Marlborough College Summer School

‘The Cause’ of the US Civil War

John Spicer judges that slavery was the key factor in producing the conflict.

Daguerreotype of a New Orleans woman with her slave in the mid 19th centuryMore than 60 per cent of the electorate did not vote for Abraham Lincoln as President in November 1860, and he won the electoral college vote despite not carrying one Southern state. Lincoln's triumph prompted South Carolina to secede from the Union on 20th December 1860, and his reassurances that the institution of slavery would not be affected where it already existed failed to satisfy the doubts of other Southern states. By the time of his inauguration, six more states from the Lower South - Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas - had left the Union, and the Confederate States of America (CSA) had been set up. Lincoln arrived in Washington having travelled through the slave state of Maryland in disguise in order to avoid possible attack or assassination. A war was about to begin which would leave about as many dead as all of the other wars the USA has fought added together. That war would result in freedom for 4 million black slaves, and secure the future of the Union.

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