Causes of the American Civil War [Disputed Theories]

The conflict, on this question of slavery . . . from the beginning, was not a contest between the advocates or opponents of that peculiar institution, but a contest . . . between the supporters of a strictly confederated government on one side, and a thoroughly national one, on the other. . . . It was a strife between the principles of states rights and centralism. . . ." Alexander H. Stephens, 1868

"There is a risk of referring any historical event to a single cause . . . [But] of the American Civil War it may be safely asserted that there was a single cause, slavery." James Ford Rhodes, 1913

". . . the Civil War had one basic cause: sectionalism. . . . Our national state was built, not upon the foundations of a homogeneous land and people, but upon geographical sections inhabited severally by a provincial, self-conscious, self-righteous, aggressive, and ambitious population of varying origins and diverse social and economic systems; and the passage of time and the cumulative effect of history have accentuated these sectional patterns." Frank L. Owsley, 1941

"Let one take all the factors traditionally presented . . . and it will be seen that only by a kind of false display could any of these issues, or all of them together, could said to have caused the war if one omits the elements of emotional unreason and overbold leadership. If one word or phrase were selected to account for the war, that word would not be slavery, or economic grievances, or states rights, or diverse civilizations. It would have to be such a word as fanaticism, misunderstanding, misrepresentation, or perhaps politics. . . ." James G. Randall, 1947