states, the Federal Government was accused of failing to protect the lives and property of the slave-holding states and its citizens.

This was interpreted to mean that the federal government was partially supporting the Northern states in their mission. Texas in particular, asserted that the Federal Government had failed to offer protection to its people and property against the Indian communities that were regarded as savage.

Also, the Federal Government was accused of having failed to protect the people of Texas from the cruel attacks of banditti who came from Mexico. In addition, it was argued that when Texas had come up with a plan to facilitate the protection of the state, the Federal Government was accused of refusing to fund the plan. This caused a lot of frustrations among the Texans who argued that their state had become more insecure than it was before joining the Confederated Union[14].

The Northern states including Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Ohio and New York among others were accused of having enacted various legislations that were in violation of “the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article [the fugitive slave clause] of the federal constitution”[15].

This opened a leeway for the passage of laws that annulled the material provision of the compact that had been designed to enhance friendship between the slave-holding states and the non-slave holding states. To the Texans and the citizens of slave-holding states, the compact was adopted to promote justice and wisdom. The slave-holding states accused the non-slave holding states of having imposed fines and penalties on the citizens and officers who implemented the provisions of the compact or the federal laws that related to slavery.

Given that the non-slave states were determined to violate the federal provisions and the compact provisions, the slave-holding states were frustrated and opted for secession. The Northern states were accused of championing for the abolition of slavery throughout the United States and called for equality of all human races.

This was contested by the slave-holding states which to them, equality of human races was “a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law”[16].

Conclusion

The calls for abolition of slavery by the non-slave holding states was said to have undermined the slave-holding states and made them appear to be minority states in the Union. The abolition movements were accused of inciting the slaves and exacerbating hatred between slave-holding states and the non-slave holding states.

The slave-holding states were frustrated by calls from the non-slave holding states that wanted to do away with the slavery institution. It can be observed that slavery was a contested issue in the United States which ultimately led to the civil war. Each side in the war advanced its own justification, and since each side was willing to compromise, hell broke loose and the war was inevitable.

Bibliography

Dew, B. Charles. Apostles of disunion: southern secession commissioners and the causes of the Civil War. (Charlottesville; London: University Press of Virginia, 2001).

Stephens H. Alexander. Slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy (1861) In Frank H. Moor, ed. The Rebellion Record, vol. 1 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861-1868).

South Carolina Justifies Secession (1860) In Frank H. Moor, ed. The Rebellion Record, vol. 1 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861-1868).

University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States.” The American Civil War Homepage. http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html#Texas (accessed 1 June 2010).

Alexander H. Stephens. Slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy (1861), In Frank H. Moor, ed. The Rebellion Record, vol. 1 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861-1868), 71
Alexander H. Stephens. Slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy (1861), 71
Alexander H. Stephens. Slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy (1861), In Frank H. Moor, ed. The Rebellion Record, vol. 1 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861-1868), 72
Alexander H. Stephens. Slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy (1861), 72
South Carolina Justifies Secession (1860), In Frank H. Moor, ed. The Rebellion Record, vol. 1 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861-1868), 60
Charles B. Dew. Apostles of disunion: southern secession commissioners and the causes of the Civil War. (Charlottesville; London: University Press of Virginia, 2001), 12
South Carolina Justifies Secession (1860), In Frank H. Moor, ed. The Rebellion Record, vol. 1 (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861-1868), 61
South Carolina Justifies Secession (1860), 61
South Carolina Justifies Secession (1860), 61
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States.” The American Civil War Homepage. http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html#Texas (accessed 1 June 2010), para 1
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States,” para 3
Charles B. Dew. Apostles of disunion: southern secession commissioners and the causes of the Civil War. (Charlottesville; London: University Press of Virginia, 2001), 11
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States.” The American Civil War Homepage. http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html#Texas (accessed 1 June 2010), para 5
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States,” para 6
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States,” para 9
University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Declaration of Causes of Seceding States.” The American Civil War Homepage. http://sunsite.utk.edu/civil-war/reasons.html#Texas (accessed 1 June 2010), para 10