Factors and Causes of the Civil War


The American civil war, sometimes called the War Between the States, was a disagreement that manifested in the form of a military conflict. It was between the United States if America (USA), which at the time was known as the Union, and the Confederate States of America which were known as the Confederacy. The war took place from 1861 to 1865. Over six hundred thousand deaths resulted from the war. The Confederacy included eleven slave states from the southern part of the United States and Jefferson Davis led them to war while the Union constituted twenty-five states that supported the federal government. The Union had an upper hand in numbers and industrial resources (McPherson 230-244). Following four years of war, casualties and bloodshed, the Confederate states gave up and slavery was banned all over the USA. For a war of this magnitude to occur, the origins of its causes were rooted in tensions that had been formed earlier in history.

Economic and social factors

One of the factors that led to the war was that there were economic and social differences between the Northern states and the Southern ones. The states were sectionalized. After the invention of the cotton gin, business dealing with cotton farming and produce became very lucrative. As a result, many other farms that were dealing in other crops started shifting their farming interests to cotton. As more plantations moved to cotton farming, there was a rise in the need of vast and cheap labor. This labor was provided for by southern slaves making their economy solely dependent on cotton farming. In contrast, Northern states had a more dynamic economy. Northern states were acquiring raw cotton then turning it into useful good in their industries. Their economy was both industrialized and of agriculture (Goldin and Lewis 299-326).

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The respective economies also affected how both sides faired on socially. In the South, their plantation economy led them to live unchanging lifestyles consequently having old fashioned lives. On the other hand, the north saw a mixture of cultures and lifestyles working together because of the industries. They, therefore, became more modernized. The southern states also resisted industrialization and they manufactured diminutive amounts of goods. They had to import manufactured goods into their states. The northern states were at the time established with their industrialization and they got many immigrants from Europe and other regions who built more infrastructures like railroads (Goldin and Lewis 299-326).

The labor needed in the North did not entail slavery. There was a huge gap between what the Northern states got as profits from the Southern states. The North had a demand for higher taxation than the South in order to safeguard their products. The South resisted this. The tariffs that were paid made it possible for the federal government to make improvements on the roads, canals and turnpikes. Since the South resisted the high tariffs, they also opted for not having these improvements done on their side. The differences in economic needs and how they could meet these needs increased sectional disparities and deepened brewing regional aggression. In addition to this, the matters of slavery separate some of the largest religious denominations like Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists, into northern and southern groups (McPherson 230-244).

Political factors

In the earlier initial years of the United States, patriotism was more towards an individual’s state than towards their country. This is why the states only supported the union as a voluntary act. As the activities of the North and South continued to differ, their lifestyles changed and so did their mindset. This means that their political views were different too. Politics served to meet the needs of the states. The Northern states wanted a government that was centralized so as to conduct activities on the improvement of roads and other infrastructure. However, the South resisted a centralized government as they thought it would get in the way of slavery.

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As a result of the South’s strong resistance of a centralized governing body, the election of Abraham Lincoln as the President of the United States in 1860 was the most active catalyst for the civil war. Lincoln did not support slavery yet this was how Southerners made their economy work. They feared that President Lincoln would make its expansion stop and get rid of it completely (Foner and Garraty 272). Advocates of who were against slavery from the North acknowledged slave power as a risk to the reign of the government that was based on republican values. The argument was that wealthy slave possessors would use the power they had to attempt to control government like the Presidency, the Supreme Court and the Congress.

If this happened, it would be a great threat to the freedom of those residing in the Northern states. Also, there were new opportunities opening up in the west for the purchase of land. The free soil was available and the Northerners feared that wealthy slave owners would buy the best land and leave the marginal ones for them. The northern states preferred if the land was bought by the government then given to settlers. This was opposed by Rich slave owners from the South who saw it would attract poor Southerners (Davis and Woodman 1966).

There was a difference of opinion of what the Southerners wanted as state rights and what the northerners wanted. Southerners wanted to be allowed to move their property to any location in the country and at the same time maintain the kind of rights they had in their previous location. For instance, they wanted for it to be that if a Southern state resident moved to an area in the North, they should be allowed to do so and also to pursue their slave labor though it is not be allowed in the North. Those in the North declined to give this right as it would go against their policy to outlaw slavery in their region. The Supreme Court encouraged the Southerners proposed state right in 1857 angering the North (McPherson 230-244).

In the political history of the United States after the revolution, there were two camps. One advocated for more power to the states while the other advocated for more power for the federal government. After the secret creation of the US constitution, the state power advocates felt that the independent rights of states were not addressed. They attempted to nullify the constitution and when this did not happen, they seceded (Davis and Woodman 1966).


The war that resulted from these factors is very unique. Because its causes had their origins within the country, it is one of the wars that America fought solely on their soil. The economic, social and political factors all had their roots in one aspect of the country or another. It was also one of the deadliest wars and one of the most misunderstood too. Many think that the war was about the North trying to abolish slave trade but as explicated above, the causes show that the war started as a result of numerous issues that can be traced in the history of the country. It is a fact that the two sides were had some hostilities towards each other but it is the problems that are below the surface of these hostilities that were most influential in leading to the American Civil War.

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