North and South

The origins of the differences between the north and the south in early colonial America on up to the Civil War stem from political beliefs, economics, and social customs. The South was always more agrarian than the North. The South was also interested in controlling its own trade with other countries instead of having it controlled for them by a centralized government. That is one reason the South resisted the Constitution and why Alexander Hamilton, the leading writer of the Federalist Papers, argued for centralization via a strong federal government. Hamilton thought that if the states could control their own destinies with respect to trade with other countries it would soon enough lead to foreign entanglements in wars and so on. The South rejected this idea out of hand with its Anti-Federalist position, but in the end, the Constitution was ratified following a compromise between the North and the South, with the Bill of Rights being incorporated into the Constitution as a means of preserving the states’ autonomy in the face of federal authority.

At least that was the idea in theory—but in practice it all began to fall apart as soon as the Constitution was established. The North and South were never fully in alignment. The South paid far more in taxes than the North did, which meant the Union was heavily dependent upon the South for its continued existence. The North was the seat of industry. Its soil and climate was more conducive to small farmlands—nothing like the large plantations that the South enjoyed. The North, however, had far more natural resources, which allowed it to flourish, industrially speaking. Labor was concentrated in urban areas, especially after the rise of the Industrial Age, which brought the differences between the North and South into sharper focus.

The evolution of these differences really starts with the Industrial Age, but the origin of these differences was apparent from the beginning. The North was more diverse in terms of population and character, and while slavery existed in the North it was far more common in the South—but still even in the South only a third of Southerners owned any slaves. Slavery in the North was gradually replaced by immigrant workers coming from other states to find new work and a new life in the US. In the South, it was less common for immigrants to have any place to go, as it was largely plantation living and there was no room for immigrants to obtain a foothold. The West was often seen as a frontier for some, but it too was not exactly stable or settled to the degree that urban areas in the North were.

Transportation was much easier in the North than it was in the South in the early days. The railroad provided some links in the South and out to the West, but the North had twice as much railroad track as the South did, which meant transportation of people and goods was easier and more conducive to the needs of larger, more diverse populations. The South was diverse in the sense that there were nearly as many blacks as there were whites—and not…“peculiar institution” even though it was tolerated in the North and not really a bone of contention politically speaking. It only became used in Union propaganda once the War began in earnest and Lincoln could vilify the South by promising to end slavery—a point that kept England from coming to the aid of the South since England had already abolished slavery by that point and it could not very well go and defend a separatist faction that still insisted on maintaining the peculiar institution.

In my opinion, the Civil War was inevitable precisely because the conflict between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalists was never really resolved. The compromise that allowed for the ratification of the Constitution was a temporary fix that only seemed all the more offensive as time wore on. As the nation expanded westward, the South had its own demands in terms of how the Western states would be governed, and the North had its demands. Taxation, tariffs and trade continued to be issues as well, and the South finally announced that it was pulling out of the Union when Lincoln was elected. For the South, Lincoln represented everything detestable about Republicanism and Northern ways. The South wanted the independence to pursue its own manifest destiny—and the North wanted the same; they just disagreed on what that destiny should be. When Lincoln sent ships to Ft. Sumter, the South resisted with force, and the Civil War ensued. In the end, it was all about business—slavery was a way to symbolize the conflict—but even after the war little was done to help the freed slaves obtain…


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