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Civil War

1. The main motives for U.S territorial expansion, 1800-1850 and the major episodes in this process.

In the first half of the XIX century, the United States was undergoing a process of rapid development of capitalism. In the north-east of the country the rapid growth of factory industry was observed, which led to the expansion of workforce. In the north and west, the country was dominated by farming. Different ways of economic development of the North and the South had a great influence on the historical development of the United States. Thus, North bourgeoisie and planters of the South in their struggle to strengthen their economic position led the country into the civil war. The United States undertook a mission of arbiter of fate throughout the Western Hemisphere, proclaiming Monroe Doctrine in 1823. The essence of this doctrine was that the United States opposed the possible intervention of European countries into the Latin America, after the loss of all colonies of Spain in South America, and into the American continent at all. The USA as the largest country in the Western Hemisphere openly proclaimed their right to political leadership in this part of the world.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, as a result of wars with the Indians of Mexico, the United States’ territory increased two times. The rapid economic development occurred due to the natural conditions, such as mild climate, land fertility, the abundance of forests, and minerals. Availability of land in the western United States attracted immigrants from Europe. Among them, there were many skillful artisans and workers. In the 1800-1850s, the U.S. population increased more than four times – from 5.3 million to 23 million people. Indian tribes were considered the property of the state that was sold to the white settlers. Indians were exterminated or pushed farther to the west. In the first half of the nineteenth century, slaveholders tried to legitimize slavery in the new territories, but the northern states constitution forbade it. In 1857, however, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to chase and catch runaway slaves throughout the country and declared unconstitutional any law that forbade slavery. It caused strong dissatisfaction of the masses in the North and West. The situation in the country deteriorated.

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2. The importance of slavery – or the debate of slavery – as a major cause of the Civil War.

The most important event in the history of the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century was the Civil War that was a result of an irreconcilable conflict between the wage system that strengthened in the North, and the system of slavery in the South. The crisis in the relations between the North and the South, which had been deepening over several decades, intensified in the 1850s and resulted in civil war. Slave economy was weak due to the internal market, especially, since the planters exported cotton to Europe, mainly to Great Britain As a result, industrial products of the northeastern states barely made its way to markets in the South. It prevented the formation of the national market of the United States. Further development of American capitalism demanded the abolition of slavery, the complete triumph of free wage labor. In the cotton production that brought huge profits, only a bunch of slave-owning planters acquired what was less than three percent of the population of 15 southern slave states. Out of the 12 million inhabitants of the slave states, about 4 million were slaves.

The existence of a large plantation, built on the use of slave labor excluded the possibility of successful development of small-scale farming. The plantation system that was based on slavery was experiencing a deep crisis. Slaves resisted exploitation and used all their force to fight against it. Along with the typical form of resistance – uprisings of slaves, there were runaways. The productivity of Negro slaves was extremely low and armed overseers had to force them to work. Due to the use of slave labor, the introduction of technology, machinery, advanced farming techniques slowed down. The slave owners sought to capture new lands to the west and to expand the territory of slavery. This desire was hampered by the resistance of the free population of the northern and north-western states.

3. Key developments of the 1850s which contributed to the onset of the Civil War.

The main cause of the American Civil War was slavery in the southern states and the desire to extend it to the north. The trigger for a full-scale war in the United States was the battle for Fort Sumter and the subsequent separation of seven southern states that opposed the constitution from the Union. Most historians agree that although slavery with its diverse implications was the main reason for the collapse of the state, the war began with the failure of the act. In the South, traditionally slave-owning planters dominated. Meanwhile, when its population was growing, its growth rate was significantly lower than in the North. Southern cities were significantly smaller than northern, and its industry remained undeveloped. Although two-thirds of the white population had no slaves, they were mostly employees of the rich planters, who fully controlled the economy and political life of the southern states.

The conflict between the interests of the northern and southern states worsened in 1850 due to the addition of the territories conquered from Mexico. Slave owners intended to legitimize slavery throughout the country, depriving the Congress the right to cancel or allow it in any state. The “rehearsal” of the Civil War was the conflict in Kansas, instigated by John Brown. He was a man who passionately hated slavery. He fought against it in Kansas, and Virginia, and planned an uprising of slaves. In October 1859, he and 22 other brave men captured an army arsenal that stored 100 thousand rifles. However, the initiative was premature and it was not supported. In the presidential elections of 1860, the Republican Party put forward the requirements to limit slavery. Its program supported industrialists, farmers, workers, the petty bourgeoisie, and the intelligentsia. Abraham Lincoln, who had a great popularity among the masses, was elected as the president of the United States.

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