The American civil war (1861–1865)
– the problem of slavery;
Black people had been brought from Africa and worked as slaves in cotton fields. Americans disagreed about their fate. The northerners wanted them to be freed whereas the southerners wanted them to work for them as slaves.
– the problem of the states' rights.
Should the US Federal Government be more powerful than the governments of individual states?
The North and the South were very different in character. The economy of the South was based on agriculture. The North was more industrial, with a larger population and greater wealth.
Slavery, and opposition to it, had existed since before independence (1776) but, in the 19th century, the abolitionists gradually increased in number. The South's attitude was that each state had the right to make any law it wanted, and if southern states wanted slavery, the US government could not prevent it. Many southerners became secessionists. It means they were for the partition between the northern and the southern states.
Abraham Lincoln (who was elected President in 1860) and
his party (the Republicans) were against
slavery, but said that they would not end it. The southern
States did not believe them and began to leave the Union.
In 1860 there were only 34 States in the US. Eleven of them had left the Union (seceded) to form the Confederate States of America (The Confederacy).
In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, in which all the slaves were declared free.
In the South especially, people suffered greatly from the war and had little to eat. On 9 April 1865, when the South could fight no more, General Lee surrendered to General Grant. A total of 620.000 people had been killed and many more wounded.
The war was over but the feeling of hostility against the North
remained strong. On April 14th,
1865, President Lincoln was
murdered in Washington.
The South had been beaten, but its people had not changed their opinions about slavery and states' rights.
Between 1865 and 1870 the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were passed: they made Black people citizens of the United States and of the state they lived in. They were also theorically given the same rights as "White Americans".
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