The Conflicts Leading to the Civil War, Essay Example

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Essay

It remains commonly thought that the issue of slavery was the decisive factor in precipitating the Civil War, and there is truth to this.  The issue itself, however, was both reflective and composed of multiple elements, many as impactful as that of slavery itself.  It is critical to note that the years following 1820 were very much the gestation of the Industrial Revolution, and this presented opportunities the government was not about to ignore.  Essentially, as the railroads came into prominence, the vast territories of what would become the United States were opening up.  Then, these were often territories eager to join in with the growing nation.  A world power was beginning to emerge in these pivotal years.

The road, however, was troubled, and slavery became the catch-all subject in which other, enormous concerns were brewing.  It must be remembered that the distinctions between the powers of the state and the federal government were only just evolving; consequently, imminent states had strong feelings regarding their levels of autonomy.   Abolitionists, or anti-slavery factions, were expanding in the Northeast.  At the same time, the new arenas either seeking statehood or pursued by the government were expressing their own views regarding the issue and insisting on the right to decide for themselves.  The Compromise of 1850 was a federal measure of some desperation.  It sought to appease all parties and delegate slavery status to the state’s discretion.  This could not, however, succeed if the nation were to be truly united.  In 1820, for example, Maine entered the union as a free state, while the local sovereignty of Missouri held to slave status.  The Compromise attempted thirty years later reveals just how irreconcilable the rifts were becoming.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 turned up the heat.  Again, slavery, inextricably linked to state sovereignty, was the core issue around which the rights of states were revolving, but the schism was now too deep.  Kansas was insisting on state sovereignty and, by this time, that translated to partisanship with an organized, united South.  The nation in the pre-Civil War years was repeatedly attempting to do the impossible: expand into a unified power through mutual consent, shared advantages, and a unified ideological foundation, and the issue of slavery perpetually drew fresh battle lines in all negotiations.   There could be no United States until the country was united on this most pivotal of issues.

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