Can it be argued that the genesis of the Civil war can be traced back to the founding of the Chesapeake and New England colonies? If so, to what extent were geographical and cultural differences a casus belli ?
James Michener wrote a rather compelling novel, Chesapeake which may interest you as it begins, as many of his novels do, from the very beginning: the formation of the Chesapeake Bay. While fiction, this novel does provide much historical background and insight into the wealthy landowners and the class-based society.
I had never really thought about the civil war beginning from the very existence of the colonies. I guess if we look at it from that point of view we would also conclude that even without the issue of slavery there would have eventually been a civil war.
There are many reasons for the United States' Civil War, but the the top two were economic and social differences between the North and South (this is what the previous posters point out in very clear and intelligent terms) and States vs. Federal rights. Slavery, the increase of the Abolitionist movement, and the election of Abraham Lincoln are other important, but lesser reasons the war broke out.
Until this question was posted, I never really considered the difference in the actual colonies as contributing to a distinct separation of culture and thinking other than the folks in the North didn't like that the South was prosperous, had excellent weather, and seemed to be living a life of luxury and leisure which made those up north suffering from cold and poverty seriously angry. This is why there were so many who flooded down south after the war (carpetbaggers, etc.) to take advantage of all...not just the wealthy who had been sacked, but also the middle class who worked to earn the homes and land that had been ruined and burned by "honorable" nothern generals.
Clearly differences between the two colonies are key factors in looking back at the root causes of the Civil War. I wonder if we are able to apportion which factor out of the sectionalism and slavery was more important as a cause, or whether, as #2 suggests, they are impossible to separate as individual factors.
I think that the economic and social differences between the Chesapeake and New England colonies, from almost the very beginning, led to the formation of two distinct cultures and economies. That is to say, sectionalism caused the war in the 1860s, and can trace its roots back to the colonies' founding period, yes.
The interesting thing, to me, is what if the settlement pattern was flipped? What if the New England colonies were the Royal colonies and the Chesapeake region had been settled by those fleeing religious persecution? How much different would those two regions have developed, or would the same sectionalism emerge.
I always try to make this case when I teach the class. I argue that the Chesapeake started out as a class-based society -- one in which there were a few rich lording it over a lot of poor (many of them unfree). Meanwhile, you have a much more democratic ethos up New England.
To me, this was just as much of a cause of the war as slavery was, especially since they came to be very much intertwined.