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Why did the South secede in 1860/61?

Uploaded by sentiencenerd on Oct 19, 2001

The seeds of secession had been sown early in American history; quite literally with the fundamental differences in agriculture and resultant adoption of slavery in the South. From early days, the thirteen states had grown up separately, and each had their own culture and beliefs, which were often incompatible with those held in other states. The geographical and cultural differences between north and south would manifest themselves at regular and alarming intervals throughout the hundred years following the drafting of the constitution. Tension reached a peak during the 1850s, over the right to hold slaves in new territories. The Wilmot Proviso of 1846, roused bitter hostilities, and vehement debate turned to physical violence during the period of ‘Bleeding Kansas’. The election of Lincoln, who the South perceived to be an abolitionist, in 1860 was the final straw, and the secession of seven Southern states followed soon after.

Geographically, North and South were very different places. The pastures of New England were similar to those found in England, suitable for a variety of uses. Hot Southern prairie lands were perfect for cotton growing, a lucrative business at this time. Following the invention of Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin, the South became increasingly dependent on this crop, and an entire society grew out of it. The society was one of wealthy planters, who led a life similar to the landed gentry of England, controlling politics and society of the day. In the fields laboured Negro slaves, usually only a handful per plantation, though larger farms were occasionally seen. In addition, there lived poor whites, tenant farmers or smallholders, who eked out a living from the land. This contrasted sharply with Northern society, where industrialisation flourished, creating wealthy entrepreneurs and employing cheap immigrant labour. Given the localised nature of media, and difficulties of transport two cultures grew up in the same nation, remarkably different and often suspicious of one another.

Crisis struck in 1820, when the North/South balance in the Senate was threatened by the application of Missouri to join the Union as a slave state. Southerners, aware of their numerical inferiority in the House of Representatives, were keen to maintain their political sway, in the Senate. The North feared that if Southerners were to take control of the Senate, political deadlock would ensue. Compromise was found in 1820 when Maine applied to join as a free state, maintaining the balance. It was agreed that slavery...

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Uploaded by:   sentiencenerd

Date:   10/19/2001

Category:   Civil War

Length:   6 pages (1,405 words)

Views:   2559

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