Causes of the American Civil War

Many know about the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865, but the true origins and causes of the American Civil War allude many. The causes of the American Civil War are actually quite complex and require research and analysis to understand their roots.

The origins of the Civil War actually do surprise many when they get to read and understand what actually caused Americans to fight one another so long after gaining their own independence from the British.

Main Causes of the American Civil War

There are five main reasons for the outcome of Civil War in America; these causes were slavery, economy, Federal versus State rights, Abraham Lincoln becoming president and the Battle of Fort Sumter. Below is an explanation of each cause and how it impacted the outcome of war.


Throughout the nineteenth century slavery was slowly becoming abolished in many countries after the UK took the move of abolishing slavery there. The issue with the United States was that many free states were joining the union while other states still carried out slavery. To mitigate this there was a rule in place where there should be a balance of free states as opposed to slavery states.

The slavery states were all found in the south and when California was joining the union as a free state the southern slavery states wanted laws protecting their slavery interests. This didn’t happen and more free states joined the union of United States thus adding more fuel to the fire between north and south.

Federal vs States Rights

Following from the issue with slavery and the south feeling they were losing control the south turned to rights through law to protect their interests further. To do this they tried to use states rights as their argument for slavery rights to continue.

The argument was that certain states had specific rights whereby any particular action they have done historically should be a right kept. The south even went as far as saying that the citizens of these states had the right to take anything they own elsewhere without it being taken away thus meaning a slave is a slave even if they went to a free state.

All this coincided with the creation of the US Constitution that southern state governors were not informed of. The southern states were under the impression that the US Constitution would take away their power to act independently as the constitution gave one set of rules for all states.


Again due to slavery the economy in the south was seen as teetering on the brink of collapse. The south had long been a one crop area where only cotton is grown, this is because it had a very strong market value but needed a lot of labour. The labour for cotton plantations came in the form of slaves as they were cheap so the plantation owners could make large sums of cash.

If the slavery issue became such that it was abolished much of the economy in the south would become untenable.

Abraham Lincoln

Many saw Abraham Lincoln as a pro north President who was anti slavery so when it was found he was going to become President seven states actually left the union of United States. These states were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

Prior to Abraham Lincoln there had never really been a problem as all the presidents were from the south so did not oppose slavery.

Battle of Fort Sumter

When many states left the union of the United States as mentioned above, one state went further and demanded the United States army leave its facilities in the state. The state in question was South Carolina.

The United States armed forces moved from a smaller and less defensible fort to Fort Sumter to protect themselves from the governance of South Carolina who were trying to get them to leave. The forces of South Carolina even fired at a ship coming to supply the United States forces in Fort Sumter.

For three months the soldiers of the US were left in the Fort with little supplies getting through. Between the 12th and 13th April South Carolina forces bombarded the fort, not to kill the men inside but scare them into submission. Unfortunately this meant Abraham Lincoln took decisive action and sent 75,000 men to reclaim United States property thus starting the civil war.

1 thought on “Causes of the American Civil War”

Leave a Comment