*Apologies to Jon White from whom I sole the title for this piece.
Invariably, any discussion regarding the causes of the Late Unpleasantness brings forth the tortured issue of slavery. Back when I was a graduate student in the 1990s, there was still some room, though not much, for a multi-causational interpretation of the War, not so much anymore. Much of the literature tends to equate the South and slavery as one and the same. In the work of such historians as James McPherson and William Freehling, among others, the South is a kind of inverted King Midas whose every touch is tainted with slavery.
Some of this is the result of fashion. Many historians who were in graduate school during the 1960s, or who were trained by the same, found the Neo-Abolitionist view of the War and the South captivating. The Civil Rights movement seemed to confirm the view that the true cause of the War, the restriction and ultimate abolition of slavery, was still unfinished until African-Americans were elevated to a place of full social, political, and economic equality with whites in the United States. History was no longer solely the activity of painstaking reconstruction and comprehension; it was social and political advocacy.
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