Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Causes of the Civil War

Although many people believe slavery was the one and only cause of the Civil War, it was actually more complicated than that. The causes of the Civil War started many years before and were often connected to each other. Here is a look at the main causes of the Civil War.

Unfair Taxation

The north and south had vastly different economies. The north made money from factories and manufacturing while the south relied on agriculture for its main income. Since the country was first settled, the U.S. imported most of its goods from Europe. Eventually, the north was able to produce more and more of the goods the U.S. needed. Northern politicians forced the south to buy goods from the north by passing federal laws that placed high taxes on goods imported from Europe. This angered many southerners.

States' Rights

These taxes sparked a debate about state's rights. Southerns saw these import taxes as unfair and believed that each individual state had the right to nullify any federal law the government passed. Southerns also believed each state had the ability to leave the union and become an independent country. This was known as secession. Northerners opposed secession and stronger state's rights because they felt it threatened the strength of the country.


The north and south had very different opinions about slavery. Most northerners opposed slavery, actively participated in the abolitionist movement and helped runaway slaves escape from the south. Southerns felt that northerners were trying to control their way of life in the south and felt the government wasn't working hard enough to protect them and their right to own slaves. Southern agriculture relied very heavily on the use of slaves and southerns felt if their right to own slaves was taken away they would be financially ruined.

Expansion Into the West

As the country expanded westward, more states were added to the union. The land in these states did not support agriculture so they often became “free” states. Southerners felt if the number of “free” states continued to grow they would weaken the power and influence that slave states had in the union.

The Election of 1860

When Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln, a northerner who was well known for his opposition to slavery, won the election in 1860 it triggered the secession of numerous southern states and eventually led to the start of the Civil War a year later. The first state to secede was South Carolina in December of 1860 followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Several attempts were made to reunite the states with the union but they proved to be unsuccessful.


Kentucky Education Television: Causes of the Civil War

The Columbia Encyclopedia: Causes of the Civil War

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