Was it necessary to fight a war (Civil War) in order to end slavery?What alternatives could have avoided violence?

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kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In short, yes because so much was at stake that the rich plantation owners would never give up their free labor; and they were truly ignorant of African people and their rich ethnic culture in Africa.

First of all, from 1650 to 1790 during the colonial times slavery was everywhere in the country. However from America's independence until the Civil War(1790 -- 1865), it only occured in the south; and it was hotly debated between the north and south. After American independence, the Northern states: New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey viewed slavery as opposing the spirit of the revolution. In the north, slaves were less common because so many white men could do jobs that poor blacks did. In fact, working class men didn't want black slaves around because they wanted the jobs, so this demand to abolish slavery was strong in the north.
In the southern states it was very different.The numbers of African Americans were very large. Half of the people in Virginia and South Carolina in 1790, were African American.
Southern whites were very ignorant and had an ingrained racial prejuduce. They believed that African Americans, if free, would ravage the countryside and be a threat to everyone. Southerners thought--or told themselves--that slavery was "race control".
The economic role the slaves played is the most critical reason that it was kept in place.The southern states' agricultural production was dependent upon slavery. For example, in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, all of their wealth was a result of the hard work of slaves. Actually they didn't think that it was possible for "white men" to do such hard work. These plantations produced tobacco, cotton, rice, and indigo.
The Southern states insisted on keeping slavery even after the Revolution. This is the reason for the huge fight between the free states and the slave states. Of course Lincoln was on the side to free the slaves. And the civil war began.

I think it is obvious why the war was inevitable: economics.

I don't think that violence could have been avoided.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is difficult to conceive of measures which would have prevented the outbreak of conflict between both sides.  One of the lasting legacies of the Civil War is the idea that if individuals hold true to their beliefs at such a zealous and passionate level, conflict is inevitable.  Such convictions cannot be negotiated away, a principle that seems to be elemental to the conception of democracy and pluralistic government.  Given these premises, the Civil War might have been inevitable.  There are those who argue that all war can be avoided.  However, I think that the Civil War might be one instance where individuals could not negotiate on such passionate convictions that struck deep at the core of individual belief systems.  Southerners genuinely believed that either slavery was needed to maintain their economic way of life and/ or that it was a state issue, integral to personal and social tradition.  They felt that the "top- down" approach to the matter, as the North was advocating invaded on their notion of autonomy.  For many Northerners, keeping the Union together was of paramount importance.  The Abolitionist sector believed slavery to be a moral wrong, something that cannot be tolerated.  Both sides felt compelled enough by their own notions of the good to indicate that negotiation was impossible, to a certain extent.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The American Civil War was not absolutely necessary if slavery was to end.  But if it hadn't happened, slavery would have lasted much longer before dying a natural death.

I have two reasons for saying this:

  1. Slavery ended in other societies without wars.  It ended in Great Britain before it did in the US and it ended in Brazil in the 1880s.  This shows that even a heavily slave society like Brazil did not need a war to end slavery.
  2. Slavery would likely have become uneconomical as time went by.  Some already say it was uneconomical, but as machinery got invented, how could slavery have survived?  If other countries started to produce cotton more cheaply by using machinery, the South would have had to change or its cotton industry would have died.

So the war didn't have to happen for slavery to end, but slavery would have lasted longer if it hadn't.