Many would agree that the dehumanization, discrimination, and pain the African American underwent in the years prior to the Civil War were improper and unethical, isn’t it? America clashed regarding the issue of the enslavement of the African American population and even went to one of the fiercest wars in the history of United States thereby showing that not many people supported the use of slaves. The constitution permitted the use of slaves prior but progressive development in the North resulted in abolition in nearly all states in the region. The owners in the South, however, waited until the War broke out, which compelled the federal government to enact policies that would abolish slavery in all states in the Confederacy. The dehumanization African Americans experienced as slaves and the enslavement that was evidently unethical and discriminative resulted in the Civil War, which paved way for the formation of policies that helped to suppress the practice.
A good description of a civil war is an essential starting point for evaluation. Appropriate definition of civil war shows the world of possible situations and scenarios that can be contrasted with regard to their origins, dynamics, repercussions, termination, and any other related issues such as postwar rehabilitation and reconstruction. Moreover, gaining a clear meaning of civil war is important for recognizing trends in the form and location of dissimilar forms of warfare. Gersovitz and Kriger (2013) acknowledged that not abstract description of civil war can give a set of appropriate and convincing that can be applied practically and mechanically. Gersovitz and Kriger (2013), however, refer to civil war as a politically created, large-scale, maintained, physically aggressive clash that happens within a country chiefly among numerically dominant or large populations of its citizens or inhabitants over the rule or dominance of physical forces within the territory. Civil wars according to Gersovitz and Kriger (2013) often have incumbent governments that regulate the status quo and have a control of force before the war. The American Civil War is an example of a civil war that fits the description Gersovitz and Kriger give, and is an occurrence that will forever remain in U.S. history.
The American Civil War that took place from 1861 to 1865 was a clash between the northern U.S. and the southern U.S. The civil war started mainly due to conflicting perceptions regarding the use of slaves, particularly on the enslavement of black people. Initially, the northerners and the southerners were part of the Union or the North or the U.S. government headed by President Abraham Lincoln and the five border and twenty free states that supported the President’s ideologies (Anderson, 2017). Even before the emergence of the American Civil War, the Union was committed to terminate the Confederate States of America or the South and together with the conflicting perceptions regarding the use of slaves the southerners seceded and formed the Confederacy (Anderson, 2017). The Confederates entered into war to safeguard the southern population where slavery was rampant. The team advocating for the abolition of slavery sought to contain its expansion and to put the practice into gradual collapse. The groups in the South holding slaves refuted the plan to suppress slavery arguing that it violated their constitutional right (Anderson, 2017). The slave owners in the South further believed that the campaign to abolish slavery would interfere with the economy in the affected areas because of the huge investment people has made in this area. Nonetheless, several other factors caused the Civil War such as the Southerners’ call for states’ right to secede or quit the Union, sectionalism, which emanated from the regional tensions and conflicting interests between the North and South on matters such as political values, customs, and social structures.
Identification of the Social Problem
Slavery as already hinted in the previous section was a primary cause for division and war during the Civil War. As early as 1850s abolitionist John Brown was dedicated to fight slavery but his efforts resulted in his death. Brown’s death, however, did not go in vain because several other groups joined later to push for what he started. Brown was so passionate about bringing slavery to an end that he helped black people escape from bondage in the South (Anderson, 2017). The abolitionist thought that he would create more awareness concerning the need to end slavery by forming a group that would protest against the act once and for all. He was confident if he would marshal and arm the slaved people in the South, they would put up a revolt and attain their victory and freedom (Anderson, 2017). After all, nearly 4 million slaves served in various parts in the South, and could easily become victorious if they chose to revolt. Driven with the feeling that slavery was a heinous crime, Brown formed a team in 1959 that would help him fight against the practice. He led a successful attack on Harpers Ferry in Virginia where they seized an arsenal and equipped a group of white and black men who supported his plan with enough weapons to put up a resistance (Anderson, 2017). The other slaves were still reluctant to join in the resistance during the initial stages of the war against slavery, which led Brown and his team of not more than 100 men to be arrested, detained, and subsequently killed for committing treason.
The planned attacks and the courage to put up a fight against slavery were because of the scale and the negative effects of the social problem. Even as the northern states put more effort to abolish slavery, a large population of black people was subject to slavery in the Southern states. The condition subjected many slaves and the black community to racial segregation and denied the blacks equal chances in schools, health facilities, public forms of transport, and even places of worship. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act (1850) by Congress, which implied that all slaves captured while trying to escape be returned to their master restricted the movement of slaves and contravened their personal liberty.Nearly all the states in the South were affected because the owners regarded the slaves as a vital part of contribution to the region’s economy. The unfair treatment, nevertheless, affected the patience of the slaves and those who supported abolition causing a major rift.
The pain and agony shared by the slaves who really needed to be free resulted in the emergence of the Underground Railroad system, which was dedicated to help the affected persons get to secure places. The term Underground Railroad referred to a network of individuals, hideouts, and residential homes that slaves from the South used seek solace while fleeing to the North and Canada. A group of whites and blacks who did not serve as slaves saw the plight of the people in bondage and offered to act as conductors, or those who led the slaves along the routes that would led them to safety. The stockholders who were part of the Underground Railroad helped the slaves seeking to free by offering them food and money, and even kept them at their place for one or two days before progressing with the journey. Despite the dangers associated with being part of the Underground Railroad the whites and blacks engaged in the practice either as an escapee or helper were dedicated to suppress the practice that evidently violated the fundamental rights and freedoms of a person, and lowered the dignity of the human nature.
Social Response and Policy
The oppression that slaves faced prior and at the beginnings of the Civil War caused opposition and reactions from various groups. A major clash was witnessed in 1861 when rival groups clashed regarding the issue of slavery. Even though social movements were not as rampant as during the 1960s when African Americans rekindled their quest for equality through mass boycotts, marches, and movements such as the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Albany Movement of 1961, and the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, various groups joined in the war as a way of expressing their dissatisfaction of the mistreatment that black people faced (Finkelman, 2011). Such reactions are important in showing how the enslavement in the South required stringent intervention.
The declaration of Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln may be termed as the policy that changed the fate of slavery in the U.S., and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment further demolished the practice. The executive order issued on September 22, 1862 but came into effect on January 1863 transformed the legal condition under the federal law of more than three million African Americans from being slaves to free citizens (Finkelman, 2011). The proclamation made it clear that once the slave escapes from the confinement of the Confederate territories by running away through any means, the escapee was permanently free. The Union slowly implemented the terms of the proclamation in all jurisdictions in the southern states (Finkelman, 2011). The remaining people in bondage, in the states that did not witness any considerable revolt were let free by state actions, or by the provision of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that came into effect in1865 (Finkelman, 2011). The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was one of the Reconstruction Amendments after the end of the Civil War was ratified by nearly all states in the north as well as with other border states. The Thirteenth Amendment was an effective policy in ending slavery that had caused so much social problems across the U.S., especially in the southern states where the rate of enslavement was high, particularly in the way helped change the perception regarding owning slaves it had some weaknesses that affected its effectiveness (Finkelman, 2011). Despite the regulation, cases of white supremacist aggression, implementation of regulations that subjected African Americans to involuntary labor and Black Codes were still applicable in several areas, thereby derailing the attempts to protect the black people from the injustice they faced in the society dominated by Whites.
Current State of the Social Problem
Today, cases of slavery do not exist in the U.S., thanks to the commitment by the government and international agencies to create policies that prevent such inhumane practices. The Americans still adhere to the legislations that prohibit any form of enslavement, and have embraced a completely new way of viewing people who belong to minority groups. Americans today view those who enslave others as lacking dignity and morality, and one who contravenes the set laws and policies. Other than the legislations that prohibit any form of slavery in the U.S., the Americans adhere to the directives of international law concerning slavery, which is regulated by several declarations, conventions, and treaties. One of the fundamental international treaties that guide Americans on the issue of slavery is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in 1948 that declares in Article 4 that no one should be subject to servitude or any form of enslavement, and that all forms of slavery should be eradicated (OHCHR, 2020). The existence of such policies and the attempts to adhere to their provisions illustrate how slavery is unacceptable in the current American society.
The study pays particular attention to the effects of slavery in causing the American Civil War, and considers how war and the formation of other policies resulted in the abolition of the practice that denied many people the chance to enjoy the pride of human dignity. Soon after abolitionists such as Brown saw the need to save slaves from the agony they experienced under their owners, the pressure escalated resulting in a war in 1861 calling for the end of the enslavement. African Americans were the major victims of the enslavement that denied them their fundamental rights and freedoms. Other than the war that showed the urgent need to end the oppression, the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution played vital roles in ending the practice that depreciated human dignity. Even though the policies had their limitations in the way some form of mistreatment against African Americans were still evident, they played a vital role in curbing the practice that denied many people the right to enjoy their rights and freedoms.
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