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Reflections on the War's Causes
Digital History ID 401

Author:   David Hopkins


In its analysis of the Civil War's causes, the London Times rejected the notion that this was a war about slavery. It argued that the conflict had the same roots as most wars: territorial aggrandizement, political power, and economic supremacy. But few Northerners or Southerners saw the war in such simple terms. To many white southern soldiers, it was a war to preserve their liberty and their way of life, to prevent abolition and its consequences--race war, racial amalgamation, and, according to one militant Southerner's words, "the Africanization of the South." To many northern soldiers, it was a war to preserve the Union, uphold the Constitution, and defeat a ruthless slave power, which had threatened to subvert republican ideals of liberty and equality.

In the following letter, a Philadelphian offers his reflections on the war's causes.


...There are may wrongs to be righted beside the one done to the Negro race. Sailors today in both the Merchants and Navy services of the U.S. are worse used than the slaves in the South. I don't mean by this any apology for the "Sacred Institution"...I believe that slavery is the cause of this war. The men who have struck this blow at our government are playing for a bigger stake than the right to hold or extend slavery. It is intended to be a death blow to our form of Government. Some three years ago...[a southern] Gov[ernor]...said...he was opposed to every thing that had the word free prefixed. He meant just what he said--and he and others have played their cards accordingly ever since.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: David Hopkins to his brother

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