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The Civil War was a huge war fought between two halves of the United States of America. The main cause was slavery and the slave trade, or so most think. Yes, slavery was an important cause of the Civil War, but the biggest reason that the war was fought was over secession. Secession is when one state breaks away from the other states. Why was this worth fighting over? Why did the Southern states break away from the United States? Read on to find out.
Slave States and Free States
The southern states included Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The south was much warmer than the north and had good soil for farming. This made slavery very useful in the southern states because they didnít have to pay the slaves for their work, or worry about whether it was too hot for them to be outside. The slaves worked on the farms and in the fields, tending cotton, tobacco and other crops. Slaves were not very useful on the smaller farms in the north, so few northerners owned slaves.
The northern states were Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, California, Oregon and Kansas. The north had really only two main reasons to fight the war. One was, of course, slavery. Some people in the north (called the Union) were opposed to slavery. These people were called abolitionists. They wanted to abolish (eliminate) slavery in the whole country, and would fight a war for that one reason. Most people in the north who didnít care about slavery wanted the country to remain united. They would not fight in a war over slavery and slavery only, but the folks who didnít care about slavery (who were called non-abolitionists) were willing to fight to keep a single country.
South v. North
Another cause of the war was the Compromise of 1850. This prohibited the slave trade but allowed slavery to continue. Prohibited means stopped, banned or outlawed. The Compromise of 1850 made Kansas, California, and Oregon free states, but let other new states choose to be either free or slave states. The Compromise also forced the people in the north to return any runaway slaves they found to their rightful owners. This was a problem because the north wanted to let slaves be free when they got there. It was a problem for the south because they wanted the new states to be slave states. This helped lead to the Civil War because both sides were unhappy with the new law. As a result, they took it out on each other.
During the presidential race in 1860, some representatives told the south to break away if Abraham Lincoln won the race. This worried the people in the north, because they thought a divided nation was nuts. The southern states, of course, didnít think so. The south thought that if slavery ended, they would be forced to stop their agricultural (farming) way of life. The south liked to not pay the slaves for their work. Since slavery made many plantation owners money, they thought that getting rid of slavery would put them out of their jobs and homes.
Soon after Lincoln won the Presidential Election in 1860 and was inaugurated, the first state Ė South Carolina Ė broke away, or seceded, from the Union. They did so because they thought Lincoln would outlaw slavery while in office. Shortly after that, five more states seceded. This was important because it convinced the north they HAD to fight a war to get the states back in the country. Eventually, the United States was no longer united. They became two nations: The United States of America (also known as the Union and the North) and The Confederate States of America (also known as the South or Rebels).
By the time the war ended in 1865, hundreds of thousand had been killed on both sides. A war this devastating all started from two issues Ė Slavery (Could the south continue to have slaves?) and Secession (Could states drop out of the United States?). At the end of the war, the answer to both was "NO!"
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