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Upon the start of the Civil War, the topmost issue was not exactly the abolition or the preservation of the institution of slavery because of concerns over morality. The primary concern of the politicians of the time were power, especially economic dominance.
Slavery, of course, was an essential ingredient in the genesis of the Civil War. The war would not have occurred had the institution of slavery not existed, nor if the Northern states had condoned slavery. But although slavery was the big issue, the majority of the population of the Southern states that condoned slavery actually were not slave owners. But the economy of the Southern states depended largely on the the cotton enterprise, and thus on the slaves that worked the cotton fields. It was the slave owners—the rich, including the politicians—that had great interest in the issue. The slave owners were aware that the abolition of slavery would also mean the collapse of the economy of the South.
The situation was different in the Northern states: there were the abolitionists, who wanted to end the institution of slavery; there were those who supported slavery, and those who were indifferent, or who simply wanted to keep slavery from expanding. Although it was also an issue of morality during that time, the abolition or preservation of the institution of slavery was primarily an economic concern. The preservation and spread of slavery was in the interest of the economy of the Southern states , while the Northern States wanted to keep the spread of slavery in check, by which they could maintain economic and political power over the South (and, secondarily, support their anti-slavery moral stance).
For a long time, until the mid-1800’s, only a small minority had an active interest in the issue of slavery, mostly politicians and abolitionists. But a growing insecurity over economic and political power brought the issue to national attention. In 1820, the Missouri Compromise was enacted. It was a legislative action that was in the interest of the North, effectively suppressing the spread of slavery by limiting the practice and introduction of slavery to select territories. However, in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act rendered null the Missouri Compromise, effectively allowing the spread of slavery into new territories. The Kansas-Nebraska act espoused the concept of Popular Sovereignty, where a territory’s citizens would decide for themselves whether or not to condone slavery.
The Kansas-Nebraska act brought national awareness to the issue of slavery. Fearing its negative consequences, the North acted decisively. Although some “middle-ground” politicians such as Abraham Lincoln were against slavery, they were against the idea of civil war. However, several politicians on both sides became active in their cause. Political leaders of the South strove to defend their right to own slaves, while those of the North, the abolitionists in particular, sought to end slavery. Those politicians of the who had the more extreme views concerning the economy (and the morality of slavery) eventually effected the civil war, and for justification they used arguments that focused on generalized aspects that merely hinted on the issue of slavery.
The fight, then, was a fight over slavery, but because of the actions of their respective political leaders, the Northern population grew to believe that the Southern pro-slavery cause was a threat to democratic government, while the Southern population believed that the Northern cause was a threat to their way of life.
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