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The Causes of the American Civil War

The American Civil War is one of the most significant and controversial periods in American history. The Civil War was caused by mounting conflicting pressures, principles, and prejudices, fueled by differences and pride, and set into motion by unlikely set of political events. The war divided the country between the North (Union) and South (Confederate).

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The war lasted five years and by 1865 the Confederate forces were truly beaten. Out of this horrendous war though, where some 600,000 men died grew a greater sense of nationalism than is today, unrivalled around the world

One of the causes of the American Civil War was the economic and social differences between the North and the South. With Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793, cotton became very profitable. This machine was able to reduce the time it took to separate seeds from the cotton. However, at the same time the increase in the number of plantations willing to move from other crops to cotton meant the greater need for a large amount of cheap labor, Indo European slaves.

Therefore the Southern economy became a one-crop economy, depending on cotton as well as slavery. On the other side the Northern economy was based more on industry than agriculture. In fact, the northern industries were purchasing the raw cotton and turning it into finished goods. This disparity between the two set up a major difference in economic attitudes. The South was based on the plantation system while the North was focused on city life. The second cause for the American Civil War was the fight between slave and Non-slave state proponents.

As America began to expand, first with the lands gained from the Louisiana Purchase and later with the Mexican War, the question of whether new states admitted to the union would be slave or free. The Missouri Compromise passed in 1820 made a rule that prohibited slavery in states from the former Louisiana Purchase. The Compromise of 1850 was created by Henry Clay and others to deal with the balance between slave states and free states, northern and southern interests.

One of the provisions was the Fugitive Slave Act. Another issue that further increased tensions was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. It created two new territories that would allow the states to use popular sovereignty to determine whether they would be free or slave. The last cause of the American Civil War was the growth of the Abolition Movement. Increasingly, the northerners became more polarized against slavery. Sympathies began to grow for abolitionists and against slavery and slaveholders.

This occurred especially after some major events including: the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Dred Scott Case John Brown’s Raid, and the passage of the fugitive slave act that held individuals responsible for harboring fugitive slaves even if they were located in non-slave states. The Civil War lasted longer than it was expected to. But, unfortunately, the War was inevitable due to the great gap between the North and South socially, economically and politically.

In fact, due to these circumstances, if the South had won the War, the country would have probably been divided into two separate countries. As any war would have ended, the War ended with great losses to both sides. More Americans were killed in the Civil War than in all other American wars combined from the colonial period through the later phase of the Vietnam War. Apart from the number of deaths and casualties, the great loss of property and money, the country now needed to work together in order to rebuild what was lost.

Emotionally, it would take long years for many people to overcome the consequences of the war. The war was followed by twelve years of Reconstruction, during which the North and South debated the future of black Americans and fought bitter political battles. Yet, there was a good outcome of this war. Slavery came to an end as a legal institution. But the war did not bring equal rights for blacks, they still had their own war to win until those rights would be achieved.