No War Without Sectional Conflict
The demise of the Whigs and rise of the purely-sectional Republican party in 1856 sealed the fate of the country. Neither the fanatic abolitionists or the Republicans advanced any practical and peaceful solutions to eradicate African slavery – only the threat of race war and bloodshed. The rejection of compromise by Republicans, the incessant agitation, South-bashing and fomenting of race war led Americans in the South to seek a more perfect union.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
No War Without Sectional Conflict:
“For over thirty years, the accepted interpretation of the war’s coming in the academy has been that it resulted from basic social, economic and ideological differences between the sections deriving from the presence of African-American slavery in the South and its absence in the North. Yet sectional differences over slavery had existed for decades without causing a shooting war, and the Whig party itself survived for two of those decades despite them. As even the most compelling modern critic of the revisionists recognizes, moreover, the Civil War resulted from a specific chain of events. And those events did not just happen; they were not just products of sectional differences. Rather, specific human actors – and, yes, specific political leaders – usually caused them to happen.
“..Seward and his New York editorial allies like [Thurlow] Weed and Henry Raymond responded more positively than any other Republicans to pleas from Southern ex-Whigs that secession in the upper south might be stopped if the exclusively northern Republican party stopped its South-bashing, antislavery rhetoric and joined anti-secessionist Southerners in a new, bi-sectional Union party.
Yet Seward’s efforts, like [Millard] Fillmore’s, came to naught. They did so primarily because other Republicans, led by another ex-Whig, President Abraham Lincoln, refused to follow the example of earlier northern Democrats by acceding to Southern demands and thereby destroying the new Republican party itself. Lincoln’s attitude toward a Union party would change, but his intransigence in the winter of 1860-61 helped provoke the Civil War than many Northern and Southern Whigs had long hoped to avert.
That Lincoln was the president who made this decision, like the rise and triumph of the Republican party itself, was a direct result of the death of the Whig party to which Lincoln himself had clung until early 1856. There would have been no Civil War without an underlying sectional conflict, but a specific chain of events and politicians’ decisions both aggravated that conflict and explain why that war started in April 1861.”
(The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, Michael F. Holt, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 982-984)