Was the American Civil War Fought Over Slavery?

Plutarch
Plutarch Members Posts: 3,239 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited January 2014 in The Social Lounge
Or rather, was slavery the primary cause of the Civil War?

Now, I've heard it all from those on both sides of this issue, and imo valid points have been made by each side. Arguments like these can last for days, but I'm willing to bet that the truthful answer is neither black or white but lies in the gray area.

I'm anticipating that most say yes though, so let me play devil's advocate to make things interesting and objective:

1. Political factors were more important than slavery: the South fought over state's rights, the South was getting overtaxed, the South was not being represented in the government, etc.

2. The Union had slave states, and there were black/slave soldiers who fought for the Confederacy

3. Abraham Lincoln was racist and had initially resisted freeing the slaves to the point of admitting their "inferiority" and proposing to ship them all back to Africa. Abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass hated him. Many of the white Northerners who fought for the Union were also racist and would not have fought and risked their lives if the war was over slavery. Lincoln's main objective was to preserve the Union to the extent that he proposed to preserve slavery in order to prevent or stop the war, but the proposal failed (but if the war was primarily about slavery, then the proposal should have worked?).

4. The Emancipation Proclamation was a desperate tactic to prevent France and Britain (who, btw, had abolished slavery decades ago) from joining the war on the side of the Confederacy since the proclamation used slavery to shame France and Britain from joining the side that had not abolished slavery instead of the side that did.

Was the American Civil War Fought Over Slavery? 23 votes

Yes
52%
janklowsoul rattlerjonopowerman 5000kingblaze84Will MunnyStoneColdMikeyWhoisDonG???CashmoneyDuxbignormwharYoung Stef 12 votes
No
47%
Focal Point2stepz_aheadBlack Boy KingAjackson1732DaysOfInfinitiRahlowJ. WillxxCivicxxmatt maneMike.FatterThanKat 11 votes
«1

Comments

  • janklow
    janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
    Yes
    first off, if i have to post the ? quote clarifying the distinction between Lincoln's personal beliefs and Lincoln's position as president AGAIN because of this thread, i am banning the ? out of SOMEONE.

    second, everything is ALWAYS more complicated than such a simple question... but third, the answer is "yes" based on nothing more than a) Southern states' prior declaration that secession was necessitated by abolition and b) that Southern states declared as much again when they seceded.

    fourth, for your devil's advocate question:
    --"states' rights" is often a cover for ? slavery, especially if we can't say what else was at issue; meh on the taxes; and not represented in government because the pendulum was finally swinging away from slavery? miss me with that ? , CSA;
    --the Union had slave states because those states did not secede, period, but if your state seceded because of slavery... well, the war's LITERALLY about you seceding from the Union, but you seceded because of slavery, so... also, the black soldiers thing is more anecdotal than "proof of the righteous cause of the South";
    --partially covered but please remember that the South was all about seceding to protect their slavery just because Lincoln was ELECTED, so it's not like they were that interested in giving him a chance to work it out;
    --a "desperate tactic" that totally worked? shouldn't call it desperate, then. also, this severely underrates the naval factors that the Union brought to bear in the war.
  • jono
    jono Members Posts: 30,280 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yes
    janklow wrote: »
    first off, if i have to post the ? quote clarifying the distinction between Lincoln's personal beliefs and Lincoln's position as president AGAIN because of this thread, i am banning the ? out of SOMEONE.

    second, everything is ALWAYS more complicated than such a simple question... but third, the answer is "yes" based on nothing more than a) Southern states' prior declaration that secession was necessitated by abolition and b) that Southern states declared as much again when they seceded.

    fourth, for your devil's advocate question:
    --"states' rights" is often a cover for ? slavery, especially if we can't say what else was at issue; meh on the taxes; and not represented in government because the pendulum was finally swinging away from slavery? miss me with that ? , CSA;
    --the Union had slave states because those states did not secede, period, but if your state seceded because of slavery... well, the war's LITERALLY about you seceding from the Union, but you seceded because of slavery, so... also, the black soldiers thing is more anecdotal than "proof of the righteous cause of the South";
    --partially covered but please remember that the South was all about seceding to protect their slavery just because Lincoln was ELECTED, so it's not like they were that interested in giving him a chance to work it out;
    --a "desperate tactic" that totally worked? shouldn't call it desperate, then. also, this severely underrates the naval factors that the Union brought to bear in the war.


    That's pretty much it.
  • Plutarch
    Plutarch Members Posts: 3,239 ✭✭✭✭✭
    janklow wrote: »
    first off, if i have to post the ? quote clarifying the distinction between Lincoln's personal beliefs and Lincoln's position as president AGAIN because of this thread, i am banning the ? out of SOMEONE.

    Lol, ok man. I wasn't aware of this distinction. Also, don't ban me.
    janklow wrote: »
    second, everything is ALWAYS more complicated than such a simple question... but third, the answer is "yes" based on nothing more than a) Southern states' prior declaration that secession was necessitated by abolition and b) that Southern states declared as much again when they seceded.

    Also wasn't aware of these declarations.
    janklow wrote: »
    fourth, for your devil's advocate question:
    --"states' rights" is often a cover for ? slavery, especially if we can't say what else was at issue; meh on the taxes; and not represented in government because the pendulum was finally swinging away from slavery? miss me with that ? , CSA;

    agreed.

    janklow wrote: »
    --the Union had slave states because those states did not secede, period, but if your state seceded because of slavery... well, the war's LITERALLY about you seceding from the Union, but you seceded because of slavery, so... also, the black soldiers thing is more anecdotal than "proof of the righteous cause of the South";

    agreed.

    janklow wrote: »
    --partially covered but please remember that the South was all about seceding to protect their slavery just because Lincoln was ELECTED, so it's not like they were that interested in giving him a chance to work it out;

    mostly agreed. the South definitely jumped the gun and basically started a war that wouldn't have existed.
    janklow wrote: »
    --a "desperate tactic" that totally worked? shouldn't call it desperate, then. also, this severely underrates the naval factors that the Union brought to bear in the war.

    fair point on the naval factors, but before the proclamation, the Union was either losing (not really) or was locked in a stalemate. and what about the threat from France and Britain?

  • Plutarch
    Plutarch Members Posts: 3,239 ✭✭✭✭✭
    jono wrote: »
    janklow wrote: »
    first off, if i have to post the ? quote clarifying the distinction between Lincoln's personal beliefs and Lincoln's position as president AGAIN because of this thread, i am banning the ? out of SOMEONE.

    second, everything is ALWAYS more complicated than such a simple question... but third, the answer is "yes" based on nothing more than a) Southern states' prior declaration that secession was necessitated by abolition and b) that Southern states declared as much again when they seceded.

    fourth, for your devil's advocate question:
    --"states' rights" is often a cover for ? slavery, especially if we can't say what else was at issue; meh on the taxes; and not represented in government because the pendulum was finally swinging away from slavery? miss me with that ? , CSA;
    --the Union had slave states because those states did not secede, period, but if your state seceded because of slavery... well, the war's LITERALLY about you seceding from the Union, but you seceded because of slavery, so... also, the black soldiers thing is more anecdotal than "proof of the righteous cause of the South";
    --partially covered but please remember that the South was all about seceding to protect their slavery just because Lincoln was ELECTED, so it's not like they were that interested in giving him a chance to work it out;
    --a "desperate tactic" that totally worked? shouldn't call it desperate, then. also, this severely underrates the naval factors that the Union brought to bear in the war.


    That's pretty much it.

    dammit. near-resolution after just the first post? and here i was hoping to provoke a long drawn out and profanity-laden debate about all of this. *sigh*

  • janklow
    janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
    Yes
    Plutarch wrote: »
    Lol, ok man. I wasn't aware of this distinction. Also, don't ban me.
    well, you didn't drop the quote, so you're good
    Plutarch wrote: »
    fair point on the naval factors, but before the proclamation, the Union was either losing (not really) or was locked in a stalemate. and what about the threat from France and Britain?
    the greater threat, i suppose, is that France and Britain would make the CSA more economically viable... but it wouldn't have solved all their problems. not really sure France/Britain would have wanted war with the Union over it
  • blakfyahking
    blakfyahking Members Posts: 15,785 ✭✭✭✭✭
    no

    it was all about the money

    slavery was just intertwined with Southern economic prosperity to the point of being too difficult in saying the Civil War wasn't about slavery

    they romanticize the Union side in history books when truthfully white folks on either side didn't really give a damn about slaves...............or Native Americans either for that matter
  • janklow
    janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
    Yes
    where are all these no voters to defend their incorrect votes?
    no
    it was all about the money
    slavery was just intertwined with Southern economic prosperity to the point of being too difficult in saying the Civil War wasn't about slavery
    the fundamental flaw with this theory is that is misrepresents how the war starts: the Union didn't attack the South to reclaim their economic production; the South rolled out because Lincoln was elected... and why was that a problem... hmmm... (well, that and it ignores prior Southern declarations, blah blah blah)
    they romanticize the Union side in history books
    honestly, i haven't read a recent book that really did this
  • blakfyahking
    blakfyahking Members Posts: 15,785 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2014
    janklow wrote: »

    the fundamental flaw with this theory is that is misrepresents how the war starts: the Union didn't attack the South to reclaim their economic production; the South rolled out because Lincoln was elected... and why was that a problem... hmmm... (well, that and it ignores prior Southern declarations, blah blah blah)

    wasn't the beef about slavery expansion built on the argument for states' rights?

    there was a debate about tariff as well right?

    well they all boil down to the South's economic power at the time.........Confederate states were concerned about still getting money from the lifestyle they currently had based on slavery

    leading up to the Civil War, the confederate states were responsible for about 70% of all of the US's imports at the time

    it's naive to think it wasn't ultimately about money.............Lincoln didn't even believe in complete equal rights for blacks

    that's why the Union fought the war in the manner that it did
    janklow wrote: »
    honestly, i haven't read a recent book that really did this

    you never read any books in school that simply said that the Union fought to free the slaves?

    the issues leading up to the Civil War were way more nuanced than just "freeing the slaves"
  • Soloman_The_Wise
    Soloman_The_Wise Members Posts: 2,817 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I do not feel it is that simple of a question...
  • janklow
    janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
    Yes
    wasn't the beef about slavery expansion built on the argument for states' rights?
    the beef about slavery expansion had something to do with pro-slave states wanting enough Congressional power to maintain slavery due to fearing anti-slave states would use Congressional power to ? slavery; compromises were hashed out to maintain the status quo. there's things to be said for "states' rights," but as it relates to the Civil War,
    there was a debate about tariff as well right?
    i do believe Southern states had issues here and there that were not about slavery alone. but let's be frank: we're talking about the cause of the war, not simply listing issues they had with the federal government.
    Confederate states were concerned about still getting money from the lifestyle they currently had based on slavery
    this is kind of a "the war was about slavery" statement, though
    leading up to the Civil War, the confederate states were responsible for about 70% of all of the US's imports at the time
    imports?
    Lincoln didn't even believe in complete equal rights for blacks
    coming perilously close to fulfilling my initial statement here
    that's why the Union fought the war in the manner that it did
    no offense, but i am actually not sure what this is supposed to mean
    you never read any books in school that simply said that the Union fought to free the slaves?
    let me bold a portion of what i wrote since you might have missed it: "honestly, i haven't read a recent book that really did this"

    also, actually, no, i never read a book in school that simply said the Union fought to free the slaves. not that this is the totality of "romanticizing the Union," but still.
    the issues leading up to the Civil War were way more nuanced than just "freeing the slaves"
    might also be why i acknowledge "second, everything is ALWAYS more complicated than such a simple question." but fundamentally, if you want to boil it down... slavery is the root cause of the WAR.

  • kingblaze84
    kingblaze84 Members Posts: 14,288 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yes
    The main motivator for the South was slavery, and for the Union it was money and loss of worldwide influence if the South successfully seceded the nation. The reasons are complicated but slavery was the biggest issue so I vote yes
  • blakfyahking
    blakfyahking Members Posts: 15,785 ✭✭✭✭✭
    janklow wrote: »
    imports?

    correction.....I intended to state "exports"

    the South provided over 70% of the US 's exports before the Civil War


    and I have not problem conceding to your argument

    maybe I'm just not that passionate about this topic to be willing to really dissect all of the issues

    I just feel like if you took slavery out of the picture......the real issue was money and political power
  • janklow
    janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
    Yes
    correction.....I intended to state "exports"
    ah. i can't recall exact numbers off the top of my head, so i won't dispute it out of hand. but you can fight the war to defend your right to hold slaves because it's really about keeping your economic power as opposed to preserving slavery for its own sake.
    and I have not problem conceding to your argument
    maybe I'm just not that passionate about this topic to be willing to really dissect all of the issues
    I just feel like if you took slavery out of the picture......the real issue was money and political power
    well, look, to be fair, this is why i dropped the "everything is ALWAYS more complicated than such a simple question": because it IS a big, messy issue and things are more complicated than one simple answer. but was it the primary cause? yeah, i think if you pick one --and maybe you argue there's no such thing-- then it's slavery.
  • Will Munny
    Will Munny Members Posts: 30,199 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yes
    Read a history book.
  • Black Boy King
    Black Boy King Members Posts: 6,984 ✭✭✭✭✭
    No
    This is a loaded question.
  • powerman 5000
    powerman 5000 Members Posts: 3,084 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yes
    but not in the sense that you may be thinking...
  • whar
    whar Members Posts: 347 ✭✭✭
    Yes
    Ultimately slavery was the cause but we can divide the question in two.

    Why did the South secede? Slavery.

    Why did the North fight to preserve the Union? Very very little of this had to do with slavery. In fact had the North been able to win in the first 90 days, as was predicted by some, it is doubtful they would have ended slavery as part of the surrender terms. The North initially did not care to end slavery that would come as the war dragged on.
  • bambu
    bambu Members Posts: 3,529 ✭✭✭✭✭
    A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.

    In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

  • DarcSkies
    DarcSkies Members Posts: 13,791 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Ideologically it was fought over slavery.

    Just that the rhetoric politicians at the time spewed could not focus on slaves/blacks people Lincoln needed volunteers as the war began. And he did not want to lose the war before he started by saying the war was over whether the south would have a right to own human beings.

    If he had said that at first then white Northerners would not have allowed their sons to die for a bunch of ? . Lincoln avoided making the war about slavery as long as he could but people like Frederick Douglas and this one guy who actually tried to spark a war before the civil war even started (forgot his name) but he was a white preacher and he was hanged after the slaves failed to rebel with him. He and his small mob was defeated and put on display.

    Lincoln did not admit the war was about slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation when it was clear that Virginia would succeed from the Union. before then since there was a chance they would stay he held his tongue.
  • Will Munny
    Will Munny Members Posts: 30,199 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yes
    John Brown was the white dude who tried to spark the insurrection.
  • kzzl
    kzzl Members Posts: 7,548 ✭✭✭✭✭
    It seemed to me that the war was about the antebellum keeping their cheap labor force. The south needed slaves, they were a important investment in production. What the north proposed threatened that.

    Contrary to popular belief even with Lincolns EP , slaves were not freed as the propaganda suggest. That war was about slavery, but not how people are told IMO.
  • janklow
    janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
    Yes
    Darxwell wrote: »
    Lincoln did not admit the war was about slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation when it was clear that Virginia would succeed from the Union. before then since there was a chance they would stay he held his tongue.
    not to be flip, but the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863) came roughly two years AFTER Virginia had seceded (April/May 1861), so...
    Will Munny wrote: »
    John Brown was the white dude who tried to spark the insurrection.
    ironically suppressed by no less than Robert E. Lee at Harper's Ferry
    kzzl wrote: »
    Contrary to popular belief even with Lincolns EP , slaves were not freed as the propaganda suggest. That war was about slavery, but not how people are told IMO.
    probably more accurate to say "not ALL slaves were feed." because some definitely were.

  • DarcSkies
    DarcSkies Members Posts: 13,791 ✭✭✭✭✭
    janklow wrote: »
    Darxwell wrote: »
    Lincoln did not admit the war was about slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation when it was clear that Virginia would succeed from the Union. before then since there was a chance they would stay he held his tongue.
    not to be flip, but the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863) came roughly two years AFTER Virginia had seceded (April/May 1861), so...
    Will Munny wrote: »
    John Brown was the white dude who tried to spark the insurrection.
    ironically suppressed by no less than Robert E. Lee at Harper's Ferry
    kzzl wrote: »
    Contrary to popular belief even with Lincolns EP , slaves were not freed as the propaganda suggest. That war was about slavery, but not how people are told IMO.
    probably more accurate to say "not ALL slaves were feed." because some definitely were.

    Then obviously I misremembered the order of the pages I read in the Ulysses S. Grant book Im reading LOL

    I thought Lincoln didnt want to say anything so the states on the fence didnt jump ship too *shrug*
  • whar
    whar Members Posts: 347 ✭✭✭
    Yes
    Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri were slave states that were still in the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation was needed to halt foreign recognition but was also structured to ensure it did not ? off these slave states. Even after the proclamation it was legal to own slaves in Kentucky.
  • janklow
    janklow Members, Moderators Posts: 8,613 Regulator
    Yes
    Darxwell wrote: »
    Then obviously I misremembered the order of the pages I read in the Ulysses S. Grant book Im reading LOL
    no worries, i think we have all misread something
    Darxwell wrote: »
    I thought Lincoln didnt want to say anything so the states on the fence didnt jump ship too *shrug*
    oh, i think it's fair to say Lincoln took office intending to soft-pedal the issue so that states didn't jump ship. but his election alone was enough to make them start jumping