Civil War Inevitable
Was the Civil War Inevitable?
The United States civil conflict was inevitable. The fundamental divide involving North and South concerned the issue of slavery and the rights of property. The Southern slave owners believed their slaves were their property, and that the government could not dictate the use of their own property. Most Northerners believed slavery was a moral issue, that no human had the right to own another human. The sectional and social dissimilarities among the North and South were too much of a barrier to overcome. These differences made it difficult to understand each other and made any type of compromise all but impossible. The conflict was avoidable if both sides had taken no further actions after the South seceded from the Union. However, the U.S.A conflict was inevitable due to uncompromising self-interest and irrational decision-making. It was also inevitable since neither side was able to understand the needs, fears, and motivation of the other (Lemann, 2006 pg 165)
The South perceived the North’s anti-slavery stance as a direct attack on their society. Slavery in the South created an upper class aristocracy, and the abolishment of slavery would have dismantled the hierarchy of their society. This perception led to contempt between Southerners and Northerners, at least for the Southerners. The Southern aristocracy was only able to continue in by the use of slave labor to produce their cash crops. The Southern economy relied on slave labor to flourish, and without slave labor, the economy would come crashing down upon them. The South operated primarily upon an agriculture-based economy, unlike the highly industrialized North.
In 1854, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech where he described slavery as “a great moral wrong” and denounced the dehumanization of slaves. He stated that slavery was based on greed, selfishness, and unrestrained self-interest. In 1858 during his bid for the United States Senate, Lincoln declared, “a house divided against it cannot stand”. William Seward stated that the United States must and will become either a slaveholding nation or a free-labor nation, but it could not be both. Liberty and slavery could not coexist in a single nation.
In my opinion, the war was foreseeable. Together North and South took hard-line stances and refused to compromise. I believe that slavery went against the very foundation of our Constitution, that all people are created equal. I also do not see how the Southerners could justify the dehumanization of slaves and still hold to their religious beliefs. Since both sides took the “all or nothing” stance, no compromise could be reached and therefore the Civil War was inevitable. The war was avoidable if no other action had been taken, once the South secedes from the unification. The South would have just become their own Nation (Tierney, 271)
Was the Civil War necessary?
The United States civil war was absolutely necessary. The root of all inner turmoil was slavery at that time. The north and south saw two completely different sides when it came to slaves. The north saw it as an immoral act of nature, and soon began forming antislavery societies like the American Anti-Slavery society. One of the major points of this society that rose major controversy among the north and south was the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator by William Lloyd Garrison, who called for the immediate emancipation of slaves. Another major issue that was bound to lead to the civil war was the matter of accepting new states. The north wanted no slavery, while the South was begging for more fellow slave states. For example, the Kansas-Nebraska act allowed for popular sovereignty to decide slavery in the states. However, both sides new that Nebraska would go free while Kansas would go slave. This scheme just put a band aid on the wound. Northerners set of to “abolitionize” Kansas as well, and the conflict of bleeding Kansas arose. This bloody conquest foreshadowed that if the two sided did not settle on the issue of slavery in the new states it would just got worse, unfortunately the only way they could settle this issue was evidently civil war since no other acts seemed to satisfy both sides. This scheme made further compromise a lot harder and nearly impossible. The Kansas-Nebraska act ruined the compromise of 1820 and 1850 which outraged the northerners. Another law that aided to the very necessary civil war was the fugitive slave law of 1850, which strengthened the northerners’ moral conquest. The Dred Scott decision turned legal matters into a political issue. This case signified the court’s backing of slavery and now sliced a bigger cut between the north and the South. The northerners infuriated with this decision blamed the many southern judges for the “opinion” of the case rather than the decision. The South in turn could not see itself joined to a union where the north did not abide by the Supreme Court. All in all the union would have never become a true United Stated of America without the civil war because they would be forever divided on the issue of slavery. As for the reconstruction bringing greed, it was more of an indirect cause of the greed and corruption that was to come. The south was angry at the very wealthy post-war north after the civil war for abolishing slavery. While the north was angry at the southern counterparts being let back into the union not to mention congress so easily; This led to a lot of self-motivated schemes in government since each side believed they deserved to be in a higher place than the other. All in all the reconstruction time period did not lead to further corruption, that was just a result of the ever present turmoil that still remained between the south and the north post-civil war.
Wars, while not morally right, are typically necessary to bring about some sort of change in a region’s beliefs or policies. When the South got word that Abraham Lincoln was running for President, the Southerners overstated Lincoln’s oppositions to slavery. The South, wanting change, rallied in their beliefs that “they (the North) have virtually repealed the Fugitive Slave Law, and declare their determination not to abide by the decision of the Supreme Court guaranteeing to us the right to claim our property wherever found in the United States” (Fraser, 233).
The Southerners took this as a sign that this was the time to leave the Union. The North, with a completely different view, did not want the South to secede, and stated that “the South, through the mouth of many of its leading politicians and journals, defies the North to elect Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. It threatens secession in case he shall be elected. It arrogantly declares that he shall never take his seat…To make a long matter very short and plain, they claim the privilege of conducting the government in all the future, as they have in all the past, for their own benefit and their own way, with the alternative of dissolving the Union of the States” (Bolloten, 2001 pg 431). Clearly the South and the North had different views on the way the country could be run. War was the only thing possible to end this conflict, and, while morally wrong, war was also necessary.
Bolloten, Burnett. The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Print.
Fraser, Hamish. Ireland 2003, Is Civil War Inevitable? Salt coats: Approaches, 2003. Print.
Lemann, Nicholas. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Print.
Tierney, Dominic. Fdr and the Spanish Civil War: Neutrality and Commitment in the Struggle That Divided America. Durham, NC [u.a.: Duke Univ. Press, 2007. Print.