Most often Cited Causes of the War
- Economic and Cultural Differences
- Federal vs. States Rights–Secession
- Growth of the Abolition Movement
Economic and Cultural Differences
- English Roots-Calvinist vs. Cavalier
A reality of the United States of America as it grew to prominence is that it did possess two very distinct cultures roughly defined by the Mason-Dixon line. Much of this began at the very beginning. In many ways, the North was more formed by Calvinist leanings and the South more by Cavalier.
Roots in the English Civil War, Puritan Revolution, 1642—some have even gone so far as to say that war traveled over to America to plant the first seeds of what would become the American Civil War.
Cavaliers were often second or third sons of aristocrats looking for their own estates and a new nobility—with slaves not that different from serfs and vassals—landed gentry was their model. When the Anglicans, or Cavaliers, came from England to settle the southern colonies of North America, they brought with them many of the same customs that they had formerly used. Their ways, unlike those of the Puritans and Protestants settling the northern colonies, were very feudalistic because of the essentially feudal society of the 1600s that they had left in England. The Anglicans’ feudalistic customs instituted in the New World affected every aspect of the society, including the economy, politics, and social system. The economy of the South was based on ways that already had become antiquated in England.
Puritans meanwhile were embracing the Industrial Revolution and the notion that all men were valued by their material achievements which showed the light of God shining on them—building factories and seeing the US as an emerging industrial world power—but needing cotton for their mills. This created a Northern society much more geared toward self-made man and equality (within reason) and much less belief in deference and honor as things to live for. This began to emerge into Capitalism in its purest most Darwinian form.
- Democracy & Capitalism vs. Deference, Honor, & Feudalism (Land)
The Puritans also had fought for a more limited or constitutional monarchy, which led directly toward democratic ideals. Democracy and Capitalism driven by individual initiative.
In the South, only a small number of people owned all the land, and the rest of the population lived on it. Land meant money which meant power, and the individuals who had had land and power in England also had land in America. An internalized class system and a society of Deference and Honor driven by land ownership.
- King Cotton
On the eve of the American Civil War in the mid-1800s cotton was America’s leading export, and raw cotton was essential for the economy of Europe. The cotton industry was one of the world’s largest industries, and most of the world supply of cotton came from the American South. This industry, fueled by the labor of slaves on plantations, generated huge sums of money for the United States and influenced the nation’s ability to borrow money in a global market. In many respects, cotton’s financial and political influence in the 19th century can be compared to that of the oil industry in the early 21st century. I’ll say more about this in my postings on “What Really Started the American Civil War? Southern Views” which will come up in a few weeks, after I have finished the Northern Views.