By Douglas V. Gibbs
The abolitionist movement was in full force in The South, and by the start of the War Between The States, only 6% of southerners owned slaves. The Cotton Industry had moved from the fields into factories, and the need for slavery was waning. Economically, it was more financially wise to hire employees, rather than own slaves that one must feed and house.
The beginning of the American Civil War, though slavery was an important ingredient to the commencement of the war, was more about the unconstitutional actions by the federal government, and the northern states, than it was about the ownership of human beings for the purpose of slavery.
Slavery was seen as a great sin by Americans both north and south of the Mason-Dixon line. The Founding Fathers, faced with the conflict of believing that all men are created equally, while owning slaves themselves, were faced with the task of somehow initiating the abolition of slavery without damaging the economic stability of the nation (whose agricultural industry in the south was dependent upon slavery as a labor force), while also not doing so at such a rate that it would alienate the southern states, and keep them from ratifying the U.S. Constitution. Compromises were put into place to assure the southern states that slavery was not in danger of being abolished just yet, while also starting the ball rolling towards a day sometime in the future when slavery would indeed become a footnote of history.
Article I, Section 9 gave the U.S. Congress the authority to outlaw through legislation the Atlantic slave trade in America as of 1808, and on January 1, 1808, that is exactly what they did. However, the task of outlawing slavery within the states was a state authority. The federal government was not given the power to outlaw slavery because such an authority could lead to tyranny. Complete abolition, for the sake of protecting the union from a tyrannical federal system, had to be done state by state through local abolition movements.
The Cotton Gin created a situation where more slave labor was needed to pick enough cotton to keep up with the new technology, but ultimately the invention lead to more innovations that eventually changed the industry so that by the mid-1800s, being a slave owner was becoming more of a sign of status, than a need for labor.
During that time period slaves were seen as property, and the Constitution, as a compromise to assure that southern states ratified the founding document, also included Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, which demanded that escaped slaves be returned to their owners in the south, even if that slave was in a northern state. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 supported the constitution, hoping to ensure under penalty of law that the slaves were in fact returns should they turn up in the north. Northern states were refusing to return escaped slaves, and the federal government refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act and the Constitution, creating, in the minds of the southern states, a constitutional crisis.
As the southern states railed against the unconstitutional actions by the north and the federal government, the industry in the North expanded to the point that it became cheaper for the South to purchase the goods abroad. In response to the southern states purchasing foreign goods over northern products, the federal government began to pass protectionism measures that included high tariffs for foreign goods. The southern states saw the high tariffs as being unfair, not only because of the taxation, but also because the revenue was being spent on improvements in northern and western states, rather than in southern states too. Meanwhile, the northern and western states were growing in population faster than the southern states, leaving the states to the south with less representation - an eventuality the Founding Fathers had been attempting to avoid with their 3/5s of a person clause.
A combination of all of these factors, and more, led the southern states to secession.
Interestingly enough, when The War Between The States broke out, slavery was not one of the primary variables. In fact, slavery was not even entered into the equation until the Emancipation Proclamation, which was a political move by Lincoln designed to encourage European nations helping the Confederacy to get out of the region. The strategy worked, European fleets pulled out of the area, and Union troops began to turn the war in the North's favor.
Though emancipation of the slaves was a good thing to come out of the war, the deaths of over 600,000 men could have been avoided. Abolition was coming to the south, and would have spread through the south state by state within the next decade or so, had the federal government not attempted to force it upon The South through military aggression.
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary