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Was the Civil War about slavery?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/26/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,450 times Debate No: 14948
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Hello BlueSteel, and thanks in advance.

As a proud Southerner, I would like to debate over whether the Civil War was fought over slavery. This controversial topic has inspired propaganda and violence, so why not a debate?

1. Making a case for Union factory workers

With the Industrial Revolution's effects still felt, worker abuse still ran rampant, and workers were often mistreated with 16 hour days, 7 days a week, and child labor was still going strong. These poor workers were still decades away from any laws protecting them, and despite their conditions, were paid wages that w.

In the vast majority of cases, Northern factory workers had lives that made Southern slaves sigh with relief. And perhaps the worst part is that being a worker was almost necessary, unless you were born into heavy wealth.

Slaves remained largely unpaid, but were fed generously by their masters. Not all slaves were forced to work in the fields- many took on the domestic role of a slave or butler.

2. Understanding the Morrill Tariff

The Morrill Tariff was a large tariff imposed on the South, so that the South could only export cotton to the north. At the same time, England was experiencing a high demand for cotton. The Morrill Tariff placed a huge financial burden on the South by keeping them from exporting cotton to the United Kingdom.

Later in the war, Egypt produced a bumper crop of cotton. This effectively destroyed the South- if England wanted to, it could have simply steamrolled over the Union and get their cotton.

Imagine this. You have lemonade. Another guy really wants lemonade, and he is bigger than you. You are selling lemonade to another man. The bigger man demands that you pay, say, half your revenue to him unless you sell to him. You at first agree, until you can no longer take it and attack the bigger man.

Meanwhile, ten large men demanding lemonade are getting it cheaply from the competition and leave you behind.

I think this is a clear example, and I await BlueSteel's response.


Thanks for the challenge thegodhand.

==Burden of proof==

My opponent has the burden to prove that the Civil War was not about slavery. By "about slavery" I take the resolution to mean that the South's secession was not motivated mostly by the slavery issue.

This is a simple historical question, which I will go about answering.

1) The Missouri Compromise

A huge source of tension between North and South was whether new territories would be slave states or free states. The compromise banned slavery north of the 36�30'N latitude.

2) The Dred Scott Decision

Dred Scott, a fugitive slave, asserted his constitutional rights in an attempt to have the Fugitive Slave Act overturned by the Supreme Court and prevent himself from being returned to his master in the South. However, the litigation backfired:

"The Court's decision electrified the nation. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (TAW•nee) said that Dred Scott was still a slave. As a slave, Scott was not a citizen and had no right to bring a lawsuit. Taney could have stopped there, but he decided to address the broader issues.

Taney wrote that Scott's residence on free soil did not make him free. An enslaved person was property, and the Fifth Amendment prohibits Congress from taking away property without "due process of law."

Finally, Taney wrote that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in any territory. The Missouri Compromise—which had banned slavery north of 36�30'N latitude—was unconstitutional. For that matter, so was popular sovereignty. Not even the voters in a territory could prohibit slavery because that would amount to taking away a person's property. In effect, the decision meant that the Constitution protected slavery."

3) The Republican Party

The Republican Party was a new party founded around the abolition movement; this party struck fear into the hearts of Southerns:

"After the 1858 elections, Southerners began to feel threatened by growing Republican power. In late 1859, an act of violence greatly increased their fears. On October 16 the abolitionist John Brown led 18 men, both whites and African Americans, on a raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His target was an arsenal, a storage place for weapons and ammunition. Brown—who had killed five proslavery Kansans in 1856—hoped to start a rebellion against slaveholders by arming enslaved African Americans. His raid had been financed by a group of abolitionists.

Brown and his men were quickly defeated by local citizens and federal troops. Brown was convicted of treason and murder and was sentenced to hang. His execution caused an uproar in the North. Some antislavery Northerners, including Republican leaders, denounced Brown's use of violence. Others viewed Brown as a hero. Writer Ralph Waldo Emerson called Brown a martyr—a person who dies for a great cause.

John Brown's death became a rallying point for abolitionists. When Southerners learned of Brown's connection to abolitionists, their fears of a great Northern conspiracy against them seemed to be confirmed. The nation was on the brink of disaster.

After John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, calls for secession grew. South Carolina's Charleston Mercury declared "The day of compromise is passed . . . [T]here is no peace for the South in the Union." The Nashville Union and American said, "The South will hold the whole party of Republicans responsible for the bloodshed at Harpers Ferry." Republicans refused to take the threat of secession seriously. Secession is only a scare tactic, they argued, aimed at frightening voters from casting their ballot for Abraham Lincoln. To many Southerners, however, the election of Lincoln would be a final signal that their position in the Union was hopeless."

4) Slavery splits the Democrats

"Would the Union break up? That was the burning question in the months before the presidential election of 1860. The issue of slavery was seriously discussed and eventually caused a break in the Democratic Party. As the election approached, a northern wing of the Democratic Party nominated Stephen Douglas for the presidency and supported popular sovereignty. Southern Democrats—vowing to uphold slavery—nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky and supported the Dred Scott decision."

With the Democrats split, Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans easily won victory in the 1860 election.

5) Fears of Republicans start the secession movement

"Lincoln and the Republicans had promised not to disturb slavery where it already existed. Many people in the South, however, did not trust the party, fearing that the Republican administration would not protect Southern rights. On December 20, 1860, the South's longstanding threat to leave the Union became a reality when South Carolina held a special convention and voted to secede."

Specifically, because of Lincoln's rhetoric about equal rights for Blacks, Southerners did not believe he would enforce the Dred Scott decision.

"Lincoln chronicler Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., wrote: "In June 9 of 1857 both Douglas and Lincoln give speeches concerning the Supreme Court decision. First Douglas argues for popular sovereignty in the new territories and interprets the clause 'all men are created equal' from the Declaration of Independence as a reference 'to the white race alone, and not to the African.' Lincoln believes the decision by the predominately Southern justices is wrong. He sees terrible dangers being set loose if the Declaration of Independence is to be reinterpreted so.""

6) A compromise on slavery fails to stop the secession movement from spreading

"Even after South Carolina's action, many people still wished to preserve the Union. The question was how. As other Southern states debated secession—withdrawal from the Union—leaders in Washington, D.C., worked frantically to fashion a last-minute compromise. On December 18, 1860, Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky proposed a series of amendments to the Constitution. Central to Crittenden's plan was a provision to protect slavery south of 36�30'N latitude—the line set by the Missouri Compromise—in all territories "now held or hereafter acquired."
Republicans considered this unacceptable. They had just won an election on the principle that slavery would not be extended in any territories. "Now we are told," Lincoln said, "the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten.""

The clear theme throughout is . . . slavery.


R1) Bad working conditions in the North

The North didn't secede from the Union, the South did. I fail to see how worker agitation in the North could have led to the Civil War.

R2) Cotton Tariffs

The Morrill Tariff was passed AFTER 7 states had already seceded. It thus, obviously, fails to explain the South's secession.

Debate Round No. 1


thegodhand forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


As my opponent has failed to make an argument for Round Two, please vote CON.


My opponent challenged me to this debate, PM'ed me and asked me to accept, then forfeited . . . bad conduct. At least I didn't have to do much more than copy/pasting from a history book. Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
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Vote Placed by TheAtheistAllegiance 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: It's obvious.
Vote Placed by Sieben 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: this is not 4chan
Vote Placed by LaissezFaire 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Obvious.