Louis Wischnewsky History 170 Prof Farrington 20 Jul 11 Final Exam Extra Credit: Question Four The road to the Civil War is as clear as the road to the American Revolution. AfterMonroe, the rhetoric between anti- and pro-slavery groups steadily grew more and more harsh.While there is no doubt that the Civil War would not have happened were it not for the issue ofslavery, there were many other factors at play. Virtually all of them involved political jockeyingfor power instead of rationally seeking solutions, a problem that perplexes this nation over acentury later. Somehow or another, as fate would have it, we had thirteen states considered free andthirteen that practiced slavery. This divided the Senate, more than anything, evenly and madesure no laws would be passed that supported one side more than the other. That is what made theissue of territorial expansion a very touchy subject. Any states added to the Union in the Northwould surely shift the senatorial power to the anti-slavery movement. Any states added to theSouth would have the exact opposite affect. It is probably safe to say that all Americans, bothNortherners and Southerners bought into the concept of Manifest Destiny hook, line and sinker.As a result no one wanted to pass up on territorial expansion … so long as it was an expansion inthe North if you were a Northerner and in the South if you were a Southerner. There is nounambiguous evidence that can support the claim that Southerners wanted to expand slaveryitself, even into the new territories. Southerners wanted Texas in the union and, hopefully, acouple other states strictly as a form of insurance that slavery would not be forced to end in thecurrent states that allowed slavery. After all, there is no rational way pro-slavery people could
2have hoped to vastly expand the use of slaves: where would those slaves have come from? Theslaves would have been taken to the new states from states that already contained slaves meaningthat current slave states would have lost representative power in the House. The exchange wouldhave been a growth in representation in the Senate. The Senate could not make new lawspromoting slavery, but the Senate could surely shut down any Congressional attempts to endslavery. So the South was looking at expansion as a way to preserve itself while the North waslooking at expansion as a way to overpower the South. In any case, industrialism might have aided in removing a need for slaves in the North,but that same industrialization created a greater need for slavery in the South. It can be arguedthat up to the invention of the cotton gin even Southerners were having their doubts aboutslavery. The Second Great Awakening was no less noticed in the South than it was in the Northand this is evidenced in two ways. First, the Second Great Awakening (SGA) caused Northernersto renew their calls for an end to slavery, but second, the SGA also caught on heavily in theSouth, even today known as the Bible Belt. So slavery was doomed to end in the South just as itwas ending everywhere else. What, then, caused the South to dig in its heels and resist theNorth? A weird bias toward Southerners exists to this very day through which Southerners areconsidered uneducated and hateful. Really? Well, ask the rest of the world why they do not likethe United States and guess what they have to say? No one likes to be called stupid and hateful.Had the North been as enlightened as many of its leaders claimed to be the North might havedemonstrated a little more patience and worked with Southerners to find a way to replace thecotton-picking labor it needed. Thus, considering the animosity that was growing between the two regions, the moralconvictions of one side and the basic instinct to survive on the other, the Civil War was notinevitable. Could it have been avoided? Absolutely. But it was not and thats all that matters. This
3shifts the discussion to what lead to Union victory. There are three things that lead to Unionvictory. The greatest of those factors, considering some of Lees actions late in the war, was thatLee did not believe in the cause to begin with. It will be debated to the end of days, but it is easyto argue that Lee went North for no other reason but to bring the war to an end. There is nological way a man as brilliant as Lee would have ever believed that entering the North wouldturn the tide back to the favor of the South. Some might argue that Lee might have hoped themove would have caused Lincoln or Grant to call all the Union troops back to defend the capital,but that is a fantasy. Lee knew he was outnumbered the whole war. He knew there was no needfor Union troops in the North. He could have captured the capital, sure, but even that would nothave assured him of capturing Lincoln and without Lincoln there would be no surrender.Capturing the capital, too, would have enormously angered the Northerners rallying them to aneven greater zeal to defeat the South. Lee knew that. There can be no doubt about it. So thegreatest factor in Union victory was that Lee was finished, mainly because he did not believe inthe cause to begin with. The second greatest influence on the Souths loss was the slaves just up and leaving theirplantations. Everyone argues that this caused confusion and a lack of income to the South, therewas a larger factor. The South already knew that slavery was ending elsewhere in the world.They might have tried to resume the practice of importing Africans, but that is doubtful for tworeasons. First, the South was seeking aid from England. That makes the second reason important:England had already abolished slavery. With a superpower that did not allow slavery backingthem, the South had to know they would not be allowed to import more slaves. Now go back tothe slaves walking off plantations. When that started happening, the morale of the South wasobliviated. It was obliviated because the writing was on the wall: even if they won independence,their way of life would no longer exist. Why? Because they would have no slaves to rebuild their
4new nation with and there would be no way to get more. So with slaves walking away in evengreater volumes after the Emancipation Proclamation, the South no longer had a vision of itsfuture. Finally, the third factor. The third factor was purely the numbers. With the one man thatcould pull off a military victory no longer into the fight, without the means to be aneconomically viable nation, the sheer numbers made victory impossible. The inability to feeditself, a larger population base in the North, no manufacturing to replenish materiel, the war wasnow an effort in futility. Maybe it could be argued that the North was aching for a fight with the South. If thatwere true, then the events leading up to the Civil War should have made it obvious that a revoltwas inevitable. However, there is no evidence that supports a hankering for a fight within theNorth. In fact, theres one clear clue the opposite was true: the North knew the South wasbuilding an army yet the North did nothing to prepare to counter that army. In any case, whilesome might point to the specif events leading up to the Civil War as proof that war wasinevitable, getting into the minds of both Northerners and Southerners reveals that there wereways to avoid the war and, by definition, that made it a war that could have been averted.Nonetheless, a decision came to blows and once the fighting started, there might have been threefactors playing against the South, but most critical was an admired General Lee that was not allthat into the war to begin with and the removal of a reason to continue fighting, the emancipationof the Southern slaves. The sheer numbers were a factor, but not one as critical as those two. In closing, the Embargo Act, the Compromise of 1820, the Missouri Compromise, theKansa-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott, Western expansion – all of those things could have beendiscussed in this response. To do so, however, continues the legacy of what truly caused the CivilWar and continues to divide this nation over 150 years later: Northern bias and dislike of the
5South. A lot has changed in those 150 plus years. While the South still clings to its heroes, theeconomic might of the nation is no longer so vastly imbalanced and certainly industrialadvantages go to the South today. In considering the Reconstruction and the years between CivilWar and the Civil Rights Movement, there has been that lingering question of whether or not thewar had been fought in vain. As passionate arguments about modern issues grow in intensity,now is the time more than ever to ask that question. The answer is that if Americans have tocontinue defending their way of life in one region or another instead of finding amicablesolutions may not bode well for Americas future.