Friday, April 22, 2011

The Real Reason for the Civil War

From "East Tennessee in the Civil War" By Oliver Temple:

Diplomacy and negotiation, however, to say nothing of conciliation, were still open to the Southern States when war was inaugurated by them. At this very time, as is shown in detail elsewhere, the people of the North were ready to concede to the slave states nearly everything they might demand, if they would forego their determination to leave the Union. They could have had whatever they demanded. But no concessions, no guaranties, it is believed, would have satisfied the ambitious leaders. They asked for none; they would have accepted none, They wanted independence and that only.

The controversy—at least the essential part of it—could have been adjusted. It ought to have been. A terrible responsibility lies at the door of one section or the other in that it was not settled. There was no necessity for war. It could and should have been avoided if the North had stood out defiantly in the winter of 1860-1861—if Mr. Lincoln and congress had obstinately refused any concessions, or had manifested no spirit of conciliation, no return of brotherly love—they would have stood forever before the world as haughty and implacable in their overwhelming strength. But they exhibited, in this hour, no implacable hatred, no haughty confidence born of conscious superiority of power.

"Put it in your book," said to the author, an intelligent and most worthy gentleman from Alabama, an ex-Confederate surgeon, who served in the army during the whole war, part of the time under Forrest—" put it in your book, that there should have been no war, that the differences should have been adjusted; that the people of the North and of the South were of substantially the same blood and did not hate each other, and that the war was the work of ambitious politicians and bad men on each side. The great body of the people on both sides were opposed to the war."

It would be surprising, if we could exactly ascertain, how small the number of men in the South is who are actually responsible for the inauguration of the war. Up to the close of the presidential election in 1860, it is doubtful whether as many as a thousand in all the Southern States were working for the distinct object of separation. Previous to the time of firing on Sumter, it is doubtful whether in a single state, aside from South Carolina and Mississippi, a majority of the people were in their hearts honestly for a separation from the Union. They professed to be, it is true. But every one familiar with the fearful despotism of public opinion, in the cotton states, on the subject of slavery, will readily realize how impossible it was to resist this public sentiment in the winter and spring of 1861. In most of the states but few men were found brave enough to do so, and in some of the states secession swept over them with the suddenness and fury of a tropical tornado.

The War of Secession is generally regarded as the "Slaveholders' War." It would be more correct to call it the "Politicians' War." In the beginning it was the work alone of ambitious politicians. Gradually the circle widened and other classes were drawn into it. Finally whole sections were seized with the idea. Thus, from a beginning started by a few men, the movement spread over eight states.

Slavery was the remote, but not the immediate, cause of the war. This institution was as secure in 1861 as it was in 1820, and if the South had waited and willed it, it could have been so hedged around by constitutional guaranties and safeguards as to place it forever beyond the power of government to molest. Slavery was made the excuse, the pretext for the war. It was the rallying cry of the daring leaders when they would inflame the minds of the Southern people with madness.

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