What caused the civil war? Was it important to the north to abolish slavery? Has the south withdrawn because of slavery? Or was it something completely different … maybe the rights of the states? Colonel Ty Seidule, a professor of history at the United States Military Academy at West Point, regulates the debate.
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Was the American Civil War Waged for Slavery? More than 150 years later, this remains a controversial question.
Why? Because many people do not want to believe that the citizens of the southern states are ready to fight and die to maintain a morally repulsive institution. We are told there must be another reason. Well there is no such thing.
The evidence is clear and overwhelming. Slavery was by far the most important cause of the civil war – for both sides. Before the 1860 presidential election, a South Carolina newspaper warned that the issue before the country was “the extinction of slavery” and urged anyone who was unwilling to “give up the institution” to take action. They did it shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s victory.
The secession documents of each southern state made it clear that they would leave the Union to protect their “peculiar institution” of slavery – a phrase that at the time meant “what was special to them”. The vote to resign was 169-0 in South Carolina, 166-7 in Texas, 84-15 in Mississippi. The vote was never short in any southern state.
Alexander Stephens of Georgia, Vice President of the Confederation, clearly expressed the views of the South in March 1861. “Our new government,” he said, was founded on slavery. “His foundations are in place, his foundation is based on the great truth that the Negro is not like the white man; this slavery, which submits to the superior race, is his natural and normal state.” Despite the evidence, many continue to argue that other factors have replaced slavery as the cause of the civil war.
Some argue that the South only wanted to protect the rights of states. However, this raises an obvious question: States’ rights to what? Wasn’t it the maintenance and spread of slavery? Furthermore, the rights of the states were not an exclusive question of the south. All states – north and south – tried to protect their rights – sometimes they asked the federal government, sometimes they quarreled. In fact, the Mississippians complained that New York had too strong a concept of state rights because delta planters would not allow their slaves to be brought to Manhattan. The South was concerned with the rights of the states because it was primarily concerned with maintaining slavery.
Some argue that the cause of the war was economic. The north was industrial and the south was agricultural, so the two lived in societies so economically different that they could no longer stay together. Is not it.
In the mid-19th century, both North and South were agricultural companies. In fact, the north produced far more food than the south. But the peasants in the north had to pay their servants who came and went as they pleased, while the plantation owners in the south exploited slaves over whom they had total control.
And it wasn’t just plantation owners who supported slavery. The slave society was adopted by all classes in the south. The rich had several reasons to want to maintain slavery, but also the poor, non-slave-keeping whites. The “peculiar institution” ensured that they did not fall to the lowest level of the social ladder. Therefore, another argument – that the civil war could not be slavery because so few people owned slaves – has little merit.
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