The Issues That Tore Us Apart

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Slavery was the issue that blew up America in 1861 and led to the Civil War.

But for the 85 years between the nation’s founding and that war, it had seemed that somehow America could eventually phase out the horrific institution and do so largely peacefully.

But by 1861, an array of other differences had magnified the great divide over slavery. The plantation class of the South had grown fabulously rich — and solely dependent — on King Cotton and by extension slave labor. It bragged that it was supplying the new mills of the industrial revolution in Europe and had wrongly convinced itself that not just the U.S. but also Britain could not live without Southern plantations.

Federal tariffs hurt the exporting South far more than the North. Immigration and industrialization focused on the North, often bypassing the rural, largely Scotch-Irish South, which grew increasingly disconnected culturally from the North.

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