Nikki Haley was right, poor soul. The “Civil War” was not about slavery, until Lincoln in his Gettysburg address tried to make it so.
Why not believe Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address in 1861, where he says that he had “no right…and no inclination” to end slavery”—in fact he supported an amendment passed by Congress in 1861 that said the Federal government should never have “the power to abolish or interfere” with slavery where it existed. His only interest was in making sure the country stayed whole and undivided, and seeing that “the Union of these states is perpetual” and “no state can lawfully secede.”
Shortly after, Lincoln’s army invaded the South, and not a man among its ranks thought that his purpose was ending slavery.
As the war went on and the North was stymied, Lincoln then thought of adding the abolition of slavery as a cause for the North. But his Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 said only that the slaves in the seceding states were free, but not that it was the job of Northern armies to go about freeing them. Again, not one Northern soldier in the army at Gettysburg was there to free the slaves, only to defeat the damn Southerners who were fighting against the Union. The idea that they “gave their last full measure of devotion” to achieve “a new birth of freedom,” in Lincoln’s words, would never have crossed their minds.
After 1863 Northern propaganda worked assiduously to make the war about slavery because that at least had some moral fervor to it, which the real reason—to keep Southern riches pouring into Northern coffers—did not. The Battle Hymn of the Republic certainly helped, and Northern religious abolitionists were there to declare that that was their intent all along. The tragic death of St. Abraham and the Northern victory sealed the idea, and the victors, who write the histories, were delighted to sanction it for perpetuity, and everybody learned it in school.
But Ms. Haley, at least at first, was right: slavery was not ever the cause of that war.