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What caused the American Civil War? Show more Show less
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The American Civil War (1861-1865) officially began with the battle of Fort Sumter on April 12th-13th, 1861 and fundamentally shifted the trajectory of American history. Arguably the first instance of modern total war for the United States, the war impacted virtually every facet of American society. However, different perceptions of its origins and legacy persist across regions and demographics in the United States. One of the most contentious differences in opinion is around what the primary cause of the Civil War is.

Slavery Show more Show less

Slavery was prevalent throughout the South due to its primarily agrarian economy. While the majority of the Southern population did not own slaves themselves, slavery still held great social and political influence across the region.
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Prevalence of white supremacy

White supremacy was prevalent across all levels of Southern society due to the historical presence of slavery in its agrarian economy.
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The Argument

White Southerners vehemently believed in the natural inferiority of non-white races, shaping both its culture and its political institutions around this assumption. Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephen, emphasized how Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers' belief that slavery “was in violation of the laws of nature” and “their assumption of the equality of the races” were fundamentally wrong.[1] Southerners were deeply concerned with emancipation, believing that it would lead to miscegenation and ultimately the destruction of the white race.

Counter arguments

Southern politicians that initiated secession were primarily driven by the Southern economy's need for slaves and by how Northern politicians sought to increase their relative political power by stripping Southerners of their rights.


[P1] Slavery was seen as immoral by the majority of the North. [P2] Racism was deeply rooted in the South and allowed for Southern whites to accept slavery.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Slavery was moral due as it was a way to bring slaves into civilization proper. [Rejecting P2] Racism was rampant across all of the United States. Southerners adopted slavery due to the need for agrarian labor.




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This page was last edited on Monday, 27 Apr 2020 at 14:29 UTC

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