While the Northern and Southern United States, when joined, created an economic powerhouse, when divided, a deep economic divide was created which left the south at a clear disadvantage for several reasons. The best way to look at the comparative economies of the north and south are as gears that work together to power the economic progress of the United States overall, but when separated, they individually did not function very well.
The northern United States of the 1860s did not possess the favorable climate that the south did, so while agriculture was a part of the northern economy, other ways of building economic strength were needed if the nation were to grow and survive (Dana, 1996). As a result, industry was the main output of the north, in addition to the easy access to many of the raw materials needed for heavy manufacturing, a ready pool of workers, and the sea ports and railroads that were needed to move products not only within the US but worldwide (Dana, 1996).
The south was quite different than the north in many respects when considering economic factors. The United States south, on the other hand, was abundant in natural resources, favorable weather conditions, and of course, a readily available pool of labor, albeit forced slavery. Therefore, the south became mostly an agricultural region, and built up an international trade market for, among other cash crops, cotton and tobacco, which were in high demand globally. Once again, the issue of money and commerce was a key driver in the start of the American Civil War.
Basically, what everything came down to in regard to the economic development of the American north and south is that the north, in fairness, could not continue as an independent nation away from the south, because of the revenues and relations with other nations that came about from the trade of southern cash crops, but the paradox was that this economic development had the slavery issue attached to it, as slaves were a key to the profitability of the southern states.
When discussing economic issues in relation to the American Civil War, something also needs to be said about the way that the southern infrastructure and economic development actually put it at a disadvantage in battling the northern states. When the war began, and when the south was faced with the need to produce the weapons, wagons and other implements of war, found it unable to do so effectively, not to mention the production of marketable goods for sale elsewhere.
Moreover, because the vast majority of the battles of the Civil War were waged in the south, tremendous damage was inflicted upon the southern infrastructure, further weakening the economic power of the region. In terms of a standalone economy, the south was not as well equipped as the north to do so. Political Differences
States’ rights were discussed previously as a contributing factor to the beginning of the Civil War; beyond these issues, overall political differences were a contributing factor in the start of the war itself. Of course, everyone is well aware that the south broke away from the Union, but few actually realize that a big reason for that was the political dispute over states’ rights.
To be more specific, the Union believed in a strong central government, with states being subordinate to that central government (Dana, 1996). The south, in stark contrast, believed that states should have the right to act independently of the central government, and that the bulk of the power and freedom should lie in the individual states. In this instance, it can fairly be said that the Civil War was as much as fight for the freedom of all as it was for the freedom of those enslaved.