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The fundamental cause of southern secession (and ultimately the Civil War) was the US's inability to solve slavery at the Nationalnational level.

The Civil War was not fundamentally about "states rights". Asserting a state's right to secede doesn't speak to why the state wants to secede. Steven's citation of reasons in his answer only serve to underline this. When the northern states were threatened by the War of 1812, they considered secession. When South Carolina was threatened by a tarrifftariff, they attempted to nullify the law. When a state's self interests come into play, they'll take advantage of whatever political mechanism they can imagine to assert that self interest, up to and including nullification, seccessionsecession, and war.

White southerners lived in constant, real fear of slavery/black insurrection. They had experienced violence from slaves during Turner's Rebellion. They looked south to the Haitian Revolution and similar rebellions in the sugar colonies and saw little comfort in how those societies were transformed. Maintaining the institutions associated with slavery was a matter of life/death for white southerners. Laws were passed to further and further restrict the activities of slaves and freed blacks and codify racial distinctions. Even if the injustice of the system might be acknowledged by some southerners, the fear that slaves or freed blacks might (perhaps justifiably seek) seek vengeance was deep.  

Even if a southerner thought that ending slavery was the right thing to do (and many did), the way to get there without providing massive disruption to southern society (economic or otherwise) was very hard to see. Aside from what they would have perceived as lost property, you have the question of what do you do with the slaves? If they're "free"freed won't they just take up arms and overthrow southern society? Would the freed blacks compete with poor whites and drag down wages? In every sense, security, agrarian economics, social interactions, slavery and the associated racial class system was at the heart of Southern life and it was apocalyptic to imagine life without it. Lincoln himself points out this fear during his inaguaralinaugural speech when trying to be conciliatory

The national politics prior to the civil war became dominated by the South's attempt to keep slavery going and expanding andvs the North's determination to keep it from expanding. Southerners understood that the only way to maintain their power in Congress (and ultimately their sense of security) and to grow economically was to fight to keep expandingfor the expansion of slavery to keep growing their representation. The South would uses the power of the Federal government to protect and maintain slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act along with the Dred Scott decision show that the South is happy to use/laud Federal institutions if it helpshelped them meet their end goal. In fact many feared that these were overreaches of Southern influence into Federal power. To quote Lincoln's House Divided speech:

Many in the North resented the power that the 3/5ths compromise, the Dred Scott decision, and the Fugitive Slave Act, the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican-American War gave to Southern states and argued that the South had an inordinate amount of power. Indeed Lincoln above is close to asserting a "states right" to deny slavery. In addition some Abolitionists themselves considered secession due to their perception that the South had a large amount of power.

Both the sectional conflicts around expanding slavery and the issue of slavery were ultimately irreconcilable. While campaigning Lincoln attacked the South's hold on Federal power through the continued expansion of slavery through warfare, annexation, law and the 3/5ths compromise. After Lincoln was elected, there was already a shooting war in Kansas and John Brown had raided Harpers Ferry in a vainan attempt to incite a massive slave revolt. Lincoln's party was seen by the South as radically anti slavery, and indeed slaveryopposition to slavery was the issue that their party was founded on, to quote this history of the Republican party:

The South's siege mentality couldwould only reach a fever pitch at this pointupon Republican Lincoln's election. With what they perceived as a virulently anti slavery, pro Northern party increasing its influence coupled with and ever increasingly violent political far-left political opposition, the south felt deeply threatened politically, economically, and ultimately physically. Virginia's secession ordinance while brief, discusses the "opression"oppression of the Southern slaveholding states"

They tried whatever mechanism they had, citing state's rights and eventually finding themselves in a war. Without doing so, they feared, they would have change forced on them through incited slave rebellion or what they perceived as revolutionary Republicans. Even if the end of slavery wasn't imminent, the loss of the political power that had been protecting the institution felt deeply threatening due to the magnitude of how threatening the loss offundamental slavery would bewas to southern life. So threatening that they were willing to citeuse whatever constitutional mechanism was required and they were ultimately willing to go to warnecessary to preserve their political independence so that they couldand keep slavery going.

The issue isn't whether legally the South had anything to fear at the legal level. The issue was that they had managed to use FedearlFederal power during the antebellum period to allow the continued spread and protection of slavery. Despite deep fissures, they had managed to continue to dominate and grow political power through geographic expansion ultimately to protect their slave holding society. The incoming Republicans threatened that as wikipedia puts it

Its understandable Lincoln would be fairly conciliatory in his inaguaral speachinaugural speech. The south was taking action to secede. He wanted to maintain the Union and preferedpreferred a peaceful solution. He also has to worry about the slave holding states that remained in the Union. That doesn't change the platform of his political party, the reason the South found him so threatening politically. Lincoln himself acknowledges how aprehensiveapprehensive the South is to the Republican takeover:

The fundamental cause of southern secession (and ultimately the Civil War) was the US's inability to solve slavery at the National level.

The Civil War was not fundamentally about "states rights". Asserting a state's right to secede doesn't speak to why the state wants to secede. Steven's citation of reasons only serve to underline this. When the northern states were threatened by the War of 1812, they considered secession. When South Carolina was threatened by a tarriff, they attempted to nullify the law. When a state's self interests come into play, they'll take advantage of whatever political mechanism they can imagine to assert that self interest, up to and including nullification, seccession, and war.

White southerners lived in constant, real fear of slavery/black insurrection. They had experienced violence from slaves during Turner's Rebellion. They looked south to the Haitian Revolution and similar rebellions in the sugar colonies and saw little comfort in how those societies were transformed. Maintaining the institutions associated with slavery was a matter of life/death for white southerners. Laws were passed to further and further restrict the activities of slaves and freed blacks and codify racial distinctions. Even if the injustice of the system might be acknowledged by some southerners, the fear that slaves or freed blacks might (perhaps justifiably seek) vengeance was deep.  

Even if a southerner thought that ending slavery was the right thing to do (and many did), the way to get there without providing massive disruption to southern society (economic or otherwise) was very hard to see. Aside from what they would have perceived as lost property, you have the question of what do you do with the slaves? If they're "free" won't they just take up arms and overthrow southern society? Would the freed blacks compete with poor whites and drag down wages? In every sense, security, economics, social interactions, slavery was at the heart of Southern life and it was apocalyptic to imagine life without it. Lincoln himself points out this fear during his inaguaral speech when trying to be conciliatory

The national politics prior to the civil war became dominated by the South's attempt to keep slavery going and expanding and the North's determination to keep it from expanding. Southerners understood that the only way to maintain their power in Congress (and ultimately their sense of security) was to fight to keep expanding slavery to keep growing their representation. The South would uses the power of the Federal government to protect and maintain slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act along with the Dred Scott decision show that the South is happy to use/laud Federal institutions if it helps them meet their end goal. In fact many feared that these were overreaches of Southern influence into Federal power. To quote Lincoln's House Divided speech:

Many in the North resented the power that the 3/5ths compromise, the Dred Scott decision, and the Fugitive Slave Act, the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican-American War gave to Southern states and argued that the South had an inordinate amount of power. Indeed Lincoln above is close to asserting a "states right" to deny slavery. In addition some Abolitionists themselves considered secession due to their perception that the South had a large amount of power.

Both the sectional conflicts around expanding slavery and the issue of slavery were ultimately irreconcilable. While campaigning Lincoln attacked the South's hold on Federal power through the continued expansion of slavery through warfare, annexation, law and the 3/5ths compromise. After Lincoln was elected, there was already a shooting war in Kansas and John Brown had raided Harpers Ferry in a vain attempt to incite a massive slave revolt. Lincoln's party was seen by the South as radically anti slavery, and indeed slavery was the issue that their party was founded on, to quote this history of the Republican party:

The South's siege mentality could only reach a fever pitch at this point. With what they perceived as a virulently anti slavery, pro Northern party increasing its influence coupled with and ever increasingly violent political far-left political opposition, the south felt deeply threatened politically, economically, and ultimately physically. Virginia's secession ordinance while brief, discusses the "opression of the Southern slaveholding states"

They tried whatever mechanism they had, citing state's rights and eventually finding themselves in a war. Without doing so, they feared, they would have change forced on them through incited slave rebellion or what they perceived as revolutionary Republicans. Even if the end of slavery wasn't imminent, the loss of the political power that had been protecting the institution felt deeply threatening due to the magnitude of how threatening the loss of slavery would be. So threatening that they were willing to cite whatever constitutional mechanism was required and they were ultimately willing to go to war to preserve their political independence so that they could keep slavery going.

The issue isn't whether legally the South had anything to fear at the legal level. The issue was that they had managed to use Fedearl power during the antebellum period to allow the continued spread and protection of slavery. Despite deep fissures, they had managed to continue to dominate and grow political power through geographic expansion ultimately to protect their slave holding society. The incoming Republicans threatened that as wikipedia puts it

Its understandable Lincoln would be fairly conciliatory in his inaguaral speach. The south was taking action to secede. He wanted to maintain the Union and prefered a peaceful solution. He also has to worry about the slave holding states that remained in the Union. That doesn't change the platform of his political party, the reason the South found him so threatening politically. Lincoln himself acknowledges how aprehensive the South is to the Republican takeover:

The fundamental cause of southern secession (and ultimately the Civil War) was the US's inability to solve slavery at the national level.

The Civil War was not fundamentally about "states rights". Asserting a state's right to secede doesn't speak to why the state wants to secede. Steven's citation of reasons in his answer only serve to underline this. When the northern states were threatened by the War of 1812, they considered secession. When South Carolina was threatened by a tariff, they attempted to nullify the law. When a state's self interests come into play, they'll take advantage of whatever political mechanism they can imagine to assert that self interest, up to and including nullification, secession, and war.

White southerners lived in constant, real fear of slavery/black insurrection. They had experienced violence from slaves during Turner's Rebellion. They looked south to the Haitian Revolution and similar rebellions in the sugar colonies and saw little comfort in how those societies were transformed. Maintaining the institutions associated with slavery was a matter of life/death for white southerners. Laws were passed to further and further restrict the activities of slaves and freed blacks and codify racial distinctions. Even if the injustice of the system might be acknowledged by some southerners, the fear that slaves or freed blacks might (perhaps justifiably) seek vengeance was deep.

Even if a southerner thought that ending slavery was the right thing to do (and many did), the way to get there without providing massive disruption to southern society (economic or otherwise) was very hard to see. Aside from what they would have perceived as lost property, you have the question of what do you do with the slaves? If they're freed won't they just take up arms and overthrow southern society? Would the freed blacks compete with poor whites and drag down wages? In every sense, security, agrarian economics, social interactions, slavery and the associated racial class system was at the heart of Southern life and it was apocalyptic to imagine life without it. Lincoln himself points out this fear during his inaugural speech when trying to be conciliatory

The national politics prior to the civil war became dominated by the South's attempt to keep slavery going and expanding vs the North's determination to keep it from expanding. Southerners understood that the only way to maintain their power in Congress (and ultimately their sense of security) and to grow economically was to fight for the expansion of slavery. The South would uses the power of the Federal government to protect and maintain slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act along with the Dred Scott decision show that the South is happy to use/laud Federal institutions if it helped them meet their end goal. In fact many feared that these were overreaches of Southern influence into Federal power. To quote Lincoln's House Divided speech:

Many in the North resented the power that the 3/5ths compromise, the Dred Scott decision, the Fugitive Slave Act, the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican-American War gave to Southern states and argued that the South had an inordinate amount of power. Indeed Lincoln above is close to asserting a "states right" to deny slavery. In addition some Abolitionists themselves considered secession due to their perception that the South had a large amount of power.

Both the sectional conflicts around expanding slavery and the issue of slavery were ultimately irreconcilable. While campaigning Lincoln attacked the South's hold on Federal power through the continued expansion of slavery through warfare, annexation, law and the 3/5ths compromise. After Lincoln was elected, there was already a shooting war in Kansas and John Brown had raided Harpers Ferry in an attempt to incite a massive slave revolt. Lincoln's party was seen by the South as radically anti slavery, and indeed opposition to slavery was the issue that their party was founded on, to quote this history of the Republican party:

The South's siege mentality would only reach a fever pitch upon Republican Lincoln's election. With what they perceived as a virulently anti slavery, pro Northern party increasing its influence coupled with and ever increasingly violent political far-left political opposition, the south felt deeply threatened politically, economically, and physically. Virginia's secession ordinance while brief, discusses the "oppression of the Southern slaveholding states"

They tried whatever mechanism they had, citing state's rights and eventually finding themselves in a war. Without doing so, they feared, they would have change forced on them through incited slave rebellion or what they perceived as revolutionary Republicans. Even if the end of slavery wasn't imminent, the loss of the political power that had been protecting the institution felt deeply threatening due to the magnitude of how fundamental slavery was to southern life. So threatening that they were willing to use whatever constitutional mechanism necessary to preserve their political independence and keep slavery going.

The issue isn't whether legally the South had anything to fear at the legal level. The issue was that they had managed to use Federal power during the antebellum period to allow the continued spread and protection of slavery. Despite deep fissures, they had managed to continue to dominate and grow political power to protect their slave holding society. The incoming Republicans threatened that as wikipedia puts it

Its understandable Lincoln would be fairly conciliatory in his inaugural speech. The south was taking action to secede. He wanted to maintain the Union and preferred a peaceful solution. He also has to worry about the slave holding states that remained in the Union. That doesn't change the platform of his political party, the reason the South found him so threatening politically. Lincoln himself acknowledges how apprehensive the South is to the Republican takeover:

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The issue isn't whether legally the South had anything to fear at the legal level. The issue was that they had managed to use FederaFedearl power during the antebellum period to allow the continued spread and protection of slavery. Despite deep fissures, they had managed to continue to dominate and grow political power through geographic expansion ultimately to protect their slave holding society. The incoming Republicans threatened that as wikipedia puts it

The issue isn't whether legally the South had anything to fear. The issue was that they had managed to use Federa power during the antebellum period to allow the continued spread of slavery. Despite deep fissures, they had managed to continue to dominate and grow political power through geographic expansion ultimately to protect their slave holding society. The incoming Republicans threatened that as wikipedia puts it

The issue isn't whether legally the South had anything to fear at the legal level. The issue was that they had managed to use Fedearl power during the antebellum period to allow the continued spread and protection of slavery. Despite deep fissures, they had managed to continue to dominate and grow political power through geographic expansion ultimately to protect their slave holding society. The incoming Republicans threatened that as wikipedia puts it

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The national politics prior to the civil war became dominated by the South's attempt to keep slavery going and expanding and the North's determination to keep it from expanding. Southerners understood that the only way to maintain their power in Congress (and ultimately their sense of security) was to fight to keep expanding slavery to keep growing their representation. The South would have (and did through the fugitive slave law) useuses the power of the Federal government to protect and maintain slavery. ThisThe Fugitive Slave Act along with the Dred Scott decision show that the South is happy to use/laud Federal institutions if it helps them meatmeet their end goal. In fact many feared that these were overreaches of Southern influence into Federal power. To quote Lincoln's House Divided speech:

They tried whatever mechanism they had, citing state's rights and eventually declaringfinding themselves in a war. Without doing so, they feared, they would have change forced on them through incited slave rebellion or what they perceived as revolutionary Republicans. Even if the end of slavery wasn't imminent, the loss of the political power that had been protecting the institution felt deeply threatening due to the magnitude of how threatening the loss of slavery would be. So threatening that they were willing to cite whatever constitutional mechanism was required and they were ultimately willing to go to war to preserve their political independence so that they ultimately could keep slavery going.

The national politics prior to the civil war became dominated by the South's attempt to keep slavery going and expanding and the North's determination to keep it from expanding. Southerners understood that the only way to maintain their power in Congress (and ultimately their sense of security) was to fight to keep expanding slavery to keep growing their representation. The South would have (and did through the fugitive slave law) use the power of the Federal government to protect and maintain slavery. This along with the Dred Scott decision show that the South is happy to use/laud Federal institutions if it helps them meat their end goal. In fact many feared that these were overreaches of Southern influence into Federal power. To quote Lincoln's House Divided speech:

They tried whatever mechanism they had, citing state's rights and eventually declaring war. Without doing so, they feared, they would have change forced on them through incited slave rebellion or what they perceived as revolutionary Republicans. Even if the end of slavery wasn't imminent, the loss of the political power that had been protecting the institution felt deeply threatening due to the magnitude of how threatening the loss of slavery would be. So threatening that they were willing to cite whatever constitutional mechanism was required and they were ultimately willing to go to war to preserve their political independence so that they ultimately could keep slavery going.

The national politics prior to the civil war became dominated by the South's attempt to keep slavery going and expanding and the North's determination to keep it from expanding. Southerners understood that the only way to maintain their power in Congress (and ultimately their sense of security) was to fight to keep expanding slavery to keep growing their representation. The South would uses the power of the Federal government to protect and maintain slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act along with the Dred Scott decision show that the South is happy to use/laud Federal institutions if it helps them meet their end goal. In fact many feared that these were overreaches of Southern influence into Federal power. To quote Lincoln's House Divided speech:

They tried whatever mechanism they had, citing state's rights and eventually finding themselves in a war. Without doing so, they feared, they would have change forced on them through incited slave rebellion or what they perceived as revolutionary Republicans. Even if the end of slavery wasn't imminent, the loss of the political power that had been protecting the institution felt deeply threatening due to the magnitude of how threatening the loss of slavery would be. So threatening that they were willing to cite whatever constitutional mechanism was required and they were ultimately willing to go to war to preserve their political independence so that they could keep slavery going.

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