16 December 2010

What Caused The Civil War?

The Causes of The Civil War JPG"As one reflects upon the problem of causation one is driven to the conclusion that historians will never know, objectively and with mathematical precision, what caused the Civil War. Working with fragmentary evidence, possessing less than a perfect understanding of human behavior, viewing the past from the perspective of their own times, finding it impossible to isolate one historial event to test its significance apart from all others, historians must necessarily be somewhat tentative and conjectural in offering their interpretations."- Kenneth M. Stampp in the Introduction of "The Causes of The Civil War"

(The late Professor Stampp was a former president of the American Historical Association and, until his death last year, was considered a leading scholar on the Civil War.)


Michael Bradley said...

I was listening to NPR this Sunday morning before going to church. A segment dealt with the tomorrow's 150th anniversary of the secession of South Carolina. James McPherson was interviewed. I found it interesting that he said that the reason the war still stirs passions is that the issues (note the plural) which caused the war have not been settled. He then mentioned "the relationship of the states to the national government" and the matter of race.

This use of a plural to describe the causes of the war tells me that the influence of Prof. Stampp is not gone as so many seem to wish it were. McPherson, and many other serious historians, still agree with Stampp's analysis that the war is too complex a matter to be explained with a single word.

13thBama said...

What caused the civil war?

Sin, and the downfall of man.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Michael. I agree. As you know, that topic has been explored here before, but coming across Stampp's statement again recently, I couldn't help noticing how these words shed light on much of the nonsense you see being promoted by some academics and historians. Thanks for stopping by - hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

13B - now there's one simple answer to the question I can accept.

msimons said...

As a Minister of the Gospel I concur the 13thbama is correct!