What caused the American Civil War? It is amazing that even today, nearly 150 years after the Civil War started, there is passionate debate regarding the "cause" of the Civil War. Consider this: It is a fact that when the armies for the North and South were first formed, only a small minority of the soldiers on either side would have declared that the reason they joined the army was to fight either "for" or "against" slavery. However, equally true is the statement: "Had there been no slavery, there would have been no war. Had there been no moral condemnation of slavery, there would have been no war." (This was made by Sydney E. Ahlstrome, in his monumental study of religion in America A Religious History of the American People, Yale University Press,1972, on p. 649; it was echoed by Maj. General John B. Gordon, CSA, in his Memoirs, Chapter 1, first page)
The message here is that the reasons a nation goes to war are usually various and complicated. The American Civil War is no exception. Background
The curious thing is that although slavery was the moral issue of the nineteenth century that divided the political leaders of the land, the average American had very little interest in slaves or slavery. Most Southerners were small farmers that could not afford slaves. Most Northerners were small farmers or tradesmen that had never even seen a slave. But political leaders on both sides were very interested in slaves and slavery. The South's economic system was based upon cotton--and slavery. The political leaders of the South, such as Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina, William Lowndes Yancey of Alabama, The Fire Eaters and Robert Augustus Toombs of Georgia, recognized that if the South lost her slaves (i. e., had to pay slaves wages similar to what white laborers were paid), her entire socio-economic system would probably collapse. Hence any political action that took place that threatened the slavery system of the South received the undivided attention of...
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