The excessive emphasis on African slavery obscures the many economic and cultural causes of the War Between the States, though it was clear that two Americas that had developed by the 1850s: one industrial and seeking government protection – and the other agricultural and opposed to protectionist tariffs and government subsidy. The war between the two Americas had more to do with economics and culture than with the residue of a British colonial labor system that the American South would deal with — as the New England States had done earlier — and without war.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Northwest Sacrifices a Valuable Ally
“Lincoln and his contemporaries interpreted the victory of the North as primarily a triumph of nationalism over States’ rights. That the Union was now in fact “one and indivisible” . . . was generally acknowledged . . . [but] Whether a long civil war was necessary to secure the triumph of nationalism over States’ rights and of abolitionism over slavery may well be doubted. Probably, with more skillful handling of a few crises, both ends might ultimately have been achieved without resort to war.
A factor not fully understood at the time, and possibly overemphasized today, was the commanding importance that the new industrial interests won during the course of the struggle. War profits compounded the capital of the industrialists and placed them in a position to dominate the economic life, not only of the Northeast where they were chiefly concentrated, but also of the nation at large.
With the Southern planters removed from the national scene, the government at Washington tended more and more to reflect the wishes of the industrial leaders. The protective tariff, impossible as long as Southern influence predominated in national affairs, became the corner-stone of the new business edifice, for by means of it the vast and growing American market was largely restricted to American industry.
Transcontinental railroads, designed to complete the national transportation system, were likewise accorded the generous assistance of the government, while a national banking act and a national currency facilitated still further the spread of nation-wise business.
The Northwest, where industry was definitely subordinate to agriculture, profited less from the war than the Northeast . . . [though by] assisting in the defeat of the South, however, the Northwest had unknowingly sacrificed a valuable ally. Before the war the two agricultural sections had repeatedly stood together, first against the commercial, and later against the industrial, Northeast. Now, with the weight of the South in the Union immensely lessened, the Northwest was left to wage its battles virtually alone. For more than a generation after the war, with eastern men and eastern policies in the ascendancy, American industry steadily consolidated the gains it had made.”
(The Federal Union, A History of the United States to 1865, John D. Hicks, Riverside Press, 1937, pp. 686-688)