New Orleans a Port of Vital Significance

Article excerpt


There is still not agreement among historians and history buffs (such as I) as to the cause(s) of the Civil War/War Between the States. (Take your pick).

I believe the issue should be considered in two segments: 1) Why did 11 slave states secede (or attempt to, depending on one's view) from the Federal union, and 2) why did war follow? I believe I can suggest one answer to 2). First, a little historical background.

In the 17th century, the populations of the 12 English Colonies along the Atlantic seaboard (Georgia was founded in 1740) were small and clung pretty close to the coast. The 18th century brought an increase in population through a more favorable birth-death ratio and more immigration. For varying reasons, many English Colonists wanted to move west but were blocked at the crest of the Allegheny-Appalachian Mountains by France, which claimed, by right of first exploration, all of the territory drained by the Mississippi-Ohio River system.

In 1763, France, defeated in war, surrendered Canada and its territory between the Mississippi and the mountains to the east to Great Britain, and thousands of English Colonists made ready to swarm west across the mountains. In October 1763, however, the British government dropped a bombshell, an edict forbidding settlement west of the mountains. The explanation follows:

Although Great Britain had won the recent Seven Years' War, it was left with a large war debt that it planned to retire by a combination of reduced expenses and increased taxes, the first of which was enacted in 1765, and the taxes set the stage for the American Revolution 10 years later.

The government of Great Britain believed there was still adequate, if not quite as desirable, land for settlement east of the mountains and that the Indians in that area were largely pacified and could be controlled, if necessary, by Colonial militias. Settlement west of the mountains surely would bring warfare with the unpacified Indians of the region and require British troops.

In 1783, Great Britain ceded all its territory west of the mountains as part of its recognition of American independence, and Americans swarmed to the new lands, which quickly became a significant source of the prosperity of the new United States. …