What caused the beginning of the Civil War?
With the differences between North and South seemingly
insurmountable it seemed just a matter of time before the South would
secede. The only question would be what the government would do about
Both of the statements below were made by the same man, one in the
North and one in the South. What does this tell us about the man ?
Why do you think he had to make both of these statements?
“Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other
man, this race, and that race and the other race being inferior, and
therefore they must be placed in an inferior position. Let us discard
all these things, and unite as one people throughout this land, until
we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created
“I will say, then, that I am not, nor have ever been, in favor
of brining about in any way the social and political equality of the
white and black races; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of
making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold
office, nor to intermarry with white people… And inasmuch as they
cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the
position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am
in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white
The author of both of these statement was Abraham Lincoln.
Suprised, don’t be. Yes “Honest Abe” was, in fact, a politician. He
said what he needed to say in order to get elected. He never said he
would abolish slavery, althougjh that was his true desire. In fact
the abolition of slavery didn’t even become a war goal until after
the battle of Gettysburg. These statements tell us that Lincoln
recognized that there was only one thing that really needed to be
done…keep the Union together. Lincoln wanted to elected by the
nation, not just by one section. In the end Lincoln failed to acheive
this objective just as he failed to kep the Union together peacfully.
It would take a war the likes of which we had bever known. A war that
killed more American than any other conflict before or since.
I. The Beginning of the Civil War?
A. How did the Dred Scott decision effect America?
1. The Dred Scott decision through America into chaos.
This had been a much watched and debated verdict, kind of like the OJ
trial! The South hailed it as great victory while the North decried
the decision. As a result America was further divided, more
Northerners became abolitionists and America was further than ever
form being a unified.
B. What different groups and political parties existed in the mid
1800’s and what were there basic positions?
1. Whig Party – The Whigs were founded in response to
the policies of Andrew Jackson. Whigs for the most part were the old
Federalists. They supported the old guard elite and felt the
commoners, like “King Mob” were a danger. The Whigs succeded in
getting two Presidents elected; William Henry Harrison and Zacahry
Taylor. Eventually the Whig Party disintegrated and most of its
members joined the newly formed Republican Party.
2. Free Soil Party – A party originally led by Martin Van Buren,
former leader of the the Jacksonian Democrats. They stood for
abolition of slavery in the territories and federally funded
impprovements. They also supported the notion of the government
giving free land to settlers, hence the name Free Soil. In 1848 they
gained 10% of the vote, proving that an antislavery party could gain
3. Democratic Party – Split in 1848 by the formation of the Free
Soil Party and split agfain in the election of 1860 into Northern
Democrats and Southern Democrats. The original Democratic Party tried
to say little about slavery, thus leading to the creation of the Free
Soilists. The Northern Democrats supported the idea of popular
sovreignty and the Southern Democrats supported slavery.
4. Republican Party – Formed in 1854 when Whigs, Free Soilists and
Northern Democrats got together. This Republican Party had no
connectio to the Democrat-Republican Party formed by Jefferson. It
supported high tariffs to protect the Northern Economy and other
economic policies. The main issue, however, was the parties pledge to
keep slavery out of the territories.
5. Constitutional Union Party – Formed by remnants of the Whigs
and American Party they said little except that they wanted to
support the Constitution and protect the Union.
6. Know Nothings – A so called nativist group they carried
out propoganda and terror campaigns against immigrants, Catholics and
Jews. They opposed anyone who was not a native to the United States.
What did they think about the real Native Americans, the Indians,
well you figure it out! These were the fore runners of what we know
and white supremists and the KKK!
7. Settlers – We don’t think about them much but it’s their
territory everyone was fighting over! For the most part the settlers
just wanted to be left alone. They couldn’t afford slaves and eaked
out a living on small farms and cattle ranchs.
C. How did Abraham Lincoln become famous?
1. Lincon ran for Senator from Illinois in 1858
opposing Stephan Douglas. The debate pitted a popular and well spoken
Democrat in Douglas against the kindly and awkward Lincoln. The
nation was already looking at Douglas as a potential Presidential
candidate so the election and debate were closely followed.
2. In the so called “Lincoln – Douglas Debates” Lincoln emerged as
a well spoken, staright forward and honest man. He developed a
national repuation and became prominent in the Republican Party.
3. Lincoln lost to Douglas but they would meet again in the
Presidential election of 1860.
D. What happened in the election of 1860?
1. Lincoln won as the Democrats split their vote.
E. What was the result of Lincoln’s Election?
1. The South realized that they would never have the
electoral votes to elect a Southern candidate. This crystallized
years of thinking that there entire way of life was in danger, and
they were right. They knew Lincoln opposed slavery, even though he
never formally said so.
2. This realization left the south with no choice (from their
perspective). They felt that the democractic system could not work
for them, they felt that they did not have adequate represenation. In
a sense Southerners felt immensly patriotic. They didn’t feel as if
they were destroying the country, instead they took the position that
they were doing what our founding fathers and John Locke had
intended. The government had ceased protecting them and instead was
taking away their natural rights (again as they perceived it). It was
their right, even theri responsibility to to secede.
3. Soutyh Carolina was the first to secede, more soon followed.
Lincoln could do nothing, he was not yet the President.
F. What did President Buchanan do to stop the Southern states from
1. Nothing. Buchanan felt that it was illegal for them
to secede and that it was also illegal for him to do anything to stop
G. How did the Civil War begin?
1. In February of 1861 represenatives from South
Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana
formed the Confederate States of America. They elected Jefferson
Davis President and began occupying federal builidings, postoffices,
forts and other federal government property.
2. When Lincoln took office in March he knew he had to take
action. By May another four states had seceded and another four after
that were ready to secede.
3. In April Lincoln received word from the commander of Fort
Sumter in Charlestown South Carolina that he could not hold the fort
for more than six weeks without supplies and fresh troops. Not
wanting to shed first blood he only sent the supplies. Soon
thereafter Confederate forces opened fire on the fort while the Union
fleet stood and watched. Fort Sumter would be sacrificed so that the
Confederacy would be the aggresor and not the Union. The Civil War