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Why The War Was Not About Slavery

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Why The War Was Not About Slavery

By Clyde Wilson on Mar 9, 2016

Conventional wisdom of the moment tells us that the great war of 1861—1865 was “about” slavery or was “caused by” slavery. I submit that this is not a historical judgment but a political slogan. What a war is about has many answers according to the varied perspectives of different participants and of those who come after. To limit so vast an event as that war to one cause is to show contempt for the complexities of history as a quest for the understanding of human action.

Two generations ago, the most perceptive historians, much more learned than the current crop, said that the war was “about” economics and was “caused by” economic rivalry. The war has not changed one bit since then. The perspective has changed. It can change again as long as people have the freedom to think about the past. History is not a mathematical calculation or scientific experiment but a vast drama of which there is always more to be learned.
I was much struck by Barbara Marthal’s insistence in her Stone Mountain talk on the importance of stories in understanding history. I entirely concur. History is the experience of human beings. History is a story and a story is somebody’s story. It tells us about who people are. History is not a political ideological slogan like “about slavery.” Ideological slogans are accusations and instruments of conflict and domination. Stories are instruments of understanding and peace.  
:snip:  https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/clyde-wilson-library/why-the-war-was-not-about-slavery/ 

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