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American Civil War as a Historical Topic Essay

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Updated: Oct 19th, 2021


The American Civil war, one the most deadly war in the history of America has ever seen began in 1861 and spanned nearly four years to finally end in 1865. It all started with the secession of eleven states in which slavery of African-Americans was legal from the United States of America and formed the Confederate States of America popularly known to be the Confederacy under the leadership of Jefferson Davis. They declared war on the federal U.S. government which came to be known as the Union (Tyerman, pp. 27-9).

Main body

Abraham Lincoln, in the run-up to the presidential elections of 1860 had campaigned against the spread of slavery. Although Lincoln did not put forward federal regulations opposing slavery where it already subsisted, he had, in his House Divided Speech of 1858, made his intentions clear to thwart its further reach and believed that eventually it should be made extinct. Lincoln’s victory in the 1860 elections was the final blow resulting in seven Southern states’ declaration of secession with the federal administration regarding this act as an uprising (Tyerman, p. 177)

Southern states were in favor of slavery and the ideology in the north was contrary. Thus a clash was on the cards. To a great extent of the political clash during the 1850s focused on the spreading out of slavery into the lately created territories. All of the prearranged territories were probable to turn into free-soil states, which pushed the Southern faction toward secession. Both the North and South understood that if slavery could not spread it would eventually lead to its extinction. The Southern faction’s worries of relinquishing control of the federal administration to antislavery groups, and the Northern faction’s qualms relating to the power of the slaveholding states of the south in the regime, amplified the crisis in the latter half of the 1850s. Sectional dissensions over the ethics of slavery, the capacity of democracy, and the economic virtues of free labor pitted against slave plantations lead to the collapse of many parties, and the upraise of fresh ones (Kumar, pp. 312-4).

In 1860, the very last persisting nationalized political party, the Democratic Party, was torn down sectional ranks. The Southern powers accentuated the states’ rights in the context of slavery whereas the Northerners starting from the emancipationist William Lloyd Garrison to the balanced Republican leader Abraham Lincoln argued in favor of equality of all men. Lincoln pointed out this proffer in his Gettysburg Address.

More or less all inter-regional crises concerned slavery, beginning with arguments on the three-fifths clause with a twenty-year prolonging of the provision of African Slave Trade in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. There was a storm raised over the annexation of the slave state of Missouri to the Union, the Gag rule that banned arguments in Congress relating to appeals for abolishing slavery from 1835–1844, and many other controversies relating to slavery. The exceedingly popular antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin of 1852 written by Harriet Beecher Stowe greatly augmented the Northern argument against the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The Second Party System collapsed after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which substituted the Missouri Compromise prohibition of slavery with democratic sovereignty, allowing the populace of certain territory to vote in favor of or against slavery. In 1856 Congressional debates concerning slavery became aggressive with Representative of South Carolina, Preston Brooks assaulting and severely injuring Republican Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor after his controversial speech -“Crime against Kansas” (Lamb, pp. 475-8).

The 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott verdict permitted slavery even in the territories which faced major opposition to slavery, including Kansas. In 1858, the Lincoln-Douglas debates incorporated the Northern Democratic national Stephen Douglas’ Freeport Doctrine. This doctrine was a case for bilking the Dred Scott judgment and lead to the Democratic Party’s tearing down along the lines of North and South. The North-South division within the Democratic Party in 1860 owing to the Southern insistence for a slave code for the territories was a nail in the coffin relating to the split of the realm between North and South.

Other issues relate to sectionalism whose root lay in the intensification of slavery in the lower south while gradual eradication of slavery in the North and economic differences between the two. This split the largest religious factions the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches and disagreement owing to the inhuman treatment of slaves. The slaveholding states, reduced to a minority in the House of Representatives, were in face of a ceaseless minority in the Senate as well as Electoral College pitted against an ever more influential North. With Lincoln coming to power in 1860 the ultimate strike of secession was in order. The South dreaded that Lincoln’s proposition of stopping the spreading of slavery and eventually making it extinct would soon be realized (Kumar, p. 331).

Hostilities set out on April 12, 1861, with the Confederate forces attacking a U.S. military establishment at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. In response, the Union called for a volunteered militia from each state, resulting in secessions of four more Southern slaveholding states. Thus American history witnessed a long-lasting battle causing 620,000 deaths among the forces and an irresolute number of civilian casualties which eventually eliminated slavery in the United States, reinstated the Union, and braced up the powers of the federal government (Tyerman,pp. 201-2).

Works Cited

  1. Kumar, H; Justice of Winners: Win Some, Lose None (Auckland: HBT & Brooks Ltd. 2005)
  2. Lamb, Davis; Cult to Culture: The Development of Civilization; (Wellington: National Book Trust. 2004)
  3. Tyerman, J; Invention of the US Crusades (Dunedin: Allied Publications 2001)
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