North and South

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12261

Did you know there was a time when the United States were not so united? The country split into two countries with two presidents. What caused such a mess, and can it happen again? Where would you be?


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


The Civil War, or The War Between the States, was certainly a crazy time in U.S. history. Why did the Civil War begin?

When people think about what caused the Civil War, they often think of slavery.

While slavery did play a key role in the start of the war, the tension between the North and the South extended beyond slavery. In this lesson, you will learn about the key differences between the North and the South and how these differences led to the Civil War. As you read about the differences between the North and the South, write down the greatest factors that contributed to the start of the Civil War.

The North

  • Most northerners believed slavery was morally wrong and did not think any man should be enslaved to another. They sought to create laws that supported their views on slavery. Many even wanted a constitutional amendment ending slavery throughout the United States.
  • Every time a new state was added to the United States, the tension between the North and the South increased. The North wanted new states to be free states, meaning slavery was illegal.
  • The North was a manufacturing region, meaning they produced goods and services using machines and factories. Machines could produce goods such as textiles, furniture, tools, and clothing much faster than human hands and required only a few people to operate them. Therefore, there was no need for slavery in the North.
  • Northern states favored tariffs, or taxes, on imports and exports. A tariff is a fee placed on goods shipped in and out of the United States. They believed tariffs protected their manufacturing businesses from foreign competition.
  • Most northerners wanted the United States to be more united. At this time in history, the states often acted independently from one another. The North believed a stronger central government could help bring the states closer together.
  • When the Civil War began, the northern states were referred to as the United States or Union States. The United States included Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, California, and Oregon.
  • Washington, D.C., was the capital of the United States during the Civil War.
  • Abraham Lincoln was the leader of the Union states.

The South

  • Most southerners did not view slavery to be morally wrong. They viewed slavery as a way of life.
  • The South was an agricultural region, meaning the wealth in the region was dependent on agriculture. Unlike the northern states, that relied on machines to do work for them, farming still required a lot of work to be done by human hands. Plantations, or large farms in the South, relied on slaves to accomplish much of the work. Using slaves as workers allowed southern farmers to make a greater profit on the goods they sold because they did not have to pay for labor, or the work required to make the goods.
  • Southerners strongly disliked the idea of a constitutional amendment to end slavery. They feared if slavery were outlawed, they would no longer be able to make a living and the southern economy would crumble because they would have to begin paying workers.
  • As new states were added to the United States, the South wanted these new states to be slave states, meaning slavery was legal within the state.
  • Southerners opposed the tariffs that the North wanted. They feared these tariffs would cause other countries to look elsewhere for agricultural products such as tobacco, cotton, sugar, and rice.
  • Southerners feared a strong central government. They wanted the states to maintain as much power as possible and did not want to be told what to do by the federal government.
  • In 1860, many southern states began seceding from the United States. This means they left the United States and started their own country. Their new nation was called the Confederate States of America. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia were all part of the Confederacy.
  • The first capital city of the Confederacy was Montgomery, Alabama, but it was later moved to Richmond, Virginia.
  • Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America.

After reading the information above, write the answers to the following questions on a separate piece of paper:

  1. What do you think was the leading cause of the Civil War?
  2. How did the economic differences (differences in the ways regions produced goods and made money) create tension between the North and the South?
  3. You probably noticed there were not 50 states listed between the North and the South. Why is that?
  4. If you live in the United States, what region of the United States would you be living in if it were 1861?

When you have finished writing your responses, discuss your answers with your teacher or parent.

As you can see, slavery played a huge role in the tension between the North and the South, but opinions about slavery were formed based on the economy, or the way the region made money. Many southerners genuinely feared they would become broke if slavery were made illegal.

When you are ready, move on to the Got It? asection to compare and contrast the ideas of the North and the South by using a sort.

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