Term Paper: Slavery, the Civil War

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[. . .] The abolitionist movement was also gaining strength throughout the country through the activism of people such as John Brown. Lincoln's victory in the 1860 election as the candidate for the new Republican Party borne from the Free-Soil and Liberty parties signaled South Carolina's secession from the Union as the South felt that the country would move in direct opposition to Southern ideals and principles.

While Lincoln's main drive behind the Civil War was to restore the Union, the South was right in seeing that the issue of slavery would be what divided the nation. Unfortunately, the Southern way of life depended on slavery and their fears that they would be forced to give that up were true. At the end of the war, Lincoln abolished slavery, ensured the civil rights of all men, and granted the right to vote to all men.

6. Secessionists believed that the United States was merely a voluntary union created by the Constitution and that the federal government's power was only partial and limited. Ultimately, they believed that each state was a sovereign unit and could not only have laws that were in direct opposition to those of the federal government, but could also withdraw from the voluntary union of which they were a part.

Buchanan, who took office in 1856, tried to maintain the balance between proslavery and antislavery forces. While he believed slavery to be morally wrong, he also believed that slavery should be protected where it already existed and that new territories could decide for themselves whether to be free or slave. Before leaving office in 1860, Buchanan was aware of the Southern states' threats to secede and while he did not believe they had the right to, he also felt that he could do little to stop them. Instead, he merely entered into negotiations to ensure the protection of federal property and the collection of customs within the Southern states.

Lincoln also did not believe that the Southern states had the right secede, but again, like Buchanan, did not want to use force to prevent them. Nevertheless, Lincoln's desire to preserve the Union pushed him to ensure the safety of Fort Sumter, which the South took as an act of war.

His election in 1860 was the signal for South Carolina to secede and with the Civil War, Lincoln launched his quest to restore and preserve the Union. He cited over and over that this was his greatest goal in fighting in the Civil War, not necessarily the abolition of slavery. While he did opposed the extension of slavery and believed it to be morally wrong, his largest concern was the preservation of the Union. Even before his presidency, he had attacked the compromises concerning slavery in the territories and new states and staunchly believed that the success of the United States depended on the preservation of the Union: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

7. The Compromise of 1877 resolved the contested Presidential election of 1876, but also ended the period of Reconstruction that followed the Civil War. Democrat Samuel L. Tilden won the popular vote over Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, but the votes from four states (20 Electoral College votes) were contested. Extreme partisanship already marked Reconstruction and the dispute fueled further tensions between Democrats and Republicans. In the end, Congress formed an electoral commission with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans and the final vote was in the Republican favor, assigning all disputed votes to Hayes and winning him the election.

However, the Democrats threatened the reporting of the commission with a filibuster. To avoid the filibuster, the Republicans agreed to withdraw troops from the South, appoint at least one Southerner to Hayes's cabinet, and implement economic benefits to help industrialize the South. The withdrawal of troops marked the end of the period of Reconstruction which was meant to restore the Union after the Civil War and ensure racial equality in the South. To Southerners, Reconstruction was considered harsh, to Northerners, necessary and to African-Americans, an opportunity to gain economic and political freedom. The main legacy of Reconstruction was the readmission of the Southern states to the Union based on the requirement that they ratify the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, which abolished slavery, ensured civil rights to all men and guaranteed the black man's right to vote, respectively.

Descendants of slavery within urban poverty core areas could cite the Compromise of 1877 as reason for reparation since it ultimately stonewalled any immediate efforts to ensure racial equality in the South. However, the greater justification for reparations is perhaps the overarching history of American slavery and the incorporation of it into the American culture and lifestyle which contributed to the challenges African-Americans face today.

8. The Civil War was not fought in vain since it established the precedent that while the United States is a collection of states, the states are not wholly independent of the larger union. It served to ultimately strengthen the federal government and require the states to adhere to a minimum set of principles and ideals set forth by all the states in the Union. In particular, the driving force behind the Civil War was the issue of slavery. The South and secessionists defended their position by pointing out individual state's rights and the importance of slavery to their culture and way of life. They took talk of abolition as a personal threat.

However, the more important issue was what slavery meant, whether it was in sync with the ideals set forth in the nation's Constitution. The secessionists were perhaps partially right in stating that the United States was a voluntary union of states, but that initial agreement was a contract where states declared that they agreed on a common set of principles and ideals in exchange for being a part of the larger union and the protections and benefits that membership provides. When the United States was originally formed, the individual states agreed on a common Constitution that stated all men to be equal. While slavery had already been established, more and more Americans grew to believe that it was in direct contradiction with the ideals upon which the nation was founded and that initial agreement among states provided for such redefinition and growth through the ability to amend and change the Constitution itself.

The Civil War showed that by becoming a part of the Union, all states agreed to a common set of principles and ideals. If the majority of the nation was to change how those principles and ideals might be exercised practically, all states in the nation must fall in step. The abolition of slavery was not about changing the Southern way of life or culture; it was about fulfilling the ideals set forth by the Constitution and that by each state's initial agreement to become a part of the Union, each must fulfill those ideals as well.

Works Cited

Buchanan, James." Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 14 December 2002. http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/B/BuchannJ1.asp.

Lincoln, Abraham," Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 14 December 2002. http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/L/LincolnA1.asp.

Missouri Compromise." Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 14 December 2002. http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/m/missrc1omp.asp.

The Terrible Transformation." Africans in America. PBS Online.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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