According to many historians the infamous civil war did not erupt as a result of slavery as many believe, but it came about after the Emancipation Proclamation. During this instance Southern states’ slaves were set free even though some Northerners were pushing for war in order to stop the slavery. The war was fought because the North did not believe that the Southern states were allowed to succeed especially due to the contribution of slave labor on the agricultural sector of the Southern states. The Southern states were fighting to have the full states’ rights and if slavery played a part, it was only a minor part. The Southern states also had a very strong dislike for the tariffs; they claimed it had an adverse effect on their economy, However this was not the case in the North where they fully supported the tariffs because they protected their industries The constitution did not have any negative sentiments against slavery when it was first written and this did not give any administration a warrant of using this issue to oppress any territory of the United States. So the main root cause of the civil war was that the South was fighting for their constitutional rights to possess the slaves who played a vital role in maintaining their agricultural industry (Blair, 123).
The North had to come up with an excuse of attacking the South. It is important to note that the North relied on the South for their agricultural sector and the South ceding from the United States would have left the Northern States at an economical risk. This fact also led to some European countries most notably Britain and France interest in interfering with the war. Therefore, to counter the mess that was about to happen, Lincoln had to look for an excuse and slavery provided the best avenue (Carter, 129).
But it turned out that his proclamation did not free the slaves, at least not until the thirteenth amendment that stated that slavery had to be eliminated. Lincoln on his part was fully aware of the importance of slavery especially towards the Southern States’ economy that was agricultural based. This was the main reason of his siding with slavery in the 1861 inaugural address, a clear indication of his uncaring attitude towards the slaves. Further grounds for this argument arose when General Fremont was relieved off his duties by Lincoln after the former decided to set free slaves in the district under his command. In fact most of the slaves that had been set free were re-enslaved again (Resch, 159).
When the Morill Tariff was finally imposed on the Southern states they could not take it any more. It was obvious the dislike the southerners had on Lincoln style of leadership and they strongly felt he was unfair and unjust towards them. As I earlier said, it is our constitutional right to rights; it had nothing to do with slavery. All in all Lincoln went ahead to act against the constitution and made arbitrary arrests of more than 13,000 people who were questioned about their involvement in the war.
The economical reasons behind the war can be evidenced by the fact that the agricultural industry in the Southern States was optimized by the labor from the slaves. When the administration stated that the slaves would be recognized by the Federal Government as free men, the Southern States deemed it that they would no longer be able to enjoy the agricultural supremacy they had enjoyed prior to the new policy. The Southern States saw it as a policy that would ensure that they remained economically under the shadow of the Northern States. This did not go well with the Southern States leaders and this led to their conflict with the Northern States and also the administration. This can be seen as a formidable cause of the American Civil war and although the issue of slavery was concerned, the major instigator of the war was the economical reasons that were the issues at hand during the time (Resch, 153).
The political reasons can be said to be many but the outstanding reasons was that the Southern States were not in support of the Lincoln administration. His policies were viewed by the majority of the population in the Southern States as demeaning to their political ideologies. One of his controversial policies was the Emancipation Proclamation which grossly affected the labor system of the Southern States. Although this issue had to deal with slavery, there was also the issue that the Southern States population felt that they would be sidelined in the government’s policies and this would deal a great blow to their development both economically and socially. The possibility of the Southern States being a sovereign country appealed to most of the leaders and hence their interest in ceding from the United States of America (Fellman, 399).
Slavery was not the cause civil war
So at this point what can be distinctly identified as the root of the infamous war? Variably it is important to note that as much as Lincoln never initiated the war as a means to end slavery, does not necessarily indicate that the civil war was not caused by slavery. Although I would support such an American republic which did not cordon slavery and that preserved the Union theory, the American Civil War was partly based on slavery although not entirely on the eradication of slavery. The civil war was not meant to end slavery but was based on political ideologies of the administration of that time. Therefore, in theory it would have been better to have an immediate and peaceful liberation than the American Civil War which would claim a lot of lives as well as national resources (Blair, 136).
The other notable reason why slavery was a cause of American Civil War is that the slave owners were relentless on their pursuit to legalize slavery as far as the North and the West would accommodate it. They wanted to preserve this special institution and they wanted it to be at the level it was before the Lincoln administration (Carter, 108).
The other reason is the attack on Fort Sumter that was an indication of the Southern aggressiveness brought about by their aversion to the Northern States abolitionists as well as for Lincoln’s rebellion. The rest of the Southerners saw Lincoln’s manoeuvres as an attack on all of them and on their established way of life. There appears no reason enough as to why slavery was not the main cause of the civil war (Resch, 196).
It is evident that slavery and its abolition were the main causes of the war and thus the abolition of slavery catalysed the eruption of the war. And given that slavery was primarily the Southerners way of life in economical aspects we can surely see how radical Lincoln was. Lincoln’s acceptance of the succession was in a way a form of a “peaceful alternative”.
I personally think people who think the civil war was fought merely to abolish slavery need to read more on the history of the civil war in the history books. I am glad slavery was abolished but it should not be seen as the only reason why the civil war was fought. Slavery was part of the issue but more to this was part of the economic reasons and political reasons of the administration that was in place.
Blair, Jayne E. The Essential Civil War: A Handbook to the Battles, Armies, Navies and Commanders (2006)
Carter, Alice E. and Richard Jensen. The Civil War on the Web: A Guide to the Very Best Sites- 2nd ed. (2003)
Fellman, Michael et al. This Terrible War: The Civil War and its Aftermath (2nd ed. 2007), 544 page survey
Resch, John P. et al., Americans at War: Society, Culture and the Homefront vol 2: 1816–1900 (2005)
Wagner, Margaret E. Gary W. Gallagher, and Paul Finkelman, eds. The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference (2002)