Causes of the Civil War
There continues to be debate among historians over the causes of the Civil War. A majority of mainstream historians can, and will, attribute the Civil War to one single cause: slavery. However, there are a number of revisionist historians who prefer to dredge up old arguments regarding state’s rights.
In many ways, the seeds of the Civil War were planted in the Constitution, when framers were forced to compromise on the issue, writing its existence into the very fabric of government. Through the first decades of the 19th century, American states were admitted on an equal basis: one slave, and one free. Various compromises in 1820 and 1850 attempted to retain that balance, but growing opposition to slavery by abolitionists eventually led to the formation of a political party, the Republican Party, that supported the abolitionist position.
The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was the final precipitating cause of the Civil War, as southern states, who had long spoken of a “Northern conspiracy” to do away with their “peculiar institution,” began to secede from the United States. Much of their justification for doing so rested on arguments regarding “state’s rights,” but the only right they truly wanted to preserve was the right to keep human beings in lifelong bondage. In some ways, the Civil War was inevitable in American history, as sectionalism and crises marked much of the country’s history between 1820 and 1860.