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Events that led to the US Civil War

Political, Social, and Cultural events leading up to the American Civil War.

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As with any major conflict, the exact causes are quite difficult to objectively and factually quantify. Many disparate events lead up to conflict, but without the benefit of removing some of them, and then running a new timeline, one does not know if it was x or y that caused the spark. For the American Civil War, or more accurately, the War Between the States, scholars still debate the causes; and rarely do any find one cause, and rarely do any find that a single issue was the true cause, despite the popular idea that the war was fought to free the slaves. In fact, a conglomeration of causes appear, some political, some economic, some cultural, and some simply rhetorical.

Within this structure then, one can be selective in looking at one potential scenario of events that led to the conflict. For this paper, we will focus on six of those events, which are interrelated in some ways, and yet in others quite disparate. What is clear, however, is that in their own way each had a political, social, cultural, and economic impact on the coming military and political crisis. Each topic is, on its own, a study in and of itself; we will focus on those aspects of each topic that directly relate as causation for the War Between the States. For analysis, these events will be grouped into three major sections: Economic, Cultural/Social, and Political, with the idea that acting synergistically all contributed to the final outcome - war.

Central Issue: 1787 - During the 1898 Constitutional Convention, delegates debated the issue of slavery, some seeing the chance to integrate this into a legal document prohibiting the institution. Southern States, however, vowed to ban the union without a concession regarding slave trade. The 3/5 clause also passed Congress, and the NW Ordinance was ratified.

Economic: The economic disparity between the North and the South has often been seen as the central cause of the War. Economics and slavery were inexorably tied, as were the industrialization of the north, and the agricultural base of the South.

1794 - Eli Whitney patents the Cotton Gin, which greatly increases the production of cleaned cotton and makes the idea of cotton as a major southern industry a reality. This increases the need and value of slaves in the cotton states.

1828-1832 - Congress raises tariffs with the Tariff of Abominations, which benefits the north, and damages the southern economy. The Tariff Act of 1832 reduces duties, but the South remains dissatisfied and threatens succession. In fact, South Carolina organizes a State Army and declares the tariffs null and void.

Social: Without the modern benefit of mass-media, it took several cultural events to bring the majority of the northern population around to the anti-slavery cause, which was a simpler and more emotional way to compare the North and South. Once enough people were incensed about slavery, it was easier for politicians to use it as a "cause."

1845 - Former slave, Frederick Douglas, publishes his autobiography. This is widely read in the upper class salon culture of the North, and Douglas himself is invited to speak at Church and Political events. He becomes active in the political process, and even friendly and conversational with major political figures.

1852 - Harriet Beacher Stowe publishes "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a more popular version of the slavery issue, calling attention to specific abuses. Almost instantly, it becomes a best-seller, is read by school children, merchants, and used to exemplify the evils of the South, particularly from religious sectors.

Political: Pressures continued to mount, candidates split, parties split, and a relative newcomer, Abraham Lincoln, was seen as the candidate of choice in his ability to softly compromise.

1860 - The rift has become palpable ...

Solution Summary

The solution is an academic guide recounting important details and events of a socio-political nature that led to the American Civil War.