December 9

Blog #133 – Was the Civil War Inevitable?

It’s easy to look back from the vantage point of 150 years ago and say that the Civil War was inevitable.  That there was no denying that a clash over slavery would eventually occur, that the compromises would only last so long or work so well until something else came up to shatter the delicate balance that the Northern and Southern states tried to perpetuate.

And looking back over the past ten to 15 years before the war began, events like the Wilmot Proviso, the Mexican War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the new Fugitive Slave Law, Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision, and John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry all take on additional significance because with the aid of time, historians can look back and see which events were more pivotal and which ones weren’t.

And the last year before the war, 1860, so many things had to click into place for the war to happen.  What if Lincoln wasn’t nominated or hadn’t won?  What if there was only John Bell or Stephen Douglas to win votes in the South instead of splitting up those Union votes in many parts of the South?  Could the election have gone to the House of Representatives if Lincoln hadn’t won the majority of the electoral votes, and what would have happened?

Other questions abound when I think of the last year and a half before the war – What if the Charleston Mercury editorial hadn’t been printed?  What if President Buchanan had been stronger in resisting the secession of the first seven states?  He tried to resupply Fort Sumter in January 1861 but the ship was fired upon and returned to Washington w/o resupplying Major Robert Anderson and his men at the South Carolina fort.  Buchanan didn’t think he had the power to stop the states from seceding, but he said it was unconstitutional. Or was Buchanan just leaving the job to Abe Lincoln?

The Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 - Essential Civil War Curriculum

Check out this chronology here –

Did the Southern states actually have to leave or could they have done something else beginning in December 1860?  They must have felt that working within the system of the established Constitution was not working even though that document guarantees slavery.  The election of Lincoln had additional significance for these Deep South states b/c not all slave states left the Union right away (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware stayed, and North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee left ONLY after Lincoln called for troops when Fort Sumter was bombed).  Were these Deep South states trying to resist Lincoln or were the resisting his party’s anti-slavery platform?  He was the first president elected since John Quincy Adams in 1824 that was avowedly not a Southerner or a Northerner soft of slavery, so he must have been perceived as some kind of threat.  Another thing people should take into consideration is that the Republicans, after Lincoln was elected, would be in charge of appointing almost 1,000 governmental jobs, including marshals, post masters, and others that had been appointed for the past 8 years under the Pierce and Buchanan administrations.

Election of 1860 - HISTORY

I know there are a lot of questions here that I’ve raised, and that’s b/c I wanted you to think about the inevitability of this whole stream of events that led to the bombing of Fort Sumter.  Please answer the following two questions:

1. Was there ONE thing in the time period (1846-1861) that you think impacted the start of the war more than any other event or thing?  Why?

2. Which event or action in the last 16 months (1860 – 61) had the greatest impact on starting the war?  Why?  Did this event make the Civil War inevitable or not?  Why?

Due Saturday night, Dec. 12 by midnight.  300 words minimum combined for both answers.

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Posted December 9, 2020 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

54 thoughts on “Blog #133 – Was the Civil War Inevitable?

  1. Diego McIntyre

    1)The Kansas Nebraska act impacted the Civil War more than any other event between 1846-1861. The Kansas Nebraska act was essentially the deciding factor in whether or not slavery would be allowed within the new territories, this caused an unprecedented amount of backlash from people and people from both sides flooded Kansas to fight for their territory. This fighting was just the start of Bleeding Kansas, a period of violence while people tried to settle the new Kansas territory. Fighting between southern and northerners was commonplace and mobs of people were attacking the others. One abolitionist, John Brown, recognized the need for Kansas to be a free state and wanted to end slavery alltogether. John would later become a martyr and was the epitome of what southerners feared, a white man who was willing to die for the abolitionist movement. John made southerners feel as if they were being backed into a corner which caused them to start to be a little more hostile and more willing to fight for what they believed in. Without the Kansas Nebraska act, John Brown would have never become a martyr and the civil war wouldn’t have happened when it did, if at all.
    2)The event in the last 16 months to the Civil War that had the biggest impact on the start of the war, was the election of 1860. When Abraham Lincoln won the election, it was a huge impact because he didn’t believe in the practice of slavery and was very much opposed to the expansion of it. Lincoln forced the southern states to succeed and this caused a massive uproar and divided the North and South. If any other of the running candidates had won, they would never have made such an important decision as the one made. Abraham Lincoln being elected was the deciding factor in the start of the civil war and in my opinion, made it inevitable.

  2. Lindsey DeGrendel

    To me, it didn’t seem like there was one event leading to the war that was more impactful than another. I saw it as more of a snowball of events that kept growing tensions between the North and the South. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was the beginning of it all. For instance, Bleeding Kansas was a consequence of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, where numerous free-staters became angered. Their protesting created a lot of further violence and reprisal from both parties of the slavery dispute. These two events, Bleeding Kansas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, were correlated to one another, which is how most of the events between 1846 and 1861 occurred.

    I believe that in the last 16 months (180-60-1861), the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 had the greatest impact on the war. Lincoln won the election but he very different views on slavery compared to the other candidates. Lincoln didn’t support slavery which created turmoil within the states. Following the secession of several southern states, he condemned that slavery was illegal which induced mayhem to the sectional differences and conflicts. Furthermore, Lincoln added to the collapse of the Democratic party. War basically became inevitable after Lincoln was elected. Throughout the snowball effect, we went through the Kansas-Nebraska act which led to the chaos during Lincoln’s election and presidency. Additionally, Lincoln’s view on slavery separated the nation even further. Sectional differences can lead to devastating violence between the states. Lincoln’s ideas, versus the ideals of the recently succeeded states, was a smack in the face and, there was unquestionably no way to evade any war. Consequently, every individual event, collectively, led to the War.

  3. Ted Little

    1) I personally think that the election of Lincoln was the main impact of the war. There was already tension between the North and South, and it was inevitable that one side would have a boiling point. Even if Lincoln was never elected, the north would’ve just become fed up with the south’s stubbornness and start attacking them. Abraham Lincoln’s election was just the perfect reason for the South to secede from the Union. I personally think that they would’ve broken off anyway, but the election really did it. This is mostly due to the fact that the south was struggling economically and needed an immediate solution. They were very dependent on their slaves because they were their main source of income, and they needed to expand so they’d have new land to farm on. The north wasn’t letting them do that so they couldn’t get the money they needed. What makes this crazy to me is that there’s no way they would’ve lasted anyway because they were also very dependent on the north’s industry and they weren’t gaining anymore land so the confederacy wouldn’t have worked anyway.

    2) I believe that in the last 16 months (1860-61) that Lincoln sending his troops to Charleston Harbor had the greatest impact on the war. After Lincoln was elected the southern men were obviously upset. But it was stated that they didn’t leave the Union because of their pride. They tried to stick around and tolerate the presidency until Lincoln commanded his troops to ginto Charleston, South Carolina. This was literally the last thing that happened before 11 southern states created the Confederate States of America. I I think if this event didn’t happen then the south would’ve stayed in the union and waited out Abraham Lincoln‘s presidency. Unless the North did something else to provoke them, which they probably would have, then the war doesn’t start from this.

  4. Jayson Smith

    1. I think that there were multiple events that led to the start of the civil war. But if I would have to choose 1 event that impacted the US the most, it would be the Kansas Nebraska Act. This was the event that caused the most turmoil within the country, with people rushing to the newly indicted states to decide the future polices of the land. Obviously this created a lot of civil unrest within these states, with people of different beliefs clashing with each other. There was a lot of violence which led to events such as Bleeding Kansas. This not only created a lot of tension within the country, but it also was the starting point, per say, to the theme of the civil war; Republicans vs Democrats, anti-slavery vs pro-slavery, north vs south.

    2.In the last 16 months before the war, Abraham Lincoln moving his Union troops into Charleston, South Carolina definitely had the greatest impact in starting the civil war. This was the very last thing Lincoln did before the succession of 11 of the southern states. Lincoln aggressing on the Sothern states gave them the excuse they needed to separate from the Union and create the Confederate States of America.

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