The Civil War & Slavery | Discussion

4. Was slavery the primary cause of the Civil War? Was the Civil War inevitable? Does Abraham Lincoln deserve to be called the “Great Emancipator”? Was the Civil War worth its costs?

The Civil War was one of the most tragic and challenging periods in the US history. Traditionally, slavery is considered to be the major cause of the Civil War, but such view on the Civil War is superficial in a way, because the Civil War was the result of the growing gap between the North and the South. The major problem that actually caused the Civil War was the need of the economic modernization that had started in the North and was slowed down by the technological and economic backwardness of the South, where the slave labor still remained the basis of the Southern economy. In such a situation, the North had started to outpace the economic and technological development of the South and the US had great opportunities to boost its economic development through the modernization of the national economy and more active industrialization and economic development of the South which was impossible, if slavery persisted because landowners were not interested in any modernization as long as they could use cheap slave labor and earn decent profits from it. In such a situation, the outburst of the Civil War opened the way for the accelerated economic development of the nation due to the restoration of the economy after the war and further modernization of the national economy and also brought profound political and cultural changes that created conditions for the transformation of the US nation into one nation, where citizens respect diversity and human rights.

Slavery is traditionally viewed as the primary cause of the Civil War because the abolition of slavery triggered the declaration of independence of Southern States, which decided to abandon the Union. The abolition of slavery was the last straw. Southern states declared their decision to abandon the Union, while the US President took the decision to use all available sources, including the military to keep the unity of the nation. However, slavery was rather the pretext for the war rather than its primary cause because slavery on its own was not pivotal for Northern states, for example, which were free of slavery.

At the same time, the root cause of the Civil War was more complex than the mere abolition of slavery. The root cause of the Civil War was the emerging, widening gap in the economic development of the North and the economic backwardness of the South. The US needed economic modernization, while the Southern conservative economic views and policies grounded on slavery became the burden for the national economy that slowed down its development and prevented the fast modernization. Southern states viewed slavery as the basis for their economic development but such vision prevented the US from the active economic development of the South. Moreover, the fast economic development of the North showed advantages of the economic system developed in the North (Richardson 120). In this regard, the defeat of Southern states in the Civil War was another evidence of the higher effectiveness of Northern economy, although Southern states were very strong economically before the war. Hence, the economic superiority of the Northern way of development became obvious since the North had managed to optimize its resources and boost the industrial production to ultimately defeat the Confederate Army. In contrast, Southern states turned out to be unable to keep struggling since their economic was unable to provide sufficient supplies and equipment because of the low level of their industrial development. Such backwardness of Southern states became one of the main causes of the Civil War and one of the main reasons for their defeat in the war, while slavery was rather a pretext for the war than its key cause.

The Civil War was inevitable because controversies between the South and the North grew stronger, while neither party was ready to give in. Slavery was fundamental for the Southern economy, whereas Northern economy needed fast industrialization and modernization which was impossible without the modernization of Southern economy that would provided new opportunities for Northern states to accelerate their economic development.

In such a context, Abraham Lincoln became the “Great Emancipator” because he was bold enough to abolish slavery, in spite of the threat of the confrontation with  Southern state that threatened to the Union and could lead to the decay of the US. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln had the clear vision of the future of the US and was fully aware of the importance of the modernization as the pivotal step in the development of the US that the nation had to make to become prosperous and successful and to become one of the leading world powers. He did undertake the step toward such modernization, in spite of the obvious threat of the Civil War because this step was essential to revolutionize not only the political system or economy of the US but rather to revolutionize the mind and way of thinking of Americans.

The Civil War was exhausting for the nation but it was still worth its costs because the Civil War became the turning point that transformed the nation. Consequences of the Civil War and its impact on the American society can hardly be underestimated (Epperson 74). First, the Civil War brought the ultimate abolition of slavery and contributed to the Constitutional guarantee of the equality of all Americans, regardless of their racial background, gender, and others. The liberation of slaves changed political, cultural and economic landscape of the US.

The abolition of slavery changed the economy of the South and created conditions for the accelerated modernization of the US economy. The industrialization could progress faster Southward since the abolition of slavery contributed to the faster development of new industries in the South and the use of hired labor instead of slave labor stimulated the wider use of machinery (Watson 106). Also the abolition of slavery encouraged the industrialization of the South since some of former slave owners decided to invest into new businesses to maintain the high profitability and just to invest their capital after they could not use the slave labor anymore.

Political changes were also very significant since the abolition of slavery lead to the amendment to the US Constitution and made the racial equality legally bound concept that had the legal ground and, therefore, the violation of the principle of racial equality could have legal consequences. Even though the racial inequality was rather nominal concept immediately after the Civil War, this concept laid the foundation to the future US society, where the racial equality became reality rather than a dream, even though it took almost a century for former slaves to gain equal legal rights and liberties after the introduction of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Norton 136). Anyway, the Civil War made the abolition of slavery inevitable and opened the way for the elimination of barriers between different racial groups.

In this regard, cultural effects of the Civil War were also very significant, but not always positive for the US nation. To put it more precisely, the Civil War raised the problem of the divide of the nation since former enemies, who fought against each other could not come to peaceful coexistence. In other words, the problem of the reconciliation of the nation became one of the major immediate effects of the Civil War, which though had long lasting effects to the extent that the cultural divide between the North and the South persists in a way even nowadays. Furthermore, the Civil War raised the problem of integration of former slaves into the mainstream society, while before the war they were treated as mere commodities, especially in the South. Nevertheless, the abolition of slavery created conditions for bridging gaps between white Americans and African Americans.

Thus, profound economic, political and cultural changes raised great challenges in face of the US as the nation after the Civil War but the abolition of slavery and the Civil War became the turning point in the historical development of the US nation and created conditions for the rise of one nation, where Americans take diversity for granted and where there is no room for discrimination or racial inequality. Even though the problem of racial inequality and racism persist, the abolition of slavery and the Civil War created conditions for the change of interracial relations since the racial equality was recognized in the US Constitution and created conditions for profound cultural changes that steadily lead the US nation to the true unity and steady elimination of racism and acceptance of diversity which ultimately surpassed racial boundaries and involved other aspects of diversity which became an essential part of the American worldview. Hence, even though the abolition of slavery was one of the causes of the Civil War, there were much more serious problems such as growing economic contradictions, emerging cultural gaps, and different visions of the economic and socio-political development of the US that ultimately led to the Civil War. The Civil War had become an important lesson the US nation had learned and that changed the nation to make it truly one nation, where diversity is a part of the worldview of Americans.

Works Cited:

Epperson, J. Causes of the Civil War. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Norton. A People and a Nation. New York: Touchstone, 2009.

Richardson, Heather Cox. West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War. New York: Random House, 2007.

Watson, D. The US in the 19th century. New York: New Publishers, 2009.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: October 27, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]
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