The Civil War

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The Civil War The name Civil War is misleading because the war was not a class struggle, but a sectional combat, having its roots in political, economic, social, and psychological elements. It has been characterized, in the words of William H. Seward, as the “irrepressible conflict.” In another judgment the Civil War was viewed as criminally stupid, an unnecessary bloodletting brought on by arrogant extremists and blundering politicians. Both views accept the fact that in 1861 there existed a situation that, rightly or wrongly, had come to be regarded as insoluble by peaceful means. In the days of the American Revolution and of the adoption of the Constitution, differences between North and South were dwarfed by their common interest in establishing a new nation. But sectionalism steadily grew stronger. During the 19th century the South remained almost completely agricultural, with an economy and a social order largely founded on slavery and the plantation system. These mutually dependent institutions produced the staples, especially cotton, from which the South derived its wealth. The North had its own great agricultural resources, was always more advanced commercially, and was also expanding industrially. Hostility between the two sections grew perceptibly after 1820, the year of the Missouri Compromise, which was intended as a permanent solution to the issue in which that hostility was most clearly expressed—the question of the extension or prohibition of slavery in the federal territories of the West. Difficulties over the tariff (which led John C. Calhoun and South Carolina to nullification and to an extreme states' rights stand) and troubles over internal improvements were also involved,... ... middle of paper ... ...ed have been defeated and the Government itself has been destructive of them by the action of the nonslaveholding states,”- declared South Carolina, feeling discontent about the government “encouraging and assisting thousands of slaves to leave their homes.” (A Declaration of the Causes Which Induced the Secession of South Carolina, South Carolina, December 24, 1860) Lincoln responded to this action that no state has a right to leave the Union: “In doing this there needs to be bloodshed and violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority.” (Abraham Lincoln, The US History, Chapter 17, p.338, 1977) But the southern answer was war! Hence, although the Civil War was the result of extremism and failures of leadership on both sides, or, sometimes, as an irrepressible conflict, it was difficult to avoid it.

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