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The Cause of the Civil War

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Ever since its beginning, the debate over cause of the Civil War has created enormous controversy. To many people, the cause of this terrible conflict was the issue of slavery, and the failure of the North and South to solve this issue. To others, the war was caused by the North’s economic and political aggression towards the South. However, the war itself was caused by the failure of the democratic institution of the United States. With a democratic government, the US government was unable to effectively solve the issue of slavery and Northern dominance over the South. The reason behind this failure, according to Avery Craven, was that democratic institutions themselves aren’t built to address passionate and controversial issues such as slavery because they are not built to do so. In other words, the cause of the civil war was the breakdown of the democratic process. Though the democratic US government attempted to solve the issue of slavery, it ultimately failed because it wasn’t capable of doing so.

Though tensions between the North and the South were present long before even the Revolutionary War, the first attempt by the US government to solve the issue of slavery was in 1819. New York Senator John Tallmadge proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would abolish slavery in the US. This amendment was promptly rejected though because of the divide over slavery in the US government. With this radical possibility gone, the US government tried to make a concession to both sides. This concession was the Missouri Compromise of 1820. With this compromise Missouri would enter the Union as a slave state, offsetting the even number of slave and free states. However, Maine would enter the Union as a free state, which would restore the balance between free and slave states. Also, all future states north of the 36 30 line would become free states. However, Congress was to determine the status of incoming states South of the 36 30 line. This didn’t solve the issue of slavery, but rather just prolonged the inevitable conflict between the north and south. Prolonging the conflict was all the government was capable of doing because of the split between the two sides in the government. This was the cause of failure with the democratic process, the split between the two sides. With such a passionate issue such as slavery, the government became a stalemate where only compromises could be made. This inability to address the issue directly and solve it shows how the democratic government ultimately failed and couldn’t solve passionate moral issue of slavery.

One tactic that the US government had in avoiding conflict over slavery was to not discuss it. In 1836, the Gag Resolution was passed and made it so anti-slave proposals couldn’t be brought up in the government. Once again, the democratic government was unable to address the issue and this inability became the strategy to avoid conflict. In 1847, however, the Gag Rule was lifted and as a result David Wilmot proposed the Wilmot Proviso. The Wilmot Proviso said that all territory acquired from Mexico would automatically come into the Union as free. This passed in the House, but failed in the Senate. This showed that the issue of slavery was beginning to make an appearance in the government. It showed an even bigger appearance in the 1848 presidential election with the formation of the Free Soil Party. The Free Soil Party was a party that openly opposed slavery, countering the Democrats and Whigs who represented both pro-slave and anti-slave factions. With this new anti-slave party the tensions between the North and South grow and the fear of civil war began to grow. However, in 1850 the government created another compromise with the formation of the Great Triumvirate. This consisted of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster. Together they designed the compromise of 1850. What this compromise accomplished was that California was to enter the Union as a free state. It also banned the slave trade in Washington D.C., and also created a stronger Fugitive Slave Law. This compromise essentially made concessions to both sides. For the abolitionists, a free California, and for the southerners, a stronger Fugitive Slave Law would be created. The result however, would show the failure of the democratic system to carry out the laws that it passed. In 1851 many southerners showed anger towards the government when some Northern States began to ignore

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