Was the Civil War about slavery or Northern aggression?
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- 1 - It was not about Northern aggression. The Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter first, so the initial aggression was by the South.
Certainly, the Confederacy did some invasion of the US, as evidenced by the fact that the battle at Gettysburg was in the North.
I would, however support saying it was a war of Southern Aggression, and the North was just fighting back.
- 2 - The Civil War was not about slavery, either.
It was about taxes, rejection of the political dominance of the more populous states, and disagreement about the balance of power between the federal and state governments, as demonstrated by the state's rights issue.
When it came to inducing people to join armies and fight, particularly in the Confederacy, slavery was not a particularly strong inducement. 10% or fewer of people in the South ever owned slaves because slaves were very expensive, and the majority of Southerners were subsistence farmers who could not afford to feed a slave, much less purchase one. They were not about to risk their lives for the sake of protecting the rights of rich plantation owners to own something they themselves had no hope of ever having. They were fighting for national independence of the CSA.
We can tell plainly that the North was not fighting to end slavery because none of the actions to end slavery happened early in the war. The Emancipation Proclamation was not signed until January of 1863, two years into the war. Likewise, the Thirteenth Amendment was not passed until January of 1865, only four months before the end of the Civil War, and four years after its start.
Ending slavery was clearly not the reason for the North fighting the Civil War because, if ending slavery were really the purpose, these would have come at the beginning of the war. Instead, it was merely an afterthought.
This is not to say that the slavery issue was not a contributing factor to bringing the conflicts to a head, and helping to advance secession.
Disagreement regarding slavery provided some of the propaganda both sides of the state's rights debate clubbed each other with in the decades prior to the Secession. This was not the only propaganda club.
The southern states also accented the competition between the South's primarily agricultural interests and the North's industrial interests. Because most of the nation's large scale commercial agriculture was in the south, and because slave labor was used primarily on these commercial plantations, slavery did figured
in how these competing interests were characterized.
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