In one of many side-splitting episodes of NBC's sitcom The Office, Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott remarks, "Abraham Lincoln once said that if you're a racist, I will attack you with the North. And those are the principles that I carry with me in the workplace." If you've seen the show, then you know that this is laughable, mainly because Michael is prone to making insensitive—and doltish—comments about pretty much every non-white person he encounters.
But that's not the only reason it's silly. First of all, Lincoln would never have said such a thing. No nineteenth-century politician—and, really, no one at all during this period—called other folks "racist" and certainly wouldn't have used the word to justify a full-scale war. But semantics aside, race had little, if anything, to do with Lincoln's decision to rally northern troops to crush the South. In fact, the enslavement of millions of black men, women, and children was not a motivating factor for Union forces.
It's a widely held misconception that the struggle for emancipation incited half of the nation to war. It might be the simplest and most idealistic way of thinking about such a terribly violent and destructive period in American history; it seems only fitting that a union founded on the notion that "all men are created equal" would go to war to purge an institution justified by inequality. But that's just not true. Such moral reasoning did not pave the road to war. So, then, slavery had nothing at all to do with the American Civil War, right?