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The American Civil War Essay

2224 words - 9 pages

In 1861, the United States faced the Civil War which was one of the most costly in history. Hundreds of thousands American lost their lives. Decades before the war, the North and South developed in different directions, and several events took place that led up to bloody war of the nation. It originated from deep divides in economy, society, and politics. The central issue was slavery like the French politician Alexis de Tocqueville had observed, “…almost all the differences which may be noticed between the character of the Americans in the Southern and Northern states have originated in slavery” (Rourk et al, 2009, p. 437). Politicians tried hard to reconcile the differences between the North and the South with several compromises but they were unsuccessful to prevent further conflict that would lead up to the war. Thus, the Civil War was inevitable.
Shortly after the American Revolution, the North and South developed different economies. The North went through a transition from hand-made to machine-made production of goods. This included the evolution of factories where work was performed on a large scale in a single centralized location (Economic Growth and the Early Industrial Revolution, n.d.). Not only manufacturing became mechanized but also agriculture. With invention of mechanical reapers and the steel plow, agriculture became less physical demanding and the farmers’ productivity increased drastically (Rourk et al, 2009, p. 397). The Industrial Revolution spurred on the economic growth and improved the living standards in the North. Many immigrants, mainly from Germany and Ireland, were attracted to the Northern states, looking for a chance to improve their lives. Moreover, the industrialized economy was based on a free-labor system. The ideal of this system encompassed that free people worked in factories or other industries and received wages. Thus, wage labor gave poor people the chance to move up the ladder toward eventual self-employment (Rourk et al, 2009, p.403).
In contrast, the South had mostly an agricultural economy which was based on a slave labor system. With the invention of the Cotton gin by Eli Whitney which efficiently separated the seeds from cotton, the South became the Cotton Kingdom during the early 19th century. It was a defining feature of Southern life and revitalized slavery (Cotton and African-American life, n.d.). Tending the huge cotton plantations was labor intensive and as the plantations grew in size, more slaves were needed. The Southern economy depended on cotton for their economic wealth and, therefore, depended heavily on slavery.
The Northern and Southern economies differed a great deal which led to the evolution of two very distinct societies. The Northern society grew more and more anti-slavery. With the mechanization of agriculture and manufacturing, slave labor was not needed. Their ideal of the free-labor system valued hard work, self-reliance, and independence and affirmed the egalitarian...

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