Slavery as the Primary Cause of the Civil War: the Real Lost Cause Argument.

O' Be Joyful

Sergeant Major
i am new here but cannot believe what i am reading .
that institutionalized slavery was the primary cause of the war is indisputable even if it did not cause the first shot. to minimize it's importance is repugnant . that so many still feel otherwise is equally repugnant. i wonder what confederate supporters want ? was the confederacy really a noble cause or does it need to be in order to rationalize it ?

Welcome to you John. You are far ahead of...many here. :thumbsup:
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Thanks for your response.
Again, few if any among us asserts that there was just "one single cause". What has been asserted ad infinitum is that among the many causes there was one, single root cause, the one that more than any of the others was the reason for seces

This Thread was started with the premise the OP, was being called a Lost Causer. Members came to that conclusion, because he, and many others here, don't believe Slavery was the Single Primary Cause. The definition of Primary, as I understand the OP, is of chief importance, prime, central. So, many of us believe there were More Causes other than Slavery that were at least as Important as Slavery, some of which were More Important that Slavery, to some. It is impossible to define something as Absolute. We, have debated this, the relation of when the States seceded. etc

The Single Causers here disagree with those, who believe there were more, than 1 Primary Cause. We understand that those who disagree, believe there were other issues. But those issues relevance seem to be diminished as to importance, to make them Secondary, or Subordinate.

I think that is a fair analysis. This thread has rambled, as they always do. However, I think the purpose has been served. We have a Term for those who can't identify but 1 Primary Cause. They are SINGLE CAUSERS. And, this is supported by the Single Cause Fallacy:

The fallacy of the single cause, also know as complex cause, causal oversimplification, causal reductionism, and reduction fallacy, is a fallacy of questionable cause that occurs when it is assumed that there is a single, simple cause of an outcome when in REALITY it may have been caused by a number of only jointly sufficient causes. Emphasis mine, source Wikipedia

So thank you for your participation. You have defined your premise that Slavery was the only Primary Cause. Hope those who believe that Slavery is the Only Primary Cause, will understand why some, Don't support their conclusion.
 

ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
I have mentioned this book previously, and I would recommend it to all again. At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis, by the late historian Shearer Davis Bowman, is a very good exploration of war causation. He focuses on competing notions of the “interests, rights, and honor” that were held by the sections during the war. It is not a fun read, as it strikes me that Bowman is writing for a graduate school class, and not a mass audience. One other complaint is that the book lacks a "narrative coherence," however I don't know that a "narrative" is needed to provide historical interpretation... but let me not get started on that.

One key take away for me from the book for me is that the war was not just about competing issues, but rather, about competing beliefs, emotions, mindsets. As I have come to see it, the war was about different and competing identities.

And that would be my main point on this subject: if we look at the war as simply about issues, and not beliefs, views, emotions, and identities, it's hard to get a grip on how this war came. This is why the idea that the conflict between free labor and slave labor as the root cause of the war is so convincing to me: that conflict stirred up passions on both sides that no other sectional conflict at the time did, or could. These passions, as much as, or more than the “issues,” are pivotal to understanding why the war came.

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
I have mentioned this book previously, and I would recommend it to all again. At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis, by the late historian Shearer Davis Bowman, is a very good exploration of war causation. He focuses on competing notions of the “interests, rights, and honor” that were held by the sections during the war. It is not a fun read, as it strikes me that Bowman is writing for a graduate school class, and not a mass audience. One other complaint is that the book lacks a "narrative coherence," however I don't know that a "narrative" is needed to provide historical interpretation... but let me not get started on that.

One key take away for me from the book for me is that the war was not just about competing issues, but rather, about competing beliefs, emotions, mindsets. As I have come to see it, the war was about different and competing identities.

And that would be my main point on this subject: if we look at the war as simply about issues, and not beliefs, views, emotions, and identities, it's hard to get a grip on how this war came. This is why the idea that the conflict between free labor and slave labor is the root cause of the war is so convincing to me: that conflict stirred up passions on both sides that no other sectional conflict at the time did, or could. These passions, as much as, or more than the “issues,” are pivotal to understanding why the war came.

- Alan
 

ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
It's useful to describe what it means to say slavery was the root cause of the war.

In this video, historian Elizabeth Varon talks about the "fundamentalist school" in the first 3-4 minutes of a talk. She says "there's emerged in recent years a strong consensus, which scholars call the fundamentalist school, that slavery was the root fundamental cause of the civil war and that the political antagonisms between the North and South flowed from the fact that the North was a free labor society while the South was a slave labor society which remained committed to slavery and indeed to extending its domain."

When historians say that slavery was the root cause of the war they mean to say the following:

• At its root, the war was caused by the conflict between the free labor North and the slave labor South. That is, "slavery" did not cause the war, per se; rather the conflict between the sections over free labor versus slave labor was the root cause of the war. This conflict led to political antagonism that resulted in war. In this conflict, countless political, social, and cultural battles became proxy wars that became a full-fledged military war by the 1860s.

• The conflict of free labor versus slave labor was the primary and essential element in causing the war. That is, it is difficult to conceive there being a Civil War without this element. There were other sectional conflicts, but they did not rise to the level where secession and ultimately war were seen as necessary to resolve the conflict.

> I invite others to weigh-in on this, concerning what historians mean when they say "slavery was the rot cause of the war."
********

To add to what historians mean when they say the conflict between free labor and slave labor was the root cause of the war, there is this. In his book At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis, author Shearer Davis Bowman writes

The inability to engineer an acceptable compromise during the secession crisis reflected the reality that neither northern nor southern stalwarts could endorse concessions that did not seem to undermine what they perceived to be their fundamental interests rights and honor as citizens of the American Republic.​
Avery Craven has powerfully concluded, "neither the North nor the South could you yield its position because slavery had come to symbolize values in each of their socio-economic structures for which men fight and die but which they do not give up or compromise."​

That last comment is key: the conflict of free labor versus slave labor was uncompromising. There was no middle ground between free labor and slave labor. Or at least, the antagonists could not find one. Other elements, such as tariffs, could find a middle ground for resolution. The North and South could not find a middle ground on the fundamental conflict.

I would add on this point that studies of intellectual history, emotional history and rhetoric indicate that the sections had evolved hardened views of their labor systems into which so much emotional, intellectual, political, social, and political capital had been invested, that they could not give up on their views. For the sections, free labor and slave labor were not just theories or world views; these things representedwho they were culturally, intellectually, socially, and so on. These were not just conflicting world views, they were conflicting identities. These identities were entrenched to a point that compromise meant, as Shearer Bowman put it, giving up on their interests, rights, and honor. The sides were not going to do that, and then the war came.

- Alan
 

Tin cup

Captain
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Location
Texas
I only care about the truth.

Placing all the blame on the Southern states using slavery as the weapon while Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts get a free pass is not an accurate version of history.

It simply makes some people feel good about the War at the expense of others.
The North didn't try to illegally break up the Union to perpetuate slavery, We should all feel good about THAT.

Kevin Dally
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
I only care about the truth.

Good to know.

Placing all the blame on the Southern states using slavery as the weapon while Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts get a free pass is not an accurate version of history.

I only know what I read from period sources and primary documents. Slavery was the primary concern of the Southern, slaveholding states. THEY said so, THEY made it their primary concern, and THEY seceded over that one issue.

It simply makes some people feel good about the War at the expense of others.

The death of over 700,000 Americans, be they from the North or South should not make anyone "feel good."

At recognizing the why of the war is not at the "expense of others." It is a lesson that needs to be told, not "white washed" so that others can "feel good" about their ancestors past actions.

Unionblue
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
So, the OP posits the thory that without Slavery, there would still have been Secession and, apparently, from his other posts, it would still have occureed in 1860 - 1861?
 

ebg12

Corporal
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
75% of world's cotton demand was supplied from the South....if somehow, the economic engine of the south can be disenfranchised from the production of cotton, then the cause of the south can be disenfranchised from slavery. If not, then the south was fighting for cotton and slavery! Or was there another product of the south that was driving the economy more than cotton?
 

Union League

Private
Joined
Apr 4, 2018
My Fellow Posters,

Relatively new to this very informative site, I have observed on numerous occasions that whenever anyone suggests an alternative to the primacy of slavery as a cause of the Civil War that such a debater is frowned upon with the stereotypical and vacuous sobriquet "Lost Causer." My own caption for those who resort to this kind of debate is "Lost Logicers." But I don't like the euphony of that response, even though I think the caption is correct. I find it intellectuallly feeble that the only argument against other causes is the simplistic, "Oh, so you are a 'Lost Causer,' are you?" which question is supposed to end all argument once and for all. It doesn't, of course, even though those who use it sail happily away, confident in their course of history.

That's not how I see it, and thus I characterize those who argue for the primacy of slavery as the cause as the true "Lost Causers." If anyone has a better neologism for responding to these advocates, I would like to find something better and more euphonic I prefer something in the 2-3 syllable range for some shorthand.

In this context let me add that those responsible for exalting slavery to a primary cause, i.e., those antebellum Seceshers who offered that sorry Saran-Wrap-thin and phony excuse for what they contemplated and then did, were actually joined in their hermeneutical gymnastics by Northerners AFTER the war. Those Northerners had to come up with something noble to explain to grieving mothers, fathers, sisters, and brother, and everybody else --like my spinster grade school teachers and other non-thinkers-- that their loved ones did not die in vain or for something as grubby as greed for western land and railroads. No, no, no! Good heavens, NO!! Gotta have a noble cause. Gotta extrapolate one! In fact, I think Northerners were probably even more responsible for the "Lost Cause of Slavery Primacy" argument, as it is so atypical for Northerners to take at face value the arguments of any Southerners, especially Southerners long since dead and their dead cause with them. Just a thought, not an argument --yet.

Will someone help me coin a useful and comprehensive neologism?

James
Loyal.
 
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