American Civil War-Slavery was Proximate Cause

The Civil War, the War of Northern aggression, The War for Southern Independence, or “The Recent Unpleasantness”-whatever you call it, the armed struggle that rent our country from 1861-1865 is the fulcrum of our history.  It dealt with a matter-slavery-that the Founding Fathers overlooked in order to form a country.  The War was the coming out party of the industrial might that by the 20th century made the USA a world power.  The struggle captivates us as does no other episode in our national history.

However, as we approach the sesquicentiennial of the Civil War one I imagine we will once again become immersed in the question that fascinated the Old Country Doctor-what was the cause of the war? States Rights? Tariffs? What?

Shoot, even WaPo columnists are jumping on the bandwagon to discuss the matter.

Let’s not kid ourselves. It comes down one word-Slavery.

As you know, I was raised a small town southern kid-in old Manassas, VA.  I also attended a private kindergarten (not part of public school then) where we began each day with The Pledge (said to the American flag), the Lord’s Prayer, and then we sang “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” while facing a picture of Robert E. Lee.  I have pictures of me at the age of 21 months attending the 100th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas.  I have tramped the battlefields, read the books.  I have relatives deep in my bloodline that fought in the war-some for the North, some for the South.

So I have some familiarity with the history of the era…and I have yet to find any fact that makes a compelling case for anything other than  slavery as the igniting factor of the war.

One can argue State’s Rights as the cause, tariff policies that militated against the South as the reason, even a fundamental disagreement over what the constitution allowed a state to do-like secede.

However, one can even set aside the quotes from Alexander Stephens and Jefferson Davis and realize that the cause is slavery.  If you remove slavery from the equation….none of these items-which did have an impact-would have started a war.

An economic system based on involuntary servitude undergirds all reasons for starting hostilities.  It’s the proximate cause of the struggle.  Slavery ignites all that happens.

We are going to see and hear lots of articles and media pieces about this turning point in American history over the next four years.   While we remember the courage, bravery, and sacrifice, we must also remember some basic facts about the war.

As Mr. Dionne writes:

We can take pride in our struggles to overcome the legacies of slavery and segregation. But we should not sanitize how contested and bloody the road to justice has been. We will dishonor the Civil War if we refuse to face up to the reason it was fought.


6 thoughts on “American Civil War-Slavery was Proximate Cause

  1. By turning the focus on slavery, you play into the hands of the, “New South” apologists, who try to ban the display of the Battle Flag and, in general, take pleasure from lumping all Southerners into the slave-owning, plantation-owner class.

    It is unrealistic, and inaccurate to claim that slavery was the sole cause, any more than it is accurate to say that the Spanish-American War, was only due to the explosion aboard the USS Maine.

    As we CELEBRATE the Sesquicentennial of the, War for Southern Independence, it is the sacrifice and valor of our Confederate Veterans, which we honor. We do not glorify the institution of chattel, nor do our battle re-enactments and other historic events, serve any purpose, other than honoring those who served to defend Virginia, against an invading army.

    Those who grovel before the altar of political correctness, love to reduce all issues related to the Confederate era, to be about slavery, as if that alone is rationale for withholding appropriate honors for the Confederate Veteran, or even the banning of all forms of Confederate flags and regalia.

    Recall that many Americans hated the Vietnam War, and transferred that hatred to our men and women in uniform. Thankfully, Americans have learned to honor our soldiers of the Vietnam era, while reserving disapproval of the rationale for the Vietnam War.

    The same should be true with regard to our Confederate Veterans. Regardless of any feelings about the causes of the War, our U.S. government has, rightfully recognized Confederate Veterans, as U.S. Veterans. Our citizens should honor Confederate and Union troops of that era, together, with all of our Veterans from all other periods in our history, for doing their duty and serving with honor.

    At my home, I fly the Battle Flag, the Virginia flag and Old Glory, together. For those of you who wish to display these three flags in accord with proper flag etiquette, review the U.S. Flag Code ( The U.S. Flag (Old Glory) should be posted slightly higher in the center, with the Virginia flag on the U.S. flag’s right (with the mounting bracket, slightly lower than the bracket holding the U.S. flag), with the Battle Flag (or other historic flag from the Confederate era) at the same level as the Virginia flag and equidistant on the left of the U.S. flag.

  2. JTB, you will note that I said not the sole cause, but the proximate cause. I look forward to your listing the causes of the war that were not significantly impacted or driven by slavery.

  3. The original post was not to counter what you had said, as much as to indicate why and how many Virginians and our fellow citizens across America, celebrate and honor our Confederate Veterans.

    Just one example, when I lived in Wisconsin, I saw numerous displays of the Battle Flag, especially along the lakefront. At first I thought that these folks flying the Battle flags were transplanted Southerners, but what I found in many cases, was the people just liked the spirit embodied in the Battle Flag. A few were Civil War battle re-enactors, but others were just admirers of the spirit of our Confederate Vets.

  4. I would tend to say it was more than just “about”…it was the driving force behind all stated causes.

    on the other hand, the mere fact that Jon Stewart says something is alsmot enough to make me reexamine my views on a subject… 😉

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