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The American Civil War: Interpretations Of Democracy

1598 words - 7 pages

One of the most convoluted themes in history is that of the meaning of war. The American Civil War specifically offers many differing explanations as to the true cause for which over 600,000 men dedicated and lost their lives. The Civil War was particularly so, in that there was no universal acceptance of the objectives or causes of the war from either side. Leaders from the Union and the Confederacy delineated distinctly different reasons for fighting, magnifying the hostility between the two regions both before and during wartime. The Confederacy insisted that, based on overwhelming sentiments, its secession was an inevitability that was within the bounds of constitutional law. The South justified this secession and subsequent violence by claiming that the federal government had become tyrannical and was infringing on state rights. In the years leading up to the Civil War, a matter that was pertinent for both sides was the issue of the implementation of slavery into newly admitted states as the nation expanded westward. The subject of slavery in this instance was more political than it was moral, as the issue revolved around the concept of representation in Congress. The North focused its efforts on preventing the union from dividing into separate factions. From the Union standpoint, the Civil War represented a fight to protect the union of the states and the future of democracy for the entire world. The Civil War, for both the Union and the Confederacy, was a fight for the preservation of each side’s conception of legal and natural rights as they pertain to liberty for all.
Throughout the war, both sides put forth a substantial effort toward gaining support from nations abroad. Foreign acknowledgement and support of southern secession was of utmost importance to the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis directed his Second Inaugural Address not only to the people of the Confederacy, but also to a foreign audience. Davis insisted to the countries of Europe that recognition of the Confederate States as a separate, legitimate entity would be of even greater economic benefit to their commerce (Davis, 107). However, Davis by no means implies that the Confederate States are reliant upon foreign nations for economic survival, as he explains that any lack of exchanged goods between the two nations would only “serve to divert our industry from the production of articles for export and employ it in the commodities for domestic use” (Davis, 99). The Confederacy strove to appear both capable of acting as an independent and valuable body in an international market and also oppressed by a tyrannical national government. The South called upon the idea that they had simply attempted to lawfully and peacefully separate from the “disparaging discrimination, submission to which would be inconsistent with their welfare” of the Union that worked against their best interest (Davis, 45). Through these points, Davis sought validation of the Confederacy from European...

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