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The U.S. Civil War.
Was Slavery its cause?

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Warning: This report contains some racially bigoted quotations that
violate this group's beliefs concerning race, and probably yours also.
We included them since they were embedded in 19th century historical

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Status of slavery in the United States as of 1855:

The following map was published in 1898 and reflects the status of human slavery as of 1855-MAR-04. States and territories are shown in three color-coded groups:

  • Blue: California, north eastern states, and some midwestern states: "Free States" where slavery was banned.

  • Pink: Southern states from Texas to Virginia to Florida: Slave Holding States.

  • Yellow: Western states that were open to slavery.

Slave-status-1855  11

Status of slavery in U.S. states & territories on 1855-MAR-04

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The start of the Confederacy and, later, of the U.S. Civil War:

Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party candidate at the time, was elected President of the U.S. on 1860-NOV-06. The Republicans had run on an anti-slavery platform. About six weeks later, on DEC-20, the state government of South Carolina declared its secession from the Union. More states followed. Together, they founded the Confederate States of America (CSA) on 1861-FEB-04. Jefferson Davis, formerly a Mississippi Senator, was elected as their provisional president. Its capital was at Montgomery, AL. 9 The Civil War then became inevitable.

By 1861-MAR, six more states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas also separated from the Union and joined the Confederacy.

The war started started on 1861-APR-12 when 5,500 soldiers of the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, SC. It was a federal fortification, located within the Confederacy. The 86 soldiers staffing the fort surrendered after a 34 hour bombardment which allegedly caused no deaths! The fort is now a national park.

The Civil War between the U.S. Government and the Confederate States of Americas has also been called the "War Between the States," "War of the Rebellion," "Great Rebellion," "War for Southern Independence," "War of Northern Aggression," "War of Southern Aggression," "Freedom War," "War of Secession," the "American (US) North-South War, and probably by other terms that we have missed.

By 1861-JUN, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia had joined the Confederacy to make an total of eleven-states. Some of the flags used by the Confederacy and its Navy showed 13 stars, with two representing Kentucky and Missouri. They were claimed by both the Confederacy and the Union but remained under Union control during the war.

Four other states, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri had previously also legalized slavery but had remained within the Union during the war. 5

The maximum extent of the Confederacy  6

Maximum extent of the Confederacy with its capitol at Richmond, VA.
(The three orange areas were claimed but not under its effective control.)

The war ended on 1865-MAY-09 with the surrender of the Confederacy. This occurred about a month before the final military engagement: the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Cameron County, Texas. The death toll during the four years of the war was in excess of 620,000; many more were injured. In those days, medical science was in a primitive state. Even a relatively minor injury could become infected and eventually result in one's death.

After the Civil War, on Christmas Day, 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued Proclamation 179 which gave:

"... to all and to every person who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late insurrection or rebellion a full pardon and amnesty for the offense of treason against the United States or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof." 10

By 1870-JUL, all of the Confederate states had been readmitted into the Union.

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Causes of the U.S. Civil War:

The attack on Fort Sumter was only the trigger that started the Civil War. There is no consensus about the actual background cause(s) that motivated the states to seceded and attack the fort. 1 Some of the main theories are:

  • The adoption by the Republican Party of a platform that was opposed to human slavery .

  • Whether the national government, centered in Washington DC, had the constitutional power to prohibit slavery in those western U.S. territories that had not yet become individual states.

  • Gene Kizer Jr., the author of the book: "Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States: The Irrefutable Argument" argues for an economic cause of the war. At the time, the North's economy was based on manufacturing, and on shipping Southern cotton worldwide. In 1860, Cotton formed 60% of U.S. exports. The South's economy was based on agriculture -- notably the production of cotton. When the states in the South seceded from the Union, the economy of the North collapsed.

  • On 1861-MAR-21, Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederate States of America, delivered his famous "Cornerstone Speech," in which he said the "cornerstone" of the Confederacy was:

    "...the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man, [and] that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."

  • Prager University posted the following 6 minute video, with Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor of History at West Point, as narrator. The video received over 1.7 million views, and collected almost 2,000 comments by 2017-AUG. He argues that, of the various reasons proposed for the war -- the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, economic differences, elitism, federal control, the Missouri Compromise, slavery, Southern succession, social differences, and states' rights, etc. -- that:

    "... slavery was, by a wide margin, the single most important cause of the Civil War, by both sides."

    He cites a statement in the Charleston Mercury newspaper just before the 1860 presidential election. It said that the issue before the country was:

    "... the extinction of slavery."

    It called on all those who were:

    "... not prepared to surrender the institution to act." 2


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Statements by some of the state governments that joined the Confederacy:

  • During 1861, the Government of Texas published a document titled "A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Union." It states, in part:

"The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretences and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States.

By the disloyalty of the Northern States and their citizens and the imbecility of the Federal Government, infamous combinations of incendiaries and outlaws have been permitted in those States and the common territory of Kansas to trample upon the federal laws, to war upon the lives and property of Southern citizens in that territory, and finally, by violence and mob law, to usurp the possession of the same as exclusively the property of the Northern States.

The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refused reimbursement therefore, thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas.

These and other wrongs we have patiently borne in the vain hope that a returning sense of justice and humanity would induce a different course of administration. ..." 3

  • Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina also issued government documents usually called "Declarations of Causes," in which they explain their decision to leave the Union.  The documents make for fascinating reading. Some excerpts: 4

    • Georgia's Declaration notes:
      • "For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. ..."

      • "[Their] ... hostile policy has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war. ..."

      • "The prohibition of slavery in the [Western] Territories is the cardinal principle of ... [people of the North]" 4

    • Mississippi's Declaration states:
      • "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 [of slavery], or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin." 4

    • South Carolina's Declaration, referring to the election of President Lincoln inn 1860, states:
      • "A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of [Abraham Lincoln] a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that 'Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,' and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction."

  • President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on 1862-SEP-22. It required Confederate states to surrender by 1863-JAN-01, or their Union government would free the slaves. The Declaration had no effect at the time. The slaves were only freed after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865-MAY.

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Religious support for slavery in the U.S.:

Slavery was considered a normal and approved practice by many passages in the Bible's Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). However, there were major differences between slavery as practiced by the ancient Hebrews and American slavery. One was that a male could usually only be forcibly enslaved for seven years, whereas U.S. slavery was permanent and also extended to the person's children.

There was a religious belief in the U.S. that is not commonly mentioned. Many Christians once believed that God created different races of humans and placed them in different parts of the world: blacks in South Africa, whites in Northern Europe, etc. God intended that they remain permanently separate and never mix. Slavery helped to maintain the separation of the races. This belief was used to justify racial segregation.

There is a passage in the Bible at Genesis 9:20-27 which was the main justification of slavery of Africans in the past. The passage discusses in vague terms what was apparently an nonconsensual sexual encounter between Noah and his youngest son, Ham. Noah, at the time, lay in his tent, drunk and naked. After Noah sobered up, he imposed the "Curse of Ham." This term is actually misnamed. The curse did not apply to Noah's son, Ham. Rather, it punished Ham's son/Noah's grandson, Canaan, who was placed in perpetual slavery. This transfer of guilt and punishment from a guilty person (Ham) to an innocent and uninvolved person (Ham's son Canaan) may seem to be profoundly immoral and irrational by today's ethical standards. It is called "scapegoating." However, it is found widely throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

Further, the curse evolved over time. A misreading of the Biblical passage:

    "... led to the mistaken belief that the word ''Ham'' meant ''dark, black or heat.'' 8

Complicating the matter, more scapegoating occurred in recent centuries when the curse of slavery was applied to not only Ham, but to all of Ham's descendents. Finally, for no obvious reason, all Africans with dark/black skin color were identified as the descendents of Ham.

A second justification for slavery in the past was that when slaves were forcibly relocated in the U.S., they could be exposed to Christian teachings. They might accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and thus attain Heaven after death. Even today, many fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians believe that if a person has not trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior that they will remain unsaved. When they die, they will end up in the torture chambers of Hell -- even if they had never been exposed to the Christian message during their life on Earth, or even heard of the Christian God, the Bible, or Jesus.

The residual effects of slavery remain tragically present today -- over six generations/150 years after the end of the civil war -- in the form of beliefs in white supremacy and racism.

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Books on the cause(s) of the Civil War:

  • book cover Gene Kizer Jr., "Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States: The Irrefutable Argument," Charleston Athenaeum Press (2014) Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store. Amazon customers rate the book with 4.0 stars out of a maximum of 5. This is a surprisingly high value considering the controversial nature of the topic.

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Some related essays and sections on this web site that may interest you:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Causes of the Civil War: Timeline," Shmoop, 2017, at:
  2. "Was the Civil War About Slaver?" PragerU., 2017-AUG-14, at:
  3. "A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union," Texas State Library and Archives Commission, at:
  4. "The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States," Civil War Trust, 2017, at:
  5. "The Confederate States of America," Fact Monster, 2017, at:
  6. Image downloaded from Wikipedia at: Created by "Nicholas F" at the English Wikipedia project. public domain symbolIn the public domain.
  7. Jennifer L. Weber & Warren W. Hassler, "American Civil War," Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017-JUL-21, at:
  8. Felicia R. Lee, "From Noah's Curse to Slavery's Rationale," The New York Times, 2003-NOV-01, at:
  9. "The Civil War and emancipation: 1861-1865," undated, WGBH/PBS Online, at:
  10. "Andrew Johnson, Proclamation 179, The American Presidency Project," University of California/Santa Barbara, 2017, at:
  11. Image created in 1899 by an unknown original source, and downloaded from: "Know your history: Understanding racism in the US," Aljazeera, 2015-AUG-15, at:

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Some related essays and sections on this web site that may interest you:

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How you might have arrived here:

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Copyright Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2013-JUL-30
Latest modification: 2017-SEP-03
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