Studies in American History and Culture, 1820-1920
Chapter 1 The Seeds of War: From the Missouri Compromise to Secession
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The Seeds of War: From the Missouri Compromise to Secession
What many critics and historians interested in the history of the Civil War usually learn about it is a simplified version of the cause of the conflict, slavery. The South tried doggedly to keep their slavery-based economic system going, while the government attempted to preserve the union after a chain of secessions and, at the same time, end slavery.
The thousands of books about the war and its context, however, which have been published since the conflict as well as the views of many authorities and others, show how various and equivocal the opinions and interpretations of the Civil War can be. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, professor of modern languages, who in 1862 declined an opportunity to do research in Europe to join the Twentieth Regiment of Maine Volunteers, noticed almost a century ago that “[h]istory is written for the most part from the outside. Truth often suffers distortion by reason of the point of view of the narrator, some preoccupation of his judgment or fancy not only as to relative merits but even as to facts in their real relations. An interior view may not be without some coloring” (XI).
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