In the context of the period 1763-1865, how far was the American Civil War caused by long term divisions over the issue of slavery?
In his second inaugural address in March 1865, Abraham Lincoln looked back at the beginning of the Civil War four years earlier "all knew," he said, that slavery "was somehow the cause of the war." This essay will endeavour to discuss the role of long term divisions caused by the slavery debate in the eventual outbreak of the Civil War. In doing so this analysis will encompass the period between the birth of the nation beginning with the start of the American Revolution in 1763 and the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865. This being a period in which the newly independent nation struggled with its state
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Modern fundamentalists such as James McPherson and Eric Foner similarly describe the two sections as “different and deeply antagonistic societies” agreeing that slavery was the root of that antagonism. The North's commitment to capitalism and modernisation, these scholars explained, was the context for abolitionism and for the free labour ideology of Abraham Lincoln's Republican Party. The South's commitment to agriculture and slave labor was reflected in the region's distinctive cult of honour, its preoccupation with localism and states' rights, and its defense of social inequality. Had African slave trade been declared illegal long before 1808, the million plus slaves that were in the USA in the early 19th century would not have existed, therefore would have had no effect on population influxes which stimulated an industrial and economic change, nor the geographical expansion which caused the conflict within the different states. Although Rhodes placed his greatest emphasis on the moral conflict over slavery, he suggested that the struggle also reflected fundamental differences between the Northern and Southern economic systems. In the 1920s, the idea of the war as an irrepressible economic rather than moral conflict received fuller expression from Charles and Mary Beard,