The Civil War has always been a contentious part of the United States's history, and part of why it keeps coming up is that nobody can agree on what it was actually about. While most schools in the North teach that it was because of slavery, many schools in the South claim that it was about states' rights and government.
This question came up again when Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was asked what caused the Civil War. She answered that it was about "how government was going to run, the freedoms, and what people could and couldn't do."
While Haley has since tried to address the elephant in the room, the incident itself shows, once again, that Americans don't have a clear understanding of what the Confederacy stood for. This continues to be a problem as the country navigates the significance of Confederate flags and memorials, as well as when race is discussed moving forward.
Looking at contemporary sources, it is clear what the cause of the Civil War is. In Abraham Lincoln's words, "One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute."
However, it is easy to dismiss his words because he was the leader of the opposite side. A better way to look at the issue is by reading the Confederacy's own documentation. The Civil War was prompted by the creation of the Confederate States, so what caused that separation?
With those questions in mind, here is a breakdown of the founding documents of the Confederate States of America. Included are the best descriptions of why the Southern States left the Union and what their express purposes were in founding a new country.
NOTE: This article includes direct quotations from Confederate documents. This includes slurs and other language that would have been used by the original writers. This does not represent the views of the writer or Ask Everest.
The Confederacy in their own words
The helpful thing when it comes to the Confederacy is that the states that left the Union announced precisely why they left. These reasons are included in their Declarations of Secession, as well as other founding documents. Therefore, there is no need to guess what they were thinking.
It is not the intention here to include soundbites without context, as is so often the case in today's media landscape. In each of the following sections, the full text has been linked for further study, and context has been provided. The quotations have been chosen and abridged for clarity, not bias.
Continue to the next slide for information about each state's reasons for seceding.