U.S. Civil War Essay

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¶ … U.S. Civil War

Discuss how and why Southern devotion to a system of slave labor retarded modernization in the South.

The reason for the South's failure to industrialize, ironically, can be traced to the North -- specifically in the person of one Northern man, the engineer Eli Whitney. "As Eli Whitney left New England and headed South in 1792, he had no idea that within the next seven months he would invent a machine that would profoundly alter the course of American history" (Schur 2009). Whitney created a machine that could remove the seeds from cotton at an unprecedented rate. However, although the immediate labor of removing seeds was reduced, it did not eliminate the need for slaves to grow and pick the cotton. In fact, it made cotton much easier to process, and, with slave labor and the cotton gin, much cheaper to manufacture and thus more profitable. The statistics tell the tale: "It greatly increased their demand for both land and slave labor. In 1790 there were six slave states; in 1860 there were 15. From 1790 until Congress banned the importation of slaves from Africa in 1808, Southerners imported 80,000 Africans. By 1860 approximately one in three Southerners was a slave" (Schur 2009).

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With an enslaved labor force and an insanely profitable cash crop, the American South had no reason to industrialize along the pattern of the American North. The South comfortably retained its agrarian, plantation-based system on the profits from cotton. It was enabled in this once again by the North. The factories of the North, now fully industrialized as a result of the Industrial Revolution, could spin and weave Southerners' cotton into manufactured goods and transport it abroad by steamboat. "By midcentury America was growing three-quarters of the world's supply of cotton, most of it shipped to England or New England where it was manufactured into cloth...At midcentury the South provided three-fifths of America's exports -- most of it in cotton" (Schur 2009).


Why do you think the Kansas-Nebraska act led directly to "Bleeding Kansas," and to the emergence of the Republican Party?

TOPIC: Essay on U.S. Civil War Discuss How and Why Assignment

On December 14, 1853, Augustus C. Dodge of Iowa introduced a bill in the Senate which would later become known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It proposed organizing the Nebraska territory into several states, one of which would eventually become the state of contemporary Kansas. Dodge's bill was referred to the Committee of the Territories, chaired by Stephen a. Douglas of Illinois. Douglas was an advocate of popular sovereignty, the doctrine which held that (white) settlers in a territory should decide for themselves whether or not to have slavery within their borders. This went against the bipartisan spirit of the Compromise of 1850, and also "would repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which said that slavery could not extend above the 36' 30" line" (Bleeding Kansas 1853-1861, 2009, Africans in America).

Douglas was so determined to get his bill passed and uphold his belief in Manifest Destiny he defied even Northerners in his own party, who were outraged at his flouting of the Missouri Compromise. Even more outraged were Northern abolitionists. They organized the New England Emigrant Aid Company to send settlers to Kansas to secure the state as a free territory and armed the Company with rifles bought by Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin). These Northerners clashed with "thousands of armed Southerners, mostly from Missouri, [who] poured over the line to vote for a proslavery congressional delegate. Only half the ballots were cast by registered voters, and at one location, only 20 of over 600 voters were legal residents. The proslavery forces won the election" as a result (Bleeding Kansas 1853-1861, 2009, Africans in America). Douglas' actions, the violence and flouting of democratic procedures caused many abolitionists and also many neutral Northerners to despair of ever compromising with Southerners, and to create the Republican Party in reaction to the events in Kansas.


Discuss and support your views as to whether the United States blundered into a Civil War.

The Founding Fathers of America thought that slavery would die a natural, slow and peaceful death as it slowly grew less and less profitable. However, the invention of the cotton gin seemed to ensure that slavery would exist far longer than had been anticipated by the founders. Since the conception of America, compromises were enacted to create a tenuous truce between slave and free states, beginning with the 3/5ths compromise in the U.S. Constitution. Subsequently, other compromises were enacted such as the Missouri Compromise, to create a kind of 'peace pact' between Northern and Southern states. However, the Civil War seems inevitable, given the impossibility of balancing the two ways of life of the two different sides of the nation. The Southern, slave states had been agitating for more control over the Western territories and affairs within their own borders. They often used egregious methods, like idea of a state's ability to nullify actions of the federal government, to flout federal law (the beginning of the American Civil War., 2009, BBC).

Thus the Civil War was the product of long standing differences between South and North. The South wanted strong state governments, a weak federal government. It wanted no tariffs to export its cash crops that were harvested by slaves. The North wanted a strong federal government, the North dominated the federal House of Representatives, "and passed tariffs and laws benefiting the north and harming the South" (the beginning of the American Civil War., 2009, BBC). Of course, certain instigating actions can be pointed to, like the refusal of the South to back Stephen Douglass in the 1860 election, effectively guaranteeing Lincoln's assumption of the presidency and Southern secession (the beginning of the American Civil War., 2009, BBC).. But no single blunder caused a war with roots deep in the heart of the nation's founding and ideological fabric.


Discuss the Anaconda Plan, credited by popular historians as reason the Union won the war. Given your reading for this module, why do you think that view is correct or incorrect?

The original Anaconda plan was advanced by Major General George B. McClellan, and was designed to strangle the Southern ports like a boa constrictor, coupled with "a strong thrust down the Mississippi Valley with a large force, and the establishment of a line of strong Federal positions there would isolate the disorganized Confederate nation "(Faust 2005). When this proposal was first advanced, it was rejected as too passive (Faust 2005). However, in 1864 a more aggressive approach was adopted in a reformed 'squeeze play' -- Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant fought a two-front war in Virginia and Tennessee while Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman marched through Georgia (Faust 2005).

However, even without this specific tactic, the South was disintegrating. The South was vastly outnumbered by the North in men and resources, Confederate President Jefferson Davis' control over the states was weak, deliberately so, given that state sovereignty was the purpose of the revolt. This meant that the South was no match for the more efficient and industrialized North. Davis was also unwilling to negotiate with the North, and unlike General Robert E. Lee, he had an unrealistic view of the ability of the Confederacy to overcome its increasingly slim odds of surviving, during the waning days of its existence. By the time the Anaconda strategy was put into place, the Question was not if the Confederacy would be defeated, but when and how.


How would you evaluate McClellan's generalship during the Maryland campaign and why?

General Robert E. Lee's stand in Maryland is often called the high tide of the Confederacy given his impressive command in the face of McClellan's superior Union numbers. McClellan was cautious, Lee was bold. However, Lee's… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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