United States Civil War

5. United States Civil War: Causes, Course and Effects

Table of Contents

Political, Economic and Social causes


Political: (really long)

Aug. 8th 1846-Wilmot Proviso

  • No slavery in the U.S. territories (California, Utah, New Mexico)- written by Pennsylvania Democrat David Wilmot
  • Congress divided:
    • North:
      • Supported Wilmot Proviso
      • Feared that adding slave territories would give slave states more members in Congress and deny economic opportunities to free workers
    • South:
      • Opposed Wilmot Proviso
      • Feared that additions of new free states to the Union would give more power to the North
  • House of Representatives approved, Senate rejected

1850-California’s Statehood

  • Populations grows due to gold rush- statehood inevitable
  • California applies to join the Union
  • California writes constitution- no slavery
  • Southerners outraged- California exists mostly under the 36°30’ (Missouri Compromise 1820)
  • Long term effect- Southerners question whether or not the South should stay in the Union

1850-The Compromise of 1850

  • Began at 31st Congress in December 1849- debates:
    • California’s statehood-slavery
    • Border dispute in New Mexico-Texas is a slave state and borders NM
    • Abolition of slavery in District of Columbia
  • South threatened secession
  • Henry Clay works on a compromise to avoid the splitting of the US into 2 nations-is assisted by Daniel Webster
  • Southerner John Calhoun does not agree with compromise
    • Calhoun believed in states rights and said that slavery should be decided by the states
    • Blamed the divided nation on Northern abolitionists for pushing the slavery issue.

The Compromise of 1850 (Clay)

  • California admitted as a free state
  • Utah and New Mexico territories decide about slavery-popular sovereignty
  • Texas-New Mexico boundary dispute resolved; Texas paid $10 mil by federal government.
  • The sale of slaves banned in the District of Columbia.
  • Fugitive Slave Act required people in the North to capture and return escaped slaves
  • Webster’s Opinion
    • Originally argued that slavery should not be extended to U.S territories
    • Due to the threat of secession he advocated unity and compromise in the U.S
    • Only passed after Calhoun’s death (2 months after Clay proposed the compromise), President Zachary Taylor’s death (The new president supported it: Milliard Fillmore) and when repackaged by Stephen Douglas

Fugitive Slave Act

  • Part of the Compromise of 1850
  • Stated that fugitive slaves were not entitled to a trial by jury, could not testify on their own behalf, and a statement by the slave owner would bring the slave back
  • Federal Commissioners were paid to return slaves, thus they became corrupt.
  • In response the north passed the personal liberty laws which directly contradicted the Fugitive Slave Act-raised tensions

1854- The Kansas-Nebraska Act

  • Slavery in the new western territories STILL an issue
  • Stephen Douglass (ironic) proposes that the west be divided into Nebraska in the north and Kansas in the south (The Comp. of 1850 granted popular sovereignty so states could decide about slavery)
  • Bitter debates-it would repeal the Missouri Compromise
  • Great support in the south
  • Passed in May 1854
  • A battle for Kansas between the North and South erupts-leads to the Pottawatomie Massacre- 200 dead
  • This violence leads a Massachusetts senator, Charles Sumner to give a speech against pro-slavery colleagues-the nephew of pro-slavery S. Carolina Senator Andrew Butler, Preston Brooks, walks into the senate chamber and beats Sumner into unconsciousness with his cane.

Political Parties:

  • Whigs
    • The Compromise of 1850 divides to the party (mainly due to the Fugitive slave act)
    • The Kansas-Nebraska Act breaks up the party-they cannot agree
  • Know-Nothing Party
    • Nativists
    • Short-lived, ended over disputes on slavery
  • Free-Soil Party
    • Did not want slavery to extend into the territories
    • This party would lead to…
  • The Republican Party
    • Founded by Horace Greeley
    • Wanted to return to the Missouri Compromise
    • Extremely popular- united anti-slavery groups
  • Democrats
    • Mostly pro-slavery
    • Strong support in the south
    • Defeat the republicans in 1856 elections (James Buchanan)
  • Basically slavery is a huge political issue that makes and breaks parties and increases the division between the north and the south

Dred Scott Decision

  • After his master dies slave Dred Scott begins lawsuit to win his freedom
  • Supreme Court rules that slaves do not have the same rights as a citizen and that the Missouri Compromise is unconstitutional
  • Outrages abolitionists and the north as a whole-tensions heighten

Election of 1860

  • Abe Lincoln(R) vs. Stephen Douglas (D)
  • Douglas-supported popular sovereignty, personally impartial to slavery, portrayed as pro-slavery
  • Lincoln-wanted to pass legislature to outlaw slavery in parts of the US, thought slavery was immoral, portrayed as anti-slavery
  • Freeport Doctrine (put out by Douglas)-basically popular sovereignty
  • Lincoln is elected
    • South is outraged
    • Acted as a catalyst- S. Carolina the first to secede in December 1860 and others follow and the Confederacy is formed and wants independence.
  • The issues of slavery and state’s rights dominated politics from the 1840s to the 1860s.

Economic: (fairly basic)


  • Industry dominated the economy of the north
  • Urban cities
  • Factories rapidly produced products such as textiles and farm equipment
  • The majority of railroads existed in the north to transport the goods
  • Telegraph wires were strung along the railroads for easy communication
  • Factories gave jobs to thousands of immigrants that eventually gained the ability to vote-opposed slavery
    • Slave labor was in direct competition with free labor and threatened people’s paying jobs


  • Agriculture dominated the economy
  • Rural towns and plantations
  • Relied on staple crops-COTTON
  • Raw goods transported by river
  • Few immigrants settled in the south because of slave labor-those that did were anti-slavery
  • The south feared that if slavery ended then the south would be left in an extreme state of poverty

The Big Problem

Despite the economic differences, the north and south relied on each other. The south sent raw materials to the north to make products that would be sent back into the south. Each region had a system (slavery vs free labor) that worked for them, but there were social issues involved in the system of the south…



  • Mostly white population
  • Large number of abolitionists that thought that slavery was immoral
  • Many in the north also believed slavery was a backward system
  • Abolitionists:
    • John Brown-often violent, believed he was sent by God to end slavery
    • Harriet Beecher Stowe-wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin
    • Booker T. Washington-moved to the south and taught night classes on how to escape from slavery (did no one notice?)
    • Fredrick Douglas-Escaped slave that went on to preach against slavery


  • In some states African Americans slaves outnumbered whites
  • Many people in the south believed that slavery was encouraged in the Bible
  • Pro-Slavery Activists:
    • John. Calhoun-see The Compromise of 1850
    • Preston Brooks-the guy who beat Sumner over the head repeatedly with his cane

The Underground Railway

  • Routes which slaves used to escape from the south to the north
  • “Conductors” hid fugitives in their houses-really illegal
  • Harriet Tubman
    • Former slave
    • Conductor on the railroad-very successful
    • Later became abolitionist

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

  • Book written by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Overall message extremely anti-slavery
  • Accepted in north, south is outraged

The course of the war, the role of African–American soldiers, the role of women


The Course of the War:

1861- Confederate States of America formed

  • Jefferson Davis elected president
  • Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, S. Carolina, N. Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, eventually Virginia

1861-Fort Sumter

  • Fort Sumter was in Union hands (S. Carolina)
  • Confederacy demands that Fort Sumter be handed over or they would attack
  • Lincoln commands not to hand it over or start a battle- he sends food to the fort
  • Jefferson Davis (president of Confederacy) decides to start a war-shots are fired
  • Fort Sumter is beaten in submission and turned over to the Conf.
  • This marks the beginning of the Civil War
  • Shortly after Virginia secedes

Both Sides Believe It Will Be a Short War

  • Northern advantages
    • Resources
      • (Industrial/manufactured goods)
    • Railroads
    • Easy communication
      • (telegraph wires)
  • Southern advantages
    • Conviction
    • Skilled generals
    • Cotton (profitable)
    • Knowledge of the terrain (most of the battles were fought in the Confederacy)

Northern Strategy:

  • The Union navy would blockade Southern ports, so they could neither export cotton nor import much-needed manufactured goods
  • Union riverboats and armies would move down the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two
  • Union armies would capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia.

Southern Strategy:

  • Basically defensive
  • Wanted to establish themselves as a free nation

People to Know:

  • Stonewall Jackson-Confederate general
  • George McClellan-Union general
  • Ulysses S. Grant-Union general
  • Robert E. Lee-Confederate general
  • William Sherman-Union military commander

Battles to Know:

  • Bull Run-Confederate victory, 1861
  • Shiloh-Union victory, 1862
  • Antietam-standoff (disputed among historians), bloodiest single day battle ever and prompts Emancipation Proclamation, 1862
  • Gettysburg-Union victory, 1863
  • Vicksburg- HUGE Union Victory, 1863
  • Sherman’s March-not really a battle, Sherman marches through Georgia, destroying everything in his path, 1864

1861-Trent Affair

  • Confederacy sends two diplomats to seek supports from Britain and France
  • While on a British merchant ship (Trent) the men are captured by Union
  • Britain threaten to attack the Union and send troops to Canada-Confederacy gets excited
  • Union releases men and Britain decides not to aid the Confederacy

1863-Emancipation Proclamation

  • Freed slaves in Confederacy
  • More of a military statement
  • Did not immediately free any slaves

The Gettysburg Address

  • Spoken at a ceremony to dedicate a cemetery in Gettysburg
  • Lincoln uses the phrase “The United States is” instead of the “United States are”

1865-Lee surrenders at Appomattox

  • General Lee surrenders when it is clear that the South has been exhausted of both it’s resources and it’s morale

The Role of African American Soldiers:

  • At the beginning of the war there were no African American soldiers
  • 1862-Congress passes a law that allows African Americans to enlist
  • Large Scale enlistment begins after the Emancipation Proclamation
  • Many former slaves fought for the Union army, slaves in the south escaped to fight with the Union
  • African Americans fought in separate regiments and faced discrimination
  • They could not rise above a captain and there were higher mortality rates
  • They were paid less than white soldiers
  • Confederates did not keep African American soldiers as POWs, but killed them immediately
  • 1864 Pillow Massacre-Confederate soldiers killed 200 African American prisoners while they begged for their lives
  • Confederacy opposed African American soldiers

The Role of Women:

  • Women were left behind by the men-had to take care of home, finances, etc…
  • Women often worked as nurses on the battlefield
  • Clara Barton (The Angel of the Battle Field)-nurse that attended to Union soldiers
  • Dorothea Dix-First superintendent of women nurses, Union
  • Sally Thompson-Confederate nurse that was eventually awarded the title of captain for her bravery

The impact of the war on society


1865-Thirteenth Amendment

  • Emancipation Proclamation didn’t really do anything…:(
  • Lincoln still wanted to end slavery-13th Amendment
  • “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States”
  • Technically slavery is over… but not really

Many people grew tired of the war (Dissent)

  • Both Lincoln and Davis cracked down on those loyal to the other side
  • People could be arrested for disloyalty
  • Copper heads-Northern Democrats that sought peace with the South
  • Deserters became a huge problem (soldiers escaping)

Political, economic and cultural effects


Political Changes/Effects

  • Greatly increased the federal government’s power
  • Before the civil war, federal gov. had little impact on citizen lives and most citizens dealt only with their county government
  • During war, federal gov. reached into ppl. pockets (taxed)
  • After war, U.S citizens no longer assumed that the national govt was too far way to bother them.

Economic Changes/Effects

  • Subsidized construction of national railroad system
  • Passed National Bank Act of 1863, set up system of federal chartered banks, set requirements for loans and provided for banks to be inspected
  • Northern states boomed because they provided supplies for war and thus had money to invest after the war
  • South’s economy devastated – war took away cheap labor, wrecked most of the region’s industry, killed 40 percent of livestock, destroyed farm machinery
  • Economic gap between North and South had widened – North became richer, South became poorer

Social Effects

  • Biggest change came for African Americans
  • Abolished slavery using constitution- Thirteenth Amendment freed slaves everywhere
  • Barton helped establish the American Red Cross
  • Assassination of Lincoln



  • Officially lasted from 1865-1877
  • Seen as necessary by the Union to reintegrate the South back into the United States

Three main plans for Reconstruction at the end of the war:

  • Ten Percent Plan
    • Created by Lincoln in December 1863
    • 10% of a state's voters had to take an oath of allegiance to the United States and pledge to abide to emancipation before that state became part of the US again
    • Only high ranking Confederate officials would be punished
    • The state had to also write a new state constitution, putting in a provision to ban slavery forever
    • Seen as a lenient plan
  • Wade-Davis Bill
    • Radical Republicans' plan
    • Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and Senator Charles Sumner led the Radical Republicans
    • 50% of a state's voters had to take an oath of allegiance to the US before a state was readmitted
    • Pocket vetoed by Lincoln
    • Seen as more stringent, punishment towards the entire South
  • Johnson's Reconstruction Plan
    • Virtually the same as Lincoln's
    • 10% had to take an oath of allegiance, the state had to ratify the 13th Amendment
    • High ranking Confederate officials were pardoned by Johnson, unlike in Lincoln's plan
      • Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, received only 2 years of prison
      • Only one Confederate was executed for war crimes, Captain Henry Wirz, head of the prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia

Freedmen's Bureau

  • Created in March 1865, but expanded by Congress in 1866
  • Assisted former slaves and poor whites by distributing clothing and food

Civil Rights Act of 1866

  • Forbade states from passing discriminatory laws known as black codes
  • This, as well as the expansion of the Freedmen's Bureau, was vetoed by Johnson, but overridden by Congress
  • Led to Congress adopting the 14th Amendment

Congressional Reconstruction (Radical Reconstruction)

  • Republicans won a large number of seats in the 1866 Congressional elections, ensuring the 2/3 majority to override all of Johnson's vetoes
  • The Reconstruction Act in 1867 divided the former Confederacy into 5 military districts and forced states to ensure that black men could vote before each state was readmitted
    • Johnson vetoed this act, but was overruled by Congress
    • Irritated with Johnson, Congress impeached him for violating the Tenure of Office Act. The Senate voted 35-19 to remove him from office (he was 1 vote away from being removed)
  • Readmittance occurred from 1868 to 1870 under this policy (Tennessee is excluded because it was readmitted in 1866, and was not subjugated to military rule)
  • Grant elected president in 1868
  • 15th Amendment adopted

End of Reconstruction

  • In the election of 1876, Republicans ran Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrats ran Samuel J. Tilden
  • 20 electoral votes were disputed and Tilden received the majority of popular votes
  • Democrats made a deal with Republicans, known as the Compromise of 1877
    • If Hayes was chosen by a committee (which decided who received the disputed electoral votes) to be president, federal troops would be withdrawn from the South
  • This was seen as the official end of Reconstruction

To summarize Reconstruction:

In the wake of the Civil War, Congress promised many political freedoms to former slaves, but did not ensure economic freedom. Blacks did not receive land from plantation owners nor had tools, so they had to resort to tenant farming and sharecropping, which basically re-enslaved them legally. They became trapped in a spiral of debt to the land owners that bound them once again to the land. Lastly, because of the stringency of the punishment towards Southerners, there was a contempt towards Congress's radical agenda that granted blacks political freedoms, so there was a backlash in the form of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws.

Abraham Lincoln and the role of leadership (Sepura)

  • Self-educated, successful lawyer and politician, Republican
  • 16th president – elected in 1860
  • Major issue that he had to deal with was SLAVERY
  • Believed that slavery was immoral, labor system based on greed
  • His platform for the Election of 1860
    • Pledged to halt the spread of slavery in the territories that were becoming part of the Union, but not to interfere with the slaves in the South

His victory convinced the Southerners that they lost their political voice in national govt. Soon after, southern states began to secede from the Union, the first being South Carolina on Dec 20, 1860. The Southern states established their own nation. They become known as the Confederate States of America (The Confederacy). They started taking over public institution, post offices, and forts. Lincoln, who has just become president, had to guide his country through the civil war.

His skillful leadership can be seen through his involvement in the following events: Fort Sumter (military) and the Emancipation Proclamation (social- Slavery)

Fort Sumter Dilemma:

  • Day after he is inaugurated, Lincoln receives an urgent dispatch from fort commander-Major Anderson. The Confederacy was demanding that he should surrender the fort or he will be attacked. He also informs that supplies of food and ammunition will last only six months at most.
  • Dilemma-
    • He could not send a navy to shoot its way to Fort Sumter, because that would increase hostility and lead to more southern states to secede from Union, and might lead to war
    • He couldn’t surrender because that would disappoint Republicans in North and would mean that he accepted the new govt in the South
  • Lincoln executed a clever political maneuver – He did not abandon Fort Sumter, but did not reinforce it with weapons, but he DID send food to feed “the hunger people”, justified by its morality. If war was to happen, it was not his fault. If he had provoked war, many more states would have sided with the Confederates (4 states did leave the Union after war was initiated, but it could have been more)
    • When the confederates did attack Fort Sumter in April 1860, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers
    • Though he was not able to prevent war, he was able to inspire people to join the war effort and maintain a fair amount of stability in a time of war
    • Was able to take advantage of all resources and new weaponry (quicker rifles)

Emancipation Proclamation

  • Symbolic importance
  • Freed slaves in confederate territory which Union had no control over
  • Lincoln found a way to use his constitutional powers to end slavery, but not in his own territory
  • First president who took an initiative in freeing slaves
  • As commander in chief, he deicide that just as he could order the army to seize Confederate supplies he could order them to free the slaves
    • Clever move because Britain, who would have potential supported the confederates, would be discouraged because the abolitionist movement was strong in Britain
    • Skillful took advantage of the moral aspects of slavery, but also used it has weapon weaken the supports of the South
    • Lincoln turned war into a fight for freeing the slaves – encourage more slaves to side with Union

Thesis: A president during one of the most chaotic times in American history, Abraham Lincoln successfully led the Union into war with skillful tactics as seen in the Fort Sumter Dilemma, while also holding strong to his moral beliefs of free the slaves, which had both a military and social benefits.**

Essay Outlines for Previous Civil War Questions

Compare the political, economic and military strengths and weaknesses of the North and South United States at the beginning of the United States Civil War in 1861.

‘The attempts in the Reconstruction period 1865 to 1877 to solve problems caused by the Civil War failed African-Americans.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Why did the South (United States) resort to secession in 1861?

“Slavery was the most important cause of the Civil War in the United States.” To what extent do you agree with this judgment?

Analyze the immediate and longer-term political effects of the United States Civil War in the period 1865 to 1896.

Why did the United States Civil War break out in 1861?

Abraham Lincoln’s leadership was the main reason why the Union won the Civil War. To what extent do you agree with this claim?

Assess the relative strengths of the North and the South at the beginning of the United States Civil War in 1861.

Rebecca Rewald:

“The attempts in the Reconstruction period 1865 to 1877 to solve problems caused by the Civil War failed African American.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?

  1. Introduction
    1. Background:
      1. Reconstruction was not only the plan to rebuild the U.S. after the Civil War, but also the process the federal government used to readmit the Confederate States
      2. It was complicated because Lincoln ad Johnson had different ideas on how Reconstruction should be handled.
      3. Lincoln had his ten percent plan- a confederate state can be readmitted into the union if ten percent of their population took an oath of allegiance.
      4. Johnson insisted that the remaining Confederate states must withdraw their secession, swear allegiance to the Union, annul Confederate war debts, and ratify the Thirteenth amendment.
      5. Many of the Reconstruction plans were focused on helping improve the lives of African Americans and giving them rights. Ex: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, Freedmen’s Bureau, and Civil Rights Act of 1866
    2. Thesis: Even though African Americans were given many freedoms and rights due to laws, amendments, and acts of congress during Reconstruction, the rise of white supremacy groups, the passing of the Amnesty Act and end of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and Supreme Court decisions that undermined the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments caused Reconstruction to collapse and fail in giving African American the rights intended for them.
  2. Though African American’s were given more political and economic freedom during Reconstruction, the rise of white supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan helped restrict these freedoms with fear.
    1. From 1865 to 1877 African Americans began to get involved in politics in all levels
      1. Fifteenth Amendment (1870) gave blacks the right to vote
      2. African Americans began to hold office in local, state, and federal levels
    2. The goals of the white supremacy groups was to maintain white supremacy by preventing African American’s from exercising their political rights
      1. They used terrorist campaigns to frighten the African-American majority away from the polls
    3. They also wanted to turn the Republicans out of power
      1. For example, North Carolina state senator John Stephens was assassinated in 1870 because of his support from African American voters.
    4. African Americans who owned land or worked in higher level occupations were more subject to attack and their property was often destroyed.
    5. The effects of Klan activity:
      1. Democrats began to win elections which helped cause the collapse of Reconstruction
      2. There was a major setback in African Americans taking advantage in their new political and economic freedoms.
    6. Though Congress tried to alleviate the Klan problems by passing the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871, which gave the president the power to use federal troops in areas was active, President Grant wasn’t aggressive in his use of power given to him by the Enforcement Acts, and the Supreme Court ruled the 1871 Enforcement Act unconstitutional in 1882.
  3. The passing of the Amnesty Act and ending of the Freedmen’s Bureau were two events that severely weakened the Republican party.
    1. In May of 1872, Congress passed the Amnesty Act
      1. The Amnesty Act gave 150,000 Confederates the right to vote and hold federal and state offices.
      2. These Confederates would most certainly vote Democratic
    2. The Freedmen’s Bureau was allowed to expire in 1872
      1. Freedmen’s Bureau Acts (1865-1866)- offered assistance, such as medical aid and education to freed slaves and war refugees.
    3. Effect: Southern Democrats had an opportunity to shift the balance of political power in their favor
  4. Although Congress had passed important laws to protect the political and civil rights of African Americans, the Supreme Court began to take away those same protections.
    1. The Slaughterhouse cases of 1873:
      1. The Court decided that the Fourteenth Amendment protected only the rights people had by virtue of their citizenship in the United States.
      2. They decided that most of Americans’ basic civil rights were obtained through their citizenship in a state and that the amendment did not protect those rights
    2. U.S. v. Cruikshank 1876:
      1. The court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not give the federal government the right to punish individual whites who oppressed blacks.
    3. U.S. v. Reese 1876:
      1. The Court ruled in favor of officials who had barred African Americans from voting, stating that the Fifteenth Amendment did not “confer the right of suffrage on anyone” but just listed grounds on which states could not deny suffrage.
    4. Causes of these court rulings:
      1. The rulings had narrowed the scope of these amendments so much that the federal government no longer had much power to protect the rights of African Americans
      2. Impeded African Americans’ efforts to gain equality for years to come
      3. Caused Northern voters to grow indifferent to events in the South
  5. Conclusion: Though Congress made many efforts to help better the lives of African Americans the downfall of Reconstruction led to the lessening of African American rights.
    1. The rise of white supremacy groups caused fear and terror in the African American community and anyone who supported them.
    2. The Amnesty Act and expiration of the Freedmen’s Bureau stopped aid towards blacks and helped Democrats gain power
    3. The Supreme Court decisions undermined the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments
    4. When the Republican Party lost control, less focus was given to African Americans and Reconstruction in general.

Emily Levine

“Slavery was the most important cause of the Civil War in the United States.” To what extent do you agree with these judgments?

Thesis: Slavery was the most important cause for the onset of the Civil War because this issue separated the North and the South ideologically. This ideological difference led to their economic differences, the conflict over new territories, constitutional disputes and extremism. Furthermore, the Election of 1860 along with their differences pushed succession of the South in 1961 and guided the way towards Civil War.

Economic Differences

  • Sectionalism – 1820 through 1850
  • The Northern states were bound together by improved transportation and a high rate of economic growth based on both commercial farming and industrial innovation
    • Manufacturing expanding rapidly
    • Industry producing a wide range of goods and consumer products
    • Larger majority of northerners involved in agriculture (commercial farming)
      • Majority of agriculture done in the Northwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota)
      • Large grain crops of corn and wheat were very profitable
      • Used newly invented steel plows and mechanical reapers which meant farms were more efficient and they could plant on more land at one time
      • Only needed a few supplemental workers during the harvest
    • Very large population to fill the jobs of the expanding North
      • High birthrate
      • Immigration of Irish and German people
  • The Southern States were defined in economic, political and social terms as a distinct region including those states who permitted slavery
    • Agriculture was the foundation of the Southern economy
      • Tobacco, rice, and sugar cane were lucrative cash crops
      • Chief economic activity was the production and sale of cotton (called King Cotton)
  • Primarily grown in South Carolina and Georgia
  • When the industry began to expand, manufacturing moved into Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas
  • Cotton was 2/3 of all US exports in the 1850’s
    • Small factories only producing 15 percent of the countries goods
    • Southern wealth defined by the amount of land and slaves owned and as Southern economy expanded, so did slavery
      • 1800-1 million slaves
      • 1860-4 million slaves
      • Slaves were 75 percent of the South’s population

Conflict over New Territories

  • Territories gained in the Mexican War became the focus of the Union because of the issue of Slavery
  • The Wilmot Proviso heightened tensions between the North and the South
    • Excluded slavery and involuntary servitude in the new territories which included California, Utah and New Mexico
    • Left the Congress divided
    • Free-Soil Movement done by the Northern Democrats and Whigs
      • Believed all blacks, free or slave, should be excluded from new land
      • Did not demand the end of slavery
      • Sought to keep the West an opportunity of land for the whites and did not want to have to compete with the labor of slaves or free blacks
      • Wanted to prevent an extension of slavery
    • Southern Position
      • Viewed the restriction of expansion as a violation of their constitutional rights to take and use their property as they wished
      • Favored extending the Missouri Compromise of the 36ᵒ30’ line
    • Popular Sovereignty
      • Lewis Cass proposed a compromise solution that would win support from both the North and the South
      • Instead of Congress deciding, he proposed to let the people who settle there to vote

Constitutional Disputes

  • The Compromise of 1850 was created after the Gold Rush of 1849 and an influx of settlers left California in a mess
    • Banned slavery
    • President Taylor supported immediate admission of California and New Mexico as free states although he was a southern slave holder
    • Henry Clay stepped into revise the terms after Southerners talked about secession
      • Admit California to the Union as a free states
      • Divide the remainder of the Mexican Session into two territories- Utah and New Mexico- and allow settlers of these areas to decide by majority vote rather to have slavery or not
      • Give the land in dispute between Texas and New Mexico to the new territories in return for the federal government to forget Texas debt of 10 million dollars
      • Ban slave trade in Washington D.C. but permit whites to have slaves
      • Adopt a new Fugitive Slave Law
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) which renewed sectional controversy that had been resolved by the Compromise of 1850 and repealed the Compromise of 1920.
    • Divided the Nebraska Territory into the Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory
    • Settlers were free to decide if they wanted slavery or not
  • Lecompton Constitution was decided by Buchanan as president in 1857 to accept or reject a proslavery state constitution for Kansas
    • Buchanan asked Congress to accept but they did not
    • That next year, constitution overturned as now majority were antislavery


  • Bleeding Kansas occurred before the Elections of 1856 and was the bloody and tragic consequence of the Kansas-Nebraska Act
    • Antislavery farmers from the Midwest migrated to Kansas
    • Settlers constituted as majority vote
    • Slaveholders from Missouri set up homesteads to win control for South
    • Northern abolitionists and free-soilers responded by paying antislavery settlers for transportation with grants to go to Kansas
    • Fighting broke
  • John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry occurred when a mentally unstable John Brown, a radical abolitionist, tried to create a slave uprising in Virginia
    • In October 1859 he led a small band of followers to attack Harper’s Ferry
    • Met by Robert E. Lee and Federal troops who seized Brown and six followers
    • They were tried for treason, convicted and hanged
    • Northerners condemned Brown’s actions but Southerners didn’t believe it

Election of 1860

  • Considered the final event that triggered the South’s decision to leave the Union
  • In 1860, Abraham Lincoln, a republican candidate, was elected president
  • Believed the United States could not survive long with this huge rift between the North and the South and made it a main goal to keep the Union together
  • Seward appeared to have everything he needed to be a successful presidential candidate: the credential of having led antislavery forces in Congress, the financial support of New York political organizations—and a desire to be the center of attention.
  • Lincoln had not had the chance to offend as many people and was considered moderate and acceptable to people on both sides of the divided party
  • Lincoln pledged to halt the expansion of slavery
  • Lincoln had sectional rather than national support
  • Lincoln’s victory convinced Southerners they had lost their political voice

Vanja Pantic

Abraham Lincoln’s leadership was the main reason why the Union won the Civil War. To what extent do you agree with this claim?


  • While Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War sided more with the North, his policies were not the only reason why the north prospered
  • the north (union) had a great deal of economic prosperity working in its favor
  • the north had much more manpower than the south
  • that manpower enhanced other areas, like their industrial capabilities
  • in the north, a growing number of train tracks were being laid out and the overall transportation of both people and supplies was quicker and more frequent
  • the industrial north had far more factories and faster production rates
  • the south (confederacy) was too focused on agricultural goods and did not prepare militarily or advance beyond their agricultural economy


While Abraham Lincoln’s leadership did aid the north in terms of upholding their policies and spreading those ideals to the people, the north was much more advantageous than the south and won the Civil War because of its own advancements in transportation, manpower, and industry.


  • Industry
    • the north was particularly profitable in the war because of their industrial power
    • the union had many more factories and various methods of economic prosperity (versus the south’s reliance on agriculture and cotton)
    • because of their industrial advancements, the union was able to produce more weapons (which also connects to their vast manpower), more war goods like the development of steam engine technology, mass production of rifles and other weaponry
    • the industrial strength of the union provided a foundation for developments within transportation and communication advancements which gave the north another lead over the south
  • Transportation and Communication
    • the industrial north was able to advance in the war because their industrial power led to more railroad development
    • the union built about 71% of the railroad system in the country while the confederacy only had about 29%
    • because of their advancements in the area of transportation, the union was able to transport troops and supplies at cheap prices and quick rates
    • along with the rapidly growing rail systems, the north began advancements in communication which helped their military speed, communication, and overall connection
    • the first steps towards greater communication were taken when the union set telegraph wires along the railroads
    • the north had notable advancements within transportation and communications systems which, along with the manpower they had, led to their victory in the war
  • Manpower
    • the union was evidently larger and that manpower led to noticeably more soldiers
    • the Union had roughly 2,100,000 soldiers while the confederacy had only around 1,064,000
    • the north also had an influx of immigrants who, along with the already large population of the union, increased the workforce in the north
    • the south had a lot of slave labor, but that slave labor was focused on agriculture, particularly cotton, and could not aid military advancements which were needed to win the war
    • the north had more manpower, and the union’s manpower was more capable of military advancements and industrial achievements which led to victory


  • while Abraham Lincoln’s leadership was beneficial to the north, particularly the military guidance he provided, other factors led to the union’s win in the civil war
  • the north had a stronger industrial base, a greater workforce and larger army, and better communications and transportation systems
  • all of those factors, and more, aided the north in the war and led to their success
  • Lincoln’s leadership was helpful in the war, but other factors which aided the union are more credible, long-term, and valuable factors which prompted the union’s win

Side Note (Other Options)

Evidently, Sepura's notes and my outline are taking two different sides. While you can use either of those, there are also some other valuable methods to consider. If you feel more comfortable with battles and the more in-depth information of the Civil War, you can talk about the economic and industrial advantages the North had in one body paragraph, analyze the detrimental effect of Sherman's March to Sea in another (this information can be found on page 364 of the America's book) and have a final body paragraph on the effects of the Gettsyburg and Vicksburg battles (this information can be found on pages 358-362 of the Americas book). Just some more sides to consider :)
- Vanja

Why Did The South (United States) Resort To Secession In 1861?

By Hanh Do

Thesis: The United States South seceded not only because of slavery, but also because of the issue of states' rights and the unfair advantage that the North had with their power of the government.

I. The tipping of the political balance between the North and South was becoming obvious and intolerable for the South.

  • The North had a larger population of people ("despotic majority of numbers"), the South felt outnumbered in Congress
  • Southerners were dismayed by the triumph of the new sectional Republican Party which seemed to threaten their rights as a slaveholding minority. The election of President Lincoln in 1860 was the last straw.
  • The North passed the personal liberty laws which were meant to counteract the Fugitive Slave Act (part of Compromise of 1850 which refused fugitive slaves the right to a trial). This raised tensions.
  • Weary of free-soil criticism, abolitionist nagging, and northern interference in the form of the Underground Railroad and John Brown's Raid ("All we ask is to be let alone" -Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy)

II. The North and the South were much too different to compromise, each had their own beliefs and culture.

  • The two sides had "grown up" separately and could not easily agree upon the decision of slavery, since the South depended on it for their economy and the North depended on manufacturing.
  • They were made up of very different people: the South had wealthy landowners with negro slaves, while the North had wealthy entrepreneurs who employed immigrants. Many in the North thought slavery was immoral, but the South depended on it.
  • Many attempts at compromise only raised tensions (Wilmot Proviso of 1846, Kansas-Nebrask Act of 1854 repealed Missouri Compromise), and the deaths of the great compromisers Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Calhoun in 1850-52 ended much of the possibility of compromise.

III. Many Southerners felt their departure would be unopposed, and so secession was an easy way out of their problems.

  • They were sure the North would not or could not fight.
  • This was because the North was made up of mainly manufacturers and bankers (and therefore heavily dependent on Southern cotton and markets).
  • If war came, the debt owed to the Northern creditors by the South would be repudiated.

IV. Secession seemed like the only and best option left in order to pursue their own beliefs. The South was influenced by others around the world as well as the past.

  • Leaders saw it as an opportunity to cast aside generations of "vasalage" to the North
  • Impulses of Nationalism were going on in Italy, Germany, Poland, and many other countries. It was also growing in the South because they felt they were being ruled by the North, which made them hostile.
  • The South believed in the principles of self-determination (from the Declaration of Independence). They felt like they were doing nothing wrong
  • They wanted to follow historical parallels, as in 1776 when George Washington seceded from the British Empire.

V. Conclusion

  • Many reasons contributed to the secession of the United States South, but they all stem from the desire of the South to keep their slaveholding rights and representation in the government.
  • The economic aspect of the two sides were much too different to find policies of the United States to agree upon. The North depended on cheap labor, and slavery threatened that. But the South refused to allow new states to be free states or else they would be outnumbered in the senate.
  • The South felt they were doing nothing wrong, since they were already being treated unfairly.
  • South Carolina was the first state to secede in January 1861, leading the rest of the south to follow. This would lead to the most historic division in the United States: the Civil war.
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