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Many of these questions arise frequently on the talk page concerning the American Civil War.
To view an explanation to the answer, click the [show] link to the right of the question.
Q1: Should slavery be presented as the most important cause of the war? (Yes.)
A1: Yes. Slavery was the most important cause of the war. Slaveholding states presented preservation of slavery as the central issue, in their own words. However, the US Congress did try to take slavery off the table at the last minute with the Crittenden Resolution, stating that the goal of the Northern States was not abolition of slavery, but preservation of the Union. Ironically, these positions were reversed later, especially with the rise of the Lost Cause interpretation.
There are other issues, such as the tariff issue, or states' rights which have been included in the article as well. Wikipedia requires that we rely on the best officially documented research available, without any original research. The best historians (McPherson, Nevins, Freehling and even the better Southern historians such as Potter) don't support Lost Cause interpretations of causes.
States' rights was a lesser issue. The original secessionists were not very careful in separating states' rights from the slavery issue. South Carolina's declaration of reasons for secession is one example out of many. However, Lost Cause historians did try to separate state's rights from slavery after the Confederate defeat.
The tariff was a lesser issue. The tariff issue was a much larger issue three decades before the war, and even then John Calhoun, who led South Carolina's attempt to nullify the Tariff of 1828, said that the tariff issue was related to slavery. In his March 6, 1860 speech at New Haven Lincoln said that the slavery issue was more important than the tariff or any other issue.
While northern states didn't allow equal civil rights for blacks, they were still much more antislavery than the South. Also, secessionists mentioned fears for the future of slavery many times in their declarations of reasons for secession, political speeches and editorials.
Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis said a great deal about controversy over slavery before the war. They downplayed the slavery issue when the war began because, as historian James Ford Rhodes explained, Lincoln needed to keep the loyalty of the border states, which were both pro-slavery and pro-Union, and Davis hoped to get support from Britain and France, where slavery was unpopular.
Q2: Did Lincoln propose to immediately abolish slavery in the South when elected? (No.)
A2: No. Lincoln combined moral opposition to slavery (calling it "a monstrous injustice") with a moderate, gradual program of action. Lincoln, like most Republicans, believed that compromises of the Constitution (a three-fifths clause, a 20 year extension of the African slave trade and a fugitive slave clause) implied Constitutional recognition of slavery where it existed. However, Lincoln would not compromise on preventing any expansion of slavery in the hope that this would put it "in the course of ultimate extinction."
Q3: Did Lincoln ever say that he had no plans to abolish slavery? (Yes.)
A3: Yes, he did say so during the early years of the war. However, the things Lincoln said in favor of equality were many, the things he said against it were few, and those few were combined with a great deal of political pressure. This is especially true with regard to Lincoln's letter to Greeley at a time when border state people and War Democrats might reject emancipation and the war if the issue wasn't explained in a way that they would accept. Also, Lincoln's sole justification for emancipation was military necessity. Lincoln was inconsistent on the equality issue during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 partly in order to deflect the politically damaging charge (by 19th century standards) that he was a "Black Republican" abolitionist.
Q4: Should the article refer to Confederate states as slave states? (Yes.)
A4: Yes, because Confederates referred to their states as slave states, and because Confederate states had more slavery than the border states, and because slavery related concerns were by far the major complaint mentioned by secessionists.
As to whether issues of right and wrong were part of the controversy, Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Stephens had the following to say about this:
"You think slavery is right and should be extended; while we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub." - From Abraham Lincoln's letter to Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, Dec 22, 1860
"We at the South do think African slavery, as it exists with us, both morally and politically right. This opinion is founded upon the inferiority of the black race. You, however, and perhaps a majority of the North, think it wrong." - From Stephens' reply to Lincoln, Dec 30, 1860
Q5: Did some slave states fight for the North? (Yes.)
A5: Yes, the five border states. These states had less slavery and more support for the Union than the Confederate slave states. They opposed emancipation at first, but largely accepted the military need for it eventually. Kentucky and Missouri had more slavery than the rest, and had loyalties that were more divided than the rest. For example, Missouri's Governor Claiborne Jackson was a southern sympathizer, but was prevented from seceding by Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. Missouri saw some of the worst guerrilla fighting of the entire war because of its divisions over slavery.
Q6: Should the title be American Civil War? (Yes.)
A6: Yes. The title "American Civil War" is used only because it is the most common international name for the war. It is used in order to be understood, regardless of whether it could be better. The title does ignore the South's point of view, and it ignores the fact that Central America and South America are also America, in a sense. The other names should be mentioned, but not in this article. They are mentioned in Naming the American Civil War. The main article links to this.
Q7: Did the South start the war? (Yes.)
A7: The South bombarded and seized Fort Sumter, a federal fort in South Carolina. Historians regard this as the incident in which the actual fighting began.
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Historical sequence: The statement on the Emancipation Proclamation (Jan 1863) is before the statement about the 1862 Mississippi campaign. Eviloverlords.chiefminion (talk) 04:35, 2 May 2017 (UTC) Eviloverlords.chiefminion
In "Root Causes / Slavery," it is stated that "Union men mainly believed that the purpose of the war was to emancipate the slaves." This contradicts a point from later in the article, from "Emancipation / Slavery as a War Issue," in which it is argued that "To Northerners, in contrast, the motivation was primarily to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery."
(I would personally argue that there is more evidence for the latter statement than the former.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 184.108.40.206 (talk) 07:57, 11 May 2017 (UTC)
Prior to 1863 there is certainly no reason to think that ending slavery was a major purpose of the war; it wasn't even stated Federal policy. After 1863, it became one of the Union war aims. What that means for ordinary soldiers' motivations, I have no idea. DMorpheus2 (talk) 11:42, 11 May 2017 (UTC)
I'm sure there are other sources, but if you have access to project Muse (if you don't, feel free to apply at WP:TWL), you can read chapter 3 of Ramold, Steven J. Across the Divide: Union Soldiers View the Northern Home Front. NYU Press, 2013., entitled “This Is an Abolition War” Soldiers, Civilians, and the Purpose of the War (p55-86). There, Ramold discusses the argument among soldiers over whether or not abolition was the purpose of the war as well as the growing sentiments in favor of freeing slaves as northern soldiers saw slavery first hand. Smmurphy(Talk) 14:41, 11 May 2017 (UTC)
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In my opinion the current lede tells us almost nothing about soldiers, battles , strategy, civilians or main goals or results. It's a disaster for anyone who wants to learn the main points in a few minutes. Rjensen (talk) 21:17, 14 May 2017 (UTC)
Okay, how about this Proposal A:
The American Civil War was fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865. The nationalists of the Union proclaimed loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States of America advocating states’ rights to perpetual slavery and its expansion in the Americas. After both sides raised conscription mass armies that contested almost half the continent, the Union won the war and abolished slavery in the bloodiest war of U.S. history.
I don't think he was asking to change the lead sentence and I see no reason to. I took his comment as he wants a short synopsis of the war down lead : In 1861, Confederates . . . In the Eastern theater in 1861- 1862, General Mcellean . . in the Western theater General Grant. . . In 1863 . . . In 1864-65, Grant and Lee. . . . -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 23:29, 17 May 2017 (UTC)
No, the current lede, --- "The American Civil War was an internal conflict fought in the United States (U.S.) from 1861 to 1865. The Union (i.e., The United States) faced secessionists in eleven Southern states grouped together as the Confederate States of America. The Union won the war, which remains the bloodiest in U.S. history." --- is subject to RJensen's criticism that it "tells us almost nothing about soldiers, battles , strategy, civilians or main goals or results. It's a disaster for anyone who wants to learn the main points in a few minutes."
The Proposal A above meets each of the criticisms. The soldiers fought in conscript mass armies across continental expanses, civilians were fighting for expansion and perpetuation of slavery or loyalty to the U.S. Constitution, main goals and results included preservation of the Union and destruction of the slave power that could sustain a violent rebellion for four years in the bloodiest U.S. war. TheVirginiaHistorian (talk) 20:07, 22 May 2017 (UTC)
First, "the lede" is not the lede paragraph, the lede is the entire section. Second, he will just have to be more forthcoming, because I don't see what you claim to see, and that's not how I understand what he said. -- Alanscottwalker (talk) 00:03, 23 May 2017 (UTC)
Should Lincoln be considered a "casualty of war"? He was a civilian, he wasn't killed on a battlefield, and he wasn't killed by a soldier of the opposing side. He was assassinated. which wouldn't be considered a "casualty of war". Although Booth, the shooter, wasn't brought to justice, eight of his accomplices were convicted in court, which would lead me to assume that Lincoln was not just another war casualty, because soldiers who kill on the battlefield are not convicted of murder in a court.--JOJHutton 23:50, 18 May 2017 (UTC)
I'd say not. War has all sorts of repercussions, obviously, but one has to draw the line somewhere. That someone's death may be indirectly related to a war—and it definitely was an indirect connection here, since Lincoln was murdered in peacetime—doesn't make that person a war casualty. RivertorchFIREWATER 00:21, 19 May 2017 (UTC)
American Heritage Dictionary definition: "One who is injured, killed, captured, or missing in action through engagement with an enemy". Merriam-Webster says "a military person lost through death, wounds, injury, sickness, internment, or capture or through being missing in action". Webster's New World says: "a member of the armed forces who is lost to active service through being killed, wounded, captured, interned, sick, or missing". Random House (unabridged) says: "a member of the armed forces lost to service through death, wounds, sickness, capture, or because his or her whereabouts or condition cannot be determined". This last source also lists "any person, group, thing, etc., that is harmed or destroyed as a result of some act or event" as one of several definitions for the word, but that's not really what we mean when we say "casualty of war". RivertorchFIREWATER 00:30, 19 May 2017 (UTC)
Basing a discussion of this sort on principals or dictionary definitions could be considered OR, I'm not sure. Sources do talk about Lincoln as a casualty of war, for instance a google book search of "the last casualty of the Civil War" lincoln gives a number of results using that language. Interestingly, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. (1861-1865.) Part I, Volume II. (1st Surgical volume) by U.S. Army Surgeon General's Office includes Lincoln's death in its count of war dead from gunshot wound to the back of the head and presents him as a case study on page 305. On the other hand, calling Lincoln "the last casualty of the Civil War" is meant to be emotionally evocative, and not to be technically true or untrue, so I'm not sure if that sentiment is strictly NPOV. In any case, my first thought is that he should be so considered. Smmurphy(Talk) 15:46, 19 May 2017 (UTC)
Umm, no. "Basing a discussion" on anything at all, including actual original research, cannot be considered original research; it's just basing a discussion. However, I didn't base the discussion on the dictionary definitions—I supplemented what I said in my earlier reply with the dictionary definitions, and they are perfectly relevant when weighing whether a given term is applicable in a certain context in an article. Now you've provided other relevant evidence that should also be considered. Let's consider them:
The Medical and Surgical History is, as its title suggests, about medicine and surgery, its primary audience presumably those working in those fields. It's interesting that its physician-authors (who one might suppose weren't necessarily dispassionate or disinterested) chose to include a discussion of Lincoln's wounds and the treatment that was attempted, but it's not surprising, since it was a particularly well-known, poignant case that occurred just after the war ended. I'm not clear that we should give much weight to their designating Lincoln a war casualty, although I think it deserves some weight.
I wouldn't necessarily give much credence to a Google Books search per se. A plethora of books about the war and about Lincoln exist—some old, some new, some carefully researched scholarly tomes, some popular page-turners. No doubt many historians do consider Lincoln's murder a casualty of the war in the broader sense, but one of the points I tried to make earlier is that that's not exactly the same as a war casualty strictly speaking. That's where the definitions I cited from the Random House come in handy. And that's what this question really turns on, I think. We, as editors, need to decide what we mean (i.e., what Wikipedia means) by "casualty of war" and then apply that to the article. Do we mean it in the narrower sense or in the broader sense? My instinct is to go with the former—the latter could be confusing to the casual reader, and it could prove to be a slippery slope—but I'm not sure. RivertorchFIREWATER 16:54, 19 May 2017 (UTC)
As to the statement 'calling Lincoln "the last casualty of the Civil War" is meant to be emotionally evocative, and not to be technically true or untrue, so I'm not sure if that sentiment is strictly NPOV' – I'd say that it certainly fails NPOV, since it's patently false, given that the Battle of Palmito Ranch occurred almost a month later. My view is that "casualty of war" does not apply to Lincoln's assassination. Mojoworker (talk) 05:55, 23 May 2017 (UTC)