In American schools the Civil War is a one trick pony. It was all about slavery and that is all it was about.
There can be no doubt that slavery was a blight upon the History of the United States. It was incompatible with the inspiring words of our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The very idea of chattel slavery wherein one person can own another and their children, and their children’s children unto the furthest generation is an abomination. The South saw this as their peculiar institution, and they had built an entire culture upon slavery as an economic necessity. For a variety of reasons even the Southern Churches supported and attempted to justify the practice. However, all of this being said slavery was not the only issue at stake in the Civil War.
There was one other that took center stage in the minds of many: State’s Rights.
In the decades that had passed since the ratification of the Constitution slavery had been steadily abolished in the Northern states while remaining prevalent in the South. This inexorably led to the issue of slavery becoming intertwined in the issues of States Rights, Federalism and the growing power of the Federal Government.
The proponents of States rights appealed to the 10th Amendment which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This had been added to the original Constitution due to the intellectual and political pressure from the Anti-Federalists. This Amendment was meant to reassure people of the limited nature of the Federal government and that with the few exception specifically delegated to the Federal Government by the States the States and the people were free to continue exercising their sovereign powers.
President Lincoln did not see the Civil War as a war to end slavery until that became necessary to stop European powers from recognizing the South.
Lincoln said in his 1st Inaugural Address, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”