American Civil War

If you missed this article in the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, I think it is worth a read: Was the Civil War Necessary?

4 thoughts on “American Civil War

  1. Interesting. The author suggests the system would have corrected itself, but the system was built on a time bomb by not outlawing slavery from the very beginning.

    As long we are armchair quarterbacking: what if the North had allowed the South to break away? Slavery would remain in place, but for how long? The forthcoming gains in technology and the global mood against slavery may have made a war unnecessary. Let’s put a pretend number up: 20 more years of slavery in exchange for millions of lives? Prolonging slavery sounds odious, but would racial tensions have been any better if the South had been allowed more time to phase slavery out on its own terms? Would the union have been reconstituted after slavery ended?

    The clock had run out on the time bomb. As folks pushed West, new states were being created and threatened to upset the political balance in Washington that allowed slavery to exist. Had the South left the union, would North and South have started a land race for the West? Crazy stuff.

    One other thing: it’s kind of goofy that the Civil War lasted as long as it did. First, the North greatly underestimated the fighting ability of the South. After a few setbacks, the North then greatly *overestimated* the fighting ability of the South. Throw in the fact that the South had more competent generals and we suddenly have a protracted war rather than a quick pin-down.

  2. Interesting-thank you-never would have found it, since I avoid the NYT…..last mistake I gave them was calling marines “soldiers” and haven’t forgiven them for the lack of copy editors since. :0)

  3. LOL at my “millions” number (must not have had my caffeine yet). Combatant casualties from battle and disease were around 600,000 to 700,000. Regardless, a much higher price than anyone expected.

    Going back to the author’s theory that the war could have been avoided politically, I remembered this gem: Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts (an anti-slavery Republican) made a speech on the floor in which he used some choice, insulting words regarding pro-slavery Democrats Sen. Stephen Douglas (Illinois) and Andrew Butler (S.C.). After the Senate had adjourned, Butler came in and beat Sumner senseless with a cane. That was 1856, and already the pot was boiling.

  4. Some seem to think that changes in technology would have inevitably brought an end to slavery; I am not convinced. Why? Slavery by time of the Civil War was driven by the ideology of capitalism and racism. Why not get richer and protect a heritage while suppressing an inferior race.

    I disagree with the author in that this conflict in the more formative historical years was already set by tariff matters, legislative and congressional matters, regional differences, and of course race. Not that the northern region was less racist.

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