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The Political Divisions That Contributed To Civil War

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To start off I am not going to compare the two essays in the Cobbs book but rather focus on Michael F. Holt’s article titled The Political Divisions That Contributed to Civil War. In this essay I will examine the arguments that the author makes, his viewpoints, and the causes of the civil war. Then I will explain why I agree with those arguments.

It is the author's essential point that a strong democracy requires political parties that compete on a somewhat equal basis, inspire widespread party loyalty and, in essence, control the more fractious issues or interpretations of the times. That is exactly the role that the author suggests that the Second Party system consisting of the Whigs and Democrats played from Andrew Jackson's presidency to the early 1850s. The expansion of slavery into new territories and states was the most contentious issue of the day. The Northern and Southern wings of both the Democrats and the Whigs adopted particular positions on such controversies as the Wilmot Proviso and the Compromise of 1850 that kept the public looking to the political realm for solutions.

But that political status quo fell apart as both the slavery issue and nativism could not be contained within the Second Party system. While the author views this development as the beginning of the political crisis of the 1850s, others may see the rise of new political parties as the essence of political responsiveness. The Know Nothing party had a swift rise in the mid-1850s but just as quickly the Republicans rose in the late 1850s and elected Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860. But the fact is that the supporters of anti-slavery, nativism, and free soil of the 1850s overwhelmed the political positions formed in the 1830s. The author comes close to suggesting that the Republicans were irresponsible opportunists by forming a party on sectional lines with sectional interests.

The essential question that the author asks is why slavery



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