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The True Cause of the American Civil War

Hello Tedsters, I'm a student of an Advanced Placement United States History Class or APUSH in short. Recently for the class, we had to write an essay about the Civil War, and it's inevitability due to extremism and failure of leadership. We discussed how the cause for the Civil War was not merely slavery and definitely not only slavery. Our teacher also emphasized that we should "DIG DEEPER". One of the few examples she gave us was; the riots of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry led to the South's nervousness and responded to Lincoln's victory in the Election of 1860 by establishing the Confederacy and proposing secession.
One of my arguments was that the South wanted economic freedom to continue their agricultural lives, practice of slavery and trade with Britain. I agreed with a comment stating this was a Second Revolutionary War, due to the South desiring to escape the economic restrictions from the North (such as the Tariffs), like how the colonies did from Britain during the American Revolutionary War.

Now when I look back to the regular history classes I've taken in the past years, I thought to myself, why isn't this taught in basic classes? Must a student be eligible to be in an AP class or wait till College just to realize history isn't that vague, and everything taught in the textbooks isn't exactly true but merely one of the many perspectives on a single issue? So I have two main questions:

Why isn't this concept of thinking taught in basic classes in middle school or high school? Is it because there's a fear that students can't learn or understand such concepts? Isn't it a bit problematic that while I can argue a couple of deep causes to the Civil War, a few of my friends believe and only believe the true cause is slavery?

My second question is:

What do you think the true cause of the Civil War was? If you’re going to say without an explanation, slavery and only slavery, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to dig deeper or at least explain why.

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    Jan 3 2013: You have become aware of the failings of our public school system to provide thoughtful insights into history and a number of other subjects. In answer to the cause of the Civil War in the most simple terms is power and greed (money). Southern cotton could be sold directly to English mills at a greater profit then to the NE Mills. The north had control in Government and blocked that action. Now here is where it gets interesting. It is impossible to get the people behind a war because of cotton profits or the bottom line of Boston mills. The cause for war has to be noble. What was more noble then freeing captives of foreign wars that were forced into slavery in this country (and the source of economic power of the southern plantations). It was a win-win for the North. The real reason for almost every war in recorded history is for power or wealth. We see today, war like activities all over the world. Many are "religious wars". What is more noble then fighting for God? Vast resources and controlled population gains were just spoils. No, just the reason.
    • Jan 8 2013: I highly agree with your point, that wealth and economic power is a huge cause behind many wars. Without economic power, nations would lack the substances needed to preserve their power. Also, I had a debate a while ago with my friends on "religious wars" and their justly cause for completing such a honorable and holy deed. Wars in general do not live up to the justly purposes they claim.
  • Jan 8 2013: On the issue of certain lessons being taught or not taught in early classes or in basic classes, I disappointingly realized, perhaps students truly aren't capable of learning such anomaly. There are many factors to why lessons taught in AP classes or College aren't taught in earlier classes, such as their determination and interest to learn the subject, their capability of comprehending certain amount of knowledge and the text books themselves, which dictate what should or should not be taught.

    On another note, we are sadly in a society in which students are categorized and separated as "honor" students or as an average student, rather than a place where all students are pushed to be inspired to become successfully smart and to actually care about what they're doing. Now when most teachers or adults view students who don't care about school, or don’t bother to take that extra step to pass with a better grade than just a passing grade, they disregard them and walk away saying "let it be." I do not believe it’s always the teachers fault, or the school systems fault, but the students and their parents. If only parents would encourage their children and get them determined, then perhaps they would actually care to attempt to learn, to comprehend or to understand the lessons behind every class. It’s depressing that the students give such little devotion and care.

    Before I begin to get non sequitur, I’ll conclude that there is simply many faults in education, pertaining to the dictating and restrictive textbooks to the careless students who don’t have the determination or capability to excel and learn something more than “basic education” (although basic education has already been dumbed down.)
  • Jan 8 2013: Hello Ted debaters, I apologize for not replying to many of your comments or if this debate hasn't been as lively as you all occasionally expect debates to be. I have been occupied lately with an immense amount of school work, but I will attempt to summarize and reply back to most of you before this conversation closes.

    Anyhow, I read and saw a couple of very interesting perspectives about both questions. As my APUSH teacher says, matters usually should be argued to a certain extent. It's difficult to claim an argument to be completely true or false, and acknowledge it as the only correct perspective (especially without, in anyway, insulting or stubbornly disregarding the possibilities of other perspectives.) Therefore, we can't say what completely caused the Civil War; we can only state the factors that helped lead to the Civil War. Some argued that the war, like most conflicts in political history, was all about money. We can't say what Lincoln truly desired because we weren't there to read his mind. We can argue our points backed with documents, inauguration and actions passed by Lincoln and his cabinet, but we can never truly claim that's the complete truth. We are only capable of arguing how Lincoln was, to an extent, a dictator, or the Great Emancipator, or someone as vile as Hitler, or as the Savior of the Slaves. Hence, I must say that I agree with most of you, but only to an extent because if I didn't, then I wouldn't be any better than those who only believe in a single possible answer, such as claiming slavery is a cause and not an issue.
  • Jan 6 2013: "You can't handle the truth."

    When said to an adult, these words amount to a slap in the face. But it is certainly true that young children cannot be taught the full raw truth. I agree with Fritzie Reisner and Mike Colera, that primarily it is a matter of finding the right explanation suitable to the knowledge and development of the students. Another factor is social acceptance. Text books that do not support accepted stories will not sell very well.
    • Jan 8 2013: "Text books that do not support accepted stories will not sell very well."

      That is an utterly upsetting reality. If only the world didn't revolve around money and instead focused on the knowledge and development of students so they may excel to be able to comprehend better explanations of the full truth.
      • Jan 8 2013: I agree.

        However, the reason for this is that the textbooks are selected by local school boards, which are elected locally, largely by the parents of the students. This system has its faults, but I would not change it. The obvious solution is better educated adults, so let us hope that we can improve the whole system, produce a better educated population, which will result in an even better education system.
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    Jan 5 2013: Questions: Why isn't the level of information in AP Classes taught in middle or high school and what was the true cause of the civil war. One response could be that middle schoolers are in the throws of puberty. Middle school teachers are happy if their students even realize there was a civil war. High schoolers are more discerning. They want to know why we engaged in such a costly war. The noble causes of free slaves and preserve the union satisfy the why. My knowledge of the civil war is about what Justin noted. Mark pointed out on the philosophic quantum level we don't really know.
    Justin seems concerned that his friends don't understand the causes of the civil war as he does. I would only be concerned if these students were in his AP class. I think the real question is: what is acceptable for the level of knowledge of high schoolers or middle schoolers.
    • Jan 8 2013: Highly agreed. To answer your question I believe middle schoolers or at least high schoolers should be able to have a certain level of knowledge where they understand more than whats required. Students these days are given test that evaluate their averages which permits them to pass and advance to the next grade. But the subjects and questions on these test are sometimes irrelevant to the actual knowledge students should learn. Students now only temporarily memorize what they need to know to fill in for the questions, rather than knowing and understanding the subject because that's their responsibility.
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    • Jan 8 2013: The fact that people resist such knowledge is quite puzzling, don't you think? For some reason many believe "ignorance is bliss."

      I agree with your second paragraph as well. History is practically all written by the "victors" as Howard Zinn states it, and is probably written all wrong. We can't know for sure what exactly happened and that fear of not being able to know or understand it is frightening. That's possibly why so many people tolerate and become so gullible to what we are told because we don't know what else to believe in.

      Additionally, we should also question everything. We should always remain hungry to know more and to ask about everything. We shouldn't fear the notion of not knowing something or to not be able to find answers, we should accept what we've achieved so far and enjoy the curiosities we're capable of making.
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    Jan 4 2013: Your Q#1) Critical Thinking impedes the spread of propaganda. Whether well-meaning, or nefarious, inculcating young people, and others, with non-factual information is a species-wide socio-political behavior. For your specific example consider the impact of changing the image of Lincoln from the Great Emancipator to the champion of centralized government and the nemesis of state's rights. Textbooks alone would be a ma$$ive undertaking.
    Your Q#2) Lincoln felt secession would destroy the whole nation. Slavery was not on his radar. As POTUS he sacrificed 600,000+ American lives and the sovereign rights of states to preserve the Union. Noble as it sounds he defied the founding documents and tenets of our once great nation. Today we have almost all revenue going to Washington D.C. and being redistributed as "they" see fit. Lincoln would have supported and preserved slavery if it would have served his purpose to do so. Centralizing the government was the true cause of America's most tragic war.
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      Jan 4 2013: Of course, your points are well taken. I remember a lecture where the story was told about David a most revered leader of the tribes of Israel. It seems he had the hots for another guy's wife. He had had the husband murdered, to protect his bastard child. Now, one could debate if this action rises to the level of Lincoln's rape of the constitution. I'll leave that to American Rabbi's.
      If we were totally truthful to the children?? How would we answered the question.... What if Lincoln had failed in his efforts or held to the constitution and there were two nations where now there is one.
      Would these two countries been as effective in WW I. Let alone WW II. Germany and Japan had planned to conquer North America and divide the spoils along the Rocky Mtns. Could the 4 counties of North America (Canada, USA, CSA, Mexico) come together to prevent that? I hate it when kids ask tough questions.
      I like to think I don't have a nefarious bone in my body, I am just too embarrassed to show my ignorance to wide eyed youngsters who look up to me.
      OK, I am not sure that Lincoln foresaw the retention of the Federation would lead to the powerful central government. I think that was a snowball that just rolled downhill. I do think that he had to free the slaves to give the country the noble cause to engage in the war. He was losing congress before he made that leap.
      Not that he gained much support for his efforts.
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        Jan 4 2013: Jewish history aside, Truth is always the best choice. To alter it for the sake of wide-eyed youngsters is ill-advised, not nefarious perhaps, but ill-advised. The Great Emancipator is a hoax. Lincoln himself said he would perpetuate slavery if it would save the union. 600,000 dead and countless wounded in order to take power from the states and give it to Washington where it remains to this day. We may need Civil War II to fix it.
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          Jan 4 2013: I am sorry, I can't go there. There are ways to redefine the course of public events without war. Term Limits, redaction of the 17th amendment, to name a few. All are doable. The nation would never survive a second war. I think that Lincoln had no clue as to where his solution to to cessation would go to where it has.
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        Jan 4 2013: Sorry to frighten you with the spectre of Civil War II. I'm not sure what the percentages were in 1860, but today only 6% of Americans who vote are unsure of what they want. The others are split right-down-the-political-middle. We are a highly polarized nation, almost like two separate nations despite the loss of 600,000 lives and the North winning Civil War I. By the way what do you say was the real source of contention in the Civil War?
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          Jan 5 2013: It was all about money. It got started when those Yankees held slaves to count less for census purposes. When cotton got better prices in London then Boston... tariffs got involved.
          It all went down hill from there. At least, that's how I understand it.
    • Jan 8 2013: I liked how you replaced the s's with $ in "Textbooks alone would be a ma$$ive undertaking.", unless that was unintentional. Either way, I agree with your point and see where you're coming from on how Lincoln desired a more centralized government. He emphasized the reunification of the Union and keeping that bond tightly knitted even if it requires the removal or acceptance of certain state's rights that are shamed upon in society.
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        Jan 8 2013: I don't think Abe saw the union as split. He saw that as something which would only be known when the war was over and a victor declared. I doubt that he thought in terms of reunification, rather his mantra was "Preserve the Union". We perpetuate the myth because correcting it would be unprofitable and very expen$ive. Thank you for a relevant, important conversation.
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    Jan 2 2013: Sorry, I can't remember what the riot of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry was about. I'm guessing it was an awfully small incident and didn't prompt a nation's going to war.

    You say that the South wanted to continue its agricultural practices, trade with Britain, and slavery. After the Civil War, the South continued to do agriculture, and I imagine to trade with Britain. The only thing that changed was the cessation of slavery, right? That would suggest that slavery was the problem that led to the war, no?

    Since you haven't proved that slavery wasn't the main cause of the war, it's hard to comment on your other questions on what is taught in less advanced classes.
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      Jan 2 2013: But he did make a case .... economics. He denied the right of states to secede. He used Habis Corpus and jailed news agents in the North. He proposed remedies of both slavery and no slavery to maintain the Union. Slavery was an issue but economocs was the cause.
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    Jan 2 2013: Why isn't the truth taught in schools? Because those with an agenda do not want people to know truth.

    Did you know that states actually do have the right to secede? I know that you have learned about the Federalist Papers and how the Federalists are our founding fathers, but how much time was spent looking at the anti-federalists and their concerns - that turned out to be prescient. Do you even know that there are anti-federalist papers, and that the Federalist Papers were rejected, along with the Federalist's constitution?

    Only after an agreement was reached did the Federalists submit to the will of the people and the states. There had to be a Bill of Rights that turned the all-powerful government into a VERY limited government that existed as a treaty organization, not a central government.

    But the Federalists orchestrated a coup d'etat using the Supreme Court that never had the power to declare anything unconstitutional. But in McCulloch v. Maryland, it threw out the written constitution as the law of the land and replaced it with British Common Law. Now our constitution is "unwritten", just as all other countries that use British Common Law have unwritten constitutions.

    You hear much about our Constitution, but those who have actually read it know that it is meaningless - thanks to the coup d'etat that isn't taught in schools. (But for which plenty of documentary evidence exists).

    As to the Civil War - it was about State's Rights and the legitimacy of the "written" constitution. Lincoln, who didn't care about the issue of slavery, was a staunch enemy of the written constitution - as all documentary evidence verifies. He preferred the all-powerful central government that was imposed on America in the 1819 Coup d'etat.

    Had Lincoln removed troops from Ft. Sumpter, and allowed SC their legal right to secede, there would have been no war. Slavery would have ended when the tractor was invented. Government wouldn't be working so hard to keep U dumb.
    • Jan 8 2013: I was very interested to read about the 1819 Coup d'etat relating to America but I haven't had the time to full find an article about it. However, I'll eventually find the time to find it and read about the anti-federalist and Federalist papers, including the Coup d'eta in 1819.

      Lincoln definitely didn't want any secession which would help prove the inevitability of the civil war. Unless Lincoln had a sudden change in mind. Also, even with the inventions of better machinery and tools for agricultural jobs, would they still abandon slavery? Industrial business leaders were able to make huge profits even without slaves, especially in the south, by lowering the wages of their workers.
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        Jan 8 2013: You will not find a story about the coup. You have to read McCulloch v. Maryland and understand the role of the anti-federalist papers in defeating the ratification of the Constitution as proposed.

        The tractor was invented near the end of the 1800s. Because of it, tenant farmers (former slaves and poor whites) were forced off the land because a tractor could produce more income for the land-owner than tenant farmers could. One tractor could plow all the fields in very short order compared to a horse-drawn plow. There is a very interesting history of this at the "Museum of Rock & Soul" in Memphis. It showed how these evicted tenant farmers went up the Mississippi and joined in Memphis before moving on. The focus was the history of popular music, but it began with the mass migration north - caused by the tractor that forced them out of work.

        I don't doubt that industrial leaders made huge profits without slaves. Not all parts of the south were agrarian plantations. Slaves were most common in the fields and in the shipping ports - where their owners sent them to work, collecting their wages.
  • Jan 2 2013: "What do you think the true cause of the Civil War was? "

    IMO, we will never fully understand the fundamental cause.

    I have heard a very good argument that the true cause of the Civil War was that a very few leaders in the South just could not abide having Lincoln as President. Their attitude was much more emotional than rational. Having Lincoln as President did not really change the power balance in Congress, and future compromises were still possible and likely. But Lincoln's statements about slavery, and especially about secession, stirred up so much anger that having him as President became unbearable. These leaders then led the South into secession. Lincoln responded as he said he would.

    Perhaps this is what you mean by failure of leadership,

    I completely disagree that the Civil War was inevitable. People made choices. These choices were the result of a sad mix of principles, arrogance, emotion and poor information. No human act is inevitable. We are each responsible for our actions. The true cause of the Civil War was that people chose to go to war. If you remove choice and responsibility from the cause, you will never understand the true cause.
    • Jan 8 2013: True, but the choices of a lot of people would have to change in order to make the Civil War inevitable. For example the south's zealous desire for secession, Steven Douglas's choice to pass the Kansas Act for the desire of constructing a railroad passing through Kansas from Idaho and or Lincoln's choice to be more lenient with the south. Many things can be inevitable but I guess what my teacher intended to ask was what made it seem so inevitable. But I still agree with the points you made. It's hard to state or even know the true full, absolute cause of anything.
  • Jan 2 2013: Former Reb Soldier and poet Maurice Thompson was a special speeker at the GAR convention in New York around 1900. Read his poem. My maternal grandfather was born in 1890. He knew some of those old survivng coots I am sure. All this suggests to me that it's like so many stupid things - Some self-important men started this thing,and they didn't do the fighting. In fact, the real soldiers and potential soldiers were aware this was not a good thing quickly. As a character in the tv show Wagon Train said "a rich man's war but a poor man's fight. "Mark Twain was very explicit about his experiences as was Albert Pike. Remember what history does not often tell us - As the Union gunboats headed down the Mississippi the big planters who helped start the thing took the pledge and made fortunes from the best cotton prices in history. Of course, there were heroes,but they are not usually the ones to start such messes. But as Thompson told the GAR "Thank you for saving our country." God bless President Lincoln and the United States. Time has made the actions of those who started the war rather than negotiate indifensible. No man has ever grown so much in such a short period of time than Abraham Lincoln. It is sad that manipulation by a selfish elite make the future production of a Washington,Lincoln,Douglas,Teddy,Woodrow Wilson, or FDR unlikely at this time. Okay, maybe these men were not perfect,but........ Tolstoy tells us about meeting with an obscure Kosack tribe who asked him about Lincoln.
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      Jan 3 2013: Yea and so did Hitler as he wanted centralized power.
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    Jan 2 2013: The era and culture of the time. They were still a young country and a young continent with no sense of the future than we have now. How they conducted their civil war may seem barbaric from todays perspective but it was standard procedure for that time and i would say they were a stroppy bunch back then.

    If anything, full historical facts were not ignored intentionally but a divisive up and coming superpower would always put forth the winner to encourage unity until such a time as now where it can be addressed without airs. It's just a countries history, not a blight in their past.They were a mix of old European cultures that wanted nothing more than to be their own defined society and were willing to fight for it, whether it was to continue with a business practice that was becoming increasingly unpopular elsewhere in the world or to discontinue it doesn't matter though i would venture to suggest that it would have continued due to the States relative separation from the rest of the known considered view of the world which was Empire.
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    Jan 2 2013: Justin, This was well argued about two months ago in a conversation posted by Pat Gilbert. As in any conversation there are those who are only interested in personal insults and arguing with no true or valued input to the conversation. It is up to you to determine what is factual and what is not.

    I believe that you have discovered the major points and have validated your argument on Lincoln. It may interest you to also know that Lincoln had a Admiral Fox stationed off of Fort Sumtner for a very specific purpose. This will be interesting for you to read also. Lincoln was a lawyer for the railroad and made some decisions on inside information ... look up his land buy in Iowa and how he steered the railway to his property. It casts some seroius doubts on the title "Honest Abe".

    Your question of why are we taught what we are .... Educators and teachers are far down the ladder in the process. The educational textbook publishers and the test writers and developers are the very essence of what is and has been taught. You are only tested on what is made available to you ... thus the textbooks.

    It is my opinion that APUSH is great. What you are experiencing is a combo of Poli-Si/Econ/History. You have learned a valuable lesson at a young age ... your friends are not always right .... do your own research and thinking ... keep an open mind ... and the value of the subject of economics.

    I will be waiting to hear a summary of what you gained from this conversation and please include what your teacher gives as feed back to the assignment.

    I wish you well. All the best. Bob.
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      Jan 7 2013: Bob can you elaborate or link more info regarding Fox?

      Thanks Pat
    • Jan 8 2013: I'll research more about Lincoln and his decision with Fort Sumter. I remember slightly but its a blur to me.

      The assignment was given back a while ago actually and my teacher said she liked some points but I could have went further. I guess I didn't satisfy her with enough connections between my reasons. In class before we handed in our essays, she gave us a couple of deep causes for the Civil War that was written in someones essay. I didn't want to feel obligated to use all of them but I guess that's what she had wanted.

      Sorry for the late reply and I posted a summary not too long ago. I hope it makes sense of everything that was discussed in this debate but I apologize once again. I've been busy with APUSH work and haven't had much time to come back onto Ted.
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    Jan 1 2013: I don't think it is intentional I just think that is what they believe, most people are not fully aware of things and really just regurgitate what they have been indoctrinated to.

    You teacher is an anomaly which is why others have not taught this.

    IMO the reasons always boil down to money. In this case the Federal government was funded by tariffs (before income tax and other taxes) and if they allowed the South to secede they would have lost a lot of money. Lincoln was an evil man right up there with Hitler who caused more Americans deaths than any war in history. He also irrevocably changed the constitutional makeup of the country.

    We discussed this a while back note Ted Lovers comments:

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/14392/was_abraham_lincoln_a_hero_or.html
    • Jan 1 2013: "Lincoln was an evil man right up there with Hitler who caused more Americans deaths than any war in history."

      Aren't you the type of person who wants to own guns to defend yourself against a tyrannical government? Doesn't that indicate you are willing to kill people for your freedom? Wasn't the Confederacy a tyrannical government from the perspective of the slaves that its armed forces, police and courts helped to keep enslaved? Wasn't the Confederacy the ultimate example of that "tyranny of the majority" term you keep throwing around? Do you think lives may only be spilled for the freedom of white people?
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        Jan 1 2013: And I get my posts yanked?

        I'm for real John Smith is not and lives in the shadows as a pseudonym and a troll.

        I rarely reply to his posts I only do so here to protest his post being allowed to remain.
        • Jan 1 2013: That's not an answer Pat. Are you by any chance a politician? I ask because you are so good at spewing hatred and then changing the subject when you get a tough question.
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        Jan 1 2013: Don't flatter yourself.

        Lincoln got 620,000 Americans killed over something that could have been resolved peaceably.

        But you are the one who chooses hate, which says something about you.
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        Jan 2 2013: I have not been following the threads about gun control, but unless Pat himself has suggested he is willing to kill people for his freedom or that lives should be spilled only for the freedom of white people, you are accusing him of these views on the basis of a stereotype of "the type of person" you think he is.

        You may get a clearer picture of where Pat actually stands if you probe his views through open questions about his views.
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        Jan 2 2013: The Constitution legalized slavery. Ugly picture and a shameful bite of history, but true in any case.
    • Jan 1 2013: Statistically this may seem very true. In class we actually discussed the justification of Lincoln's great honorably title as the "Great Emancipator". It seems very clearly that he didn't desire to free the slaves because of a moral issue but as a military need and tactic against the Confederates. He even admitted that he would keep slavery in order to preserve the Union. Yet that didn't happen and consequently led to a war with the most American casualties. Additionally, behind the scenes Lincoln has provoked agitation with the Native Americans, causing the Dakota War (which probably led to the Sioux's desire for revenge during the Great Sioux War of 1876). However as tyrannical and corrupt Lincoln seems, does he really deserve to be put next to Hitler? Although they both can be blamed for the loss of over hundreds of thousands of lives, their intentions were greatly different. Unless perhaps there's something in comparison between Lincoln and Hitler that I am missing.
      • Jan 1 2013: Lincoln said many times that he personally thought slavery was wrong on ethical grounds:

        "I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel."

        He also opposed the expansion of slavery to new states and territories, however he did initially say he'd temporarily postpone forced abolition (pursuing it through diplomatic means and paying compensation to slaveowners) if it would save the union, when they refused he supported military abolition. Lincoln was of course not a dictator: much of his constituency, party, government and generals wanted military abolition.

        Btw, Britain and France declared war on Nazi-Germany without being attacked themselves, did that make their leaders responsible for the deaths of WWII? Does it even matter how many SS soldiers and Confederate volunteers died defending the indefensible, why should we mourn them? If some men would enslave your people would you fight them or would you think "hey, there's 20 of them, if I kill them all I've killed more people than Jared Loughner, so let's just wait another century, during which maltreatment will kill thousands of my people, before they voluntarily let my people be free". We both know the answer to this. People who compare Lincoln to Hitler are selfish armchair generals who would go back in time and change the outcome of the civil war, delaying abolition by decades, destroying millions upon millions of lives, if it meant they'd have to pay a couple of bucks less in taxes today.

        @below

        I believe the writings of Lincoln (some of which didn't become public until after his death) show his personal opinions, that's what we assume for all other historic figures.

        I understand why some people would see the tragedy in people dying for the wrong cause, but that doesn't mean we should let them do greater evils on innocent people. Being a slave is much more tragic than dying while defending slavery.
        • Jan 2 2013: Well first of all I guess we can't really say how Lincoln truly thought or felt about certain things unless we go back in time and read his mind. But we can say Lincoln did attempt to avoid war and possibly did have some intentions of ending slavery along with the preservation of the Union.

          When you say his party, government and generals wanted military abolition, do you mean his political party, the Republicans? The Republicans were highly influenced by the Radical Republicans at the time and did desire the emancipation of slavery but I'm not sure if they desired it for military purposes. But it is a possibility, considering the Radical Republicans after the Civil War wanted the South to pay greatly for their betrayal to the Union, thus desired to free all the slaves to punish the South and harm their economy.

          Also about your statements of whether who's responsible for the deaths of war, I guess most would like to point to the leaders of nations because they're the image of their nations and are known to be responsible for whatever may happen to that nation. Additionally the reason why the numbers and statistics of deaths may seem to matter is probably because it's seen as to be shamefully unnecessary. People question if thousands of people truly have to devote their lives to a cause they believe in, when in the end, the cause is illogical. So I guess people may mourn for the Confederates because they feel pity for them. The Confederates actually thought they were being the better "American" figure and were preserving the Constitutional right of owning private property and states rights.
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          Jan 2 2013: You say Lincoln wasn't a dictator, but you must be unaware of how the documentary evidence shows that he acted like one - above the law.
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          Jan 2 2013: Lincoln did say at one time that he felt that slavery is wrong. But the rest of his documents and speeches make it very clear that he didn't really care about it as an issue.

          Start with the Emancipation proclamation. It didn't free slaves, as too many think. It unlawfully freed slaves and only in states that seceded. Even in that case, it didn't free ALL slaves. It left enslaved those who were forced to work in places like the port of New Orleans, it exempted Kentucky and even Maryland that was rife with cotton and tobacco plantations. It did not end the practice of a master's selling his slave's labor to ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia, & New York.

          When the war was over, he wanted all blacks deported - either to Africa or the Carribean, but had to let the idea go

          Lincoln was no hero. He was a traitor.
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          Jan 2 2013: John, I am glad you offer the numbers of the deaths due to Hitler and to Lincoln to put the comparison into perspective. While 6 million European Jews and 9 million Soviet civilians may not be Americans, and lets remember how these civilians died as well, to most Americans and to most people everywhere these deaths "count" in the reputation of Hitler as evil.
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        Jan 2 2013: The emancipation only freed a small percentage of the slave. Lincoln did not care about ending slavery and stated so.

        Hitler was responsible for 400 and some thousand Americans dying Lincoln 620,000 as far as Americans are concerned Lincoln did more damage.

        It is good you are looking at the revisionist perspective
        • Jan 2 2013: "The emancipation only freed a small percentage of the slaves."

          It freed all of them as the 13th amendment required, segregation partially destroyed those freedoms later on but that was after Lincoln's death.

          "Lincoln did not care about ending slavery and stated so."

          The opposite is true, as demonstrated by my citation of an 1864 letter by him a few posts up.

          "Hitler was responsible for 400 and some thousand Americans dying Lincoln 620,000"

          The Confederates stopped being Americans the second they succeeded. The Union killed 75.000 Confederate soldiers and in doing so freed 4 million slaves and their descendants and prevented further instability and wars in North America (the weak Confederacy would eventually find itself at war with Mexico and colonial powers), the Confederates killed 140.000 Union soldiers and had systematically destroyed the lives of millions of slaves. Nazi-Germany killed 6 million civilian Jews and 9 million Soviet civilians. You are not speaking for all Americans, or even a majority, when you say all of this makes Lincoln worse for them.
  • Jan 1 2013: I've taken an American history class in the United States when I lived there and my teacher didn't say slavery was the only cause, she said slavery was the one issue that weighed so heavily for both sides and was so non-negotiable to both sides that it ultimately made the conflict impossible to resolve diplomatically, but of cours there were other factors playing as well. If you've been taught that it was all about slavery and slavery only then that doesn't mean the system is bad, it means you had a bad teacher.
    • Jan 2 2013: I agree, slavery is not a cause but an issue of the Civil War. The Civil War was practically and arguably inevitable due to the North and South refusing to conform to each other's ideals of either preserving or prohibiting slavery. Compromises have been made but probably only temporarily fixed the issue. Thus it's either slavery or no slavery, not a compromise of both.

      On your note about the teachers, that too is arguably agreeable. Teachers are supposed to teach lessons following the system but it is their responsibility to know what they teach, how to teach it and know how to justify what they teach.
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    Jan 1 2013: my answer to the first question is: because parents don't want their kids to know differently than they know. they don't want them to understand nutrition, or they won't eat the crap the parents feed them. they don't want them to know more history, thus avoiding looking like a fool. more math or more physics knowledge is okay. but kids should not know any more about life than the parents know, or awkward situations could occur. for that reason, schools are just making sure the thinking and world views of the previous generation are preserved and repeated in the next generation.
    • Jan 2 2013: Then where's the boundary between preserving the old traditional and cultural ways to 'protect' us, and restricting kids from excelling to a possibly, clearer or more logical point of view? Isn't that in a way dictating how we see the world? Or as my AP English Writing teacher would say "dumbing us down".
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    Jan 1 2013: Thanks for sharing what you have learned in APHistory. You ask why the content of the course, or that there are multiple story lines or nuances in the main story, is not taught earlier.

    In some places it is taught earlier and in some not, but in a big-picture sense when ideas are introduced depends in part on what curriculum developers think students are developmentally ready for and what sorts of foundational material has been laid in place. Introducing details, nuances, and a proliferation of social, economic, political, and psychological story lines before laying a foundation leads to misunderstandings that once in place can be hard to dislodge.

    What is also true is that early grades teachers tend not to be specialists in every subject they teach, given that they arew expected to teach every subject, unlike later grades teachers who teach either math or French or history...

    Of course there will always be those who prefer nefarious or conspiratorial explanations, but I would encourage you to consider what legitimate reasons from the standpoint of cognitive development might underlie putting forward simpler versions of stories first and then filling in the details.
    • Jan 1 2013: That's an understandable point. I guess it's just the fact that it's so puzzling after you cross the line between the basic explanation of history and the sudden realization of things after 'filling in' of details. This is probably a bad analogy but it's what I can think of at the top of my head; It's like how a child first learn about folk tales, sugar coated with Disney-like perspectives, who then, after they get older, read the actual literature of the folk tale and realize there's more to it than a simple fairy tale.

      I guess there must always be a certain foundation for everything before you lay out the additional specifics.