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Causes of Civil War in the USA Essay

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Updated: Jan 13th, 2020


Civil war is the hostility between opposing political factions of the same country or within a community (Sammis 1). Such hostilities are usually very bitter and the consequences are dire. It results in deaths, despair and bitter wounds.Many children are rendered destitute, many people become disabled, women are raped and many men loose lives.

The American civil war lasted from 1861 to 1865 between the North and South. The south wanted to secede from the North because of seemingly irreconcilable differences. During this period, many people were killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, children exposed to horrific scenes and many got physical injuries.

What was left behind was a grieving population with thousands mourning the deaths of their loved ones, feeling helpless and downtrodden. It is estimated that during this very battle, there were over 600,000 casualties (Stoker 115). Discussed below were the causes of the civil war in the United States America.

Election of Abraham Lincoln as the President

When Abraham Lincoln was in 1860 elected as the president of the United States of America, Some Southern states immediately declared reasons for separation. South Carolina had even unilaterally declared their secession before election (Selcer 99). This was followed by other states such as Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Lincoln was a moderate and was viewed by the south as a person to abolish slavery and always in favor of Northern states


The land that was obtained from Louisiana Purchase and that gained from the Mexican war elicited many questions. This occurred at a time when America was greatly expanding its territories. There were different opinions as to whether the newly admitted states should be slave free or not.

A compromise was reached in 1820 banning slavery in the states which were formerly Louisiana Purchase. Conflict arose during the Mexican war, the question being what would happen to the new states upon the victory of the US in the war (Selcer 83). There was much debate and a compromise was reached in 1950 to balance slave free States in the North and South.

The Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 further worsened tensions. The act sought to create two new boundaries that would given the states freedom to choose between slavery and antislavery. This was followed by the people of Missouri moving into state of Kansas to force it to be slave state resulting in violence (Sammis 11).

The fighting that occurred is famously known as the ‘Bleeding Kansas’, the violence further extended to the senate whereby the senator from the south who was a proponent of slavery fought that from the North who opposed the act.

Socio Economic Differences

The Southern economy was agricultural depending a lot on cotton. With the invention of a machine that eased the separation of seeds from cotton made cotton very profitable and this even attracted more South farmers to shift from planting other crops to cotton.

Growing of more cotton meant that a lot of cheap labor was inevitably necessary. The source of this labor could only be slaves. Therefore, the south was so emotionally attached to slaves such that any mention of antislavery from the North triggered serious confrontations.

Their way of living was rural based so that they could be near to their farms and keep close watch on the slave laborers. They maintained a lot of social order within their living systems and different social classes existed. In contrast the economy of the northern people was industrial based.

Their sources of raw materials were from their rival South (Stoker 133). Their way of live was city based whereby people of different cultures and social lived and worked together in the same environment and conditions. The wide disparities amongst these people in geographical location, economy and social life created unfavorable attitude of rivalry towards each other. When the war finally broke out, they had the basis to fight each other to settle deeply rooted scores.

Battle between the States and Federal Rights

After revolution, there arose two opposing sides. There were those who wanted for more states rights and those who argued that the federal government was to have more power. The states who were in favor organized themselves after the American Revolution and formed a government.

This federal government was formed under a constitutional convention forming ineffective structures of governance. This led to the Pro Federal government to write a constitution secretly without the knowledge of the proponents of states (Selcer 92).

The consequences were the feeling by many that the rights of states to act on their own were disregarded. The states therefore demanded the nullification of the constitution but the Federal government could not accept it.

The staunch proponents of states’ rights strongly called for the cancellation of it but in vain. This led to states feeling that they are not given the respect they deserve and that their views were ignored. They therefore called for secession which was the genesis of the conflict that degenerated to civil war.

Uprising of Slavery Abolition Movement

The Northerners rose to be against slavery, slave holders and forced labor. They become increasingly determined to see to it that the inhumane treatment of other human beings came to an end. As a result, they gained more and more support and sympathizers.

Their effort received a major boost with the passage of fugitive slave act. Under this act, those who had fugitive slaves; both in slave and non slave states were obliged to take responsibility and accountability of their deeds (Sammis 14). This went against the wishes of the Southerners who felt they were the target of the legislation.


The US civil war was the deadliest in the 19th century, many lives were lost, property destroyed and sharp differences existed. Despite all these, United States of America have reconciled her people. Since then they have embraced the spirit of togetherness, embraced each other and have learnt to tolerate each other’s views.

They have since then nurtured their democracy to be the best and most admired in the world. The whole world should learn from the USA for it to be a better place for everyone. War should not be a reminder or a lesson to humanity.

Works Cited

Sammis, Kathy. Focus on U.S History: The Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Walch Publishing, 1997: pp 1-20

Selcer, F. Richard. Civil War America, 1875 to 1875. Infobase Publishing, 2006: pp 77- 102

Stoker, J. Donald. The Grand design: Strategy and the U.S Civil War. Oxford University Press, 2010: pp 122-150

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