Did slavery cause the Civil War?Use examples from either of theses sources to help answer the question: The Diary of a Union Soldier (1862) Letters from a Confederate Officer (1862) George...

Did slavery cause the Civil War?

Use examples from either of theses sources to help answer the question:

The Diary of a Union Soldier (1862)

Letters from a Confederate Officer (1862)

George Fitzhugh Advocates Slavery

Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race

Emily Dickinson

Joseph Smith

On the Management of the Butler Estate

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance

Valley of the Shadow Project

Direct quotes would be greatly appreciated.. :)

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Slavery did not directly cause the Civil War.  Instead, it was the differences between the northern and southern economies that caused the war.  Of course, slavery was one of those differences.

To see that slavery wasn't the main cause of the war, look back to the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s -- the first time the South talked secession.  It was caused not by slavery but by a tariff.

The South's economy depended on exports (and slave labor) while the North's depended more on manufacturing and on free labor, farmers and immigrants.

Because they had such different economies and needs they came to distrust each other.

So slavery is one way in which they were different, but it's not like the main aim of the South was to keep slavery while the main aim of the North was to end it.

A couple more points about that:

  • Four Union states allowed slavery
  • There were draft riots in NYC because people didn't want to fight to free slaves.

One thing from one of the sources you ask about... The letter of James Griffin to his wife 2/26/62.  He does not talk about the need to preserve slavery, but rather to preserve the rights of Southerners.  Southerners saw the North as totally opposed to them and believed that the North would rule only for its own benefit if given the chance.  You see this in that letter, but you don't see anything about slavery.

Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this.

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Slavery did not cause the Civil War, or War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you're from.  As noted, the economies of North and South were different; however, up until 1808 the North, which had the majority of the shipping for the young United States, was actively involved in the slave trade with Africa.  It continued to move Southern goods around the world right up until the war.

The North did not fight the war to free slaves, but rather to "preserve" the union.  The South did not fight to preserve slavery, but to maintain State's Rights against an increasing Federal, and Northern controlled government.

The issue of slavery, or more precisely, abolition, did not become a factor in the war until Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.  By declaring Northern support for abolition, he hoped to take the moral high ground and deny Great Britain in aiding the South, since it had abolished slavery in 1830.  His gambit paid off, and Great Britain never declared war on the Northern states. Lacking foreign aid, the South could not maintain the fight against the Northern onslaught.