No Peace for the American South
The lower South seceded from a federated Union in which the northern section was nullifying federal law and relentlessly inciting bloody race war to end slavery in the South – no peaceful solutions being advanced. The upper South was seeking peaceful settlement of the question, though Republican refusal to compromise promised only war. Lincoln offered no solutions that might disrupt his party’s radical agenda, and his strict party allegiance would triumph over saving the Union.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
No Peace for the American South:
“What was the South fighting for from 1861 to 1865? There are people today who believe that the South’s primary objective was to preserve slavery in the region – and that the North’s primary aim was to abolish it. This is a vast oversimplification.
It was the controversy over slavery, rather than a desire to perpetuate it, that finally brought secession and war. The antebellum South was basically a community, with common traditions, beliefs and aspirations. It was being thrown increasingly on the defensive by attacks from the North, and its political and economic leadership became united in an effort to protect its institutions from these assaults. Numerous Southerners realized that slavery could not survive indefinitely, but events were pushing them into a posture of defending it, along with pretty much everything else in the region.
The upper South sought a peaceful solution. Virginia led in calling for a convention in Washington on February 4, 1861, in the hope that somehow the widening breach could be healed…and it was a failure. In April came the bombardment of fort Sumter. President Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand men, including a due proportion of Southerners, to put down the “rebellion.” The Southern States refused to comply, and the die was cast.
[Had the South won the war]…They would have achieved their independence at least temporarily, would have avoided the ordeal of Reconstruction, and would probably have abolished slavery in due time. But there would have been the ever-present danger of a renewal of hostilities by a larger, wealthier, more industrialized and more populous North, licking its wounds and yearning for revenge.”
(The Last Review: The Confederate Reunion in Richmond, 1932, Virginius Dabney, Algonquin Books, 1984, page 54)