The April Issue of Civil War Times has an interesting article, Was War Inevitable? How six men might have saved the lives of 650,000 Americans.
I found each of the six stories interesting, but I was particularly surprised by the - fourth story. In November 1860 president Buchanan proposed to his cabinet that he call for a constitutional convention to discuss an amendment to the constitution to permit secession. I didn't know that.
The article points out that this could be considered a delay tactic or it could provide the south with a democratic and legal way to secede. I note that the author asserts that the constitution is silent on secession, and I know that some in this forum wood assert that "rights not specifically given to the national government, belong to the states" so they would say the constitution WAS clear on the matter.
I still wonder why this course was not pursued BEFORE taking actions that would INEVITABLY lead to war.
If the the south prevailed in the convention, they could go in peace. If they were unsuccessful, at least they could say ( to the northern people) that they exhausted all attempts to negotiate with northern states before UNILATERALLY Seceding. Maybe such a strategy would have avoided Ft Sumter, and the effect that had on mobilizing northern opinion.
I think the Crittenden Compromise of December 1860 would have been more successful at preventing bloodshed. It essentially reinstituted the Missouri Compromise as a part of the Constitution and forbade any future Congress from interfering with slavery in slave states. But, as to your other question--I don't think the war was inevitable until April 12, 1861.
I think North and South were united in name only by 1860. All the political compromises had been made. Just the fact that the South broke off just on the election of Lincoln speaks volumes. He had no intention of eradicating slavery where it existed. But war still happened....
Last edited on Mon Jan 28th, 2013 10:48 am by BHR62
After SC seceded I'd say the war was inevitable. We've discussed in the forums before the attack on Fort Pickens in January 1861, http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/forums/forum1/3139-1.html (why does this computer no longer give me full access to all the mark-up tools but I can still get them with my laptop?), so we have a case of Florida and Alabama militia troops firing on a federally held fort months before Sumter. By 1860 I'd say the differences between the northern and southern states was probably too great to easily overcome without at least a little bloodshed. We know it wasn't a little bloodshed, it was several fifty gallon drums worth. And even before SC seceded we can see blood was already being shed. Go back to Preston Brooks' attack on Charles Sumner over a speech Sumner had given in the Senate. Sumner didn't die, but he was left bleeding. And then there's Bloody Kansas which did see deaths on both sides. And John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. Personally the country was just waiting for some kind of spark to seperate it and lead to open warfare betwen the North and South.
I agree that many in the South had reason to believe that there were irreconcilable differences with the North. Yes, some in the North were not committed to returning slaves under the Fugitive Slave Law. But I have also been surprised by the amount of anti abolitionist sentiment i have read about in newspapers. And the election of Lincoln didn’t’ t immediately threaten slavery. Why not believe it when he said he would not threaten slavery where it existed?
If differences were irreconcilable, why not try a constitutional convention first?