Causes of the American Civil War
The American Civil War was a military conflict between the United States of America (the Union), and 11 secessionist Southern states, organized as the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). It was the culmination of four decades of intense sectional conflict and it reflected deep-seated economic, social, and political differences between the North and the South. One of the major causes of the Civil War was the seemingly endless political disputes over slavery in the Mexican Cession and Louisiana Purchase territories. It was imperative that the Democratic and Whig political leaders maintain harmony between their Southern and Northern supporters, thus, the platforms of both during presidential elections like that of 1848 tried to avoid that particular slavery question. But the extension of slavery into the new territories was one of the largest issues of the time, and with growing opposition from the North, evasion of it became increasingly difficult. Another significant cause of the war was the growth of different responses to antislavery practices such as the Underground Railroad and reactions to runaway slaves and the Fugitive Slave laws that spurred from all sections of the country. Finally, there was the economic distress factor, of both foreign and domestic roots, that included everything from tariffs to the financial crash of 1857. These in turn caused sectional disputes over the use of the federal government’s public lands.
In early 1848, when gold was discovered in California, “a horde of adventurers poured into the valleys.'; (Bailey, 400). “Free-soilers'; and “slaveryites'; argued over the proposed issue of slavery in the territories, and thus, whether the terrain itself was suitable for a slave economy. In Congress on August 8, 1846, Pennsylvania Representative David Wilmot moved an amendment: “that, as an express and fundamental condition of the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico…neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory,'; (CG, 1217) releasing the “pent-up ire'; of northern Democrats, many of whom cared less about the slavery issue itself than about their own power within the party. But the northern Whigs, who had a more consistent antislavery ‘record’, volunteered support for the proviso. “This bipartisan northern coalition in the House passed it over the united opposition of southern Democrats and Whigs.'; (McPherson, 53). Normally, as in cases dealing with tariffs, the Bank, and federal aid for internal improvement, Congress would have been divided along party lines. “This was a dire omen.'; (McPherson, 53).
In 1854, Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas proposed the division of the Territory of Nebraska into two territories, that of Kansas and Nebraska. “Their status regarding slavery would be settled by popular sovereignty—a democratic concept to which Douglas and his western constituents were...