Term Paper: Causes of the Civil War From a Southern Perspective

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Civil War

Although history is usually written by the victors, the Southern perspective of the Civil War never completely fell by the wayside. Issues related to states' rights and to the rights of African-Americans remain central to American politics and because President Johnson was a Southerner, his brand of Reconstruction enabled the partial preservation of Southern points-of-view. However, the very name of the Civil War reflects the Northern victory. Post-Civil War domestic policy also ensured the breakdown of the Southern plantation culture, at least officially. Alternately referred to as the War of Northern Aggression or the War of Southern Independence, the Civil War was fought over the following central issues from the Southern perspective. First, the Confederate states supported the rights of the states to forge their own local laws and denied the relevance of a strong federal government. One of the key reasons for cession was the debate over state's rights, as the South generally perceived the northern states' policies as eroding the rights of states to govern their own people. Second, the Industrial Revolution intensified regional economic differences within the United States. In particular, the southern economy blossomed due to a lucrative cotton market that depended on slave labor. The northern economy had yet to be tapped as fully and to stimulate the economies of northern states, the federal government initiated protectionist tariff policies that promoted industrialization and also injured the export-oriented southern markets. Deeply opposed to protectionist tariffs, Southern lawmakers opted for cession rather than acceptance of northern hegemony in congress. Third, Westward expansion also magnified the differences between North and South in America. Southerners sharply disagreed with federal policies regarding the new territories added to the nation during the mid-nineteenth century. Fourth, the abolitionist movement spreading through the nation was a direct affront to Southern culture, Southern independence, and Southern viewpoints expressed in Washington.

The debate between federalism and republicanism had stymied the United States since the Revolution and the Civil War only proved that the debate over states' rights had never been fully resolved. Southern states especially thrived in a libertarian political environment and in the absence of a strong central government. Avowing the rights of states to determine their own laws meant that Southern states could continue the program of slavery and could also avoid sharing the economic spoils of the plantation economy with the northern states. Thus, the south viewed federal policies as signifying "the subjugation of the South and denial of its claims to independence," (Stromberg, p. 32). States' rights were therefore a primary issue prompting the South to cede from the union: the issue reflected a fundamental and irreconcilable difference that precluded the very notion of "United States."

The Industrial Revolution also served as a root cause of the Civil War. Not interested in industrializing due primarily to the success of its agriculture-based economy, the South also resisted a policy that would mandate more cooperation between Northern and Southern interests. Specifically, "Industrialists in the North believed that, if freed, the slaves would leave the South and provide the labor they needed. The North also wanted tariffs on imported foreign goods to protect their new industries," ("American Civil War"). Northern states embraced the Industrial Revolution, which opened new avenues for economic development throughout the nation. Whereas the north… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Causes of the Civil War From a Southern Perspective."  Essaytown.com.  September 18, 2006.  Accessed November 14, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/causes-civil-war-southern-perspective/881272.