Was the Civil War inevitable?

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Interesting question! History has shown that there are always two opposing sides to an argument, so the answer is a difficult one. Your response will center on your own conclusions about the inevitability of the Civil War. In my answer, I will present arguments for and against the inevitability of...

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the Civil War.

If this is an essay question, my best advice is to begin by briefly outlining the causes of the war. Then, I would discuss questions about the inevitability of the war.

Yes, the war was inevitable:

1.) Many historians maintain that the Civil War (1861–1865) was about slavery. They argue that war was the only way to settle the discrepancy between two opposing social/labor systems. During the nineteenth century, the North was becoming more industrialized. In fact, the textile mills in New England formed the heart of the American industrial revolution.

Soon, Northern ingenuity and technology buoyed the rise of the oil, steel, and electricity industries. In contrast, the South held on to its agrarian economy and provided the raw materials that facilitated industrialization in the North. The South's economy was powered by slavery. Slaves were the backbone of the Southern economic machine.

The conflict that gave rise to the Civil War centered on the discrepancy between Northern and Southern conceptions of progress. The North equated industrial progress with capitalism. Meanwhile, the South considered its slave-based agrarian economy a form of capitalism as well. War, therefore, was inevitable, as these two conceptions of capitalism were diametrically opposed to each other. Neither the South nor the North saw any possibility of compromise.

2.) The riots and rebellions spearheaded by anti-abolitionists, such as John Brown, led to widespread panic and social destabilization. You can read all about John Brown's raids in Pottawatomie Creek and Harpers Ferry at the link below.

On October 16, 1859, Brown and his supporters raided the United States Army arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The group's plan was to begin a guerrilla war to push back against slavery. For his part, Brown hoped that his actions would inspire hundreds of thousands of slaves to rise up in defense of their cause.

Why did John Brown's actions strike such fear in America's leaders? The answer is that John Brown set an example for vigilante actions among the populace.

This discomfited both Northern and Southern legislators. For the Northerners, Brown's actions painted Northern capitalists and abolitionists as extremists. The Northerners feared that this could cost them future elections. Meanwhile, the Southerners feared that white abolitionists like Brown would inspire other whites to take up the anti-slavery mantle. They also feared that, if they gave their slaves freedom, these same slaves would turn on them. Here, you may decide to mention Nat Turner and his slave rebellions. So, both Northerners and Southerners feared the loss of their power.

For Brown, the cause was personal. The Southern legislators sidelined anyone who was an abolitionist. Abolitionists, in effect, had no voice in the South. So, the war could be seen as inevitable, because both Southern and Northern leaders were invested in quelling the actions of black and white abolitionists, such as John Brown and Nat Turner.

Of course, the above are only two arguments for the inevitability of the Civil War. Now, let's move on to arguments that the war was not inevitable.

No, the war was not inevitable:

1.) Other historians maintain that war was never inevitable and that much could have been done to prevent one. In fact, they present several reasons for their convictions. You can read about them from the link below.

For example, President Buchanan opted for a compromise. If his actions had been supported, war could have been averted. Although many saw President Buchanan's actions in calling for a convention as an act of political compromise, it must be mentioned that the president was no supporter of slavery. In fact, he was personally opposed to it. However, he supported above all else two fundamental principles: the preservation of the Union and state jurisdiction over domestic concerns.

In 1847, Buchanan argued for the extension of the Missouri Line (under the Missouri Compromise). He maintained that doing so would preserve both the Union and the right of individual states to decide the slavery question. Essentially, Buchanan opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and he also opposed secession. Buchanan maintained that the Union could not sustain a civil war and prevail. If his voice had been heeded, there might have been no Civil War.

2.) Senator Stephen Douglas failed to become president of the United States. Because of John Brown's raids, Stephen Douglas (a Democrat) could not prevail against the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln. Had Douglas prevailed, a Democrat would have been in office, thus soothing the fears of Southern Democrats about the abolition of slavery. By extension, the Civil War could have been prevented. For more about this, please refer to the links below.

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Was the Civil War inevitable?

No war is inevitable, so no, the Civil War was not inevitable and not the only way the crisis over slavery could have been resolved. Proponents of slavery, for example, could have more readily acknowledged what most people understood: that labor-intensive agriculture was giving way to the industrial revolution. They could have been willing to work with the North and start taking proactive steps to begin dismantling slavery and switching to a machine economy in a way that would have been less shattering and painful than losing a war. Whether that would have been better or worse for the enslaved is an open question, but war was not the only answer.

Slavery has sometimes been compared to the so-called automobile culture that is changing the climate of the planet. Overwhelmingly, people who have studied the science have agreed that climate change is human-made and that we must move away from fuels that spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, in some parts of the world, people are dependent on cars, even while knowing the technology supporting them is unsustainable. In much the same way, wealthy white Southerners were dependent on slavery. In both cases, a backlash of denial set in. Climate change could lead to wars over dwindling resources, but like the Civil War, that is not inevitable.

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Was the Civil War inevitable?

Nothing in terms of human society and politics is inevitable.  The North could have simply allowed slavery to expand. The South could have accepted being hemmed in.  The North could have let the South secede.  There is nothing that is inevitable when it comes to wars or other human actions like this.

That said, the closer the country came to 1861, the more inevitable the war became.  It could still have been prevented, but it would have been much harder to do so and would have taken more moral courage on the part of political leaders.  The reason for this is that, as time went by, more and more issues arose between the two sections of the country.  These issues drove them further and further apart.

In 1820, for example (or even 1840), there were not yet many issues that had divided the North and South.  They had crafted the Missouri Compromise and seemed to have the issue in hand.  From then on, however, more and more issues arose.  The Mexican War split the two sections.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act did the same.  So did the Dred Scott case.  The point is that issues arose and grievances accumulated.  As this happened, it became harder and harder for the sections to feel as if they could continue to get along together as part of the same nation.  In that sense, we can say the war was inevitable.

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