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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 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.

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