Causes of the Civil War Discussion: Long and short range causation, events happen in context. Questions

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Causes of the Civil War
Discussion: Long and short range causation, events happen in context.


[1] What caused the South to Secede? [2] What made the North so determined to hold the Union? [3] Did these decisions depend on people, short range events or long range trends? [4] Which are more valuable sources, speeches of the times, or historical articles from the 1990s?
The South seceded because they thought they had the right, that the North would let them go in peace, and that they could defend themselves if they had to, and that they would win.
Economic Causes

1. The geographic limits of slavery divided the country

2. Economic interests in [fierce] opposition

3. Plantation agriculture = soil exhaustion need for virgin lands

4. Northern Industrial power v. South agricultural [differences irreconcilable] King Cotton v. Wage Slavers

5. The American System [bank, tariff, internal improvements] believed to be unjust to the South

6. South becoming a minority, could not protect its economic interests because the northern capitalists dominated the government.

7. Southern debts to North, distrusts of Banks [most in North]

8. Conflicting labor systems, few immigrants to South. North population grows faster, outvoting the South on economic issues [where does the transcontinental RR go?]

9. Panics [depressions] of 1819, 1837, 1857 blamed on North

10. Transportation system favors North in contest for the West

11. Underground RR and resistance to Fugitive Slave Law. “They are stealing our property.”
Social Causes

1. Slavery as a moral imperative. Religion says you must do more than obey the commandments.

2. Race Control issue. Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner Rebellions. Fear of slave rebellion led to slave codes and strict patrol system after 1831.

3. Sectionalism v. Nationalism, contest of loyalties

4. Ways of Life rural v. urban, agricultural v. industrial, cultural, aristocrats v. common man, romanticism v. materialism

5. Fear of slave [free] labor in North [South]

6. Immigration and census dooming South.

7. Racism [Cavaliers v. Puritans] “One southerner can lick a dozen greasy faced northern mechanics.”

8. Split in the churches, [Southern Baptists]

9. The Fugitive Slave Law [breach of contract]

10. Influence of propaganda both sides [Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe]

11. Abolitionists v. Fire eaters [extremists on both sides]

12. Perceptions of Southern Honor. Northerners failed to honor the Constitution, Compromise of 1820, Compromise of 1850, and Dred Scott.

13. Southerners considered themselves the “real” Americans.
Political Causes

1. South becoming more a minority each year. Had to make a stand.

2. Power struggle for control of the Union. South had lost the west and the territories.

3. Constitutional Issues [Compact of states or the people?] States Rights v. Federalism

4. A generation of incompetent leaders [Pierce, Buchanan]

5. Both sides fail to honor the Compromise of 1850

6. Breakdown of National Political Parties. Rise of Sectional Parties

7. Majority v. Minority [The tyranny of the majority] Calhoun’s doctrine of concurrent majorities.

8. Popular Sovereignty [and the loss of 36 30] destroyed Balance of Power

9. Slave Conspiracy theory believed by many Northerners

10. Election of a Sectional President with an anti slavery agenda

11. South saw this as the Second War for Independence. Saw themselves as the real inheritors of the Revolutionary tradition.

12. South felt they could win. North felt they would not secede, and if they did they would be easily stopped. [MISCALCULATION]

13. Each side engaged in scapegoating [it’s all their fault]

14. Polarization, each side believes what it wants, hears what it wants, each blames the other for the failure to compromise.

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