In a PBS interview seven years ago historian and Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust identified slavery as the cause of the Civil War. “Historians are pretty united on the cause of the Civil War being slavery,” she said before adding, . . . “when the various states announced their plans for secession, they uniformly said that the main motivating factor was to defend slavery.”
But she commits three errors. First, the American Battlefield Trust suggests that only four of the “various” first seven seceding states issued formal statements citing slavery as a prime reason for leaving. Second, the four upper-South states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas only joined the Confederacy after President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to coerce the seven Gulf states back into the Union. They did, however, double the Confederacy’s white population and her territory east of the Mississippi River. Third, and foremost, Faust falsely equates the reasons the Northern states chose to fight a war with the reasons Southern states seceded.
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