Causes of Civil War

Published 26 Apr 2017

The American Civil War dates back throughout the 1861 up until 1870 period. Some say that the most common rationale for the occurrence of the Civil War is due to the long period of slavery all throughout the American history prior to 1861.But historians and political analysts concluded that slavery, though the most ancient cause of the war, was not really the sole factor that necessitated the uprisings and revolutions of the Civil War.

Albeit pursuance of political power was the most common expression for the major reasons of the Civil War, economic, socio-cultural, and constitutional crises were also the critical elements that caused the war. In a simplest way, the causes can be partitioned into two wings, the long-term causes and the short-term causes.

The first wing includes “the- since-1816- complaints- of- Georgians” and the clichéd theme of slavery in the United States. Of these two, slavery was the oldest and most ancient factor that called the American Civil War.

Since the ancient America, slavery was legal and widely employed in early American states. African-Americans have deemed to be the right people to be employed as slaves (for the reason that African Americans before the Civil War erupted were not considered as U.S. citizens as how the Dred Scott Decision was ruled.)

On the other hand, the complaints- of-Georgians refers to the 1816-reactions of Georgians against the federal government of America ranging from its economic policies and political authoritarianism-character.

Both these two were regarded as the oldest and enduring factors that marked the American Civil War.

However, the second wing, which is the short-term causes include the following factors: 1) Constitutional questions, 2) tariffs and Nullification crisis, 3) economic changes (specifically the Panic of 1837), 4) political breakdown.

As several lawsuit cases that were mainly related on slavery issues arose prior to 1861, the people of the United States had noticed the irregularities, inconsistencies and impracticability of the then U.S. Constitution. While some free states had started to consider abolishing slavery in their territories, some states remained inclined with it. Among the results of the effort to uphold the rights of the slaves was the Missouri Compromise. However, it was ruled out during court trials particularly in the Scott v. Sandford case.

As mentioned above, the massive and mounted economic policies which increased the tariffs for import products to uphold the economy of the Northern industries and the Panic of 1837 as well as economic depression experienced during the pre-Civil War period had really pushed the people to march against the then federal government.

Lastly, the breakdown of the political systems of the United States had pioneered the division among political parties. In proof of this, eight U. S. presidents were elected and dethroned during 1837 until 1861 without being able to complete their single term. Furthermore, political parties started to branch out but with opposing interests and ideologies. With all these factors, American Civil War took place. Yet the post-civil war marked the rebirth of a new United States.


  • Henretta, J.A., Brody, D. & Dumenil, L. (2005). America: A Concise History, Volume 1: To 1877 (3rd ed.). Bedford/St. Martin’s.
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