Even today, 150 years after the start of the Civil War, scholars that study that era of American history often disagree about the specific causes that led to the beginning of the Civil War.
However, there are generally five causes that resulted in the Southern states seceding from the Union and triggering the American Civil War.
Next Lesson: Civil War
The transcript is for your convenience
Now, those five causes are the following: slavery, states’ rights, sectionalism, territorial crisis, and national elections. At this point, I want to focus on two of the five causes: slavery and sectionalism.
Now, with sectionalism, it involves this idea that you have competing interests that have different economies, social structure, different customs, and political values. In the 1800s, those competing parts of the American Union were the states in the South and the states in the North. By the 1860s, before the Civil War begins, the American economy is still pretty much agrarian or agricultural based. However, in the North, states were beginning to expand their economies to include manufacturing and factories producing large quantities of products so that they could be shipped overseas to international markets.
Now, the labor that these factories relied upon often included immigrant labor, and that labor was paid labor. Now, this was in contrast to the states in the South. The South was still pretty much an agricultural based economy. And their major cash crops, that is, the crops that brought in the most money, the most value, included rice, indigo, cotton, tobacco, and sugar. And especially with these crops, it required a lot of manpower to conduct the harvesting of these crops. That meant that the Southern economy was extremely dependent on slavery, so much that slavery really became part of the way of life in the South.
Now, in contrast, when we look at political values, the North had most of the abolitionists or anti-slavery sentiment, while the South was still pretty much pro-slavery. And because of these competing political values, the structure, and the different economies, the North becoming more manufacturing based, the South continuing to rely on a strong agricultural-based economy, you had conflict. And this conflict eventually resulted in the states from the South seceding from the Union, forming the Confederacy, and triggering the beginning of the American Civil War.