By Kevin Hillstrom
Describes and translates the period of the Civil conflict, its occasions, and themes with viewpoints, definitions, record subject matters, chronologies, sidebars, and facts.
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Extra resources for American Civil War. Almanac
During the first half of the nineteenth century, white Southerners developed a culture that emphasized ideals of refinement, elegance, and old-fashioned chivalry (the medieval knightly qualities of honor, courage, helping the weak, and protecting women). Even many of its poorer white citizens embraced romantic notions of the nature of Southern life in its towns and on its plantations. Most slaves, of course, had a far different view of life in the South. The majority of slaves worked on large farms and plantations, where they were often forced to maintain a physically punishing work schedule in the fields.
This fact bothered many of the Constitution’s creators, who felt that the institution of slavery cast a dark shadow over the new nation’s supposed ideals of liberty and equality. Even leaders like eventual presidents Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) and George Washington (1732–1799), who themselves owned slaves, recognized that slavery was an evil practice that should be eliminated. But they were also aware of the South’s dependence on slavery, and they desperately wanted to keep the states united.
They claimed that Northerners would not be so eager to abolish slavery if their own regional economy depended on it. Southerners also embraced arguments that slavery actually helped to civilize African “savages,” and some slaveholders even used scriptural passages from the Bible to justify enslavement of their fellow men. Northern abolitionists who attempted to spread their message in Southern states were attacked and driven out of the region. In addition, Southern states passed numerous laws designed to prevent Northern antislavery groups from discussing abolitionism on their land.