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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 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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