Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Bit of Civil War on a Snowy Afternoon

After a long blogging 'vacation', I have returned to post a paper I wrote about the War Between the States. Now, I would be the last to call myself an expert on this subject, but I found the information so interesting I just had to blog about it! I also realize the intricacies of the War Between the States are much more complex than below stated, yet, from what I found, it is an adequate summation. Please comment with any other tidbits you have to offer. I am here to learn!

    “Causes and Effects of the War Between the States”

    At 4:30 am on the twelfth of April in 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the most devastating war in American history. It turned brother against brother, father against son, and friend against friend. A much debated trail of colliding interests led to the conflict and a much debated stream of new thought flowed as a result. People still question if the causes of the War truly demanded such a struggle and whether the outcome was worth the fight. After investigating the facts, each person will draw conclusions based on their worldview.
    The rumblings of civil warfare echo back to the formation of the Constitution. It was a document of compromise between Federalists and Antifederalists which left both parties barely placated. Indeed, the Northern army was known as the Federal Army while Southerners called themselves Confederates, recalling the Articles of Confederation. Antifederalists had always been wary of big government, and as the United States matured, they only grew more worried by the federal power’s continual trampling of state power. When Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase, the Antifederalists, mostly Southerners, believed he crossed the boundaries outlined in the Constitution, sucking life out of the states and into the central government. In the 1816 case of Martin v. Hunter’s Lesee, which was a struggle over some Virginian land, the judicial branch showed its power supreme to state power. What is more, the South was steadily losing any say in the House of Representatives as the North and West grew in population by leaps and bounds. In all three arms of the government, then, danger signals flashed for state’s rights. Still, the South touted the Tenth Amendment which declares, “ The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people". On the other hand, the North and West increased in population and industry. They desired the aid of a strong federal government in dealing with commerce and immigration. For example, the West pushed for a centralized bank to overcome inflation while the North needed Washington to encourage the South to buy from their ever-increasing stock of goods. Obviously, the regions’ interests differed at best.
    By 1816, Southern agriculture was booming. The North looked at their full warehouses and then eyed the South’s full purse. It had found a great market in its own country! Unfortunately, Southerners were not as enthusiastic. They could buy the same things from foreigners at a much better price. Then, Northerners encouraged the government to do something many believed tyrannical. They imposed tariffs on those imported goods in hopes of encouraging the South to buy Northern merchandise. Unlike the fund-raising tariffs previously enacted, these protectionist tariffs, according to some, went against the Constitution. Of course, the North saw this as merely a smart financial move, but it angered their Southern brothers. The tariffs gradually became more demanding until 1828 when South Carolina could take no more. The South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, who happened to be the Vice President, argued that a state had the right to overturn, or nullify, any federal law it deemed unconstitutional. The South Carolina Exposition and Protest explains the difference between the two types of tariffs and between government and sovereignty, the balance of state and governmental powers delineated in the Constitution, as well as describes the South as “the serfs of the system, out of whose labor is raised, not only the money paid into the Treasury, but the funds out of which are drawn the rich rewards of the manufacturer and his associates in interest.” That did not go over very well so Calhoun encouraged secession. President Andrew Jackson retaliated by sending troops to Charleston. This is known as the Nullification Crisis and was resolved only when the master of compromise, Henry Clay, drew up the Compromise Tariff which lightened the tariffs over a course of ten years. But this was a thin blanket to hide an ugly monster.
    Meanwhile, the United States was growing and it seemed every new square mile widened the gap between North and South. The Spanish American War concluded with the purchase of Texas in 1845. Southerners were concerned that, if the territory entered as a state which outlawed slavery, their already decreasing voice in Congress would grow even fainter. Likewise, California proved an important battleground for the North and South. When it entered the Union as a slavery-free state under the Compromise of 1850, Southerners felt like they had been dealt a death blow because California disrupted the balance between free and slave states in favor of free states. The Compromise of 1850 also divided the territory of Texas, excluding Texas itself, into states. However, it let those states decide whether they would enter as free or slave states under the concept of ‘popular sovereignty’. Stephen A. Douglas notoriously propagated popular sovereignty in Kansas. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which everyone assumed would welcome Kansas as a slave state and Nebraska as a free state, surprisingly let Kansas decide which way it would go. It resulted in bloody fights over slavery and abolition which were given the nickname ‘Bleeding Kansas’.
    It was now apparent that slavery was a major issue. The abolition movement sprouted in the North around the 1830s but had not gained much ground because the lower class saw freed slaves as competition to much needed jobs and the Southerners’ basis of economic success was the slave trade. Nevertheless, abolitionists moved forward. James Birney had run for president as an abolitionist in 1840 and lost with 6000 votes, but when he ran again in 1844, he drew in 80,000 votes. Many speculate that the movement grew due to the Second Great Awakening. Be that as it may, many people were angered when, in 1845, Texas entered as a slave state. Northerners in Congress drew up the Wilmot Proviso between 1846 and 1847 in an attempt to make all territories gained from the Spanish American War free states, alienating the South even further. It was not a success. One aspect of the Compromise of 1850 pleased abolitionist by abolishing the negro slave-trade in Washington, D.C., the trade’s most active market. The Compromise equally humored the South by invigorating the Fugitive Slave Act which commanded all runaway slaves had to be returned to their masters. From this sprung the legendary Underground Railroad. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin brilliantly brought the ugliness of slavery to America’s home and hearth, furthering the abolitionist cause and fueling bitterness between the sides. The Dred Scot decision in 1857 claiming a black man who had moved to the north was still a slave disgusted the North and tried their patience sorely. However, it was Bleeding Kansas that unleashed everybody’s anger. John Brown, who led the anti-slavery side in the gruesome wars in Kansas, gathered 21 men, some black, some white, to attack the United States Armory and Arsenal in Harper’s Ferry. Colonel Robert E. Lee put down the raid and John Brown was tried and executed, but the Southerner’s grew suspicious. When Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860, they assumed he was an abolitionist because he ran for the Republican party, a new party formed from the remains of the Whig party and many abolitionists. This was more than they could take and Fort Sumter was fired upon, commencing the War Between the States.
    The results of the tragic feud between two sides who could not both get their way are many and varied. One thing introduced in the War Between the States was a federal income tax. It was raised to fund the war, taxing people who earned $600 or more a year. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue also made his first appearance. In 1872, the tax was repealed, only to be reinstated in 1894. However, the next year, the Supreme Court deemed the tax unconstitutional. The judges must have changed because in 1913, the income tax was added as the sixteenth amendment to the Constitution. The tax reflects the growth of the national government. Once the War Between the States was won by the Federals, the checks and balances set up by the Constitution between state power and national power was gone. The next amendment, the seventeenth, changes the way senators are elected. Instead of the state legislature electing its two senators, the vote now goes to the people. Again, the swing from state power to national power appears. Whether that is good or bad is the center of heated discussions today. Either way, the United States certainly seems more united since the war. There are still special interests from state to state, but a peculiar camaraderie exists in this country which is truly amazing. The War Between the States helped bring peace between the states. So, was the War worth it? Were the causes legitimate? That is left for the reader to decide.

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