The American Civil War has often been attributed to slavery. But the concern on slavery and how important it had been in causing the conflict should be analyzed more deeply.
It is true that other factors have contributed as well; for instance, there was the economic rivalry between the North and the South, but without slavery this could have been settled by the peaceful means.
It should be realized that at the dawn of the Civil War, the North and South were not the only areas, into which the country could have been divided. Over a decade earlier, the Oregon treaty and the victory during the Mexican War had transformed the United States into the country stretching from sea to sea. The compromise of 1850 formed the state of California and the territories of Utah and New Mexico, which were not going to become the states until 1896 and 1912 respectively. The West, like the South, was an agricultural region with only few cities or towns. However, the farmers there were growing a wider range of crops than their Southern counterparts did. Most of their products were sold in the northern markets. This, in turn, provided the West with some industrial products. This gave the North and the West a natural trade relationship. Both regions as well were progressive and democratic in the outlook, whereas the South was more conservative and aristocratic. The West region had more in common with the North than it did with the South. It was, in fact, the fear of the northern region that the South would cause slavery to spread into the West being a root cause of the Civil War.
That fear proved as justified when the Kansas-Nebraska Act appeared in 1854 creating those two territories (that had been previously an unorganized territory) and left it to settlers to decide whether to allow or prohibit slavery. Being sure enough, the settlers from both the North and the South began embracing people, each eager to form a majority of electorate and to have its opinion on the legality of slavery. The result, at least in Kansas, was triggered violence, being most intense near Missouri border as the pioneers were fighting with each other for the control.
In addition to being a direct cause of war, the radical difference in the labor produced, some big differences in their industrial and social habits have led to the frequent conflicts of interests between the northern and southern states. And as time was going on, both regions became more firmly attached to their own ways of thinking and doing things.
The South saw itself in the growing opposition to the system in the rapidly increasing population and wealth; the West lost its political control in the national councils. It broke away from the alliance with the North simply due to the public opinion and it could not consider slavery to be better for the country. Earlier, in the world’s history, the ideas had been spread and embodied into laws by the statesmen.
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The North itself was divided in the opinion on slavery whether it is just or unjust. Some Northerners accepted to the demands from the South. Conversely, in the South, at least during the early colonial times, slavery had only a support from some defenders as many people in this region were speaking out against it. But two centuries of habituation to the system had blinded them in this issue. At first, the European settlers from the Southern colonies chose Africans as the objects for their enslavement. As more and more slaves have begun to adopt Christianity as their religion, race became the basis for the justification of slavery.
Other issues that contributed to the Civil War, including the rights of states and the issue of tariffs, soon became inseparable with the problem of slavery. The Southern states felt that it was their right to have slavery if they had the need for it. The rights of some individual states crashed the authority of the federal government. They also resented the tariffs that the federal government had placed on goods sold in the South. Lincoln argued, during the famous debates called Lincoln-Douglas that slavery had been at the root of a recent tariff crisis, although Douglas denied it.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the fact is that slavery had been the primarycause of war between the northern and southern states. All other causes just stemmed directly or indirectly from that. The economic differences between the North and the South, for instance, were a result of existence of the “peculiar institution” in the southern region. If this was not due to slavery, those economic conflicts would not trigger the Civil war.