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The Sultan of Swine
Arkansas Fan
Member since Nov 2010
4362 posts

Was the civil war over slavery?
Not really.

Let's start with where it began: Fort Sumter, which was used by the U.S. as a tariff collection port. It's not a coincidence this was the location for the first battle of the Civil War.

Throughout the 1800s, the federal government was mostly funded through tariffs. Because of the agricultural economy of the South, and its relatively high amount of exports, the southern states disproportionately funded the federal government. At the same time, the manufacturing industry of the northern states benefited from protectionist trade policies.

The central theme of Lincoln's campaign was economic nationalism. Which meant support for the recently passed Morrill Tariff (Correction: pointed out below, the tariff had not yet passed. It was supported by Lincoln, is my main point here), and possibly further increases in taxes on southern exports.

While Lincoln was anti-slavery, he was not an abolitionist. He made it clear that without southern secession, he had no plans to interfere with slavery in the south:

"I have said a hundred times, and I have now no inclination to take it back, that I believe there is no right, and ought to be no inclination in the people of the free States to enter into the slave States, and interfere with the question of slavery at all." - Honest Abe

It's well known that the Emancipation Proclamation didn't come until 1863, when it was needed as a political move (swayed public opinion in the UK from favoring the Confederacy to favoring the Union, and also opened up the possibility of having freed slaves fight against the South). Of note, it only ended slavery in the states in rebellion, not in the border states that remained in the Union.

Common objections

1. "But political leaders in the South said themselves that the war was over slavery" -- Yes, some did. Others emphasized the importance of state sovereignty. Regardless, this isn't really a good measure for determining the actual causes of war. Most Southerners were racist. Most northerners were racist. Playing up Lincoln as a supreme abolitionist was a good way to drum up support from the average citizen (on both sides of the Mason-Dixon) that may not have had as much stake, or interest, in a debate over trade policy.


2. "Lincoln may not have planned to end slavery in the South, but he did want to prevent the spread of slavery west."
-- This is a valid point and why my answer to the original question is "not really." I won't say that slavery played no role at all. There was important political power at stake for slave owners here. Whether new western states became free or slave states would have definitely played a role in the longevity of the institution of slavery.

However this was a less pressing issue than the tariff matter. Would this have caused secession at a later point in time? Possibly. I find it really unlikely that the pure possibility of future states outlawing slavery was the driving force behind secession.

This post was edited on 6/19 at 9:01 am


kywildcatfanone
Kentucky Fan
Wildcat Country!
Member since Oct 2012
70676 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
States rights.


Everyone knows that.


pvilleguru
Atlanta United Fan
Member since Jun 2009
55468 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
Yes.


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188
pvilleguru
Atlanta United Fan
Member since Jun 2009
55468 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

The central theme of Lincoln's campaign was economic nationalism. Which meant support for the recently passed Morrill Tariff, and possibly further increases in taxes on southern exports.
The Morrill Tariff wasn't passed until after most of the South seceded.


OrangeEmpire
Tennessee Fan
RVA
Member since Feb 2020
907 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
Of course it was.

You have ask yourself what was the key states right issue and it is slavery.

The powder keg started with the first censuses and continued through various compromises till the Civil War came to a head.

Timeline


The Sultan of Swine
Arkansas Fan
Member since Nov 2010
4362 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

The Morrill Tariff wasn't passed until after most of the South seceded


My mistake. It had passed in the house but not the Senate. Minutiae though


pvilleguru
Atlanta United Fan
Member since Jun 2009
55468 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
Is it minutiae since it never would have passed the senate had the south not seceded?


The Sultan of Swine
Arkansas Fan
Member since Nov 2010
4362 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

Of course it was.

You have ask yourself what was the key states right issue and it is slavery.


There was no immediate threat to slavery for southern states.


The Sultan of Swine
Arkansas Fan
Member since Nov 2010
4362 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

Is it minutiae since it never would have passed the senate had the south not seceded?


Yes, the point in bringing up the Morrill Tariff is that it was a key controversial north vs south issue at the time. Lincoln supported it and more importantly the economic philosophy behind it.


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60
OrangeEmpire
Tennessee Fan
RVA
Member since Feb 2020
907 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
The boiling point is slavery's expansion West.


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83
BowlJackson
UAB Fan
Birmingham, AL
Member since Sep 2013
45170 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

States rights.


Everyone knows that.


The states rights to allow slavery, yeah


Tuscaloosa
New York Yankees Fan
Member since Dec 2011
29707 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
Unequivocally yes.

Apostles of Disunion is a great, unbiased book on the matter. It dissects the letters of Southern Commissioners and their call to secede. Their unified voice centers around the preservation of slavery. Of course, that hinges on a broader view of "states rights" - but that argument as a whole only exists as a manner to save face. In fact, the argument of the war being fought over states rights wasn't widely used until after the war had been lost.


Tuscaloosa
New York Yankees Fan
Member since Dec 2011
29707 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

The states rights to allow slavery, yeah


Precisely.

It was about slavery. States rights is a hollow, cowardice argument.


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236
The Sultan of Swine
Arkansas Fan
Member since Nov 2010
4362 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
I addressed this argument directly in the OP


Tuscaloosa
New York Yankees Fan
Member since Dec 2011
29707 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

I addressed this argument directly in the OP


Here is how you addressed the argument:

quote:

1. "But political leaders in the South said themselves that the war was over slavery" -- Yes, some did. Others emphasized the importance of state sovereignty. Regardless, this isn't really a good measure for determining the actual causes of war.


In fact, almost all of the Southern Commissioners used Slavery as their foundational argument for secession. That is indisputable.


KyleOrtonsMustache
Purdue Fan
Krystal Baller
Member since Jan 2008
4287 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
Was it about slavery? Yes

Was it about only slavery? No



The Sultan of Swine
Arkansas Fan
Member since Nov 2010
4362 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
It's really just not a good measure for the reasons I stated. For the same reason you can't take that we went to war with Iraq because of "weapons of mass destruction" at face value.


DirtyDawg
Georgia Fan
Straight outta Cobbton
Member since Aug 2013
10633 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
quote:

States rights.



The "right" to own slaves.


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154
OrangeEmpire
Tennessee Fan
RVA
Member since Feb 2020
907 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
We have 50 years of history that clearly gives us the reason for the Civil War.

Iraq and Afghanistan we have months that point toward a boogie man.


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52
reedus23
St. Louis
Member since Sep 2011
25222 posts

re: Was the civil war over slavery?
Jesus Christ. Here goes the racists trying to defend their indefensible position.

Yes it was about slavery. I didn't even read your post because it was too long...so full disclosure. But been down this path before. Go read the articles of secession for each of the states and see how many times slave, slavery or some form of that word is used.

I wish that those that want to claim state's rights would just stand up and own it. State your a racist and proud of it and if you could, you'd bring slavery back today. I'd respect you more for not trying to sugar coat everything to make yourself feel better.


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