The Civil War started in 1861 in the United States following decades of disagreements between the southern and northern states over slavery as an institution. The North had well-established manufacturing industries that bolstered its economy. On the other hand, the economy of the South was primarily driven by the large-scale farming of cotton and tobacco. However, this farming relied on the labor that was provided for by Black slaves. From the 1830s, the North had sustained a growing call for the abolition of slavery. Since slavery was the backbone of the South’s economy, it felt threatened by the abolition sentiments from the North.
Attempts by anti-slavery activists from the North to block plans by the South to expand slavery into the western regions sparked violent resistance from the southern leaders. Therefore, slavery was the primary catalyst of the American Civil War (McPherson, 1997). The Southerners were out to secede from the North and form their own Confederate States where the institution of slavery would not be challenged. In the run-up to November 6, 1860, U.S. Presidential elections, the Republican Party had distinguished itself as an anti-slavery party. It campaigned on the platform of ending slavery once elected. The southerners were outraged by this political philosophy of the party. To the chagrin of the South, the Republican Party won the 1860 elections, an event that many southerners saw as a perfect opportunity to leave the Union.
The decision by the first seven states to secede immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth President of the United States was sparked by his anti-slavery attitude. Once elected into office, he delivered the Emancipation of Slavery that, among other things, declared that all slaves “shall then be in rebellion against the United States.” By this declaration, he laid the groundwork intended to ensure an absolute end to slavery across the entire nation. Incidentally, the Southerners refused to sit back and watch the abolition of slavery without doing anything. Indeed, “most Southern volunteers believed they were fighting for liberty as well as slavery” (McPherson 22). They believed that secession was a way of securing the liberty of the slaves as well.
The aftermath of the war saw the Amendment of the Constitution ensure the freedom of slaves. For the first time in American history, black men were granted the right to vote. President Lincoln allowed the freed slaves to join the Union army, where they served under the banner of the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). Additionally, the 13th Amendment that was added to the Constitution after the readmission of the Southern states into the Union called for the total abolishment of the institution of slavery. Meanwhile, the 14th and 15th Amendments declared that all American citizens would be equally protected by the law and that black men would be allowed to vote, respectively. This is enough justification that slavery was the main cause and course of the war.
In conclusion, the institution of slavery was at the backbone of the American Civil War. When the United States was experiencing tremendous economic growth, both the North and the South pursued different economic agendas. While the North’s economy was primarily based on the manufacturing industry, the South relied on black slaves for their large-scale farms (McPherson, 1997). Therefore, a clamor for the abolition of slavery that emanated from the North was construed as a threat to the economy of the South by the Southerners, whose reaction was to secede from the Union, hence, the Civil War.
McPherson, J. M. (1997). For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. Oxford University Press.