Secession and Civil War

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Why did each side go to war in the Civil War? 

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The Civil War (1861–1865) was the bloodiest war in American history. The primary cause of the war was the status of slavery in the nation and its newly acquired territories.

Southerners believed that their agricultural economy was dependent on slavery. They held that the North wanted to abolish slavery and destroy the South's economy. The South's leaders also maintained that slavery had to expand in order to survive. Therefore, they insisted that slavery be permitted to spread into new American territories in the West. The Missouri Compromise (1820) and the Compromise of 1850 dealt with the matter of slavery expansion. After 1850, however, compromise became almost impossible.

Northerners had a more diverse economy that did not rely on slaves as a workforce. By the 1830s, abolitionism began to spread in the North. Abolitionists believed that slavery was morally wrong and should be abolished. In the 1850s, a new political party, the Republicans, emerged on the national scene. This new party wanted to halt the spread of slavery into the West. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, won the presidential election of 1860, and eleven southern states then left the Union to create a new nation.

When Southerners fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, the war began.

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The North and the South went to war for very different reasons.  The South started the actual war and then the North chose to fight back.

The South went to war in order to be able to rule themselves.  The South felt that, as a part of the United States, they were being dominated by the North.  They felt that the North had interests that were inimical to those of the South and that the North was constantly trying to promote its interests over those of the South.  The South seceded because Abraham was elected without any Southern support.  They felt that he (regardless of what he said) would abolish slavery and would otherwise work to harm the South.  After they seceded, they went to war when Lincoln tried to maintain Fort Sumter as they felt that this was an example of how the US would try to continue to repress the.

For the North, the cause of war was straightforward.  They went to war because they did not want the South to secede.  They felt that the South’s secession would harm the United States and make it a much weaker country.  They feared what might happen if the South were to ally itself with strong European countries.  All of this made them go to war in an attempt to preserve the Union.

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