What was the American civil war really about?

I have now viewed the second segment of BBC Four’s series “American History’s Biggest Fibs With Lucy Worsley” which dealt with the American Civil War. 

Too many people think that the war was about the abolition of slavery. In fact, as Worseley reminds us, the war started when the Northern states insisted that new states should not be allowed to institute slavery, but the Southern states would have been allowed to continue with slavery.

Early in his political career, even President Abraham Lincoln was “morally ambivalent” about slavery, but he made his Emancipation Declaration of 1863 as a means of galvanising the North’s war effort.

The war did not actually abolish slavery outright because the Thirteenth Amendment allowed convicts to be classed as slaves. And, of course, if slavery was the most egregious manifestation of racial discrimination, discrimination continued which is why there was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Worsley finishes up in Charlottesville to underline that the ultimate objective of the civil war – emancipation – is still far from realised.

I once read an excellent book on the American Civil War, from which I learned a lot, and you can read my review here.


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