Unfortunately, too many people today do not understand the actual historical causes of the war that set brother against brother and State against State. It is unfortunate, because that war encompasses many fundamental causes of current American problems and without understanding its true cause we will be unable to repair what went wrong or prevent it from happening in the future.
The one definitive conclusion everyone should take away from that national calamity, commonly known as the Civil War, is that one breach of the Constitution, the President unilaterally calling up troops, will lead to others. A short history lesson will help people understand the validity of this statement.
It is often assumed the South seceded to preserve slavery and the North went to war to abolish it, but this simplified explanation is misleading, concerning its first assertion, and completely devoid of truth concerning its second.
While it is true, slavery was a catalyzing issue, it is not true it was the sole cause of secession or even a cause for Lincoln to take the nation to war. Most Americans, North and South, leading up to 1860, who were concerned with slavery as a national issue, were concerned about the balance of power in Congress implications between free and slave State Senators and the effects the respective legislation would have upon their lives.
Later, a minority faction, known as northern abolitionists, turned slavery into an incendiary issue by demonstrating their eagerness to kill southern men, women and children to achieve their goal. This behavior exponentially inflamed the pre-existing economic antagonism between the North and the South, but the slavery issue could and should have been settled without bloodshed, like how every other western slave holding nation achieved emancipation in the 19th century except for Venezuela and the United States.
It is no coincidence the first seven States to secede, prior to Lincoln calling up troops, were all coastal States. The majority of the Federal government’s revenue, at that time, came from import taxes. The coastal states were generating a large portion of the federal revenue via the tax on goods they received from foreign countries, while northern politicians dominated the House of Representatives from where all spending bills originate.
In the aggregate, the seven coastal States contributed approximately 68% of the Federal government’s revenue before they seceded, while only 10 to 20% of the total federal revenue was reinvested in the South. A major concern of those States was that for over three decades the northern controlled House of Representatives had been trying to pass, successfully and unsuccessfully, pro-northern legislation that was detrimental to the southern economy while the South was contributing the majority of the revenue. By 1860, the balance in the Senate between slave and free States was upset with the free States having eight more Senators than the slave States.
This imbalance of power, coupled with a pro-northern big business administration taking the oval office and northern contempt for the lives and livelihood of southerners caused many southern States to vote on the issue of secession. Of the fifteen slave States in the union in 1860 and 1861, only the seven previously mentioned voted in the affirmative to secede prior to Lincoln calling up troops to suppress the “rebellion” on April 15, 1861.
Lincoln understood that with seven coastal States no longer contributing to the national treasury, his administration would have a significant reduction in revenue. Since Lincoln primarily owed his nomination and election to northern protectionists, who demanded he defend high tariffs, he was also compelled to uphold the Morrill Tariff, passed by President Buchanan on March 2, 1861 which raised tariffs up to nearly 50% of their retail value. This meant he had to keep the States in the union in order to collect the tariffs from them.
The loss of the southern coastal States would destroy the northern economy, because northern industrialists would no longer be able to treat the South as an agriculture colony to finance their infrastructure improvements. They would instead, have to finance their infrastructure improvements through their own revenue. This shift in revenue streams would completely disrupt the northern economy, because government spending would stall while the States remaining in the union, wrangled out a new revenue system.
In comparison, the South would be a virtual free trade zone causing most imports to go through the South before they got to the North and with a 68% cut to the North’s federal revenue, the North would have to endure extreme belt tightening along with higher prices of goods. Ironically, the war made them do all these things along with finding a new revenue system, but in a far more extreme way than they would have had there not been a war.
Lincoln had a few choices; he could try to ameliorate the ill feelings in the South and attempt to coax them quickly back into the union, which he knew the seceded States most likely would not do; he could allow the States to secede and peacefully coexist with them while attempting to work out their differences, which would have been political suicide for him; or he could vilify their cause in public and fan the flames of hatred to intervene militarily. The first and second options were the constitutionally correct ones as well as ones that would have saved lives and been more economically beneficial to everyone involved, but Lincoln chose war.
By the testimony of his own words, Lincoln did not go to war against the South to abolish slavery, free the slaves or make life better for African Americans held in bondage in any way.  As he said several times, he took America to war “to preserve the Union.”
Lincoln’s claim that he went to war to preserve the union is accurate if understood in that he went to war to preserve his administration, otherwise his claim holds no merit in fact. Had Lincoln not called up troops to attack the South, four more States would not have seceded and the seven seceded States would not have attacked the North, because they only went to war to defend themselves against the union of States that attacked them. Had Lincoln not attacked the southern States, the union would have been preserved and endured with seven less States and 68% less revenue.
The standard of living in the States that remained in the union would not have been as good as before secession, but they would have still existed along with the national government, although Lincoln’s administration most likely would have been ushered out of office at the earliest opportunity.
To be clear, the States in the United States have always had a constitutionally protected right to secede from the union, and only Congress can declare war and then only for a just cause. Had President Lincoln upheld these truths he would not have unilaterally provoked a war by sending an armed flotilla to Ft. Sumter and then called up troops to suppress the South in response, which was a violation of constitutionally delegated powers.
As a result, the voluntary union of States established on April 30, 1789 when President Washington first took office died on April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. A new nation was inaugurated at that time in which the rule of law is only upheld if it is convenient for those in power. This is not to say abuses to the Constitution were non-existent prior to Lincoln taking office, but by denying the States’ right to their ultimate veto and check on the national government’s power, which is secession, Lincoln set the precedent and removed the roadblock for unhampered constitutional abuse that is still going on today.
The so called Civil War may have preserved the integrity of the States existing in it prior to secession, but it did not preserve our Constitution and it has not made the citizens of America better off, either fiscally or ethically.
The actual results of Lincoln’s war are far worse than most people have taken the time to consider. His war killed nearly 2% of Americans living at the time, North and South. Set the stage for caustic southern race relations in which African Americans were unjustly blamed for the war and although the causes have been forgotten the animosity has been carried into the present. Cost America the equivalent of approximately 81 million ounces of gold or five billion ounces of silver. Impoverished the South for generations in which some areas still have not recovered. Set America on a course of imperialism and enabled those in power to interpret the Constitution to suit their agenda by manipulating the masses into believing constitutional violations are necessary and beneficial.
The national income tax, the Federal Reserve, the United Nations, the Department of Education, the Social Security Act, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, subsidies and transfer payments of any kind, and the Affordable Care Act are just a few examples out of many gross constitutional violations perpetrated against Americans since the end of that war.
While the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of some of these, it is only their opinion and the court has a long history of upholding unconstitutional laws for the purpose of political expediency. Two examples of this are when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the greenback and, most recently, the Affordable Care Act.
National recognition of and understanding for the States’ right of secession would put power back behind a State’s objection to any national government abuse of power, such as oppressive laws or unconstitutional proliferation and expansion of federal departments, without abdicating their future into the hands of one of the three branches of our national government.
 Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, paragraph 18.
 American Founding Principles, Can States Constitutionally Secede from the United States?, November 19, 2012.
 This equates to over $100 billion in 2014 Federal Reserve Notes.