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The crucial question whether the Civil War was about slavery or about states’ rights have been a reason for debate between liberals and conservatives for many years. Although the war actually ended with the abolition of slavery, many people still claim that the main aim of the war was the fight for states’ rights. The Pew Research Center identified that 49 % of Americans support the statement that the Civil War was about states’ rights, and only 37% consider that it was about slavery (Seidule). This essay, however, argues that the real reason of the Civil War was the fight for slavery.
Analyzing the historical data will help in proving that it is the raise of the slavery issue which led to the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1793, after the invention of the cotton gin, slavery reached the second stage of its development (Carnes et al. 230). The rise of slavery led to the increased confrontation between the economic benefits of slavery and constitutional issues. Southerners supported the idea that African Americans were inferior to whites and actively supported the position of slavery benevolence. The Southwestern states of the U.S. asserted that black people could not take care of themselves, and that slavery was a benevolent measure that helped to keep them fed. In 1857, the United States Supreme Court resolved that slaves were rightless subhuman property (Carnes et al. 235). This ideological position is brightly represented in the speech of Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederates States of America, which he announced in the Savannah Republican in March 1862. Claiming that the new Constitution would clarify the question regarding the condition of African slaves and their status among the white American people, he supported the position that Africans were not equal to the white people and that slavery status was their natural form (Carnes et al. 241). For Stephens, Africans were a subordinate race and should therefore be enslaved.
On the contrary, the Constitution had strong antislavery position, which was proven by the declarations written by four states of America. The new coming Republicans asserted that the main aim of the Civil War was preserving the Union (Carnes et al. 240). Nevertheless, many people from Northern and Southern states of America hoped that the war would help to solve both issues.
The election of the first president from the Republican Party induced many people to think that Lincoln and Republicans would solve the slavery issue. The representatives of the Party strongly asserted that they put many forces to destroy slavery (Pappas). However, the Democrats of the North argued against the Republicans and accused them of circumventing the Constitutional prohibition of the federal attack on slavery (Horwitz). Some of the contemporary politicians argue that the Republicans fictively initiated the fight for slavery abolition, simultaneously rejecting the federal constraining of the Slave Laws (Horwitz). William Lloyd Garrison emphasized that the U.S. Anti-Slavery Society declared that only states have the power to ban slavery (2). The federal government had no right to intervene with the slavery issues in the states. Factions on the antislavery radicals claimed that the Constitution was evidently a fictive antislavery document (Horton). The politicians strongly insist that the Republicans initiating the slavery abolishing laws deeply believed that the Constitution would not allow the federal government to destroy slavery in the states. Thus, as might be seen from the abovementioned analysis, the main reason for debate between the parties, which eventually broke out in the Civil War, was the slavery issue.
The reasons of the Civil War have been the subject of investigation of many historians, some of them being strongly supporting the argument that the Civil War was about slavery. Adam Goodheart, the author of the book “1861” about the Civil War in the U.S, claims that before starting to write the book, he had thoroughly studied the actual documents and came to the conclusion thatt the Civil War was definitely about slavery but not about states’ rights (Pappas). As Goodheart stated, the only significant state right that people argued about was the right to own slave property and the ability to travel with it anywhere. The historian considers that many people adhere to the states’ rights position because they want to believe that the U.S. has always advocated for freedom. Southern Americans do not want to accept the fact that their forefathers fought for slavery (Pappas).
The historians note that there were four states in the Confederacy which wrote declarations representing the reason of their seceding from the Union. Those states included Texas, Mississippi, South California, and Georgia (Horton). South Carolina demolished the idea that the Civil War was about states’ rights in its declaration. The authority of the state asserted that some Northern states enacted legislation which either cancelled the Acts of Congress or made it useless because of the validity problems. Mississippi also supported the idea that the Civil War was about slavery. Its declaration clearly stated that the Mississippi state left the Union because of its position is lining up with the institution of slavery (Horton). Besides, the core essence of slavery is based on the provision the product, which puts in force a great portion of the commerce issues. The state claimed that the Union is focusing on the profitable exploitation of the Africans because this type of labor force increases the work productivity in the South. Georgia was out of conceit with the fact that the slaves could move to the North with the deprived property. The state insisted that the Confederates shield all runaway criminals and was indignant at the fact that the North did not return them (Horton). The authority of the state wrote a long declaration which showed that the new Constitution did not have full force and effect in relation to the abolition of slavery. Texas argued against the Confederacy, which had been established by the white people and put many forces into their prosperity.