The Civil War: Slavery at the Core of Sectional Conflict - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1363 Words
Date:  2023-01-19


Causes of the Civil War

Tensions and disagreements about American politics and life are believed to the reason behind the onset of the Civil War. Although sectionism was partly a contributor to the Civil Way, slavery was the ultimate cause. The northern and southern states for centuries had been clashing on slavery, economic interests, the power of the federal government in controlling states, cultural values, among others. While some of the issues could be solved through diplomacy, slavery could not be resolved this way.

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The southern states with an agricultural economy and old traditions of white supremacy viewed slavery as a source of cheap labor. The northerners were industrialists. They abolished slavery beginning 1774 with New Jersey being the last in 1804. Therefore, the North was anti-slavery while the South was pro-slavery. Due to the abolition of slavery in the North, the South felt threatened by the possibility of a similar abolition.

The final trigger of the civil war was the election of Abraham Lincoln into office. Lincoln opposed slavery. Also, he was committed to preserving unionism. His election further threatened the southerners (Foner 416). On March 1861, before Abraham took office, seven states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America (CSA) with Jefferson Davis as their President. When the Confederate forces surrounded, fired and captured Fort Sumter from Union soldiers on April 12, 1861, South Carolina, the bloodiest civil war in American history erupted.

Reconstruction in the United States

Reconstruction was a period between 1865 to 1877 after the American Civil War. During this period, there were many attempts to readdress the disproportions of slavery and its economic, social, and political legacy. Also, efforts were made to resolve issues which emanated from the readmission of states that had seceded before and during the Civil War.

When the Civil War began, President Abraham Lincoln failed to make the abolition of slavery his primary goal as he feared secession from Union-loyal states in the South. However, the slaves were joining the Union lines in more significant numbers, and it is believed to be reason Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation (Foner 416). Lincoln resorted to reconstruction, and in his speech on April 11, 1865, in Louisiana declared the blacks had the right to vote. However, he was assassinated three days later leaving reconstructions plans to his successor.

In President Andrew Johnson's perspective, since the Southerners did not give up their rights to govern themselves, the federal government had no right to control their voting requirement or any interference at the state level. In Johnson's presidential reconstruction all land taken by Freedmen's Bureau was to be returned its pre-war owners. Also, the Freedmen's Bureau was required to uphold abolition of slavery, pay off war debts and swear loyalty to Union, upon which the southern states government were allowed to govern themselves.

Due to Johnson's leniency, the southern states enacted black supremacy laws to restrict freed blacks' activity, and as a result, the northern rejected his policies in late 1866. The Radical Republicans took control of reconstruction in the South. Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867 that required the southern state amend the 14th Amendment broadening the defining of American citizenship and giving equal protection to freed slaves. Also, the Fifteenth Amendment, adopted in 1870, allowed every citizen to vote regardless of the previous condition of servitude, color, or race. During this time all states that seceded had been readmitted to the Union.

The whites felt the growing influence of the blacks and formed reactionary forces, including the Ku Klux Klan. When the Democrats took control of the Congress in 1874 after the economic depression which left the southern states weak, President Grand reached a compromise with Republican Rutherford B. Hayes where in exchange for election certification, he approved the entire South to be controlled by the Democrats, marking the end of reconstruction.

Roles Changes for Women in the First Half of the 19th Century

Before the 19th century, women and men occupied separate spheres of society. While men were expected to live a public life working, women were required to stay at home, focusing on household duties like cleaning and cooking and taking care of children. Also, women were absent in political matters, and they were prohibited from voting. In the first half of the 19th century, women began to resist traditional roles. In the United States, lower and middle-class women began to take positions in temperance and abolition movements. In 1948, the Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York helped over 300 women in attendance to draft the Declaration of Sentiments, later incorporated in the US Constitution. In the declaration, women advocated for rights such as the right to own property, participate in working, and engage in politics, among others.

Some notable figures in the women's rights movement are discussed below.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Born in Johnstown, New York on November 12, 1815, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a leading figure of the early women's rights movement. She was a writer, an activist, and an abolitionist. She participated in the Declaration of Sentiments drafted in the Women's Rights Convention. She was the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association for twenty years.

Sojourner Truth

Born in 1797, Sojourner Truth was a women's rights activist and abolitionist. She once served as a slave before escaping in 1826. Having had first-hand experience in slavery and injustices towards women, Truth was radical in her activism. Sojourner helped in recruiting black troops in the Union Army.

Susan B. Anthony

Born in 1820, Susan B. Antony was a crusader of the women suffrage movement in the United States. She also served as the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Susan was too radical in her advocacy for women rights, particularly in politics. Although women were not allowed to vote in the United States, Susan in 1872 voted in the presidential election. She was arrested and fined $100 after her trial.

Catharine Esther Beecher

Born in 1800 in East Hampton, Catharine Esther Beecher was a writer, teacher and women's rights activist. Unlike other women activists such as Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Beecher advocated for women rights through women education. She argued that women, when educated, were distinctively suited to the intellectual and moral development of children both as teachers and mothers. Therefore, while she did not challenge the women sphere, Catherine believed women education was the source of power and influence they yearned for.

The Role of Slaves in Bringing Out Their Emancipation

Although President Abraham Lincoln initiated Emancipation Proclamation that paved the way for Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment, the declaration did not free slaves as intended. Many slaves, African Americans continued to receive harsh treatment and racially discriminated, forcing them to steer their freedom. First, the slaves resolved to civil disobedience. They intentionally initiated work slowdowns, pretending not to understand instruction given by their masters and sabotaging equipment. This was meant to be peaceful disobedience. However, when it proved to be slow, they resorted to assaulting the whites forming rebellious groups. Malcolm X is a prime example as he urged the blacks people to pursue their freedom even if meant using violence. They protested, rallied, and boycotted for their voices to be heard.

The also devised ways of fleeing from slavery, specifically feeling to Canada, where there was no slavery. They could run away from work and use the Underground Railroad with the help of allies and abolitionists (sympathizers) to flee from their masters. The underground Railroads had safe houses and routes that could help them get to Canada.

Third, Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, and a former slave popularized the issue of slavery by publishing newspapers and making speeches advocating for the freedom of the slaves. By exposing the cruelty of slavery, Frederick managed to convince many interested parties that freedom was the only way for the African-American race.

Fourth, although many slaves fled to Canada, some joined the Union lines. Their large numbers in the army (about 180, 000) is believed to be the reason Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation. Besides, while in the military, they also advocated for their rights, which made their voices to have more impact on the lives of the slaves.

Works Cited

Foner, Eric. Give me Liberty!: An American History, Fifth Edition.2017,

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