Well before 1860 the American experiment in government was severely fractured and the territorial Union split ideologically into two warring camps. The first shots of the coming war between them could be said to have been threatened over nullification in 1832, but open warfare was a reality by 1854 in Kansas. The North had changed greatly as it achieved a huge numerical advantage over the South, and its ascent to national power in 1860 with a mere 39% plurality gave it the political, military and financial control it craved. The North could have allowed the peaceful departure of the South, had it wanted.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
The Changed North
“An Anti-Slavery man per se cannot be elected; but a [protective] Tariff, River-and-Harbor [improvements], Pacific Railroad [subsidies]. Free Homestead [for immigrants] man, may succeed although he is Anti-Slavery.” Horace Greeley on the 1860 Republican Convention.
Ask any trendy student of history today and he will tell you that without question the cause of the great American bloodletting of 1861-1865 was slavery. Slavery and nothing but slavery. The unstated and usually unconscious assumption being that only people warped by a vicious institution could possibly fight against being part of “the greatest nation on earth.”
There is an even deeper and less conscious assumption here: malicious, unprovoked hatred of Southern people that is endemic in many American elements. Thus, according to the wisdom of current “scholars” no credit is to be given to anything that Southerners might say about their own reasoning and motives. They are all merely repeating “Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil deeds.
One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, thus, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.
James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860. Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.
Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source if the perversion that led it to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. For, after all, “American” is the norm of the universe and any divergence is a pathology. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the north changed during the pre-war period?”
(The Yankee Problem, an American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 52-53)