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Lincoln's version of the causes of the Civil War is perhaps best summarized in his Second Inaugural Address, delivered as the war was winding down in 1865. Harkening back to his first address, Lincoln assessed the situation then:
Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
Lincoln argued, then, that the South, having left the Union, began the Civil War, because their leaving the Union would have destroyed it. He explicitly connected secession to the protection of slavery, claiming that "[a]ll knew that this interest [the slave power] was somehow the cause of the war." So secession was the cause of the war, but underlying secession were the machinations of a slave power that brought it about in an effort to advance their interests.
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