What Started the Civil War Term Paper

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Civil War Tensions

The American Civil War was not the culmination of one specific issue, which tore North and South, but rather the culmination of a perfect storm of issues and incidents that formed together to make war between the states "inevitable" (Foote, 1958, p. 29). The issues were various and complex: among them was the primacy of "states' rights" in the Constitution, and the usurpation of those rights (so it was felt by many a Southerner) by the Central government. This feeling was directly tied to the outcome of the Mexican-American War, which resulted in the annexing of large territories to the West. Would they be slave states or free states? If one followed the Missouri Compromise line, there should be no question. Slave states were below, free above. But with John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry and the frenzy of the abolitionist caused at fever pitch, the issue of slavery was more divisive than ever. Added to that the onset of the California gold rush, the push for California to be admitted to the Union as a "free state" and the fact that the Missouri Compromise line ran right through the middle of California, and suddenly the question of who had the right to dictate state policies (not indicated by the Constitution) -- the state itself or the central government, and matters quickly came to a head. Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency in 1860 on a vow to oppose slavery and uphold the Union. Upon his election, several southern states seceded in protest. They felt that the overreach of the central government into the affairs of individual states was an abuse of power. This paper will analyze and discuss these claims and other issues surrounding the Civil War.

The significant political,
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economic and social events that led up to the Civil War were (politically) the election of Lincoln to the White House, who promised in so many words to override "states' rights" by enforcing the Union (from which men like Jefferson Davis believed states had the right to withdraw, as granted them implicitly by the Constitution); (economically) the low tariffs set by Southern Congressmen, which upset Northern Industrial magnates, the Homestead Act and the rise of the transcontinental railroad -- both of which could be seen as maneuvers by Northern states to take over the Midwest in a move to block out Southern influence and expansion to the West (Egnal, 2001, p. 30); and (socially) the issue of slavery (flamed to inferno-like levels by men like the radical abolitionist John Brown).

The key figures, events and battles of the war were numerous. Jefferson Davis led the South as President of the Confederacy. His response (firing on Ft. Sumter) after Lincoln dared to send a ship of "reinforcements" in spite of Davis' warning that the federals must withdraw from the fort (which was on Southern territory), initiated the conflict. Northerners rallied behind Lincoln, whereas before they had begrudged him the office. (Lincoln had essentially provoked Davis in order to whip up support). This "battle" started it all. But more followed. U.S. Grant made an impact as one of the first Union generals to effectively and consistently resist and attack Southern armies (his victory at Ft. Donelson was pivotal in breaking the Southern stronghold along the North-South border region). And the blockade of Southern ports by Union ships effectively destroyed the South's cotton trade, leaving the states no real means of supporting themselves economically. Davis anticipated Europe coming to the Southern States' aid, believing them to be as dependent upon the trade as the States were. But Europe had a surplus of cotton in store and felt…

Sources Used in Documents:

Reference List

Economy in the Civil War. (2014). The Civil War. Shmoop.

Egnal, M. (2001). The Beards Were Right: Parties in the North, 1840-1860. Civil War

History 47(1): 30-56.

Foote, S. (1958). The Civil War: Ft. Sumter to Perryville. NY: Random House.

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