We have already hinted at the importance of the Civil War for religion in America, and we must now turn to consider this in more detail. By 1860, the United States consisted of thirty-six states, having expanded considerably since the original thirteen states of 1766. The election of the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860 triggered the immediate secession of seven southern states, later followed by four others. These were known as the “Confederate States.” Although the full reasons for this decision to leave the Union are disputed, it is clear that the issue of slavery was a major issue.
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The Republican Party was opposed to the expansion of slavery. Southern states were heavily dependent on slaves to maintain their economy, which was primarily based on cotton and tobacco plantations. There was widespread support within the northern intellectual elite for the abolition of slavery. Although Lincoln did not make any commitment to abolitionism in his presidential campaign, he clearly assumed that limiting slavery would lead to its eventual extinction.