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Humphrey United States History Name

Unit 3: Civil War and Reconstruction
Causes of the Civil War Reading Guide

Section 1: Life in Chains- The Origins of Slavery
A. How did many Southern whites justify the institution of slavery?
They said that slavery was an institution that uplifted blacks by “rescuing” them from a savage life in
B. What is one reason slavery not take hold in the North?
It was not profitable to work slaves on the small family farms typical of the New England and Middle
Atlantic colonies.
C. Use at least 3 specific references from this section to describe the slave experience in the
1. “Being a slave was a terrifying and dehumanizing experience.”
2. “In most southern states, it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write.”
3. “Southern legal codes, moreover, defined slaves as chattel property, a term that equated human
beings with horses, tools, and furniture.”

Section 2: Slave Insurrections before the Civil War
A. What caused the Haitian Revolt in 1791?
Slaves demanded the same rights and liberties won by Frenchmen during the French Revolution.
B. Summarize the rebellion of Denmark Vessey in 1-2 sentences:
Denmark Vessey was a slave who had purchased his freedom. He organized a scheme that involved
hundreds of armed slaves and free black followers. It had such a large number of participants that
word leaked out about the plan and authorities foiled the plan.

C. Identify at least 3 significant results of these slave insurrections. In other words, how did they
impact American life in the lead up to the Civil War?
1. The Haitian Revolt encouraged more slave revolts.
2. Made teaching slaves to read and write illegal.
3. More repressive slave codes.

Section 3: North v. South- “States Rights”
A. What is the significance of the Constitution in the debate between the North and South
before the Civil War?
The power of state governments versus the power of the national government.
B. Summarize the argument made by John C. Calhoun and an increasing amount of Southerners
regarding the Constitution and its purpose:
He described the Constitution as a compact, similar to a treaty between sovereign states. If a state
finds a national act to be unconstitutional, it could declare that act null and void within the state and
the federal government should force compliance.

Section 4: Why did they fight? Cultures in Conflict
A. Identify AT LEAST 3 specific cultural differences between the North and South:
1. South wanted slaves while North wanted abolition of slaves.
2. South used handshakes while North used contracts.
3. North valued education and rejected violence while South did not value education
and didn’t really care about violence.

B. Identify AT LEAST 3 specific economic and political differences between the North and South:
1. North had rails and canals while South didn’t.
2. North was more developed than the South.
3. South’s economy relied on slave labor while North relied on their own citizen’s

Section 5: Why did they fight? Ideals in Conflict
A. Analyze the significance/role of the West in the growing regional divide in the years leading
up to the Civil War.
North fought the South to keep the West free of slavery than to free the slaves.
B. What is the Southern perspective on each of the items (causes) listed below?
1. State’s rights
Each state could join or leave depending upon the will of the people.
2. Slavery
Most planters and small farmers felt certain that freeing the South’s four million blacks would cause
social and economic chaos. Wealthy whites feared the loss of their property and others dreaded the
thought of political equality for the slaves.
3. Liberty
Many white southerners feared that the U.S. government could not be trusted to protect their
property, and that the South was becoming dominated by the anti-slavery, industrial North that
threatened their way of life.
C. What is the Northern perspective on each of the items (causes) listed below?
1. The Union
The Union was the greatest republican experiment the world had ever known. The North argued that
since all the states had formed the Union, no single state had the right to secede and break it up.
2. Anti-slavery/ Abolition
Most northern soldiers were anti-slavery and opposed slavery’s expansion into the western
territories. They strongly believed that slave labor threatened free institutions and the egalitarian
ideals of a nation of independent family farmers.
3. Democracy
They believed that secession violated their sense of fair play and the idea that all Americans must
abide by the outcome of free elections. A minority could not be allowed to sabotage the principles of
majority rule.

Using the information in this packet, develop a full thesis statement for Essential Question #1:
1. What were the causes of the civil war? Consider: regional tensions around economic
development, slavery, territorial expansion and governance. *BE SPECIFIC!
a. The causes of the civil war included cultural differences, different viewpoints
on slavery, and different perspectives on the way of life.