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Cause of the Civil War in the United States.

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by wausaubob, Aug 3, 2017.

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  1. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    The Civil War was an attempt of a geographical section of the United States to separate from the government.
    It was not a widespread class conflict stretched across the entire nation, or a conspiracy in the capital to seize power from the existing government.
    In order for there to be a geographical separatist movement there had to be a difference in the geographical sections of the country. That difference was slavery.

    It took approximately from 1786 to 1845 for the difference to occur. Northern states eliminated slavery. Some of them never permitted it, in keeping with the Northwest ordinance.
    Slavery expanded in some other states, due to the natural increase in the slave population, the legal and illegal importation of additional slaves, and the acquisition of additional territory in which slavery existed, especially the annexation of Texas.

    The difference in sections had underlying causes. The South was the nearly the optimal place in the world to grow the revolutionary new fiber, short staple cotton, and get it quickly and easily to a port where it could be shipped anywhere in the world. The south also had a difficult disease environment, which created a constant risk of diseases spread by insects and contaminated water. Cotton required large holdings of land to support the long rotation schedule necessary to allow the soil to recover. Plantations and small towns turned out to the best way to control disease events in the South. The large towns and cities of the United States existed in the north or on the edge of the Cotton region. Cotton could be grown in areas not subject to slavery, but it could not be produced a cost competitive with the price at which it could be produced in the south.

    It is possible to grow cotton without slavery. It was grown extensively in the United States without slavery after the Civil War. However, the amount of unskilled hand work necessary to maximize the harvest on a cotton field provided employment for slaves which was very profitable.

    Slave labor was actually free labor. The slaveowner did not have to pay cash wages for slave labor, though sometimes there were cash bonuses.
    Free labor is actually paid labor, because the employer almost always pays wages that allows the worker to
    live independently. The freedom associated with paid labor is almost never unqualified. The balance between work, free time and discretionary income is always contested in a paid labor economy.
    The essential difference was between slave labor and paid labor. Applying the word free to one type of labor simply meant that one type of laborer was allowed to vote, which changed the nature of society considerably.
    Paid laborers got to vote in the United States and slave laborers did not get to vote.

    In order for there to be a Civil War, the contesting sections have to independently viable. If one section is weak, it is probably going to submit to military force, or never begin the contest.

    In the case of the United States, had the secessionist states waited until the United States had completed the national railroad across the continent, most likely the northern coalition would have included Nebraska, Nevada and Colorado. At that point the North would have been too strong for the South to believe it could prevail.

    By 1860 there was a strong difference between the two sections, and each section felt confident it could sustain a military force.

    The preconditions existed among the population in the two sections, but that does not make secession and a Civil War probable or necessary.

    Individual people created the secessionist movement. The secessionist movement was a reaction to a populist movement. The populist movement transferred power to new people and new alliances, by democratic means.
    Individual people disapproved of this movement and the effect it would have on slavery. They thought that they could take advantage of the short history of democratic government, and the shortage of support of populist ideals in the United States and the world, to undo and avoid this transfer of power. Individual people seized on the secessionist rational, expanded it and convinced others that it justified their separatist coalition. 150 years later, as a sort of internet game, people still want to argue about secession.

    The people who had formed the populist movement then had a choice: they could let the opposition weaken their government and undermine their ideals, which had enormous short term advantages, or they could resort to war.

    Whatever we think of ourselves, war was typical of western European people in the centuries leading up the Civil War.

    The people of the United State had fought and won several wars, though they had never fought an adversary as dangerous as each other.

    The South did not secede. The South did not exist accept as a direction on the compass. Individual people created the idea of the South and advocated separation. Others agreed with them and took over the state governments in the secessionist states. The South as a short hand expression is widely understood, but conceals that secession was an experiment which was not unanimously supported.

    Individual people in the United States decided that disadvantages of conceding to secession were profound enough to justify war. The fact that they adhered to that decision after the cost of the was revealed is what makes the conclusion of the Civil War in the United States a surprise ending.

    Slavery was a necessary cause of the Civil War. No other difference was profound enough to create a dispute worth fighting over.

    But a good deal more is required to make the Civil War occur. The idea of national unity has to weaken and that has to advocated continuously and effectively by powerful people.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
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  3. Jimklag

    Jimklag Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    All of the sectional differences that were accumulated in the antebellum period and came to critical mass at the 1860 election can be traced back to slavery. Simple as that. No chattel slavery and no civil war.
     
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  4. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    I just want a thread that is not dominated by Confederate advocacy.
     
  5. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    Slavery + no acceptance of the democratic form of government= secession. Why people were willing to fight to keep sustain the Union is the mystery. Democracy has some effect on people that is hard to explain.
     
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  6. Jimklag

    Jimklag Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    You're right about the mystical hold "Union" had on the people of the north. But they would not have instigated a civil war. The cause of the Union had its origin in the revolution of 1776. Except for Virginia, the vast majority of Continental troops of the Revolutionary War came from the north. The descendents of those soldiers had been brought up hearing about the Spirit of '76 and the glory of the Union. To most of the men in the Union army, the south's most heinous sin was not slavery but attempting to sunder the Union. But, like I said, they would not have instigated the war without the rebellion.
     
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  7. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    Do you know of a possible ratio? As to the origins of soldiers in the Continental Army?
     
  8. Jimklag

    Jimklag Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Not sure of the precise ratio. I do know that the entire army surrounding Boston at the time Washington took command was made up of New Englanders.
     
  9. demiurge

    demiurge Corporal

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    LOL, well, that stands to reason, doesn't it?

    But yes, more population was in the North even then, and more regiments were raised in the North. That being said, South Carolina also had a prominent role to play and they were very proud of it. The Palmetto emblem comes from the forts made of palmetto that they used to protect against the British.

    SC is just ornery. Always has been. :D
     
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  10. uaskme

    uaskme Sergeant

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  11. FarawayFriend

    FarawayFriend Captain Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    You beat me at that.
    @Jimklag think about Southerners who called the Civil War the "Second War of Independence" . They had George Washington on the Confederate 50 Dollar bill and saw themselves at least as much in the line of George Washington and the fight for independence as the Northerners saw themselves as his followers to preserve the Union. Part of the tragedy, in my eyes.

    Edit: sorry Jimklag, I had mixed up quotes, I meant to tag you when I answered to your post. Have correected that now.
     
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  12. CSA Today

    CSA Today Colonel

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    Unfortunately, there are precious few Confederate advocates here, at least precious few bold enough to speak up. :frown:
     
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  13. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Your opinion is noted and not replied to...! Oh shucks! Wait a minute! What I meant was...Too late!
     
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  14. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    I must confess, that when I saw the title of this thread just now, I thought it was yet another attempt to divert focus from the root cause of the rebellion.
    Thanks for keeping us focused.
     
  15. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    It is difficult for us to understand the hold that our unique form of government had on Americans so long ago. From her study of letters soldiers sent family and newspapers, Manning concludes that the US soldier felt emotionally attached to the U. S. government, that many saw rebellion as a personal insult, but secession in response to election results was an especially egregious affront to the principles of self-government. "Secession undermined self-government and democracy by undercutting the electoral process. Effective government depended upon all parties abiding by the outcome of fair and free elections."
    Further, secessionists "repudiated the principles of self-government by rejecting not just any undesirable election result: they had specifically rejected an outcome that did not favor the expansion of slavery."
    <Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), p. 43.>
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
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  16. nc native

    nc native Corporal

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    When it comes to serving in the Continental Army in the American Revolution, it is true
    that Southerners were not well represented except for Virginia and Maryland, the two most
    northern Southern colonies at the time. However, Southerners served in plenty of local militia
    units that engaged their Tory neighbors and sometimes British regulars during their Southern
    campaign in South Carolina and during Lord Cornwallis's march to Yorktown in 1781. There
    were plenty of Southerners who took up arms to end British rule over the colonies.

    One of the most surprising things that struck me in doing genealogical research on my family
    was that I can find more direct ancestors who fought in the American Revolution than the
    Civil War. I was surprised to find that so many of them fought for American Independence
    although most of them enlisted after the British invaded South Carolina and were headed
    north through the Carolinas during the latter stages of the Southern campaign.
     
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  17. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    I agree insofar as your characterization of the US soldiers.
    But the rebels, too, had their own, sincere respect for the work of our Founders. They just characterized it in a wholly different way.
    As Manning points out, to the rebels, the struggle was "about securing a government that would do what government was supposed to do: promote white liberty, advance white families' interests, and protect slavery." They saw any infringement on slavery as an attack on an institution guaranteed by our Constitution. <Chandra Manning, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), p. 29.>
     
  18. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant

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    The South had slavery, so why was there sympathy for the Confederacy?...by people who were not pro-slavery?
    Because the South was invaded and unbiased observers could see the real motives in the war-
    "The North fights for empire, the South for independence."
     
  19. Jimklag

    Jimklag Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Thomas Jefferson, southerner and slave owner, described the USA as an "Empire Of Liberty" which the north was indeed fighting to maintain. The south felt exactly the same, but only as long as they, or their minions, were in charge. As soon as a northerner who was not beholden to the south was elected president, the south cried foul and took their ball and went home.
     
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  20. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    It is misleading to believe that the war was fought only where Washington raised his standard, just as it is to consider only the ANV/AOP actions in the Civil War.
    Involvement was also dependent on the phase of the war. You mention the early actions in Massachusetts. Once they were over, the war largely ignored New England. Meanwhile, late in the war, much of the action was in the Carolinas. And throughout the war, there were actions all along the frontier of the colonies.
    I don't know what the state by state breakdown was of the total American force in the Revolutionary War. Perhaps some one of our colleagues can help us.
    I do know that Maine troops were with Washington when he crossed the Delaware- they manned his 'assault craft'. And in my genealogical research I have seen records of South Carolinians who fought with Washington in New Jersey.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
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  21. Jimklag

    Jimklag Captain Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    You're right. There were plenty of soldiers from all thirteen colonies. Just not in 1775 and early '76. I never said it was a northerner only army. Just the majority - and a substantial majority.
     

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