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The principal causes of the American Civil War have been widely debated for years. There are many aspects that led to this clash between fellow citizens with differing opinions, with a few being more prominent than others; specifically, slavery.

Slavery is regarded as the driving factor behind the Civil War, which first began in Virginia in 1619. Toward the early 19th century however, many northern states outlawed the practice following the American Revolution. The South decided to say otherwise. Slavery remained a crucial asset throughout southern states’ economies due to the cultivation of cotton, and the number of slaves throughout actually accounted for a decent percentage of southern states’ populations.

The three-fifths clause sparked a large amount of debate at the end of the 18th century, particularly during the Constitutional Convention of 1789, where slaves’ population numbers were determined. Even more pro and anti-slavery clashes took place in the years following leading to a stalemate between both parties. The controversial subject created a great deal of strain between the North and South.

Because of this stern stance on slavery, southern politicians attempted to gain complete control of the federal government. More and more states began to join the Union however. In response, the South allowed California, Minnesota, and Oregon to enter their coalition as free states, which created even more unbalance between two regions focused on vastly different areas of growth. The North was just beginning to embrace the Industrial Revolution, while the South continued to trust their plantation economy.

Tensions finally began to boil over once slavery had spread to the West. Conflicts like the Mexican-American War (which led to the legalization of slavery in the West), and the Missouri Compromise set the country back in terms of anti-slavery progression. Acts were set in place to undo this plan, one of which was known as the Kansas-Nebraska act, which sought to repeal the Missouri Compromise.

The Abolitionist movement throughout the 1820s and 1830s that promoted the idea of slavery being morally wrong began to gain traction as well. The South refuted these claims pointing to biblical sources.

Enter John Brown.

Brown, alongside his five sons, killed five pro-slavery farmers in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre, thus sparking the “Bleeding Kansas” era. Now that violent methods had become apparent, tensions were higher than ever. Brown was then hanged for his crime.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln was elected president following South Carolina proposing and adopting a secession from the Union. Southern states began to regain control of their own borders through a variety of means, setting Lincoln up for an incredibly trying presidency.