The American Civil War forever changed the face of a divided and troubled nation. From 1861 to 1854, the citizens of the United States turned against each other and shed their own brother’s blood. The divergence between the Union and Confederacy involved issues from political and military precursors to economic and ethical constituents. The significance and sweep of the Civil War were recorded not just through great politicians and generals but also through the words of soldiers, wives and most importantly, the former slaves.
Behind the Civil War laid intricate causes, presidential controversy, life-changing political documents, and a historic outcome. The Civil War was genuinely ugly and atrocious, but it was a war worth fighting for. The causes of the Civil War are not as simple as black and white; there are many shades of gray. It was more than a battle of right and wrong; it was a fight to unite the country under one belief; hence one side would have to relinquish their ways. The South feared that they were “being overpowered by northern political, industrial, banking, and manufacturing strength; the fear that the southern way of life was threatened by northern control of Congress” consumed them (Davis, 2003).
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The pressure from the North to conform to wage-paid labor added stress to the peace between the Union and Confederates. The South were utterly dependent on slave labor; it proved to be more profitable than paying an employee; hence they were not about to renounce slavery. At the same time, the North insisted on a nationwide industrialized-based economy because it was more successful. Dry facts and figures were not the only cause for the Civil War; personal emotions and principles also contributed to the commencement of the war. The two sides had two very diverse perspectives- “pro-slavery, anti-Union secessionists in the South, and abolitionists, pro-Union forces in the North (Davis, 2003).”
Both sides were unable to compromise, so the South found a solution to their problems. Eleven states seceded: Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. The Union interpreted the act as a declaration of war, for it was treason. This engendered rage throughout the North and motivated them to support the Union in the inevitable war. President Abraham Lincoln was a firm supporter of the North; however, rumours told a different story. People questioned whether Lincoln was either an abolitionist or racist. He vehemently believed “there [was] no reason in the world why the Negro [was] not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (Lincoln, 1858).”
Lincoln strongly felt that no one should be deprived of the basic rights of a human, for the pigment of someone’s skin was of no importance when it came to that matter. All people deserved a chance at happiness and freedom in his eyes. However, Lincoln acknowledges that “… [the Negro was] not his equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual [power] (Lincoln, 1858).” He was subtly racist, for he assumed the people of color were inferior to him simply because of their darker complexion. Even so, he thought everyone had the right to all liberties that humans enjoy.
The Emancipation of Proclamation was the first step for the Union to commit to giving blacks and whites alike their basic freedoms. The declaration freed slaves; however, it failed to mention the renouncement of slavery in the border states (Lincoln, 1863). Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia were left untouched by the Emancipation of Proclamation because Lincoln was careful about pushing the border states towards the South. States like Delaware and Maryland had slaves, but they did not secede; therefore, Lincoln was cautious not to aggravate them so they would follow suit with the Confederates.
The common misconception about the Civil War is that it was fought to sustain or abolish slavery. But, it was mostly about jobs and the economy. Lincoln “… [recommended] to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages (Lincoln, 1863).” Lincoln directly encouraged the former slaves to find paid-wage jobs. Without a doubt, a unified economy was a top priority. After the Union proved to be victorious, the South was shattered into pieces. The South was reconstructed to be fit the North’s ideals; however, loopholes arose. Former slaves began to work on plantations for a meagre amount of food and shelter (Bahoor, 2008).
Sharecropping existed only to re-create slavery in a legal form. It was a poor excuse for employment, but ex-slaves had few options and could not be fastidious. Plantation owners founded sharecropping to oppress and demean African Americans. But, the reconstruction of the South still had a few successes. “The Fourteenth Amendment: 1.) declared that everybody born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen of both the nation and state that he is. A state cannot make laws limiting the rights of the citizen, nor refuse due process of law (Burson, 2004)”. The government protected the former slaves by giving them state and federal citizenship. Their rights and liberties were guarded and bounded by the Constitution. Unfortunately, racism and discrimination continued to be present throughout the nation.
Slaves endured the events that led up to the war, the presidential controversy, their emancipation, and the reconstruction of their homes. Even after protective laws, amendments and citizenship, African Americans were still slaves by another name. They lived in an atmosphere that seemed like a living holocaust. Lynching was a common practice among the Southerners. A variety of industries would use authoritative oppression to incarcerate former slaves or extend a punishment. There is no retribution for the acts committed. The former slaves and their children were subjected to a hostile society. Africans have had a dark and ugly past in the Americas. No amount of justice can undo the destitution and coercion that they had to tolerate.