December 6

Blog #58 – Discuss causes of the Civil War

One of the main things that I hope that I have taught you over the past couple of weeks (going back to the Mexican War controversy) is that asking the question “What caused the Civil War?” is not a good question.  The question seems to indicate that there’s only ONE cause that can be found among all of the political compromises, peoples’ actions, economic forces, and differing social / cultural norms of the North and the South.  This oversimplification insults the intelligence of anyone who has studied the CW like we have, because there is no single, simple answer.

In the past, historians have tried to blame the war on agitators – the abolitionists or the Slave Power conspiracies.  Both sides had radical “fire-eaters” who were unwilling to accept compromise and wanted it the Frank Sinatra way, “I did it my way!”  Also, past historians have tended to blame it on economic forces or states’ rights.  The threat of losing slavery meant the loss of billions of dollars of investment in people and land for the southern economy, and so the Deep South states pushed it to the brink to be left alone from federal interference (though Lincoln wasn’t going to interfere, he claimed that he just wanted to stop the spread of slavery out west).  This dove tails nicely with the idea that Stephen Douglas and others had championed – it was up to the states to decide what to do with slavery b/c the federal government (Congress) was prohibited from interfering with slavery.  Therefore, it was a state’s right to do with slavery what it wished since the federal government had its hands tied by the Dred Scott decision in 1857.

Other historians, more recently, have placed the blame for the CW squarely on the shoulders of slavery. Many Northerners felt that slavery was on its decline or would be limited in its area of growth by the Missouri Compromise (1820), but with the annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, Compromise of 1850, and Kansas Nebraska Act, that small area had quickly expanded over the course of 35 years.  Then the Dred Scott decision seemed to say that slavery could exist anywhere within the country.  Those Northerners were now angry (for many different reasons, racism being one of them) that their politicians seemed to betray them.  This anger might explain the popularity of the Republican Party in the 1850s, an avowed anti-slavery party that appealed to many Northerners by 1860.  At the center of all this anger and controversy is the volatile subject of slavery and its spread.

Modern historian Edward Ayers, a Southerner, has divided up these historians into two camps: the fundamentalists who claim that the Civil War was a struggle over the future of the United States between slavery and freedom, and the revisionists who say that the Civil War was caused by the disintegration of the Democrats, the failure of compromise, and the election of Abraham Lincoln (the first Northern president elected who wasn’t pro-slavery since John Quincy Adams in 1824).  For the fundamentalists, slavery is the main cause, while for the revisionists, slavery is buried beneath layers of white ideology and politics.  Ayers feels that slavery was a crisis of immense magnitude but didn’t lead to war.  He said that the “war came through misunderstanding, confusion, miscalculation.  Both sides underestimated the location of the fundamental loyalty in the other.  Both received incorrect images of the other in the partisan press.  Political beliefs distorted each side’s view of the other’s economy and class relations.  Both sides believed the other side was bluffing, and both sides believed that the other’s internal differences and conflicts would lead it to buckle” (134).   He wraps it up by saying that Southern whites didn’t fight for slavery, they fought for a new nation based upon slavery.  Northerners didn’t fight to end slavery, but they did fight to preserve the integrity of the Union.

Question:  Where do you find yourself when it comes to the cause(s) of the Civil War?  Do you find yourself in the fundamentalist camp or with the revisionists?  Why?  Do you think that slavery, economics, or states rights was the primary cause of the war?  Why?

Your answer is due Monday, December 9 by class time.  Minimum of 300 words, please.

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Posted December 6, 2013 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

78 thoughts on “Blog #58 – Discuss causes of the Civil War

  1. Kelsey DeCarteret

    I think I would most likely find myself in the fundamentalist camp because, even though there were many factors that affected the civil war, most were centered on the argument over slavery. The war was fought between the Union, north, who were mainly against the spread of slavery in the nation and the confederacy, which consisted of southern states who has succeed from the union after Lincoln’s election, who were fighting for protection and the spread of slavery. Lincoln’s election was a major cause of the civil war, but the issues was based on slavery: he was a pro-slavery northerner and the south fear the abolishment of slavery. Slavery and cotton was the majority of the economic activity in the south and if slavery was abolished or limited, then the economy of the South would be greatly affected. Many people felt that slavery was on the decline, or at least limited by the Missouri compromise, which prohibited slavery in areas north of the 36o 30o line, excluding Missouri. This idea became irrelevant when Texas was annexed and the nation began to gain more and more land out west. Every time the nation acquired new land, there was always a fight to determine whether it would be a slave or a free state. The line drawn with the Missouri compromise was invalidated and territories both north and south were both opened up slavery by popular sovereignty. This angered both regions because the north feared slavery and the south feared freedom. Bleeding Kansas was a big fight between northerners and southerners regarding the Kansas- Nebraska act. The Dred Scott decision also fueled more anger by basically saying that slavery could exist anywhere within the country. All of these events just kept adding more and more tension and anger to both sides regarding the central issue of slavery.

  2. Emily Levin

    When I look at the many different possible causes of the Civil War that historians have come up with, I tend to lean towards the fundamentalist ideas rather than the revisionists. Slavery was most definitely the primary cause of the war. With slavery around tensions in the country was at an all time high. Little things angered people. For example, just living in a pro-slavery community could get you killed, just like in Harper’s Ferry in Lawrence where John Brown and his followers attacked five men. Those men are not recorded as specific political leaders or anything-just men living in a pro-slavery town, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sothern men and northern men rarely saw eye to eye that made compromise very difficult. Each time slavery was brought up in the new territories it was usually just ignored until it became a perturbing issue. The Kansas- Nebraska act in 1854 was about whether or not to have slavery be brought up into the middle states or not, it went to popular sovereignty. People began to move around and to vote around to get the sate to be whichever side they were on. People moved from the north down but, more commonly were people from the neighboring state Missouri coming and voting; those people became known as boarder ruffians. The basic reason people were moving was to get what they wanted for their either pro or anti-slavery opinions. Northerners became fired up over the ruling of the Dred Scott trail, inferring to them that slavery could be anywhere. If blacks could not fight for what they think is morally right something is wrong. The Supreme Court just sent the case away because he was black and for him to fight for his right while not being a citizen was illegal. The funny thing is that he was born in America and in todays standards he would be a full citizen. Anyway, that put even more fuel in the northerner’s tanks. The case was whether or not Dred, was a slave or not. Nothing else. People were ready to do whatever it took to stand for what they believed in. Hence, why I believe like the fundamentalist that slavery was the main cause of the civil war.

  3. Zoe Kolender

    When it comes to the Civil War I find myself taking more of a fundamentalist standpoint. The fundamentalists believed that the Civil War was fought over the future of the United States. My interpretation of the “future of the United States” is mostly in regards to Union or disunion. This is why I am taking a fundamentalist standpoint. I also believe that without slavery, the controversy over union would not have occurred. At first slavery seemed under control with the Missouri compromise limiting it up to the 36’30 line, but when the Kansas-Nebraska Act came along, popular sovereignty added more slave states, fueling the abolitionist fire. The last straw was the Dred Scott decision. It stopped the spread of slavery, but allowed people who previously owned slaves in anti-slavery states to keep their slaves because otherwise property rights would be violated. This decision enraged Northerners because it basically allowed slavery to exist everywhere. The Dred Scott decision is where I believe the union controversy stems from the slavery issue. When the southerners realized that they could continue the spread of slavery as long as they kept it below the 36’30 line, there was talk about expanding into Latin American lands, or Caribbean lands like Cuba. This idea was unbearable for the North, it was almost like everything the abolitionists did, the southerners found a way around it to continue slavery. The South and North continued to drift farther and farther apart until finally the southern states couldn’t handle the northern complications. They wanted their own states, with slavery, and their own government separate from the Union. Thus the confederacy was formed by the states that seceded from the union. Without the controversy over slavery, there would be very few issues related to union. In conclusion, I take the fundamentalist standpoint, because the civil war was fought over the future of the United States in terms of slavery and union.

  4. Kris Thomas

    I find myself more on the revisionist side when answering this question. I believe that even though slavery nay have been a contributing factor to the cause of the civil war, there were many other factors such as political or economical. During class we learned that even though Abraham Lincoln was not pro-slavery, there was still a pro-slavery majority (Democrats) in the senate and the house after Lincoln was elected president. I believe that the South seceded from the Union without recognizing this. The South believed that with a non pro-slavery president that slavery would become illegal. This meant that the economy in the Southern states would have dropped tremendously due to the large use of slave labor in agriculture in the South. For decades now people had been investing their money into more and more slaves. Making slavery illegal would get rid of all of those investments losing a large amount of money for the south. Also, slave labor being used almost 100% for cotton production in the south and cotton being the largest produced crop in the south would have made a major impact on southern economy. As well as this, the South felt that the North was “mistreating” them. They thought that the north was reaping in all the benefits of the southern economy, the exportation of cotton and cotton being woven into fabrics and sold. The south thought that the North was using them in the same way America saw the British using them, taking the raw materials from them and using that to make products which would in turn make Britain a lot of money or in this case making the North a lot of money. The secession of the union, start of the civil war, and creation of the confederacy ultimately comes down to an over-reaction to the small change of political power in the presidency and the fear of an economic downturn in the south.

  5. Daniel W

    When it comes down to these two groups of historians, I find myself along the side of the Revisionists more than the Fundamentalists. The South had similar reasons for secession as the colonies had towards Great Britain. After years of the South using slaves to do their hard labor and selling to the North for small profit, they were fed up with the major profits from foreign countries going to the north, rather than the place where the base product came from. The South found themselves being used in a mercantile system just as the Colonies had felt during the time leading up to the revolutionary war. Although slavery was a major issue, it was most certainly not the only one. As mentioned in the passage, there is an a single cause of the civil war, it was a combination of economic, political, and social issues that all led to the war; but in my opinion, the economic factor was the most prominent in starting the Civil War. The South felt trapped by harsh tariffs that dated back to Jacksonian Era. They felt as though industry was only concerned for the well being and interests of the North, while they were stuck being the producer and wrongfully taxed on their product. Many (certainly not all) southerners felt as if they needed to grow independent from the Northern industry and be more dependent on themselves rather than selling their crop to the North. Another major economic issue was slavery. Slaves were seen as property, and as the North grew stronger, so did the fight for the abolishing of slavery; the only thing the south knew. Taking slavery from the south would be taking their property, which was a major argument for pro-slavery people. For these reasons, the south felt it was in their best interest to secede from the Union, and form the Confederacy. Northerners were strongly for pro union, as keeping the country together was in the best interest mainly for them. Economics played a major role in the start of the civil war, and that is why I see myself as more of a Revisionist more than a Fundamentalist.

  6. Claire Westerlund

    Personally I find myself on the revisionist side. Quick jab at the fundamentalists: they are still basing their argument on a single main point, slavery. The revisionist mentality brings more causes to the forefront. I believed slavery was related but not a main cause. Early in Abe Lincoln’s presidency, he stated the cause of the Civil War was Union not Slavery. There were slaveholders in the North; slavery wasn’t solely Southern, though much of it occurred in the South. Slavery definitely was related, just not the single cause of the War. Such a complex war shouldn’t be able to be drawn to a single concept. From the revisionist side, many factors led to the Civil War. Issues including economic differences between the North and South, splitting of the Democratic Party, and even the election of Abe Lincoln all led to the Civil War, as did the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott case. There were many discrepancies between North and South in all aspects, not just slavery; they had different economies, politicians, and lifestyles (Northern factories vs. Southern plantations). On to the next question, I don’t think we should pinpoint a specific cause (be it slavery, economics, or states rights). I guess since I’m required to by the question I’d have to go with slavery because I would consider it to be the most broad of the 3 choices. Slavery also influenced economics and states rights. Economics with the differences between the Northern factories and Southern farms was due to a Southern dependence on slavery. Also the issue of states rights draws back to the Dred Scott case, which was based on slavery as the root of the case. Slavery did influence many of the events leading up to the civil war, but I can’t agree with the Fundamentalist belief that slavery was the only cause of the Civil War. The Civil War was much more complex than that causing me to side with the Revisionists.

  7. Brendan Doll

    When it comes to the causes of the civil war, I would place myself in the revisionist camp. From the very beginning of this country, economics had driven the growth and expansion of the nation. While the northern states continued to expand into the industrial revolution and leave behind the farmers, the South remained an society based upon cotton and farming. Without slaves, the South could not survive but taking it further, without farming the South was doomed to fall further behind the North. When the congress began to pass more bills favoring those in the North, the South began to get nervous and then South Carolina succeeded from the States. South Carolina is and was a state based heavily on agriculture. This was the first step to the Civil War. For those who would argue that slavery was the cause of the war, it was also unlikely that slavery was going to expand into the western states given the Missouri Compromise which one could argue made the fundamentalist’s theories centered on slavery as weak. When you got down to the bare essentials, slaves were used to work and make money for the landowners. If farming were no longer the strong business that it used to be then there would be no need for slaves. Despite the harsh environment that the slaves lived in they still cost the landowners money which was something they could not afford to lose as the North became stronger in the industrial field. Therefore, I take the revisionist side in the cause of the war.

  8. Dylan C.

    I always hear is that slavery was that main cause of the American Civil War. I disagree with this. While slavery was an underlying cause, it was not the main cause. The System of Slavery, States Rights, and the struggle over westward expansion were all driving forces.

    The System of Slavery was the first issue. The South was reliant on slavery because it was the coal that drove the locomotive that was their economy. The slaves picked King Cotton, the South’s main export and if the Northern Abolitionists had their way, the slaves would be freed and the Southern Economy would collapse, most likely dragging the Northern Economy down with it. The South needed slavery and the only way that it could stop its dependence on it was if it slowly died out. When the Civil War happened, the Southern Economy crashed anyway from lack of money and losing a war, so the fact that slavery was abolished didn’t change make the economy better or worse. On the graph that Mr. Wickersham posted, he has Property Rights vs. Individual Rights, I don’t think that this should be its own section as it directly ties into The System of Slavery. The South needed slavery for the time being, but the argument for and against it was too heated and it played into the start of the war.

    States Rights was the second issue. Two very different societies had developed in America,one in the North and one in the South, which would adjust themselves to the industrial age in very different ways. The South was always talking about states rights and a more state run government, while the North was more into centralized government, not unlike today’s Republicans and Democrats. While the North had a more centralized government, more industry and less farming, and no slavery, the South had a more state run government, almost no industry and a ton of farming, and slavery. The country was too disjointed the Civil War, not to occur.

    The third issue was the struggle over westward expansion. The south wanted new states to be slave, but if that couldn’t happen immediately, then they were willing to settle with putting it to a people’s vote. The North didn’t want to have to deal with any more slave states, but it knew that the South wouldn’t agree to that, so they settled on putting it to a vote once the area became a state. This worked in the South’s favor for quite a while but it eventually started the mini Civil War that was Bleeding Kansas. While Westward expansion was an underlying cause, it was the smallest of the three causes.

    Am I a fundamentalist or a revisionist? I am not either and will not attach myself to one or the other. I agree with ideals of both parties. While I believe that a revision in the way we treated slavery, the way we dealt with westward expansion and the way in which we ran the government was needed, I can also see that certain aspects of this needed to remain the same, at least for the time being.

  9. Lilly F.

    I think I would find myself on the side of the fundamentalists, but I don’t think that was the revisionists are saying is wrong, just misguided. Both sides of the argument make really good points; it just seems revisionists want to focus more on the causes of slavery rather than the causes of the Civil War. The statement that Edward Ayers gave about the revisionists makes it sound like the reasons why slavery was such an issue is due to misunderstandings between the north and the south. That’s not entirely true seeing as the base reason for slavery isn’t a “misunderstanding”. To call differences in opinions about slavery a misunderstanding is missing the whole point of systematic oppression, which slavery was. It’s not about two white people having an argument over “is it okay to have slavery”, it’s about African people being treated like animals and frankly it’s a little racist to only compare the opinions of whites fighting in the Civil War and exclude blacks all together. Obviously they wanted freedom regardless of the consequences of it. Just like any person would want to be free, they didn’t care if the southern economy crashed. The economy in the south was built on slavery and a clear factor in keeping slaves trapped. The Civil War was about making sure that the country that claims to be “free” would truly be free like the fundamentalists thought. Southerners would make up excuses to keep free labor legal, that blacks aren’t human, that they’re slow minded, and that whites are superior in every way. Fundamentalists have a clear cause to take down those who wanted slavery by any means necessary and I think that at the time the common man didn’t really have that ability to think as far ahead as revisionists are thinking. It’s true that the election of Lincoln was for sure a trigger in the middle of an already broken system filled with tension, but I think that the Civil War was inevitable and unavoidable in the end. The lack of compromise, stated by the revisionists to be one of the main causes of the war, while an interesting concept isn’t necessarily clear reasoning. I know that I wouldn’t personally wait around for a bunch of racist bigots to compromise on an issue that was gaining them money and power in a system built around them. Why would a northerner against slavery even consider compromising with a southerner for slavery when there would always be slavery if compromising continued? There also wasn’t really a lack of compromise, the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas Nebraska Act, were all compromises that really didn’t get the north the results they wanted anyway. The fundamentalists have simple and clear logic; Northerners didn’t want slavery and thought it was hypocritical for a free nation to have slaves and southerners wanted slavery because of personal benefits of slavery like money and power. Even looking back on it today with the knowledge of how bloody, awful, and of game changing war tactics, going to war still seems to be the only way slavery in the Union would end. Compromises can only get you so far and tension between people was rising every day the war was put off. Slavery is clearly the main reason for the Civil War with economics being a factor that only strengthened the argument for slavery.

  10. Kory Gilbert

    In regards to the civil war, I believe the cause of the war can be attributed to political conflicts during this time, which is why I agree with the revisionist standpoint on the issue. In my opinion state rights was the primary cause of the war. A major conflict that began to stir tensions was the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The most contentious part of the act was that it allowed for the possibility for slavery in the territories in Kansas and Nebraska; areas once closed by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Many Northerners were angry at this act and at Stephen Douglas. This caused sectional division of the Whigs between pro and anti-slavery, and the Democratic Party became increasingly a regional southern, proslavery party. Violence erupted in Kansas as proslavery and antislavery men fought for control of the state. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 was also increased sectional tensions between the North and the South. The Court ruled that congress had overstepped its bounds in declaring the northern portion of the Louisiana Purchase territory off limits to slavery, which invalidated the Missouri Compromise. Finally, the decision declared that no African American, not even free men and women, were entitled to citizenship in America. Northerners were astounded at the sweep of this decision. The decision seemed to argue that slavery was a national, rather than a regional, institution. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election with the Republican Party. This election demonstrated the fractured nature of the American political system. Lincoln had promised to block the expansion of slavery in the western states. Even before Lincoln was inaugurated, states of the Deep South were already beginning to secede. All of these events helped to lead to the bloodiest conflict in the history of North America, as we now know as the Civil War.

  11. Imani R.

    When it comes to the Civil War, I find myself sharing views with the revisionists. I don’t believe slavery was the only or primary cause of the Civil War. I believe that political and economical issues caused by slavery were the main causes of the Civil War. I don’t believe that this was a war over the morality of slavery nor did Americans at the time feel that it was right to fight a war for the sake of blacks being free. I feel that purely a disagreement on slavery wouldn’t spark an entire war. Something else would have to be violated—in this case money and rights. I also agree more with the revisionists because Lincoln was sort of the last straw for the south. Lincoln was a northerner, anti-slavery, and didn’t even win the majority vote. This lethal combination pushed the south to leave the Union. The last attempt at compromise was the Crittenden Compromise. This compromise would mean that the north would remain free and the south would remain slave forever. This failed because Lincoln disagreed with this compromise. It was also too late anyway because the south had already left the Union. I believe that the primary cause of the war was economic. The south wouldn’t have protected slavery if their economy and livelihood hadn’t relied on it. At the time Cotton was “King”, meaning that this was the south’s main export and the basis of their economy. After the cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney, more and more slaves were needed to fill the needs of the cotton industry. Without slavery the south would have to change their entire lifestyle. They would have to find a new cash crop and most like go through years of debt. The fact that the North’s economy was based off industry also made the south want to protect slavery even more. The South couldn’t make their own products and had to pay from Northern made products. Many southerners felt imperialized by the North because they were selling their goods to the north and had no choice but to buy northern products at whatever price that was set. At many times, money is the primary cause of confrontation, and this is one of those times.

  12. Seth Allen

    I believe in the revisionist viewpoint. The Civil War did turn into a war over slavery but at first was a war for rights and sectional differences. The South was starting to see themselves as a colony to the north, rather than another component of the U.S. The North was far more industrial and the South was mainly based on cotton and slave labor. The country was starting to divide itself over these issues. With constant argument in the house and senate in areas such as the Kansas Nebraska Act and Wilmot Proviso the North and South became divided into two different sections. At one point is was so bad that southern would just disagree with northerners because they were northerners and vice versa. This sparked the break of the Democratic party. At this time the Democrats were more prominent than the Republicans but has sectional differences. With the Democrats becoming divided between North and South it created two smaller parties that were much smaller than the Republicans. The Northern Democrats sided with Stephen A. Douglas as their presidential candidate, while the South sided with John C. Breckinridge. Both of these Candidates were not against slavery, thus giving them a larger appeal to the very delicate south. The Larger “Black” Republican Party availed with a victory through Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a Lawyer that believed the founding fathers wanted slavery to die. Lincoln saw that he was just finishing what they had started. When the first openly anti-slavery president since John Quincy Adams was elected the country turned into turmoil. South Carolina was the first state to secede leading many others to join. Once the attack at Fort Sumter took place it was a full on war. The bubbling pot of controversy between the North and South had finally spilled over and would only continue to boil into the Civil War.

  13. Liam C

    I find myself in the fundamentalist camp in that the ideological question of slavery was at the forefront and basis of all important causes of the civil war. Everything that occurred was just part of the perpetual shouting match between north and south over slavery before the two inevitably came to blows Following the debates between Stephan Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, Douglas became viewed as a traitor by southern democrats as a result of his unwavering conviction on behalf of the issue of slavery being decided by popular sovereignty even if that popular sovereignty resulted in the banning of slavery in the new territory regardless of the decisions by the supreme court that stated that slavery could not be hindered anywhere in the country. By alienating a good portion of his party Douglas split the democratic votes along the issue of slavery and helped pave the way for a president who would split the union just by being elected. The repeated failure measures such as the 36-30 where all states above the line would be free and below it slave which had a wrench thrown into the mix with the Kansas Nebraska act where in order to decide what was to be done with the new territory weather it was slave or free would be decided by popular vote however there was no residency requirement which led to voting scams and illegal activities all revolving around the issue of slavery. The entire election of 1860 was based almost entirely on what was to be done about slavery. Each candidate placed their platform around how they stood in regard to slavery. Even the other issues such as secession or union were founded and fueled by slavery. While a great many factors contributed to the outbreak of the civil war, they were all at the core caused by the issue of slavery.

  14. Katie M.

    I believe that the civil war was cause by a multitude of different reasons. But I believe that I am more in the fundamentalist cam so I believe that the most primary cause of the civil war is slavery. Slavery caused a lot of tension and it was a very ”touchy” subject. Your opinion deemed your social status, where you live, and even your life in some cases, such as Harper’s Ferry with John Brown. John Brown was in no means a political leader, he was just a man that believed so much in his cause that he was willing to kill people and rot in jail to prove his point. The opinion was basically split in half in the House of Representatives right before the session of the deep southern states, and this made it virtually impossible to come to a compromise when it ever came to slavery. The Kansas- Nebraska Act and the compromise of 1850 were examples of this as well. The Kansas- Nebraska act allowed the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to have popular sovrenty, witch sates that they get to vote on whether or not they wanted to become a free or slave state. This instigated people from all over the country to move in to these territories and violence and mass hatred. This period is known as bleeding Kansas, due to the fact that that most of these violent acts occurred in the eastern side of Kansas. I would put all of this point together and say that I am in the fundamentalist camp. I o believe that economics and states right had a part in starting the Civil war, but I do think that they can be traced back to slavery in some way. Such as almost our entire southern economy at the time was based on slavery, and slave labor. States right is the same, you can look at the majority of points that state were looking argue and the majority had to do with slavery, such as the fugitive slave law, and slavery in general. Slavery was the main cause of the Civil War, all other issues could be lead back to slavery and it has been an issue for over 75 years.

  15. Annie Moore

    I find myself in the fundamentalist’s camp when it comes to the causes of the civil war. I feel that slavery was the main cause for the civil war because even though there was conflict over politics it all stemmed from slavery. I think that the failure of compromise is part of why the civil war happened but this, to me, still stems from slavery because the people were tired of compromising. Northerners were tired of slavery and many didn’t just want to limit it, but they wanted to abolish it all together. The south also had their theories about northerners coming together to rid of slavery so they were reluctant to compromise too. And even if compromise did put off the war it wouldn’t stop it from happening eventually because the country was split with two opposing views. I also think that President Abraham Lincoln getting elected played an underlying role in the cause of the civil war. President Lincoln was a NORTHERN President and was not pro slavery, the first of his kind since John Quincy Adams. This caused Southerners to feel threatened and as if their suspicion on northerners trying to end slavery was justified. In the beginning the war was about the union. The Union army was fighting to keep the country together. By the end it was a war waged to end slavery. I think that people began to realize that this was the cause of the war all along. They began to understand that a house divided truly could not stand. The issue of slavery was too large and complex for a nation to be divided on and they knew they had to end the power struggle between the north and the south. Slavery was the main cause of the civil war all along, and drove the collapse of the Democratic Party. There were Northern democrats and southern democrats and they were divided on the issue of slavery. The civil war was a war between the union who was fighting for unity amongst the states which could only be reached through the freedom of the slaves, and the confederate army, made up of those states who had seceded because they wanted slavery to continue on.

  16. Zach Trunsky

    When it comes to the causes of the civil war, there are a magnitude of issues that plunged this nation into war, but I lean a little bit more with the fundamentalists, who put the blame mostly on slavery. I do agree in the sense that slavery was definitely one of the main causes, but for sure it was not the only cause of the civil war. Slavery is easy to blame because it is a topic that the north and south were very divided on. The North believed it was inhumane and illogical, and the south believed it was necessary for the economy. This caused major tensions between the two sides, but other factors, such as radical acts by abolitionists such as John Brown, were the catalysts for all out war. Yes the north and south were divided over slavery, but the north was still somewhat racist and didn’t really want a war. But radicals like Brown saw it necessary to wage bloodshed to support their cause. Also, another often-overlooked thing that led to the civil war was the North and South’s lack of ability to compromise. When The U.S. acquired the new Mexican territory from Mexico, we admitted certain areas as free or slave, but when certain places were left up to popular vote to decide, citizens of the south saw it necessary to “invade” Kansas and set up their own slave government, and push conflict at the north. Compromises such as the compromise of 1820 were shattered in attempt to settle new territories, but no one was ever pleased with the result. But, going back to the slavery issue, slavery was an important factor because it drove the north and south to fight to get new states to be admitted as either slave or free states. There were many issues that cause the civil war between the north and the south, but many of the issues sprang from the pivotal and important issue of slavery its spread.

  17. Lizzy C.

    Slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. While economics and states rights had an influence on the starting of the war, every issue seemed to involve and revolve around slavery. Economically, slaves controlled the south. Even the thought of abolition could make a southerner’s heart skip a beat, mainly because all their investments lied in this economy they formed out of the slaves. If slavery were to end, the southern economy would crumble. Because of states rights, however, slavery didn’t even have to end because the federal government had practically no authority or control over the ending of slavery. The Dred Scott case of 1857 left congress powerless and led pro-slavery individuals to spread around the country, bring slaves with them to where they traveled. Thus, both economic and states rights issues revolved around slavery, resulting in the primary cause of the war to have been the grand issue of slavery.
    Fundamentalist believed that the Civil War “was a struggle over the future of the United States between slavery and freedom” (Wickersham). Therefore, they believed the main causes of the war included slavery, slavery, a bit of freedom, and slavery. However, although there may be a primary cause to a war, there are always other factors that, when put together, rise up to cause a war to occur. Revisionists take into account that there were a multitude of reasons leading to the war, including the breaking down of the Democrats, the failure of compromise, and the presidential election of the anti-slavery Abraham Lincoln. Similar to how economics and states rights were both causes of the war, the additional causes listed above played a role into the making of the Civil War. Thus, the fundamentalists fail to acknowledge the numerous reasons for the war’s occurrence, resulting in a limited understanding of all sides of a story that were dovetailed together to cause a war.

  18. Nick Hornburg

    The causes of the civil war have been debated over ever since the war ended in 1865. Some historians’ say that the biggest reason for the war to begin was the notion that then Union President Abraham Lincoln wanted to reunite the states. Other historians argue that slavery is the main cause, as the issue of slavery is what caused southern states to secede from the Union and form the Confederacy. The issue of slavery also tied in to the economic issues that came with it, if Abraham Lincoln were to abolish slavery, the slaveholding states would lose billions of dollars of investment, but that point is kind of irrelevant because the federal government was bound by the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857. The Southern secession was caused by animosity over Lincoln’s election, because Lincoln had previously stated that the nation should either be entirely free or entirely slave, and he was firmly against slavery. I do not believe that slavery caused the civil war, as Lincoln didn’t go to war for the sake of freeing the slaves, but rather to reunite the nation. Slavery caused the major events, such as the infamous Dred Scott decision and the secession of the southern states, which led to the war, but the war itself. It has also been said that the war began from a dispute over states rights, given that before the election of 1860, states were allowed to choose slavery or freedom, but the south believed that Lincoln would take those rights away, but it’s an invalid point because the states that believed that weren’t in the Union at the start of the war. I personally identify with the revisionists, who believe that the war started because Lincoln wanted to reunite the states. Lincoln didn’t believe in secession, so he tried to mend the rift between North and South, and eventually fought to reunite after Fort Sumter.

  19. Ky W.

    When it comes to the Civil War, I find myself on the fundamentalist side. Fundamentalists believe that the Civil War happened over slavery. There were other issues that led to the war but they all had a reoccurring theme of slavery. No matter what the issue was it all led back to if you were pro-slavery or anti-slavery. For example political and economic issues. In an economic standpoint, if slavery was abolished the South’s economy would collapse. The South was very dependent on Cotton and many other things. Without having someone to pick these crops for no money and still be productive would kill the South’s economy. While the South is still very dependent on agriculture, the North is more industrially advance than the South. A political issue that involved slavery is also Lincoln’s election in the year of 1860. Lincoln was a northerner, that was anti-slavery but believed that whites are the superior race. Even he though he believed that he thought that blacks should have the rights that are in the Declaration of Independence. The South hated Lincoln, when it was election time he was not even on the ballot. They hated him because he wanted to free the slaves and that would lead to the death of the South’s economy. Cotton would no longer be “king.” When Lincoln was elected president, this caused the South to succeed. You can look at a million reasons why the civil war started, but when you look at them you see that all of them have to do with slavery in some shape or form. The Civil War happened because of slavery and its decision to be abolished or not. Therefore I am on the side of fundamentalist.

  20. David Sherwood

    I certainly side with the more revisionist claim. I don’t think any historical event was caused by just one thing, especially not the Civil War, which is infamous for being an explosion of so many common differences that had built up since the revolution. It also appears to me that the revisiontist take acknowledges the role of slavery, which is absolutely essential because it’s undeniable that slavery played a role in the development of the Civil War. After all, a large amount of the other, more specific, layering reasons stem from slavery itself in the first place. I think a huge, and possibly even the greatest factor that went into the Civil War and the differences causing it would be economy and economical classes as well as regions. Aside from just the upper class and lower class, the differences in the Civil War dealt with common folk and aristocrats from the North and South, as well as the East and West. Each region of this already vast country gained money and power in different ways, functioning around different systems and “tools”. So, right off the bat, we have the involvement of slavery. If the time comes to rid a man of the thing he depends on to make a living, you’re bound to meet resistence, no matter how immoral or divine. If the North had been forced to give up all of the industrial advantages of the previous century, they too would have been met with an astounding idea of economical revolution. The introduction of technology to a market is significant enough, taking away something that an entire section of life is dependent on would certainly be traumatic. I believe that economy is just one of the many layers that piled on during the youth of our nation, eventually leading to the Civil War.

  21. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    When it comes to the causes of the Civil War, I would have to find myself in the fundamentalist camp all the way. The Fundamentalists thought and believed that the main cause of the civil war was slavery and the struggle between this and freedom for the slaves in the United States. And I agree with this 100%. But the reasoning behind why slavery was a big cause is really overlooked and not thought of quite often. The United States economy predominantly circled around the slave market and that’s what drove it. When Lincoln proposed the idea to get rid of slavery (later stated only in the west), the South went nuts. They had the fear of losing billions of dollars in investments. Another big upset was the Dred Scott decision. This made most of the North very upset and the thought they were being betrayed by their own political figures because this decision stated that slavery could exist anywhere in the country. This upset them so much because they felt slavery was on its decline by 1820, but that soon changed. So I still do believe that slavery was the primary cause of the civil war and not economic or state rights. Not staying that economic or states’ rights have no contribution to the start of the Civil War, but I believe slavery outweighed both of them. But, the South would have lost congressional votes and power if other state were non-slave states. If the north had the majority in congress, hardly anything would get passed in the house or senate that benefited and or favored the south.


  22. Brooke Cirone

    I find myself to be sure of the fundamentalist view and couldn’t see myself agreeing with the revisionist view of the subject. I see it this way because most of the controversy that started was over slavery; do we keep the free or create more slaves to benefit the South? As time went on, the question expanded more into this; is slavery okay to be continued or should it be banished completely? This is what I think caused the Civil War, because from this question arose issues grander than we have had to deal with in our country for a very long time. Southern states were succeeding and even more were planning to; trying to create an entirely separate country to promote and expand the use of slavery. The fight over unity and disunity then became a great issue. The South needed the slaves, considering their main way of income was from growing cotton, which they hired the slaves to groom. The North found it degrading and wanted to rid of it as soon as possible. This hadn’t been an issue with the Missouri compromise, which basically promised less slave states by putting a limit at the 36’30 line. However, this short lived feeling of calmness was overrode by the Kansas-Nebraska act which then opened up popular sovereignty and allowed more and more slave states to be created. The Northerners found this unbearable, and even more so when the Southern states were planning on spreading to Latin America or Cuba to create their own Union. Although the Northerners didn’t agree with practically anything the Southern states had to say, they were a major part of their textile industries. With Lincoln newly elected as president and a strong believer of unity, the start to the Civil War took a jump start, all according to the fundamentalist view.

  23. Ashley M.

    When I look at all the reason for each camp, I would fall under the fundamentalist camp because even though there were many reasons for the civil war to occur, all the reasons centered around the main reason I think would have been slavery. Even President Lincoln said that we can’t have the country divided into slavery and antislavery forever and that the country has to be either one or the other. In the video The Civil War-1862 Lincoln said “I would do anything to keep the union and if I could keep the Union without removing slavery than I would have…”, plus the Union, the north, had lots of abolitionists and was against the spread of slavery in the nation. The confederacy or the South wanted slavery to be everywhere and also didn’t want the government to interfere with the spreading of slavery though out the country. Lincoln election was major cause of the civil war, but that was based off the issue of slavery: Lincoln was a pro-slavery northerner and the South didn’t want the abolishment of slavery. Slavery and cotton were the South’s economy and with the abolishment of slavery or it being limited would hurt the South greatly. Slavery was on the decline because of the Missouri compromise. This compromise said that anything north of the 36’30 line would be anti-slavery expect Missouri. John Brown can also be a cause in the war because he wanted slavery to be abolished everywhere and led a revolt to try and abolish slavery because “god” told him to do it. And then the Dred Scott decision which basically said that slavery is completely legal everywhere and that the government could not do anything about masters going to Free states and then they die so the slave for that family is still a slave no matter what. For all these reason is why I think that I fall toward the fundamentalist camp rather than the revisionist camp.

  24. Jillian Gordner

    Although slavery was a main issue and source of conflict between the north and south leading up to the Civil War, it was just one of the many issues that symbolized the larger issue of states rights. I agree with the revisionists that the economy and states rights were more the cause than slavery itself. For the south, their very way of life was being threatened with the eradication of slavery, King Cotton was built on the backs of slave labor, and without it their economy could crumble. The fear of losing their money gave them a willingness to fight, and the power of King Cotton fed their belief that the north would crumble without them, and foreign nations would aid them in their pursuit of secession. Many people in the south braved secession because they believed that countries like Britain and France would come to their rescue to help them fight because of a strong dependence on the cotton that the south exported. They also believed that without the cotton, the northern industries would crumble giving them the upper hand in the war. Another reason the war could not have been over slavery was Abraham Lincoln’s statement saying that he would preserve the union even without a single slave being freed. Had slavery been the sole cause of the Civil War, their would have been no war and the union would have been restored immediately. However it was not this simple, and the South felt that their states rights were also being infringed upon. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union, and also many years before, the state to attempt nullifying a federal law. They had disdain for the Government’s over reaching arch, and because of this, when they felt their right for slavery, established by the Dred Scott case, was being threatened, they felt they needed to take immediate action and secede. Although the north was against slavery, most people were not abolitionists, and not willing to die or go to war over the issue. Instead, the north fought for unity, and to continue to be a beacon of liberty and democracy for the world to see.

  25. Karlie Sherwood

    The casue(s) of the civil war. There are quite a few in my option but they all fall back to one thing. Or at least many of the following I will be listing do. SLAVERY. The south wanted it for economics purposes. Mostly. There were also other person reasons. But were not going I get into that. Economically for the south to stay ontop I the agriculture system they need the free labor and man power. On the other hand. The north did not need that because cause there economic structure was built around industry. Thus SLAVERY was an issue.
    Second we have social. Socially blacks were thought to be inferior to the white. This both the doubt and the north seemed to stand for. The only Thing was. The north seemed to say that they are still people and all people have basic rights. This the view on SLAVERY. Uncle toms canon is a good example of how te no then people judged the southern people on there ways of using slavery.
    Amberham Lincoln also had a part in this includin that fact that he did not approve of slavery but in order to win presidency he did not exactly establish his view on it. He simple said things that both sides could agree with.
    There are many other points as to why and how the civil war started but I truly find that slavery was the major cause.

  26. Jonah "Couch Team" Rzeppa

    On this one I’m going to go with the revisionists on this one, I believe that the wars Stronger causes had to do more with states rights economics were bigger influences for the North and the South to go to war. Slavery was a huge deal, but President Lincoln did not actually state he was for slavery to be disbanded until the war had started. It had more to do with the North trying to keep the united states in union, while the Southern states wanted to secede because they didn’t approve in the way the country was lead and the direction it was headed in. South found it’s self losing more and more power and when a region feels like that the people get angry and call for something to be done and the south found that the only way to get they wanted was to either separate or go to war for what the believed. And they saw if Slavery one of the institutions keeping the south going was going to be stripped away from them then the south economy would be under controlled by a system that would use them as Great Britain had used the colonies as a mercantile region to use there space for the north to get richer and the south to get poorer. When people feel they are being taken advantage of they rebel so the south wanted to be left alone and use there power of their states rights to keep slavery and avoid being swallowed up by larger Northern economy.

    -Couch team rulez

  27. alex straith

    I find that I fall into the fundamentalist view I believe that the entirety of the view for the revolutionist can be traced back to the view of the fundamentalists. One of the issues that began to tear apart the democratic party was the issue of slavery a prime example of this is when the democrats send out 2 candidates where there only major stance is on slavery. This shows that some of the view of the revolutionist are just stems of the fundamentalists view like the Democratic Party falling apart (due to a large part slavery.). The lack of compromises can also be seen as a direct result of the fight over slavery if slavery wasn’t an important issue at that time they would have had no reason to need compromises in the first place, since almost all of the compromises that were failing were slavery based, slavery border disputes and the like. All the more evidence that the revolutionists believe the same thing as the fundamentalist’s. The election of Abraham Lincoln was possibly one of the most slavery based events that occurred during the entire fight over slavery. Having come from an anti-slavery party everyone view him as an anti-slavery candidate even though he specified he was not for abolishing slavery just limiting it to where it was. Amongst the south this was still seen as to far for the presidency. This further shows that the revolutionist’s core beliefs stem from the same ones as the fundamentalists. In summery I feel that all of the causes of the civil war can directly relate to slavery and the fight over it. Making both the revolutionaries and the fundamentalists view the same, just with the fundamentalist getting at the root of the problem. Thus I fall in the fundamentalist camp.

  28. Paige W

    I, personally based on my ideals, values, understanding of the civil war and all of the events that took place around it see myself in the fundamentalist camp rather than the revolutionist. I see myself in the fundamentalist camp because while although I do believe slavery was the main cause of the civil war I know that slavery caused many other things, politically, socially, and economically. The war was fought between the North and the South, the North was fighting to stop the spread of slavery and the South was fighting for their “states rights” which really meant that it should be up to the state whether or not slavery is legal. When the war first began the main issue was the southern states that has succeeded from the Union and essentially whether the United States of American was going to be two separate countries, the Union and the Confederacy, now this whole argument was really just cover waiting to be pulled off so the real topic of the war could be seen, the reason the southern states succeeded was because they saw the end of their way of life coming and figured that if they weren’t a part of the country then the couldn’t be affected. I think that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. I believe that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War because if slavery had not existed then the Dred Scott case would not have happened and the Northerners would not have gotten upset that the trial led to the conclusion that slavery could pretty much exist anywhere and the South wouldn’t have had to secede from the Union because there would be no such thing as a pro – slavery or anti – slavery president that would infringe on or support their way of life. Also there would have never been the idea of King Cotton, because there would not be anyone picking millions of pounds of cotton. In conclusion I can say that I certainly believe that slavery, and slavery alone was the cause of the civil war.

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