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Published: Tuesday 29th of October 2013
America’s Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865 between northern states (the Union) and southern states (The Confederates) under Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. This great war was perhaps one of the most important in American history and certainly the most written about in US history. Throughout the time an estimated 800k casualties came out of the war as a result which is much greater than the total of both World War 1 and 2, plus the Vietnamese war. 1860 in South Carolina marked the beginning, this state seceding from Union states and beginning the North and South conflict. What were the underlying causes of the Civil War? It was ultimately a result of differences in cultural, ideological and economic points of view between both regions.
Ask anybody today to give you a quick summary of the causes for the civil war and they will instantly tell you the war began because of slavery. Not all of the states within the Union were on the same point towards slavery, with many different types of opinion being held, nor were a lot of the confederate states on the same page either, however there were vast differences between the North and the South on the whole. The vast differences served to be the main reason for the Civil War erupting. The United States was founded on the philosophy of republicanism and owning slaves was deemed not to be consistent with this underlying philosophy. Republicanism is the philosophy that holds individual rights and liberties as key values and this obviously coincided with slaves who were legally their masters property. The Union states of the North gradually tried to phase out the practice of slavery and bring it to an end whereas has the South fundamentally disagreed with this, thinking that they ought to have the right to own slave people if they wanted to.
Interestingly, the vast majority of owning slaves was in fact illegal in northern states because by the 19th century it had been outlawed all over this part of America. Different to the South, the North didn’t embrace as many farming practices and instead relied mostly on manufacturing to get the economy going. Most of northern industry was related to manufacturing, whereas the South wanted cheap slave labour in order to farm and produce primary industry goods. In the South, because of Chattel slavery, people could own slaves outright and these mostly African American people were considered as property. Not only that but any children of the slaves would become property too – it was truly a harrowing time in terms of social justice. Ultimately, the conflict between wanting to own slaves in southern states vs the unions culture of abolitionists created strong tensions that would lead to the Civil War. A shocking statistic was stated by Lincoln during his inauguration, 1/8 of Americans were coloured slaves who resided in southern states that harboured great economic interests to keep them.
Slavery is perhaps the greatest reason why the Civil War escalated, but there are also other causes also worth noting that helped contribute to the tension that ensued in the war. Nationalism helped create tensions as the two sides (north and south) viewed themselves as two separate entities. If people were to meet each other for instance, they would refer to “northerners” and “southerners”, including derogatory language such as “yankees” to refer to unionists. As people didn’t see one Americans, this helped to brew up an ingroup-outgroup hostility leading to conflict. Both sides to some extent wanted to remain their own separate parts because they thought so differently of one another.
States’ rights issues about what right states had over the central government also played into the civil war dynamic. southern states made the arguments that they should be able to leave the Union if they wanted to whereas the North did not agree to this, advocating for the formation of one United States. the South wanted their own laws and rights mainly because they didn’t agree with the Union laws which were mainly holding back southern economic development, For instance the Union government imposed enormous taxes on southern the cotton and southern states that were rich in this product such as South Carolina didn’t want to listen to these laws which they thought only benefited the Union States. Because of the issues regarding States rights, the South reformed into a group called The Confederate States of America, also known as The Confederacy. This group did not consider themselves part of the United States of America and thoughts they have the right not to listen to them or to pay Close attention to constitutional law. All the causes of the Civil War brewed together and let the war unfold.
As Lincoln became president of the United States of America The cessation of the South began, starting to post the abolition of slavery all over the United States. the South didn’t want to be part of the Union that unwelcomed slavery and wanted their own individual rights to own slaves, meaning that they wanted to split. The presidency of Abraham Lincoln meant that there was a high chance for the abolition of slavery and the song wanted no part of this, so they started to secede. The North tried to immediately undermine the southerners situation by declaring slavery to be abolished and freeing all the slaves that were in their States before advancing promptly south. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln in 1863 and guaranteed all slaves liberation, this quickly gaining the support of Slaves to fight in the struggle.
the North tried to attempts to regain unity of the United States resulting in different military actions. One of the major developments was a naval war which created a blockade for the southern states and a distinct advantage to the Union you had far superior naval capacity with large boats and more sailors. The blocking of the major ports in the South meant the southern states were soon becoming exhausted and ran out of resources pretty quickly – this was a great military tactic from the Union.
As the war advanced, Union army representatives recruited new previous slaves to fight for the struggle which would hopefully see many of the slaves freed. the North even encouraged South and slaves to rebel against their Masters and join the union army in order to gain a better position when fighting the war. It certainly worked – how could slaves reject the idea of a war which was fought rather much in their favour? The Union States certainly helped to destabilize the South, crippling their economy and using southern slaves towards the success by recruiting them to fight and help in any way they needed to. Fighting carried on and on up until 1865 whereby after four years in a row, everything came to a halt and the civil war was officially declared over. This was truly a turning point for slaves and a massive piece of US history, but what came after the civil war and what were the outcomes of the American people? conflicts still brewed and it marked the beginning of lengthy reconstruction period for America.
By the end of the war, a rather important amendment has been made to the United States Constitution, namely the emancipation Proclamation. For the first time, the Freedom of Slaves was granted and this was made universal throughout the country. So what became the result of this new found slave freedom in the United States?
The Civil War technically achieved slavery abolition but this wasn’t enough to allow former slaves to fully integrate with Society. Despite the official end of the war, a lot of animosity was still brewing and because Slaves were mainly of African descent, this meant that there was a lot of racism that was infringing upon their rights as US citizens.
The science name constitutional amendments, a lot more legislation that was needed to allow former slaves to be reintegrated into Society – these slaves needed and deserved the same opportunities and rights as other United States citizens. In order to upgrade former slaves socioeconomic status, two other amendments to the US Constitution were made, mainly the 14th and 15th amendments. These two amendments made in the late 19th century guaranteed that African Americans could have equal rights and liberties, phasing out a grey period of semi slavery which existed just after the Civil War had finished. It was uncertain as to what people could do with slaves right after the end of the Civil War, so new legislation has to be brought in so that there were no ambiguities.
The period of reconstruction helped iron out the ambiguities in African American rights, yet failed to provide African Americans with decent economic opportunities in order to improve their socioeconomic status. because African American former slaves were uneducated people who had never been taught any skills other than the basic skills they required to do Labour, when it was time for them to get jobs, they could only feel the low skilled market, leaving many African Americans without work. Highly skilled sectors could not employ African Americans and so this only widens the gap between income inequality. Moreover, income inequality was widened further as a lot of African Americans were living in Desperate poverty and so would take work for minuscule wages in order to survive. Forcing african americans to take wages that were much less than their white citizens increased the gap between income inequality.
Many Agricultural and primary sector Industries were broken down and completely ruined as a result of the Civil War. No longer could these industries survive because they did not have free labour, leading to disastrous post-war effects for the majority of southern states. as an example, the cotton industry became almost of defunct. Because of the loss of industry, this lead to a lot of poverty which stood in the way of civil rights development.
Just because the war had officially ended, this doesn’t mean that attitudes towards African Americans changed overnight. Americans, particularly the vast majority of southern Americans, were treating African Americans like second class citizens and racial discrimination was rife all over the country. Because of all the animosity, white Americans often opposed to slave liberation. This was problematic for Lincoln, so in order to advanced civil liberties in the US, in 1865 the president introduced the Freedmen’s Bureau aiming to protect the rights of former slaves and the African American people. The Bureau would work to find African Americans with employment opportunities and during the beginning of the reconstruction period where a lot of the slave owners didn’t want to let go of their slaves, the Bureau urged them to do so. Gradually numerous plantations where slaves had previously worked were transformed and restructured in order to create many jobs in the South, especially for African Americans.
Problematically, just because the freedmen’s Bureau existed this didn’t mean that everybody was going to cooperate. There was a lot of resistance from southern states against the government for landowners to free their slaves, so much that Lincoln had to bring in the army in order for these slave owners to finally liberate their slaves so that they could have rights and liberties just like everybody else. In response to government push back, southern Americans formed an organisation called the Klu Klux Klan which advocated white supremacy and the maintenance of a white American population. This racist organisation, along with others, often went around lynching African Americans and taking matters into their own hands to try and rid America of African Americans.
During the reconstruction period, the government also prioritised regaining control of all regions of the United States in order to preserve it as one country. The army of the government often failed to control rebel forces and the reconstruction period was problematic because if the army stronghold wasn’t strong enough to help curb the rebels, rebellion would spread throughout the country. It tong time for things to reach a plateau and for all states to be united as the United States of America. By the end of the reconstruction period, many million African Americans were left to their own devices with crippling Economic and Social injustices, living in poverty.
It would take many years for things to improve to get to society as it is today, i.e. one which obviously condemns racist practices and lets African Americans live freely and have the same rights as white Americans. However, many people argue that African Americans are still treated like second class citizens in this day and age, facing discrimination and prejudice all over America. many people argue that we are living in a post reconstruction period of the Civil War whereby there is still a lot of work to do in order to allow African Americans to live freely with the same rights and liberties. The law today obviously goes against African American discrimination, however this is not to say that African Americans are not being discriminated against.
The great civil war and the reconstruction period resulted in a pivotal changed in United States Society. The main goal of the Civil War to abolish slavery had been largely met and this brought a lot of African Americans the Freedom that they deserved, yet many of them had freedom but not equal rights, opportunities and civil liberties. The 13th to 15th amendments to the constitution paved the way for African American civil liberties, yet this didn’t guarantee everyone the freedom they hoped for – many were left living in poverty and there were few opportunities for African Americans to better themselves. Nonetheless, it is obvious that the reconstruction period helped pave the way for the American dream and the outcomes were largely the public interest.