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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

5. 4 Events Leading to the Civil War

Economic Causes

There were fundamental differences in the economy of the north and the south of the U.S. Industry in the north demanded fresh investments to seek more profits. While these drastic economic changes were on in the north, the people in the south continued to follow the life styles of their Scot, Irish and Welsh ancestors. While the majority of the southerners owned no slaves and worked on farms, a tiny section were big plantation owners. Because of this fundamental difference, their interests often clashed. Says historian Forrest McDonald: "The south advocated a system of free trade among nations and a domestic policy that did not invite much governmental interference in the economy; largely succeeded in creating such a system and establishing such a policy during the 1840s and 1850s..." On the other hand, "the north...advocated high tariffs and active governmental interference to promote economic development..."

The Elections of 1860

By the early 19th Century, the U.S. saw the consolidation of the 2 party system. The Democratic Party, which had its support base in the south, and the Republican Party, which had its support base in the north. The election of 1860 brought the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the Presidential post. Lincoln had by this time become a prominent figure in national politics. He championed the cause of freedom.

Nullification Controversy

Due to the differences over the issue of tariffs [Tariff of Abominations (1828)], relations became rather strained between the north and the south. The bill forced many southern Senators including John C. Callouh to demand the right of the states to nullify any federal legislation that went against the interest of the state. John C. Calhouh went a step further and argued that states also have the right to secede from the Union.

Exhibit 5.4

Dred Scott

The Dred Scott Case

Dred Scott, a slave, had been bought from Missouri into a territory which was free (no slavery) by the Missouri Compromise. After some time, he was sent back to Missouri. Dred Scott, after the sweet taste of freedom, did not want to become a slave again. So he appealed to the Supreme Court for his freedom, only to lose the case. The ruling of the Supreme Court against Dred Scott caused an outrage in the anti-slavery camp. The Supreme Courtís decision in the Scott case denying both the right of a slave to sue for freedom and the right of a territory to exclude slavery within its boundaries further inflamed the antislavery factions.

John Brown

The debates between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery camp took a violent turn, when, in 1859, John Brown and his men launched an armed revolt in Virginia - to abolish slavery. John Brown was arrested and hanged for treason. But the incident served to further ignite the debate on slavery. In such a volatile situation the country went for elections (1860). The Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidential post. Lincoln had by this time become a prominent figure in national politics. He championed the cause of freedom.

During the elections of 1860, the main issue was slavery. The Democrat candidates were urged by southerners to protect slavery. When no agreement was reached, the southerners left. These southerners who supported secession from the Union, nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. When the news of Abraham Lincolnís victory reached South Carolina, it declared itself out of the Union. This was because the southern state realized that Lincoln did not support slavery. Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Alabama soon followed the decision made by South Carolina. Even before the elections, the southern leaders felt that the north did not accept their way of life. They realized that their economic interests were being threatened in the Union.

These states which declared their secession, formed a confederacy in 1861. They gave themselves a Constitution emphasizing the statesí rights. Jefferson Davis was made the President, with Alexander H. Stephens as the vice President. The officials in the confederacy immediately seized U.S. military installations.

Exhibit 5.5

Surrender of Lee

On April 12, 1861, the Confederate Cannons opened fire, and Fort Sumter (the federal garrison) became the first battle of America Civil War. The Confederate cause was slowly failing at the face of superior northern co-ordination by railroads and the marine. As the war dragged on, the Confederates realized they were at the receiving end. The south had expected help from Britain. However, Lincolnís envoy in London played an important role in keeping Britain and other European powers out of the war. This further demoralized the south. Finally, in April 1865, the Confederate General, Lee surrendered to the Union army at Appomatox Court, Richmond. With the end of the war, slavery and secession also came to an end.

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Table of Contents

5.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
5.1 - Sectionalism
5.2 - The Anti-Slavery movement
5.3 - A brief account of the Domestic scene on the eve of the civilwar
5.4 - Events Leading to the Civil War
5.5 - The Course of the war
5.6 - Points to Remeber

Chapter 6


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