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               November, 2011

      Charles Hansen, Editor

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  The Causes of the Civil War
  — by Charles Hansen

       October 1, 2011, the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society had their fall workshop with Dr. George Schweitzer, Ph.D., Sc.D.. The workshop had three main sections:  The Causes of the Civil War, Confederate Civil War Genealogy and Union Civil War Genealogy.

       As I have written before I have not found a Civil War veteran ancestor, but Dr. George Schweitzer is one of those speakers who is so good that even if you have no interest in his subject, just listening to him talk is a wonderful experience.

       Most everyone remembers from history in school that the south had slaves and the north was fighting for the union at the beginning of the war but after the Emancipation Proclamation the north was fighting to free the slaves, but the causes started much earlier, back to the time of the Revolutionary War. When the founding fathers were writing the Constitution most were against slavery, and in order to get the south to join the United States they left slavery alone and most thought slavery would not last long, as it was dying out even in the south.

       Owning slaves was not really economically prospering, so many in the north thought it was dying out. Also the slave owners were fearful of a slave revolt, in 1791 100,000 slaves rebel, killed 4,000 whites, destroy sugar, coffee and indigo plantations, and started a civil war that eventually expelled the French from Haiti. In 1800, 1811, 1822 and 1831 there were slave rebellions in the south, but all were quashed and the leaders were either executed or deported.

       What happened to make slavery more economically viable? Three inventions; a spinning frame to make stronger thread in 1769 , a power loom for rapid weaving, increasing the need for cotton, and last but not least, the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney. The cotton gin made it possible for a slave to separate 50 pounds of cotton a day from the husk it grew in, contrasted to before the cotton gin, when a slave could only turn out 2 pounds a day. Thus, with the cotton gin, the south was supplying 75% of the worlds cotton by 1850.

       So why did the south believe they could secede from the union and why did they pick 1861 to secede? The south believed since they joined freely they could leave freely whenever they wanted. They also believed that God was on their side, since even the bible tells about slaves and there was nothing in the bible condemning slavery. From history in school I learned that the election of Abraham Lincoln was the reason for the south to secede, as Lincoln was on record as an anti-slavery candidate, and that influenced the south, but also in 1861 the south had lost their majority in the US Senate, before then the south was able to stop any anti-slavery bill in the senate.

       The north believed the union was to be perpetual, and to break it, would be against the God-given expansion of the nation. God had blessed this country with expansion and so breaking up of the union would be against God's will. They also checked the bible regarding slavery and all the slaves were white with white masters, so it followed that if slavery were as it was written in the bible, there would also be white slaves owned by blacks, so both sides went to war believing that God was on their side and eventually the north also fought to free the slaves.




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