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The South: Self-Rule in the Civil War

HomeEssaysHistory and PoliticsThe South: Self-Rule in the Civil War
03.09.2020
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In 1861-1865, in the United States, there was a war, widely known for many years as the Civil War between the Northern and Southern states. However, talking about the events that took place in 1861, it is incorrect to use the term ‘Civil War’. The South had fought for its independence and its own way of life and did not pursue expansionist goals. The Southern states fought for self-rule in the ‘Civil War’.

In the 19th century, two political and economic systems were developed in the United States: slavery in the South and capitalism in the Northern states. They represented two entirely different socioeconomic systems that co-existed in the form of one state. Despite steady population growth and economic development, the United States remained a federal country. It means that each state lived its political and economic life, and the integration proceeded slowly. Therefore, the South with slavery and agriculture and industrial North stood out in two separate economic regions. It is true that the Northern states refused to use the system of slavery at the beginning of the 19th century, while in the South, in 1860, there were 4 million slaves. The Southern planters needed extensive methods to get new fertile lands in the West. But North American bourgeoisie, farmers, and settlers also needed new lands.

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Further expansion of the plantation economy ensured the preservation of slavery. According to the concept of the South, among individual states, relationships based on honor, mutual trust and mutual support ought to exist. However, each state had to remain an independent unit with individual procedures and its own government. Unlike in the North, the Central Government has sought to dictate its will for all states. The Union of the Southern states had to exist as a union of independent states, united to help each other, when they needed, and recognize freedom and independence of each other. Agricultural products and raw materials were traditionally exported by planters in European countries and in exchange on the import of industrial goods. As a result, the North American producers deprived of a source of raw materials and a market for industrial products. Because of the weakness of the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie in the North of the country, the political power in Senate belonged to the planters. It gave them the possibility to make laws and elect the President. The desire to preserve low tariffs on goods imported from Europe forced some farmers to give their votes to candidates from the South.

In the North, prior to the war, there were powerful industry and banking. The active slave trade did not bring such huge profits, as thousands and thousands of “free” people in appalling conditions. Northern clans needed millions of new workers for their companies. They dreamed to replace thousands of slaves by agricultural machines, increasing profitability. It is clear that to achieve their global plans Northern clans needed a power over all states. Furthermore, it was not only a war of capitalist states against slavery. There were 4 Southern states that supported the North: Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland. It should also be noted that Lincoln was not an ardent fighter against slavery.

Of course, the problem of free lands and elimination of slavery in the South was the main factor of the conflict, but there were strong economic reasons as well. By the beginning of the 19th century there had been 22 states in America and a half of them supported slavery. The conflicts continued among the slaveholders of the South and the bourgeoisie of the North, especially after the Congress took decisions according to the system that ought to be established in new adopted states. The planters were interested in creating new slave states, while the bourgeoisie of the North was opposed it. Clash of interests of the industrial bourgeoisie and slaveholders led to an inevitable conflict which subsequently culminated in the so-called Civil War. This was the beginning of a struggle between two economic systems: the bourgeois and slavery. In the concept of this struggle there emerges political history of the United States and a thin line between the War for Independence and Civil War.

The conflict began with the question of Missouri. Planters tried to push through the Congress a law to permit slavery in the state, but met a strong resistance from the Northern states. However, the situation ended by finding a compromise. Missouri became a slave state, but Maine was taken in the United States to support the North. The admission of non-slavery states undermined the position of slaveholders in the Senate. Missouri compromise started a confrontation between the two economic systems. It broke into a war, when a question about the destiny of California, New Mexico and Utah was raised. However, a number of people who opposed to slavery rapidly augmented in 50’s. The desire to destroy slavery became inevitable. During the struggle, in the state of Kansas there was established the Republican Party.

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It united the representatives of the bourgeoisie and farmers from the South, who were the opponents of slavery. The war between the North and South was caused by the elections in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln became the President. He was a confident abolitionist. Planters decided to leave the United States and formed Confederation. The war was the result of growing economic and sociopolitical conflict between two social systems: a system of wage labor and system of slavery. According to the nature of the war, it was the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the second revolution in the United States.

Planters and slaveholders fought for the preservation of slavery as a social system spread throughout the country. The main goal of the northerners was to restore the Union of all states and prevent the spread of slavery to new regions. After a series of military setbacks, Lincoln’s government reformed the army. David Williams in his book A People’s History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom wrote that “only the Confederacy’s firing on the Stripes and Stars at Fort Sumpter sparked enough nationalism in the North to bring Lincoln the volunteers needed for an army”. After the reform, it accepted thousands of volunteers and blacks who had fled to the North. During the war, the army of the North had 2.7 million soldiers, while the army of the South -1.1 million. The second tap of the war had an objective of not only restoring the unity of the country and preventing the spread of slavery, but also eliminating the system of slavery and free allocating the lands. It gained a revolutionary nature.

Victory of northerners in the Civil War provided the economic and political fragmentation of the country, abolition of slavery, democratic solution of the agrarian question in the West of the country, and winning farmer ways of agricultural development in all the United States. It gave the possibility to create a unified national market leading to the expansion of democratic rights of citizens. The Civil War was the most important step in the bourgeois-democratic revolution and the years of reconstruction in the South (1865-1877) entered its second phase. The goal of reconstruction was to hold in the Southern states the bourgeois-democratic reform and limit the power of former slave owners. Plenitude of power temporarily passed to federal troops. In December 1865, the Congress approved the abolition of slavery. In 1866, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution recognized the right to vote for blacks. But they did not receive lands.

Having left the United States, Southern states were guided by the principles of the Declaration wishing to change the government that failed to comply with their needs. When the South resigned from the United States and was attacked by the North, southerners viewed the conflict as a second American Revolution. On the seal of the Confederacy George Washington was depicted. He was a prominent figure in the first American Revolution. The South in the Civil War had fought for its independence, for its own way of life and did not pursue expansionist goals. As a result, the Civil War at the cost of heavy losses saved the unity of the United States and led to the abolishment of slavery. The subsequent industrial development of the early 20th century made America one of the most economically developed countries in the world.

In such a way, a war in 1861-1865 is the most significant event in the modern history of America. The so-called ‘Civil War’ was a struggle of the South for its rights. The reason for the recession of the southern states was the election of Abraham Lincoln. The Southern clans considered him the candidate of the bourgeoisie of the North and the illegal President.

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