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The American Civil War

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The American Civil War

The American Civil War (1861-1865) took more American lives than any other war in history. It so divided the people of the United States that in some families brother fought against brother. The chief and immediate cause of the war was slavery. Southern states, including the 11 states that formed the Confederacy, depended on slavery to support their economy. Southerners used slave labor to produce crops, especially cotton. "Although slavery was illegal in the Northern states, only a small proportion of Northerners actively opposed it." The main debate between the North and the South on the eve of the war was whether slavery should be permitted in the Western territories recently acquired during the Mexican War (1846-1848), including New Mexico, part of California, and Utah. Opponents of slavery were concerned about its expansion, in part because they did not want to compete against slave labor.

By 1860, the North and the South had developed into two very different regions. Divergent social, economic, and political points of view, dating from colonial times, gradually drove the two sections farther and farther apart. Each tried to impose its point of view on the country as a whole. Although compromises had kept the Union together for many years, in 1860 the situation was explosive. The election of Abraham Lincoln as president was viewed by the South as a threat to slavery and ignited the war.

During the first half of the 19th century, economic differences between the regions also increased. By 1860 cotton was the chief crop of the South, and it represented 57 percent of all U.S. exports.

The North was by then firmly established as an industrial society. Labor was needed, but not slave labor. Immigration was encouraged. Immigrants from Europe worked in factories, built the railroads of the North, and settled the West. Very few settled in the South.

The South, resisting industrialization, manufactured little. Almost all manufactured goods had to be imported. Southerners therefore opposed high tariffs, or taxes that were placed on imported goods and increased the price of manufactured articles. The manufacturing economy of the North, on the other hand, demanded high tariffs to protect its own products from cheap foreign competition.

Before the Civil War, the federal government's chisef source of revenue was the tariff. There were few other sources of revenue, for example, neither personal nor corporate income taxes existed. The tariff paid for most improvements made by the federal government, such as roads, turnpikes, and canals. To keep tariffs low, the South preferred to do without these improvements.

The expanding Northwest Territory, which was made up of the present-day states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota, was far from

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