Unquestionably, the abolition of slavery played an important role in the Civil War during the Lincoln Administration; but the question is whether the liberation of the Africans was the main aim of this war, or if this purpose just served as one single step on the way to complete a mission of higher importance: to gain the power over the Southern states of America and to force the union of America.
Reasoning in respect of this controversial issue proceeds with an introductory section which gives a brief survey of important events of the past, to provide a better understanding of the circumstances which gave rise to the struggles of the Civil War.
The second part of this essay concentrates on arguments which demonstrate why America did not have any special reasons to start a war on the basis of economic aims and the third part consists of several arguments which support the idea that the main aim of the Civil War was the preservation of the American Union rather than the abolition of slavery.
At the end, there will be a short summary of the main arguments and there will be a final conclusion.
In 1619, a Dutch ship put in at Jamestown and sold twenty Negroes it had brought over from Africa as part of its cargo. This event initiated a grave chapter of American history which has always been accompanied by ethnic conflicts; it was the chapter of slavery, which allowed some people to declare other people to be objects and this event in 1619 proved to be a portent of the disaster that was to come.
At that time, bound labour was common in all the colonies because of the intense labour shortage and many settlers earned their passage to the “New World”, and that of their families, by indenturing themselves for a term of several years after which they would be free. At least some of the early Africans were treated as indentured servants, because there are records of free blacks in the Chesapeake area in the 1650’s. They had the same status as those debtors who had to pay back their prepaid tickets in a seven-year stretch. However, about that time, the white colonists determined that blacks would be slaves for the term of their lives and their children would be slaves as well.
Slaves became the backbone of the Southern plantation system. The Southern colonies relied on certain cash crops such as tobacco, rice and indigo and slavery provided the least expensive and most reliable source of labour.
At that time, the general attitude was that the black population was of minor biological quality combined with the assumption that the black population was inferior and this served as a justification for the general idea of slavery.
In the seventeenth century, when finally a large number of slaves from Africa were taken to Virginia and Maryland, the institution of slavery with all its negative accompanying phenomena was established and seemed to remain irreversible. The rights of all African slaves were now restricted and controlled by slave owners.
About 1700, the number of slaves increased to the considerable number of twenty percent of the population of the Southern states; most of them worked in the Carolinas, especially in South Carolina with its large rice plantations and at Charleston harbour. In order to avoid moral scruples of slave owners, people even quoted passages of the Old Testament which seemed to legitimate slavery.
In the early nineteenth century, the question of slavery became a national issue. Numerous leading personalities of the North believed that slavery was gradually dying out because slavery had never been as extensive in the Northern colonies. Slavery did not make economic sense in the Northern economies and many people from the North objected to the forced bondage of human beings; The expectation proved false, for suddenly new economic issues like: the growing cotton industry, the cultivation of tobacco, sugar cane and the cultivation of certain fruits, made slavery more profitable for employers and step by step the new generation of Southern farmers supported the concept of slavery.
Extreme economic and social discrepancies and the resulting political differences between the Northern states and Southern states of America pointed the way to insuperable problems between both sides.
Whereas the Southern states almost completely concentrated on the production of cotton, sugar and tobacco, by exploiting slaves, the Northern states contributed their part to the gross income of America with financial or economic services. Since their existence, there had always been the one or other conflict between the North and the South but when Abraham Lincoln was elected as president of the United States of America without the consent of the South, the situation escalated and the South felt forced to form a confederation with all Southern states against Northern policies. Only one day later, Jefferson Davies was elected as President of the Confederate States.
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- Mareike Rolef (Author), 2004, The Civil War - A social or an economic decision, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/117700