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Abraham Lincoln was a presidential hope of the Republican Party during the pro-1860 presidential campaigns. The North and the South differed on very many issues and mostly the North won. This essay highlights the key causes of the Civil War.
Lincoln was elected as the President of the Union on November 6, 1860. Southern states, such as Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida, seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate (Wattenberg, Martin, and Lineberry 77). However, in his inaugural speech, Lincoln stated that he had no intentions of abolishing slavery or the Fugitive Slave Law. This statement angered the Northerners and by mid-April 1861 the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter, and the federal forces retaliated, marking the launch of the Civil War.
The primary factor that led to the war was economic disparities between the North and the South. During his presidential campaign, Lincoln used anti-slavery as his platform, an ideology that did not appeal to the Southerners. The South’s economy was based on plantation agriculture, and their main produce was cotton, a crop that was valued like gold on both domestic and international markets. Owners of huge plantations were very keen to sustain their rich lifestyle, hence to sustain their heavy reliance on slavery. On the contrary, the North relied on industries and commerce and declined to use slavery as a source of labor. Most of the Northerners controlled and owned ships and trade routes, which was a very lucrative business at the time. They paid for labor and all the expenses in their commercial activities and industries. They felt that the southerners had an “unfair edge” over them because they did not pay for labor. This difference in opinion could have been one of the causes that led to the Civil War.
Although the South used free slavery, the North was in a better position financially. The North had nothing to lose because they did not rely on slavery. In the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, all human beings were supposed to be free. Slavery was a very controversial issue because many people, especially Northerners, did not understand how a nation based on human freedom could allow slavery. Slavery was a key issue in the economic welfare of the South, thus an abolition of the institution was out of order.
The second issue involved taxation. The Rights of the Individual States was at risk due to the issue of taxation. The Union demanded that every state should collect taxes and deliver the revenue to the national government. Every state demanded that they should have representatives both in the Congress and in the House of Representatives. Although this happened, there was some element of dissatisfaction among people. Most of the Southerners felt that their voice was not heard in the national government. The South wanted lower taxes and subsidies because they grew crops like cotton that could not thrive in the North. They also felt that the North priced their agricultural produce lowly so to control their financial well-being.
The third issue was the differences sparked by the federalism versus the anti-federalism debate. In 1787, the novel Constitution was presented for ratification (Kennedy 82). Issues on interpretation of the Bill of Rights, a republic government, and the independence of the states had taken centre stage. This led to the formation of federalists (those who supported the ratification of the new constitution) and the anti-federalist (those against the constitution). Federalists included John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, while anti-federalists included Thomas Jefferson, George Clinton, Patrick Henry, and Elbridge Gerry. Federalists wrote articles in support of the Constitution (federalist papers), while anti-federalists wrote articles against the constitution (anti-federalist papers). In 1788, Federalists won, and George Washington was elected President with John Adams as his deputy. They took office in 1789 and went on to establish the first Congress and military machinery. Washington appointed Alex Hamilton as the Treasury Secretary while Thomas Jefferson was appointed as the State Secretary. Federalists like Hamilton wanted a powerful federal government, while Jefferson wanted states to have more power than the federal government and a strong Bill of Rights. Hamilton proposed that the national government should clear debts owed by the states, while Jefferson opposed since most Southern states had paid, while the Northern states were slow in repaying the debt. The debts were paid and the government gave in to the demands of the south by moving the Capital of the Union from New York to the South of River Potomac, the current location of Washington D.C. (Gordon 17).
Another main issue that caused extreme political differences between the federalists and anti-federalists was the creation of a national bank. Hamilton and his supporters used a loose clause in Article I to create a national bank. The anti-federalists argued that such a bank would put the elite close to a reserve meant for many people. In case of lack of control, the outcome would be very detrimental to the economy. The anti-federalists also opposed the imposition of tariffs on states. These tariffs were meant to act as a source of revenue for the federal government, but the bill did not pass (Wood 536-537).
In conclusion, economic issues, such as the use of slaves in the South, led to growing tensions over “an unfair labor advantage.” The North relied on commerce and controlled the prices of commodities produced by the South. The South felt that they were targeted since they did not have economic subsidies and had to pay taxes. The strength that the Federalists had in the national government was not well accepted by the South. Thus, all these factors sparked Civil War.