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Conflict of the North and South of the United States


The issue of slavery was one of the most critical problems in the history of the United States. The lack of agreement between the North and South on the matter resulted in the conflict’s rapid development, from the latter’s secession to the war actions. However, its abolition on the national level became possible only after the Civil War, and a number of other events contributed to such an outcome. From this perspective, the crisis was primarily of a legislative nature since most controversial issues were connected to the ambiguity of laws or the lack of thereof. Therefore, this paper aims to consider the conflict between the Northern and Southern states, the failed attempts to resolve it peacefully, the difference in the regions’ situations, and successful legislative measures abolishing slavery.

The Secession Crisis

The beginning of the conflicts between the North and South was marked by the election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln as a president of the United States in 1860. At the time, he was not one of the prominent political leaders of the country and, therefore, had no enemies (VandeCreek). However, his policies focused on the issue of slavery, which he perceived as the main threat in the case of its expansion in the West (VandeCreek). Even though his views were balanced by the belief in slaveholders’ constitutional rights, the latter’s resentment led to the problem’s gradual escalation (VandeCreek). In this way, Lincoln’s attempts to find a compromise between the needs of the North and South had failed.

As a result, the Southerners came to the conclusion that their freedom was at stake on the grounds of the president’s stance. Even though he did not propose any practical measures to eliminate slavery, the mere assumption that Lincoln’s policy will take this course was sufficient for the emergence of the conflict (VandeCreek). It became known as the Secession Crisis since the response of the southern states was their initiative to secede from the Union and constitute a new government (VandeCreek). Thus, the Confederacy, under the rule of Jefferson Davis, emerged (VandeCreek). The subsequent course of events reflected the relationships between the two entities which were the Union and the Confederate States or, in other words, the North and South.

Crittenden Compromise

The emerged confrontation between the Union and the Confederacy was critical, and prominent political leaders attempted to develop initiatives for its peaceful resolution. One of such legislative measures was the so-called Crittenden Compromise, named after Senator John J. Crittenden, who introduced it in December 1860 (“Crittenden Compromise”). It included six constitutional amendments and four Congressional resolutions aimed to ensure Southerners’ rights and thereby prevent the war (“Crittenden Compromise”). According to this document’s provisions, the Confederate States were guaranteed the permanent existence of slavery, the reestablishment of the free-slave demarcation line, and compensations for runaway slaves (“Crittenden Compromise”). In general, the proposed legislative measures seemed efficient and were widely supported by the South. However, the opposition represented by Northern Republicans and Lincoln himself prevented them from implementation.

The principal reasons why the politicians from the North were against the Crittenden Compromise were connected to its non-correspondence to the major laws of the country. Thus, for example, the northern personal liberty laws could not be compatible with the provisions regarding slavery (“Crittenden Compromise”). Another obstacle to the passage of the proposed legislation was the inclusion of a rule, according to which the bills could never be changed or amended (“Crittenden Compromise”). In other words, if the Crittenden Compromise had passed by the majority of votes, slavery in the United States would have received the permanent status and could not be consequently eliminated. From this perspective, the refusal of the Northern Republicans to support the initiative was conditional upon the search for a better solution to the emerged problem.

Economic and Material Disparities Between the North and South

The circumstances of the Northern and Southern states before the emergence of the conflict and consequent secession of the latter were drastically different. Some scholars even claim that the societies were two separate civilizations marked by the absence and the presence of slavery, respectively (Gallagher). However, this factor affected not only the perceptions of people but also their economic situations. Thus, the North was more populated, comprised primarily of urban areas, and, therefore, more developed industrially and commercially (Gallagher). The South, in turn, was agricultural, and the main profits were received from the cotton plantations and the slaves working there (Gallagher). It allows concluding on the economic advantage of the industrial North and the dependence of the Southern economy on slaves.

The same applies to the material disparities between the Union and the Confederate States. The principal difference between them was in the former’s more advantageous position in terms of war materials they could produce due to their industrial development (“Letters, Telegrams, and Photographs Illustrating Factors that Affected the Civil War”). In this way, the factories and industries of the North played a significant role in their further successes.

Another factor that adds to the uneven distribution of materials between the regions was the transportation networks comprised of highways, canals, and railroads. They were also more developed in the North, and the supplies of materials in the less populated and agricultural South were less efficient (“Letters, Telegrams, and Photographs Illustrating Factors that Affected the Civil War”). Thus, the economic situations were complemented by material disparities and, subsequently, defined the victory of the Union in the Civil War.

Cotton Diplomacy

Another Southern phenomenon of the time was the so-called Cotton Diplomacy which reflected the hopes of the Confederate States’ citizens on their plantations in the international arena. It was clear that the South was dependent on the North since the Union purchased most of their cotton and sold the manufactured goods back to them (“Cotton is King”). Despite the relatively small contributions of the Southern states to the United States’ economy, the relationships between the North and South remained solid until the Secession Crisis (“Cotton is King”). Nevertheless, the Confederate States’ expectations on the role of cotton for international trade were unreasonably high, and the efforts of Southern diplomats to ensure their position in the European market failed (“Cotton is King”). Therefore, Cotton Diplomacy turned into a disadvantage for the South in the war.

This philosophy was an excellent example of a failed attempt to rely on a single advantage which proved to be insufficient. The countries which were supposed to become the principal partners of the Confederate States, England and France, refused to officially recognize this entity (“Cotton is King”). They refocused their efforts on other suppliers of cotton, and a self-embargo of the Southern states resulted in the end of trading with foreign countries (“Cotton is King”). In this situation, the considerations of free labor contrasted by enslaved labor were insignificant since the demand for materials played a decisive role. Thus, Cotton Diplomacy happened to be one of the principal factors of the Southern states’ defeat.

Economic Legislation Passed During the Civil War

The events of the Civil War between the Union and the Confederate States were accompanied by the passage of economic legislation. The efforts of senators were intended to eliminate the consequences of the war. Their primary aim was to prevent the bankruptcy of the nation, and it was addressed through sponsoring bills for funding by Finance Committee led by William Pitt Fessenden (“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story”). Their actions were followed by the adoption of the Revenue Act of 1861 establishing the first federal income tax (“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story”). By the consequent revenue acts, the Bureau of Internal Revenue within the Treasury Department was created, and additional tax rates appeared (“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story”). Thus, a variety of taxes, including the ones on luxury items, was introduced.

The mentioned initiatives were complemented by a series of confiscation acts in 1861-1862. They were meant to punish the Southerners by seizing all property providing aid to the Confederate cause and freeing the slaves (“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story”). Moreover, these laws provided for the possibility to use them for the Union’s needs or, in other words, make soldiers of them (“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story”). Further economic development was ensured by the Homestead Act of 1862, according to which the government gave the federal land in the West to farmers (“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story”). The Southern Homestead Act of 1866, in turn, offered public land to freed slaves and loyal Southerners (“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story”). Thus, the significant economic laws addressed taxes and land distribution.

The Aims of the Reconstruction Policies

The period after the Civil War is known as Reconstruction, and it was characterized by a number of innovations presented by the government. In general, these measures aimed to reintegrate Southern states and the freed slaves into the United States of America (“Reconstruction”). They were adopted under the presidency of Andrew Johnson in 1865, and the principal legislatures of the time were the laws known as “black codes” (“Reconstruction”). These initiatives were intended to control former slaves in terms of their labor and behavior (“Reconstruction”). Hence, the new president’s policies corresponded to the perceived needs of the Radical Republicans, who initially insisted on the emancipation of African Americans.

However, the aims of the Reconstruction policies were not limited by the supervision of former slaves. They were also oriented on the provision of new rights to this population group. Thus, the passage of the Reconstruction Act of 1867 indicated the involvement of African Americans in the political affairs of the country by giving them the right to vote (“Reconstruction”). The complexity of the president’s actions was added to by the need to balance between the established Freedmen’s Bureau ensuring the former slaves’ rights and the rights of Southerners granted by the Constitution (“Reconstruction”). In other words, the global objective of the government was to ensure that the freed slaves were truly free and enjoyed all human rights without discrimination.

Civil Rights Legislation

Another type of legislative measures corresponded to the goals of Reconstruction and provided specific civil rights to the freedmen. The major piece of legislation addressing this need was the Civil Rights Act of 1875 which complemented the “black codes” (“Civil Rights During Reconstruction”). It established the right to use all public accommodations and promoted the idea of equality of white men and former slaves (“Civil Rights During Reconstruction”). Moreover, the Act included the expansion of this term to business relationships alongside private communication (“Civil Rights During Reconstruction”). Nevertheless, despite the central role of this legislation in the process of Reconstruction, which lasted from 1865 to 1877, it was preceded by other measures which made the passage of the Civil Rights Act possible.

Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments

The first initiative was the abolition of slavery on the national level. The previous attempts to do it, more specifically, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the measures allowing Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, did not solve the global problem (“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments”). Therefore, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed by the Senate and by the House in 1864 and 1865, respectively, and ratified by all the states in 1865 (“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments”). It provided for the abolition of slavery in the United States of America as well as in any place subject to the country’s jurisdiction.

The second initiative, the Fourteenth Amendment, ensured the equality of all citizens. It was ratified July 9, 1868, and its principal provision was the right to citizenship to all the people born or naturalized in the United States, including the former slaves (“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments”). This Amendment ensured the equal protection of all citizens of the country and thereby extended the provisions of the Bill of Rights to all the states (“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments”). This document authorized the government to punish the Southern states by reducing the number of their representatives in Congress and banning the persons who were engaged in the war (“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments”). In this way, the Fourteenth Amendment became an excellent complement to the Thirteenth Amendment.

The Fifteenth Amendment was added to the mentioned initiatives and provided for the lack of discrimination in the political arena. It was proposed by William Stewart of Nevada and ratified on February 3, 1870 (“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments”). According to this Amendment, the states were prohibited from disenfranchising any citizens on the grounds of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude (“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments”). Thus, the combination of the three amendments ensured the complete abolition of slavery, slaves’ rights, and all people’s equality.


In conclusion, the Civil War between the Union and the Confederate States was the war conflict that led to the abolition of slavery at the national level. It started with the Secession of Southern states discontent with the anti-slavery attitudes of Abraham Lincoln and Northern Republicans. The political leaders attempted to resolve the issue by passing the Crittenden Compromise which failed due to strong opposition. As a result, the Civil War between the North and South began, and the former’s victory was conditional upon both economic and material advantages. The latter’s Cotton Diplomacy was their main hope which failed due to the lack of demand. In the end, the Reconstruction under Andrew Jackson led to the passage of the first legislation in the history of the United States abolishing slavery and establishing equality.

Works Cited

“Civil Rights During Reconstruction.” American Experience.

“Cotton is King.” American Battlefield Trust, 2020.

“Crittenden Compromise.” History, 2019.

Gallagher, Gary. “North vs. South: Prelude to the American Civil War.” The Great Courses Daily, 2019.

“Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments.” United States Senate.

“Letters, Telegrams, and Photographs Illustrating Factors that Affected the Civil War.” National Archives, 2016.

“Reconstruction.” History, 2020.

“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story.” United States Senate.

VandeCreek, Drew E. “The Secession Crisis, 1860-61.” Northern Illinois University Digital Library.

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StudyKraken. "Conflict of the North and South of the United States." March 20, 2022.


StudyKraken. 2022. "Conflict of the North and South of the United States." March 20, 2022.


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