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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 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:

    • 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.


        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.

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