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The Civil War and the real reason it was fought

Updated on August 2, 2014

In a poll released in April of 2011, 52% of all Americans said the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to keep slavery legal in their state, when asked the reason behind the Civil War. If you are a member of the 52% then I have bad news for you. The Civil War was not fought because of slavery. Actually slavery had nothing to do with it. The War Between the States began because the South demanded States' rights and they were not getting them. Southerners thought the government was becoming too strong. They did not think the government had the right to tell them how they should live. The country was supposed to be made up of independent sovereign states that combined to be the United States of America. The last straw was in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln. When he won the presidency, most southerners gave up and wanted to secede from the United States of America. They felt if they stayed in the United States, the North would control them. If the South had not declared its independence, Lincoln would not have launched an invasion, and there would have never been a war.

There were important economic and political differences between the North and the South that were major reasons for the South's desire for independence. The Congress at that time heavily favored the industrialized northern states to the point of demanding that the South sell its cotton and other raw materials only to the factories in the north. This made it hard for people living in the Southern states to survive. They were no longer making as much money from selling tobacco and cotton. And the goods that they were buying from the North were taxed so highly that most people in the South could not afford them. You have to remember at this time the country was less than 100 years old. And one of the main reasons that we broke away from Great Britain was because of taxation without representation. The people were sick and tired of paying all of these taxes to a king in a far off place while they lived in poverty. The Southerners felt the same way as their ancestors and decided to break away from the Union. Jefferson Davis, himself, mentioned the South's complaints about Northern protectionist tariff policies in his first message to the Confederate congress. In all, 11 states seceded from the Union and 5 additional states didn't want to pick sides and its inhabitants fought for both sides, the first being South Carolina on December 20, 1860.

Before most of you say that I do not know what I am talking about. I want you to ask yourself one thing. Do you believe that Lincoln and his fellow Republicans would have accepted secession if the Confederacy had announced it was abolishing slavery after the First Battle of Manassas? I can guarantee you that the answer would have been no. I know most if not all of us have been taught that the Civil War was all about the abolition of slavery, but this just is not true. I am not saying that the abolition of slavery was not a great bi-product of the war. But it was by no means a reason for the war.

Lincoln himself was not for or against slavery. He even supported a constitutional amendment that would have given additional legal protection to slavery. In one of his speeches he said "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." After all, the Constitution sanctioned slavery. Article I, Section II, specifically designated that slaves would only be counted as 3/5 of a person on issues of congressional representation and taxes. And Article IV, Section II required the return of fugitive slaves to their masters.

The "Emancipation Proclamation", which was not put into effect until about two years after the war had started, was only signed after the Union war effort continued to falter abd the federal treasury was almost empty. Because of this Lincoln finally caved under intense pressure from the ‚ÄĚRadical Republicans" in Congress, who were threatening to cut off funds from the army if Lincoln didn't issue some kind of emancipation statement.

The proclamation was not law. No state adopted it and congress never enacted it. In fact the proclamation freed no one. It only applied to the slaves that were held in the states that were in open rebellion, i.e. the south. It granted no citizensip to those who were already freed and it did not outlaw slavery anywhere. If Lincoln was so worried about freeing the slaves then he would have made the proclamation applicable to the states that were actually in the union or in the southern states that were federally controlled. After the proclamation was put into place nearly a quarter of a million people fled from the Union army, almost 100 thousand escaped to Canada to avoid the rest of the war, and another 12 thousand or so avoided the draft.

So if you envision the Civil War as Northerners mythologized as gladiators going to war to free the slaves then you are sadly mistaken. The North went to war for one reason, to hold the Union together.

When you think about the Civil War, if you had to choose, would you say that you sympathize more with the northern states or the southern states?

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    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      Thanks for stopping by Cari. As far as the Confederate flag, I think it depends on who has it. There are a lot of racist idiots out there waving it just to be ignorant. Then there are others that are just remembering their heritage and where they came from.

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      Thanks for stopping by Cogerson. I too am amazed at the poll.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 5 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks for an interesting hub on history and the fact that maybe do not know the whole story behind one of the greatest tragedies in American history.

      I was very surprised with the pole results.....I am from the south....but thought it would be closer to 50/50.....north and south....but roughly 6 to 1 in favor of the south is surprising.

      Voted up and awesome.

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      Thanks for stopping by thelyricwriter

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      @Karre I looked more into modern day slavery. It is absolutely insane. I had no idea people living in the U.S. are being kidnapped or lured in the U.S. to be drug mules, sex slaves etc... I knew there was slavery still going on in the world, but I had no idea it was on such a grand scale.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 5 years ago from West Virginia

      Das, awesome article. I love history and learning everything about the past. A very well written article and I couldn't agree more. I love the stats that you brought forward. A very trying period for both sides caught in the middle. You really can't blame the South for believing in their rights. That was the foundation of America in the first place. Of course, slavery was wrong, but it was not the main cause of the war. You are right. When you try to take one's life away, all you can do is fight. When you take away all they know, there is nothing left. The South had one option and that is the road they took. They really never had a chance statistically, but that didn't stop them from fighting for what they believed in. I truly believe that slavery could have ended without war. But once again, the war wasn't about that. Gives new meaning to "Honest Abe". Awesome job.

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      Thanks for stopping by Karre. Those are some scary statistics. Thank you for sharing.

    • Karre profile image

      Karre Schaefer 5 years ago from Eskridge, Kansas

      btw, Daskittlez69, I am a modern-day abolitionist and its my scholarly field of study. Here are some figures for modern day slavery you might be interested in, in light of your above comments: In January of this year, it became the number one illegal activity in the world, surpassing drug and gun trafficking and illegal arms movements. It is a $48 billion a year industry (Exxon is $42.5 billion and Walmart is $10 billion.) There are an estimated 32 million slaves in the world today, up from 24 million just last year. It is 4 times that of 400 years of the Atlantic Slave Trade. There are child soldiers and organs, and sex trafficking is on the rise. But the majority of the slavery comes from US Corporations who buy and manufacture products from other countries. Example: There is not one chocolate company in the US that does not use slaves from the Ivory Coast. They are an $18 billion industry in the US alone. The average age of the chocolate slave is 8 yo and he/she will not live to be 16. The US Dept of Labor's 2011 report on human trafficking has pages and pages of imports into the US that have slavery involved. Kansas is ranked the top state for transportation of slaves in the US. Just a few figures to share -- in other words, globalization has taken its toll now, just as it did before and no one knows it. Thanks. Karre.

    • Karre profile image

      Karre Schaefer 5 years ago from Eskridge, Kansas

      I completely agree with most of your analysis, including that slavery was used as "the reason". In a way, it was a reason because of those economics. And, yes, the South did want to leave the Union for the reasons you state. But we do have to acknowledge that there was a real slave issue occurring. For example, when the Nebraska-Kansas Act was ratified and the Bleeding Kansas Border Wars were occurring because of the decision to allow Kansas to decide its own slave or free state issues. Slavery was against the law on the Louisiana Purchase lands, yet Senator Douglas and his cronies had written the NKA to allow for the decision to be made locally. Abolitionists came to Kansas to prevent slavery from entering in. Slave supporters came from other parts, including Missouri, to fight for slavery. This was important because it would determine the country's decision to continue slavery or not. If these border wars had not occurred, slavery would have quietly been accepted. It was a bloody mess that led to the war and lasted around ten years before the Civil War began. In looking at primary sources, it was known by both sides that the Civil War over slavery would be happening. Now, having said that, it is a collection of events and most citizens at least in those parts, truly believed they were fighting for or against slavery. Puppets perhaps? There was an abolition movement in the Union at that time. Also, so your readers understand, The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to all blacks or all slaves. Only particular ones which is too complicated to go into right here. You hit the nail on the head that it was about economics, land and freedom for the South. But there was a brewing for the slave issues. Whether that was used for the benefit of both sides is definitely possible. I liken it to today and our issues and how they get so twisted to entice citizens to "believe in something" i.e., being "liberal" or "conservative", both being sheep. Thanks for the great hub and writing about a part of the Civil War that few know about. Great stuff!--Karre.

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      Interesting timing - I am reading a book called Mississippi Cotton that discusses this very topic. Although the book is fiction, the characters discuss the true reason for the Civil War and their dislike for Lincoln. I guess now when I see the confederate flag I will think a little differently! Thanks for great hub!

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      Thanks for stopping by Brenda

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 5 years ago from Utah

      Great history lesson! Voted up!

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      Thanks for stopping by John. As long as someone learned something from this hub then my job here is done :)

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I knew that the US Civil War was not fought only because of slavery, but until I read your article I thought it was the main reason for the disobedience. Additionally, I knew that Lincoln was not pro/against slavery, but he was 'a bit' (I use the word facetiously...) sympathetic towards the plight of the African Peoples of our country in those days.

      Great article - voted up


    • profile image

      Larry Wall 5 years ago

      I agreed that slavery would have ended, but how long would it had taken and what kind of turmoil would have been endured. Separate but equal in this country would had eventually ended, but there was a lot of blood shed in the name of civil disobedience before the sub-standard treatment of black citizens would had been eliminated. For the record, there are still problems, but progress has been made.

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      It is very crazy that slavery still exists today. It seems that throughout history people have always owned other people to get the work done. Africa even had its own slave trade long before the appearance of the Europeans. Most African societies had slaves. Enslavement was often a by-product of localized warfare where the vanquished became the slaves of the victors. Africans sold their own people amongst themselves and to others as well. Caravan routes had long linked sub-Saharan Africa with North African and indeed the wider Mediterranean and the Middle East, so Africans used this route to establish a trans-Saharan slave trade. When the White man came, there was already a large scale African slave trade in existence that was then adapted to the European market. It did not have to be created for him.

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      The total number of slaveholders in 1850, according to the 1850 census, was 347,525 out of a total white population of 6,184,477 in the slave states. So basically 5% of the South actually owned slaves. That doesn't lead to a lot of people sitting on their front porch "collecting" money.

    • carlarmes profile image

      carlarmes 5 years ago from Bournemouth, England

      History is written by the winners, slavery would have finished in the Southern States with or without the war, the world was changing and slavery was seen by many people as evil and wrong. Britain's history has also been written by the winners, the ruling classes. It is a little strange that one of the only places slavery still exists is in Africa, where slavery continues to this day. Blacks enslaving blacks.

    • cprice75 profile image

      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      If you look at the secession documents of many of the Southern States (the actual ordinances of secession), they mention the North trying to mess with slavery (South Carolina is one) or trying to take their "property"--a veiled reference to slaves. I took a grad class on the subject a few years ago, and the prof had us read a few of these ordinances.

      The fear of a strong government was a fear that that government would be strong enough to free slaves. The new land acquired after the Mexican War and what would be done with it also inflamed sectional tensions. It led to the Compromise of 1850 that expanded the power to return fugitive slaves--interesting that those who wanted a weak government wanted a government strong enough to enforce the return of slaves. While it can be argued that states' rights was the impetus for the Civil War, the right to own slaves, which was the economic system that allowed the planter class to do nothing other than sitting on their porches while making lots of money, was the major right that these states wanted to protect. Tariffs and other issues are really sideshows when compared with slavery.

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 5 years ago

      I learned that state rights was the reason for the war. I also learned that one of the state rights that the south wanted to preserve was slavery.

      Since Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, prior to the end of the war, the elimination of slavery must be considered to be the leading secondary cause for the war. It is just impossible to believe that we would have endured such a horrible war, if slavery had not been an underlying issue. Agreed, states right--the right to leave the union and other rights were why the war started. Slavery is why the war continued so long.

    • kelitad profile image

      kelitad 5 years ago from Norwalk, Iowa

      I have devoured books by such authors as Richard Shenkman and Seymour Morris in my quest for other sides of the history story. I was fortunate that my history teacher was able to teach that state's rights was in fact the reason for succession and that the North wanted to "preserve the union" (must be because I was in AP US History and we did a lot of research on our own as well)

      One comment I caught - history is usually told by the "winning side" but keep in mind that years after people look at the same sources with new eyes and revise it.

      Very good article

    • daskittlez69 profile image

      daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

      It is crazy isn't it. When you go to college you find out that damn near everything you had learned up to that point was a lie. Of course that is what oral history is. Usually the winning side tells the story the way they want to.

    • Jaydeus profile image

      Jaydeus 5 years ago from Springfield, TN

      It is a shame this isn't taught in public schools.

      I gave thought to becoming a History teacher, but the Department of Education has no want to teach truth, only to misguide our youth into delusion and lies.

      I couldn't lie to children.

      Great hub!


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