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Causes of the Civil War

Selected and introduced by Jason W. Stevens


This volume is another in the Ashbrook Center’s collection of primary document volumes covering major periods, themes, and institutions in American history and government. It is the second of a planned trilogy on the conflict over slavery. Reconstruction has already appeared; The Civil War will follow. The documents in this volume explain the political, constitutional, moral, social, and economic causes of the Civil War. They show that ultimately the war was fought over this question: was the Declaration of Independence a mere political expression of the colonists’ desire to control their own affairs, or did it express a moral truth—human equality—which was the necessary foundation of popular sovereignty and self-government?


Table of Contents

Documents Include:

  • John C. Calhoun, Speech on Abolition Petitions, 1837
  • “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” 1852
  • Abraham Lincoln, Speech on the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 1854
  • Sociology for the South, or The Failure of Free Society, 1854
  • James Henry Hammond, “Mud Sill” Speech, 1858
  • Abraham Lincoln, “House Divided” Speech, June 16, 1858
  • South Carolina’s Declaration of the Causes of Secession, December 20, 1860
  • Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on the Constitution and Union, January 1861
  • Jefferson Davis, Inaugural Address, February 18, 1861