Saturday, November 7, 2009

Did the North need to fight the Civil War?



It was very enlightening listening to the two scholars and discussing whether or not the Civil War needed to be fought. Remember, your posting must address the question that was posed for our session. Remember to use the information gleaned from the reading and from the professors. Email me if there are any problems with the site.

49 comments:

Mr. Ferrante said...

I thought the speakers were really good. I cannot get away from the critique the professor from Dickinson College made of Lincoln. There really do seem to have been more options out there that could have been considered. The 'original' 13th amendment, the fact that most of the slave states stayed in the Union and only ceded from the Union after Lincoln called up the military, the impracticality of slavery in the western states. These seem to point to other options. The question that I am curious about is how likely was that slavery would have died of natural causes? Was it really on the way out or would it have found new life in a Caribbean conquered by the Southern Confederacy? If the writing was in fact on the wall that slavery was going to die then the war would seem to be totally unnecessary. If new life could have been breathed into the peculiar institution then there was no choice but to fight the war.

rrestifo said...

Both speakers were excellent, the best we've had so far. I think Lincoln made the right decision. First, time was not on the side of the North. After his election and the 7 southern states seceded, Federal forts and weapons were being seized. Since the Congress was not in session from March-July 1861, he had no choice but to make tough decisions. Secondly, I believe Lincoln truly believed that our democracy, the only one in the world was a beacon of hope, and therefore could not be compromised. The North did nothing illegal as the South claimed. His election in 1860 was the first election were Southerners never won. Lincoln was the first president who was not a slave owner nor did he believe in it. When the south lost, the reaction was secession. Preserving the Union was essential and fighting the war was a necessary evil. Did the North need to fight the war? Given the choices Lincoln had, he picked the right one give the circumstances of the time.

msmilow said...

The spirited debate between Professors Pinsker and Norman brought this issue into focus and informed a terrific controversy in our afternoon session. Examining a variety of alternatives and possible outcomes and remembering that 620,000 lost their lives in the bloody conflict, I finally concluded that though I wish otherwise, the Civil War was an “irrepressible conflict” between two sections of the country with differences well defined and established in colonial times. Simply put; early on the topography and climate of each area were decisive in determining how each section would prosper. I am less inclined to agree that ideology was key in bringing the discord to a head than the crass “economic determinism” that caused ambitious southerners to see slavery as essential to survival. The North condemned slavery since it did not need it to thrive and did not feel the economic imperative go to war over the issue. Rather feeling put out by the Southern hegemony in the Senate and the Supreme Court, Northerners were only too happy to go after insolent Southerners who dared to withdraw from the Union. As Professor Norman noted, Lincoln believed that after the Dred Scott decision, it might be concluded that eventually slavery might be reintroduced into the Northern states and that would be just too much to bear. So what role did ideology play? It is hard to truly know what people, famous and ordinary actually believe and hold dear. However, ideology or at least its rhetoric was essential in marshaling public support and Lincoln enunciating the preservation of the Union as the reason for going to war was able to garner the necessary popular support as evidenced by the large number of enlistments in the early months of the War.

In discussing Lincoln, as we debated the issue in our group, Joe Gatto mentioned another significant point that made a great deal of sense and even further strengthened my belief that the Civil War was necessary. Lincoln, as president had been sworn to uphold the Constitution and enforce the nation’s laws and that to do nothing about secession would have been a violation of the oath of office and perhaps even an impeachable offense. Perhaps we can never know exactly what motivated Lincoln. But since so many of his speeches and writing have been studied over the years, we are probably on safe ground in believing that his position was rooted not only in political expediency but also in ideology. Therefore we can probably more assuredly assume that he was willing to commit to war because he took his responsibility seriously and saw the preservation of the Union as a moral obligation. Furthermore, as the War progressed, Lincoln was more able to give voice to his long-held conviction that slavery was wrong and eventually issued the Emancipation Proclamation which again rallied public support and gave impetus to the war effort.

Could Lincoln have forced the South back into the Union with blockades as advocated by Winfield Scott and his “Anaconda” approach? Maybe; but how long would it take and how long were Northerners willing to wait for capitulation? As several of the authors in Why the Confederacy Lost mentioned, victory in battle was necessary in order to continue on and so ultimately Lincoln was forced to commit men and materials to a war that brutally sapped our nation but in the end led to freedom for enslaved African-Americans.

Mrs. Cone said...

The consensus we met at the end of Saturday’s session was that the North did certainly have to fight the Civil War. The conflict was indeed irrepressible, secession was illegitimate and could not be tolerated. Lincoln was a moderate and at the onset was not advocating the abolition of slavery. He was against the expansion of slavery into the territories but was clear that he would tolerate it where it already was. That was not good enough for some in the South and they chose to secede from the Union. Lincoln needed to preserve the Union and the democratic form of government that was so important to him and to others. As one of the speakers said, elections matter and just because one is unhappy with the results of a democratic election it does not give them the right to break away. If Lincoln had let this happen, or even compromised with the Confederates, it would have been against the principles of the United States. The Union needed to be cherished and protected.

Christy said...

Saturday's session was the best so far. I really enjoyed the lectures and discussion. The critique of Lincoln was definitely eye opening. I never thought to question his decision to go to war before. It seems as though he did have a few other choices he could have made at the time. However, I feel that war was inevitable. If Lincoln didn't start the war then, it would have began in the near future. If slavery was in the process of dying out, who knows what steps the Confederacy would have taken to make it spread. Lincoln made the right choice. He needed to keep the Union together and the only way to do that was to use war to force the Confederacy to fold. Lincoln and others tried several compromises regarding slavery and they just didn't work. These compromises were the best that could be done to make the South happy. Non-slaveholding whites were even forced to protect the institution of slavery with the Fugitive Slave Law. Lincoln just couldn't continue to let the South call the shots; he had to act. War seemed like a good solution at the time sice most people suspected it wasn't going to last very long. In hindsight, wartime deaths seem like a big price to pay for saving the Union, but Lincoln had no way of knowing just how long and drawn out it was going to be.

Jeff Cohn said...

On Saturday, November 7th, we were treated to wonderful presentations by two professors who were knowledgeable, personable, and who demonstrated a terrific sense of humor. The questions they posed regarding whether or not the North needed to fight the Civil War as well as the positions they took regarding this issue were thought provoking and insightful. Once we broke into our two major groups this primary question led us to related topics such as Civil War diplomacy, the nature of slavery, and the impact of the human and the physical destruction of the south as a whole.

We were lucky in that both professors spent considerable time discussing this topic with the two major break out groups and then gave us quite a bit of their time when they walked around to our smaller four person groups. The consensus reached by our smaller group was that those who had the "con" argument were faced with the much more difficult position. It didn't take long before they came over to the "pro" side of the controversy in that the Civil War, although horrible in its effects, was a necessary event in American history.

We reached a consensus that Lincoln tried as best as he could to formulate a diplomatic solution. We agreed that he was patient and that the South acted impulsively in seceding after his election in 1860. Our consensus also acknowledged that the South may have had legitimate concerns regarding Lincoln's plans for the future of slavery during the course of his presidency, but that the appropriate method for dealing with their concerns would have been through the ballot box, not withdrawal from the Union.

Mr. DeMatteo said...

I had an excellent time Saturday. The scholars were very knowledgeable and were real people! To address the question “Did the North need to fight the Civil War” – my perspective of what I learned and what I thought I knew had changed in a relatively short amount of time. The book provided some new insight, but the speakers provided a new perspective. My partner and I were assigned the “Con” side of the controversy and forced us to really look for concepts that I was never really taught to look at as a student. Lincoln had tough decisions to make and not much support in any of the options that presented themselves. A “fight” – a “struggle” - a “war” - a “matter of conscience” is what Lincoln was faced. In this case, the times really did make the man. Nothing like this had ever happened before and because of his actions, nothing like this has happened since. Preserving the Union was essential and fighting the war became the necessary evil. The answer to the question “Could have” is difficult to do with out another question…. “What If”. Situations like: IF the Southern Confederacy never formed and fought “the war” within the system with their Democratic majority -OR- IF Lincoln allowed the Southern Confederacy to leave and played a waiting game for their return. There are academic analysis that we have the time and luxury to make with no consequence – an option that Lincoln did not have.

Mr. Madeiras said...

I don’t think slavery was going to die anytime soon. There was an entire continent ready for expansion, whether for free labor or slave labor. Then, I think confrontation would have been inevitable if Lincoln appeased the Confederacy in 1861, but I don’t think slavery was the major issue at hand; it was the preservation of the Union. Lincoln, unlike Buchanan, strongly believed states had no right to secede from the Union. As President, it was his obligation to enforce the laws that would keep the states united. And lets keep in mind, it wasn’t Lincoln that started the war, but the Confederacy. The firing upon Fort Sumter demanded a response by the President, and this belligerent act conveniently allowed Lincoln force the Southern states back.

Daniela McKee said...

I thought that this week's Controversy class was the best one yet. It was wonderful to have two knowledgeable speakers engage in a debate and formulate arguments.

My group came to the consensus that the North needed to fight the Civil War, and I agree. As a group, we had a difficult time understanding why the South felt it necessary to secede after the election of Lincoln in 1860. While his platform stated no expansion of slavery, he had promised to uphold the Fugitive Slave Act. The country was a republic and there were democratic means available to settle disputes. Secession was a hasty move. Lincoln made the right choice by fighting the war. He could not have predicted the human toll and devastation, and he did the best with the knowledge and resources he had available to him at the time.

Chauncy said...

On Saturday, a consensus was reached in which we decided that in fact the North needed to fight the Civil War. While this was not the optimal action, it was the most appropriate one in response to the actions of the Confederacy. After the election of 1860, seven of the fifteen southern states decided to secede from the Union. From this action alone, the Union forces military response could have been justified as a measure to preserve the nation, however, they did not take this action. It wasn't until several months later when the Confederate states began taking control of federal military installations that pushed the North into action. Even if the Confederacy did not seize the federal military bases, there would have been a need to begin this war. The southern states were looking to preserve the institution of slavery, while the North, as well as the rest of the world, was slowing moving to end it. The moral imperative would have eventually been great enough to justify commencing a war on this ground alone.


I also would like to add that I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday's session in large part because of the two speakers that presented.

HSEMINTY said...

My group was one of the few not to come to a consensus during the session. The difference between the two sides came down to a discussion of what the essence of American democracy was. One side believed that the South had the right to leave the Union if it no longer fit their interests, and that this was the legacy of the American Revolution. I disagreed. As was stated by the speakers that morning, Lincoln believed that the core value of the American democracy was the election process. The South had no right to secede simply because they lost an election. They could have attempted to change the policies of government by voting in Federal elections in two and four years time. The difference between secession in 1860 and rebellion in 1776 was that in 1776 the founding generation had no say in their government, nor representation or vote in government. In 1860, the slave states did have a say in their government. There was no tyranny, no oppression, and no reason under Locke’s or Jefferson’s principles to secede. Because of this, Lincoln was obligated to keep the Union together. If the south is allowed to secede, the only democratic government at the time fails. This could not be allowed to happen.

Ms. Gentile said...

I also enjoyed the debate format that the professors used because it really created "tension" and each side had plenty of information ot support their argument. Overall, I think the North needed to fight the war because secession after a democratic election was not valid, and the Union had to take a stand against it to preserve the Union. If the Confederacy was left alone, what would stop other states from seceeding at any time? I doubt the US would be a world power if it remained divided. Lincoln needed to act. Also, a compromise could not be reached regarding the issue of slavery, despite previous attempts, and as the nation expanded, this issue would keep arising, causing a further divide.

Midwinter said...

I really enjoy the new format of having two historical experts representing 2 different points of view. In my opinion the North had to win the ware. From the start, Lincoln was adament for doing whatever is necessary to preserve the Union. If Lee was able to just sit back and fight a defensive war, the United States could be a completely different geographically and economically. That was a realistic option though with all the pressure to get a victory so Britain would recognize the Confederacy. To my original point, Lincoln could not sit back and wait. This would have made Lincoln look weak and not accomplish the main goal of bringing the Union back together

Mr. Gatto said...

I do not think the constitutional element should be overlooked. Lincoln took an oath of office. Article II requires the President to enforce the laws of the United States. Unlike many modern-day politicians, Lincoln took his oath very seriously and felt he had no choice but to enforce the Supremacy clause. If the President looked the other way and allowed the South to leave the Union, basic respect for laws that essential to any civilization would probably have been lost. It probably would have created a slippery slope where other states, at some point, would have decided to leave the Union.

Plus, I truly believe that the people fought and died for something higher than themselves. While the unimaginable death and destruction of the war cannot be overlooked, the Civil War can and should be distinguished from other wars (i.e. Vietnam, Iraq). This country was founded on certain basic principles that we try to live up to (equality, rule by laws). I think the war preserved the notion that equality could be achieved in the future and that laws matter. If the North refused to fight, those principles would be just words, without any meaning. Lincoln knew this and wound up dying for those principles, along with thousands of others.

Michaela said...

The speakers on Saturday were outstanding. I think that Lincoln's decision to go to war was the only possible option. Once the South fired on Fort Sumter, Lincoln was obligated to respond. No response would have validated the South's desire to secede. The South did not have a legitimate cause to secede. As discussed during our Creative Controversy, we have a legitimate method to express dissent; it is the election process. The South's response to the Election of 1860 was irrational and undemocratic. President Lincoln had to step in and demand compliance. If not, conceivably other states could secede for other issues in the future. This would have established a dangerous precedent. Therefore, President Lincoln was forced to declare war on the South. The South forced his hand. There was no oppression placed upon the South, merely an election outcome that the South found to be distasteful.

bkilkenny said...

It seems that the use of 20/20 hindsight gives us an unfair advantage on judging whether Lincoln needed to take the Union to war or not. I don’t believe that Lincoln’s choices were varied; he needed to either let the nation break apart in an unprecedented secession or use the military to keep the nation together. From a political perspective Lincoln needed to act decisively as the southern states were beginning to secede. A democratic system will not work successfully as a national form of government unless all parties are willing to compromise and work together for solutions. The southern/Confederate states were no longer willing to work through the democratic process so Lincoln had to either let them leave the Union or do everything within his presidential powers to stop them from breaking the nation apart.

stapes1976 said...

In order for Lincoln to obtain his goal of perserving the union, the north needed to fight the Civil War. Yes he could have compromised with the south, but would not have been able to contain slavery to the southern states. If Lincoln allowed the southern states to succeed America's goal of democracy would have been crushed. And the South was not willing to work with Lincoln. The decisions the south made were selfish and not based on oppression or unfair laws, the North had done nothing illegal, and the South was reacting irresponsibly to a situation they did not like. Lincoln's decisions were based on the principles that formed the nation, I believe he made the right decision.

vwpaullos said...

I believe that the North did have to fight the Civil War to end slavery and to demonstrate to the country and the world that the United States of America were going to remain such. However coming into the debate I was fully versed on this point of view so when I was assigned the "con" perspective I was forced to learned the other sides' arguments.

For the debate I argued that the insurrection was not irrepressible as the majority of Confederate states became such only after Lincoln sent in Federal troops and forced states to make a decision-be either with the Union or the Confederacy.I also argued that succession was legitimate because if it was the Thirteen colonies who created the United States, and each one opted to be in, than each one always had the choice to declare independence. Although I did not necessarily feel that these arguments were correct it forced me to learn a new perspective and I really appreciated this when all was said and done. Lastly I love that the one scholar made the comment in his closing that Lincoln really believed in democracy and the fact that he held the election of 1864 spoke to this point. It was quite profound as part of the bigger picture.

As a rookie to the Teaching American History Project I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday's entertainment. I call it entertainment because the two scholars' debating skills and extremely in-depth knowledge about the Civil War left a deep impression with me. I thought the experience was very useful as a teacher, to understand the importance of presenting both sides of historical questions to students, and as a student, to learn a new perspective on an age old issue.

M.Delaney said...

Did the abolitionists free the slaves?
The speakers on Saturday’s class were very informative and engaging. After attending the class and reading the book Why the Confederacy Lost, I have concluded that there is no definitive answer to the abolitionist freeing the slaves. There were too many factors that contributed to this movement such as the 13th amendment, Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation, and Britain’s banning of slavery. My question is, were they really free? It can
be argued that a percentage of the African American population did not believe that they were truly freed until Barack Obama was elected president this year.

Joan said...

I am reposting my blog, as I do not see it posted with the others:

This session was one of the best, if not the best, since the TAH controversy sessions began. As a result, I gained some new insights into the factors that influenced both sides and led to the Civil War, including one point raised by Joe G. - This was that President Lincoln took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Based on this, Lincoln had no choice but to address the secession of the South. Lincoln made some compromises on slavery in hopes that it would eventually "die out," but after he was reelected, the South's acts of aggression forced him to take a strong stand which included war. Lincoln's desire to preserve the Union was of utmost importance and war was an unavoidable consequence.

L Zederbaum said...

I found the last session the best so far, which seems to be the consensus among the blog so far. I strongly believe that the North did not need to fight in the Civil War. After listening to the speakers, I came to the conclusion that there was no real motivation for the north to get involved in a "war". Lincoln wanted to perserve the Union, fine, however what was really at stake if the North let the south go and break away? The south was not industrialized nor could it sustain industry on its own. The south relied on the north in order to thrive. One way or the other, if the north had sat back and waited the south would have came crawling back and war would have been avoided.

-Lou Zederbaum

vbronzino said...

I was extremely pleased with Professors Pinsker and Norman. They enhanced the spirit of debate with their knowledge and raised imperative questions that I never thought of. In sum, they made the Saturday session a very memorable experience.

I strongly believe that the North did need to fight the Civil War. As others have mentioned, Lincoln took an oath to preserve and execute the laws of the United States Constitution. He was not going to sit back and allow the south to secede. According to Lincoln, "revolution is only right for a morally justified cause." In his eyes, secession was simply a wicked exercise of physical power and morally wrong. Therefore he needed to fight in order to preserve the Union. If Lincoln did not take this stand, then states would pull out of the union anytime they wanted and there would be no Union at all.

Mrs. Stewart said...

The North did indeed need to fight the Civil War initially, and did need to continue to fight after 1861. The conflict over slavery was not one that would be resolved easily and was one whose seeds had been sown in the Declaration of Independence; the South had failed to live up to the ideal that "all men are created equal," and the flourishing abolition movements of the 1800s brought the issue to a breaking point. Many compromises had already been made in the years leading up to the Civil War, which allowed the South to maintain its "peculiar institution." The idea of ultimately strangling slavery by containing it was one that appeared to be viable but which would take many generations to be successful. When the southern states seceded and fired on federal troops, the South effectively made any further conversation impossible, and Lincoln would have been seen as weak and indecisive if he had not responded. Admittedly, the Southern states were unhappy with the results of the Election of 1860; however, the question arises, if secession was seen as a legitimate response to this, where would it end? Secession itself was an illegitimate action; if the Southern states had been allowed to leave the Union without Lincoln putting up a fight, the nation that remained would have been ungovernable. Lincoln then needed to continue fighting the war to its finish; he had set the goals as the restoration of the Union and the abolition of slavery, and anything less than that would have been a defeat. For these reasons, the North needed to fight the Civil War, and needed to see it through to the end.

mgoldberg said...

Sectionalism was a crisis brewing in the US during the first half of the 19th century that eventually brings us to the American Civil War. States rights, the issues of slavery, different economies, and unique sectional cultures that developed, contributed to the inevitable schism that tore this country in half and almost the destroying our new nation. The Dred Scott case was a pivotal decision that would have extended the institution of slavery further, thus, widening the gap between the sections. The North needed to act quickly before slavery became more deeply embedded and abolition looking bleaker.
When Fort Sumter falls to the Confederacy in April, 1861, and the American Civil War begins. Lincoln wanted to preserve the Union while the South wanted to preserve slavery. However, the question is….did the North have to fight the Civil War or could they have considered alternate strategies to avoid the bloodiest war ever fought? Both professors presented informative and interesting points of view about the Civil War period. Lincoln was not only defending the preservation of a country but the basic principles of our very own constitution. To let the rebellious South secede would undermine these principles that this government was founded upon and that would also question Lincolns ability as president to uphold the Constitution. First our country piloted the Articles of Confederation during the Critical Period which failed to unify the states. The Constitution replaced it and was designed to bring the states together as one and keep it as one. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the North not only wanted to preserve the Union but also supported the complete eradication of slavery and the war takes on a more moral fight. Perhaps the economic, political and cultural gaps between the industrial North and the agrarian South became too wide for any possible compromises. The South would need to diversify its economy and the North would need to accept slavery -both seemed unwilling to do so. Secession could have stalled for a few more years but sectionalism, for all their unique reasons, had such an emotional choke hold on the states that perhaps the severity of a war was needed to bring some kind of resolution.

Robin said...

The two speakers were excellent and brought out many thought provoking questions. Having said that, I don't think that slavery was going to end any time soon. Even though southern historians say that slavery would have died out as the country became more industrialized, I think that slavery could have gone on passed this point and existed as a working (non-paid) force in factory system.
So thus, the north needed to fight the Civil War to finally end this "peculiar institution" (as Dr. Beard called it). For Lincoln though it was much more than just slavery that led the north to fight. It was the need to keep the country whole and united. If the country did not unite again, what was to stop western territories from forming a third separate nation? The Civil War dealt not only with slavery, but states rights and the role of government in society. Lincoln new this and it was his brilliance and forethought that kept this country together and also helped bring about the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.

marry said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!
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Music Dissertation

Rick Iurka said...

Clearly if we were to remain The UNITED States of America the North and our newly elected President had to fight the Civil War. Lincoln had to show our traitorous southern brothers and sisters that the Federal Government was supreme. Secession unanswered would have been a mortal blow to this nation from which we would have never recovered. The Federal Government would have rightfully been seen as an impotent power whom States could ignore whenever they so desired.
Whether or not slavery would have died out (I believe it was inevitable) is not the point. It was a watershed moment in U.S. history... would we become a loose inefficient collection of states or would we begin anew as a more perfect union? Thankfully Lincoln and the North gave us a chance at the latter.

Lori Wilde said...

This was a very informative and interesting session. The speakers were highly motivating and provided thought-provoking questions. I learned a great deal of what Lincoln was faced with and how his decisions affected everyone involved. After this session, I was convinced that Lincoln had to make a move, there was too much chaos between the states. The south seceded and attacked Fort Sumpter. With all the compromises that failed, war was inevitable. As more states added to the union, tension grew. Lincoln had no other choice!

nmusc said...

This session certainly brought to light a question that I never before thought to consider. The Civil War is a piece of history that is so vastly studied, but I have never considered the fact that Lincoln made the wrong decision to fight it. Sometimes it's easier to accept certain historical facts and not really delve deeper into certain issues questioning various dimensions of them. And this is why I enjoy these debates/discussions so much. They truly make you second guess elements of our history and encourage you to think out of the box.
While contemplating whether the North needed to fight the war, my group kept coming back to the fact that Lincoln had little choice. As other bloggers have pointed out, he took an oath of office and was loyal in his attempts to preserve the Union. He had no way of knowing that the war would expand to such devastating proportions, but his goal was clear - to preserve the Union. Further, his actions clearly outlined a future for the US as an undivided nation and a world power.

kevinallo said...

I must say, this round of speakers were extremely interesting and knowledgeable. Although I was placed into the group arguing that the North did not need to fight the Civil War, I must say that even though the speaker was very convincing, I still believe that the north did have to fight to preserve the union. For instance, who is to say that the south in actuality would have crumbled or crawled back? Lincoln was an extremely shrewd politician, and I feel that he took the necessary steps in preserving the union. Yes, Lincoln may have overstepped some of his boundaries as Commander in Chief, however his actions have to be viewed as justified. However, it is also refreshing to hear a critique of Lincoln as well, and to add some new perspectives on the Civil War. I actually used the one professors statistics while teaching the build up to the war, and even used this question as a reflection. Very informative discussion, and this is exactly what I was looking for in taking this program. Hopefully the next group of speakers will live up to these two gentlemen.

JKeller said...

The debate was very interesting. Our group did conclude that the North did have to fight the Civil War. Lincoln was obligated to uphold the principles of the Constitution therefore making it necessary to fight. Lincoln's election may have been an unfavorable outcome for Southern states however it did not warrant their secession. Although Lincoln may have had additional options besides war, ultimately Southern behavior and actions made war essential. In order to preserve the union and uphold the basic fundamental ideology of the United States Constitution these steps needed to be taken.

Mr. Gallucci said...

After listening to the debate between the professors and speaking with my base group members, we quickly came to the conclusion that the North did, in fact, need to fight the Civil War. A revolution needed to occur in America that would cast the shackles of slavery off this country and its people once and for all. Gradual emancipation was not a viable option, the government buy-out (interesting….) of slave owners was also not feasible, and that which could not be done by compromise would need to be done by force. Lincoln tried diplomacy and it failed.

I still find it very intriguing that the south pawned the war off on its people as a war of independence. “All the spirit of ’76 was rekindling!” However, when you really get down to the facts, it was a completely skewed vision from that of the Founding Fathers generation. As our group discussed, southerners had a venue for their complaints and issues and they had a voice. It’s the democratic way. The revolutionary generation of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams truly did not. The question remains: would Congress have listened? And what would the South have done if Congress reached a decision that wasn’t in their favor? Perhaps we still would be reading about a Civil War, just in the decades after the 1860s.

kimcraig said...

Kim's post continued...oops!

President Lincoln made the best choices he could in the circumstances; he represented then, and now, the type of leader that puts the country first. He didn’t care about public approval and popularity – he made tough choices and stood his ground even when it wasn’t popular. While he was not perfect, no one is. In a perfect world he would have emancipated the slaves in the border states, being that he had the authority to do so. However, he knew that the border states had to be kept in the Union, and to force emancipation on them would have worsened the Union’s chances of winning. I wish more politicians today were willing to do what is right, and not always what will get them re-elected.

kimcraig said...

This topic seemed a bit ‘obvious’ –yes, of course the North needed to fight the Civil War. Secession is not an acceptable or valid political principle and the southern states’ decision to nullify their membership in the Union had to be addressed. Being that the Confederate states would not simply comply if asked nicely, it is my firm belief that the Civil War was inevitable and necessary.

I do wish that the nation had better leadership, especially at the head of the Executive Branch, during the 1850s. Perhaps with a better captain at the helm, the nation could have weathered the sectional storm. Yet, without the Civil War, slavery may well have continued beyond the 1860s. It is unfathomable to think that over ½ million people had to die to prove that secession was not a valid idea / action. I fear that some Americans have lost sight of this lesson and have forgotten that we are a Union of people and not of states.

Jennifer said...

The speakers were outstanding, both in their knowledge and their entertainment. I really enjoyed watching them debate this topic.

I think that the North had to fight the Civil War. The Constitution did not have any provision allowing for a state to secede from the nation. Therefore, if a state takes such action, it is necessary to meet that action with force. If Lincoln had not led the north to war, it would have set a precedent that any state could secede whenever they didn’t agree with something that occurred in our democracy. Our government was formed in a way to favor the majority after allowing the minority to present its position. The southern states’ secession displays an unwillingness to allow the democratic process to work itself out. We see examples throughout history where the pendulum swings from one side to the other as the public responds to dissatisfaction with their elected officials. Southern states did not like losing the power they had held for so long, but the answer was not secession. To allow the South to secede would mean a future where North America was filled with many nation states.

Mr. Karmin said...

When I initially saw the question as to whether the North had to fight the civil war, I did not even think that there was much of a debate. Of course the North had to fight the civil war. After listening to both speakers and discussing the issue with the group, the conclusion is OF COURSE the North had to fight the civil war. Preserving the Union was of paramount concern for President Lincoln… he could not allow the South to secede. He was legally obliged to uphold the constitution and to allow secession would have been a direct violation of said oath. It is unclear as to how long the South would have been able to survive had the North not fought the war, but I think we need to be careful about making assumptions about what would have happened. We must realize that with hindsight, we can only think about what did happen. Lincoln acted in a way that ensured the preservation of the Union.

Mr. Toth said...

This is a very difficult question. I don’t know if this war was really necessary, or many other wars for that matter. Did the North REALLY need to fight the Civil War, of course not. The South should have had the right to leave the Union whenever they pleased. After all America was formed by revolutionaries that wanted to leave what they saw as an oppressive government. The south was doing the same thing, seceding from a Union that they thought was being oppressive to their state rights. Of course when debating this question you need to take the moral issue out of the debate, because Lincoln’s main goal was to preserve the union not abolish slavery. Overall I would say that this war was avoidable, and the loss of life was a complete waste. The North and South could have lived next to each other as two separate countries and functioned just fine.

Thone said...

If the Confederacy made different military decisions it is conceivable that they could have won the Civil War. The first mistake that they made was by instigating the war by firing the first shots at Fort Sumter. It was Lincoln and the Union that had to win the war to preserve the Union. Lincoln was hestitant to fire the first shots and be the aggressor. The Confederacy should have waited for the Union to do so. The longer they waited the better the chance had to strengthen the military and defenses. It would have also allowed the Confederacy to strengthen their economy in preparation for the war. A second mistake that was made was not marching on Washington after the First Battle of Bull Run. The Union retreated in chaos. This was an opportunity to overwhelm an under prepared Union Army and force a quick surrender to the war. Another mistake was not following the military strategy of George Washington during the American Revolution. Strategic retreats and guerilla warfare could have prolonged the war enough to where public opinion would have swayed against the North. It was the Union that needed to win. The Confederacy just needed to not lose. Unfortunately for the Confederacy, poor military decisions killed the slim chances that Confederacy had to win this war in the first place.

sahmedani said...

I believe that the north did have to fight the Civil War. It was necessary to preserve the union. The south also was a big part of the national economy- which was a strong motivator to keep the south within the control of the United States. Whether the institution of slavery would have survived or not is almost irrelevant because the Civil War was not a fight to abolish slavery- at least in the beginning. The Civil War itself seems to have been the biggest cause of abolition- I don't believe it was inevitable on its own.

Liz said...

The North needed to fight the Civil War for the simple purpose of preserving the union. To allow the South to break away from the "UNITED STATES" would create a weakness England/France may have been able to successfully manipulate-putting the entire nation (North and South) at risk.

In the war itself the North had the key advantages and were well positioned to save the Union.

pcostell said...

As with all of the essential questions, it is one's perspective that alters your take on the issue. It is easy to see today how necessary the war was, and Lincoln's goal of preserving the Union was ultimately worthy. Imagine our world today if the south had been allowed to secede? Lincoln's oath to uphold the Constitution was cleasrly a legitimate goal, and the disappointment the South felt over losing the election was not a enough of a reason to leave the union.

CTator said...

Southerners were not pleased with Lincoln, the republican candidate whose platform focused on the issue of free v. slave state admission and coexistence. To the promise of the south, they would not follow the presidential leadership under Lincoln. Well less then thirty days of Lincoln’s victory, South Carolina, followed by six other southern states seceded from the Union. The Confederate States of America is formed under the rule of Jefferson Davis and soon the United States of America is under attack at Fort Sumter.
Lincoln needed to respond swiftly to this insurrection and orders troops to disband the domestic enemy. Lincoln called for a special session in congress were he explains the case against the South, outlines the measures he has taken to halt the rebellion, and defines the purpose for the war. The purpose of the war is to Preserve the Union, the North needed to fight in the Civil War to maintain the United States of America and it was not to end slavery. A key argument came about with regards to the slavery issue, that slavery would have died out in due time. The westward movement in the United States would not have sustained the economic nor geographic dependency of slavery.

Sill's World said...

Of course Lincoln made the right decision in goin gto war against the south. State's Rights is important, but just because one region of our nation is unhappy with the results of an election doesn't mean they have the right to secede from the union. Once the south fired shots at Fort Sumpter, Lincoln had every legal right to remove those responsible and destroy their illegal and immoral confederate government.

Mrs. Geldmacher said...

I have always felt that the war was not necessary until we had our controversy on the subject. After hearing both arguments and having an opportunity to debate in class, I realized that the war was at a point were it was unavoidable. Lincoln had not choice but to initiate the war in order to protect our constitution. He was able to uphold that our country is a country of laws and that the federal government needs to be more powerful than the states. It wasn't just about the expansion of slavery. It had more to do with not allowing states to nulify laws in which they do not agree with.

mnolan7715 said...

I thought this was one of the most interesting controversies that we’ve had all year, and the debaters were the best I’ve seen. Our arguments, on the con side, were based around the idea that that the Civil War was fought mainly over slavery which is, in itself, is debatable. The argument that slavery, if the north had just waited, would have slowly become unprofitable and was “on its way out” was our best and strongest argument and certainly an interesting idea. Personally, however, I don’t believe that simply waiting it out was even a possibility. By the election of 1860, the country was tearing apart and simply “waiting” for slavery to diminish on its own doesn’t seem plausible.

Mrs Raftery said...

My group also had a difficult time reaching a consensus. Both speakers presented valuable insight.

As to the question, my personal belief is that yes, the North did have to fight the Civil War as a means of unification. Slavery would have exhausted itself but the preservation of the Union was a far more pressing question. The North without doubt saw the industrial weaknesses of the South, and saw this as an opportunity to gain an upper hand.

I often have a hard time explaining the concept of democracy in the United States with the continuing presence of slavery. The speakers offered interesting insight as to the utility of slavery and the ultimate demise of it as an institution.

dmcgoldrick said...

Maybe the question should be, "Did the United States need to fight the Civil War?" In pursuing secession as a viable course of action, individual states and eventually the South broke the laws of their country. Processes were in place to allow the continued discussion and compromise on issues for the good of the entire country. I found it shocking to closely examine the provocation for the South's reaction to Lincoln's election and realized just how flimsy it was. The course of events that followed seemed to sadly take on a life of their own leading to the inevitability of civil war. I believe that Lincoln had no choice but to follow through on preserving the Union as entrusted to him as the President of the United States.

AFisk said...

It seems that after the wonderful presentations by the two professors on whether the North “needed” to fight the Civil War, our group consensus was that Lincoln acted in the best interest of the country. The South had been arguing since before Jackson’s presidency that if laws were unacceptable to a state that states did not necessarily have to follow these federal laws. Jackson barely escaped the nullification crisis presented during his presidency forced by southerner Calhoun from South Carolina. Lincoln, like Jackson, had to make clear that the preservation of the Union was the single most important thing as president was commanded to do. In this sense Lincoln had little choice but to act decisively when the South seceded and bring the “rebels” back into the Union. The South had been use to having a southern president and reacted more from fear than reality when Lincoln was elected. By taking a strong stance, Lincoln not only ensured the continuation of the union but upheld the principles of democracy that the country was founded upon. The North most certainly needed to fight the Civil War.

Zartler, Michael said...

By the 1850s, fundamental differences had developed between northerners and southerners over the issue of slavery extension into the western territories. To a large degree, these differences were based on different understandings of liberty. To northerners, liberty meant their freedom to pursue their self-interests without competition from slaves. To southerners, liberty meant their freedom to do with their slaves (their legally acquired property) what they wanted. Despite these differences, however, southerners did not seriously consider secession until they became convinced (in light of northern hostility to the Dred Scott decision and sympathy for John Brown) that northerners were determined not merely to restrict the extension of slavery, but to destroy it altogether. It was, therefore, in the wake of Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency in 1860, that the states of the Lower South seceded. (Despite the fact that he had run as a "free-soiler," many southerners feared Lincoln was really a "closet" abolitionist.) By seceding, the states of the Lower South forced Lincoln to contend not with the issue of slavery extension so much as the issue of secession. The seceding states had left the Union in the face of losing a fair election, and were not willing to agree to any compromise that recognized federal authority over the slavery-extension issue (something Congress had previously agreed to). For Lincoln to have caved in to pressure to compromise under such circumstances, he would have had to violate the principle of majority rule, one of the key principles upon which the nation had been founded. And for Lincoln to have essentially ignored the acts of secession, he would have had to ignore his presidential oath to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Union.