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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Though both candidate and programme were in fact moderate


even if Lincoln's fairness of mind and his conciliatory disposition towards the South had been fully appreciated, it is not clear that the logic of the Secessionist case would have been greatly weakened. The essential point was that the North, by virtue of its numerical superiority, had elected a purely Northern candidate on a purely Northern programme. Though both candidate and programme were in fact moderate, there was no longer any security save the will of the North that such moderation would continue. If the conditions remained unaltered, there was nothing to prevent the North at a subsequent election from making Charles Sumner President with a programme conceived in the spirit of John Brown's raid. It must be admitted that the policy adopted by the dominant North after the Civil War might well appear to afford a measure of posthumous justification for these fears.

In the North at first all seemed panic and confusion of voices. To many--and among them were some of those who had been keenest in prosecuting the sectional quarrel of which Secession was the outcome--it appeared the wisest course to accept the situation and acquiesce in the peaceable withdrawal of the seceding States. This was the position adopted almost unanimously by the Abolitionists, and it must be owned that they at least were strictly consistent in taking it. "When I called the Union 'a League with Death and an Agreement with Hell,'" said Garrison, "I did not expect to

see Death and Hell secede from the Union." Garrison's disciple, Wendell Phillips, pronounced the matter one for the Gulf States themselves to decide, and declared that you could not raise troops in Boston to coerce South Carolina or Florida. The same line was taken by men who carried greater weight than did the Abolitionists. No writer had rendered more vigorous service to the Republican cause in 1860 than Horace Greeley of the _New York Tribune_. His pronouncement in that journal on the Southern secessions was embodied in the phrase: "Let our erring sisters go."

But while some of the strongest opponents of the South and of Slavery were disposed to accept the dismemberment of the Union almost complacently, there were men of a very different type to whom it seemed an outrage to be consummated only over their dead bodies. During the wretched months of Buchanan's incurable hesitancy the name of Jackson had been in every mouth. And at the mere sound of that name there was a rally to the Union of all who had served under the old warrior in the days when he had laid his hand of steel upon the Nullifiers. Some of them, moved by that sound and by the memory of the dead, broke through the political ties of a quarter of a century. Among those in whom that memory overrode every other passion were Holt, a Southerner and of late the close ally of Davis; Cass, whom Lowell had pilloried as the typical weak-kneed Northerner who suffered himself to be made the lackey of the South; and Taney, who had denied that, in the contemplation of the American Constitution, the Negro was a man. It was Black, an old Jacksonian, who in the moment of peril held the nerveless hands of the President firm to the tiller. It was Dix, another such, who sent to New Orleans the very Jacksonian order: "If any man attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him at sight."

War is always the result of a conflict of wills.

The conflict of wills which produced the American Civil War had nothing directly to do with Slavery. It was the conflict between the will of certain Southern States to secede rather than accept the position of a permanent minority and the will expressed in Jackson's celebrated toast: "Our Union, it must be preserved." It is the Unionist position which clearly stands in need of special defence, since it proposed the coercion of a recalcitrant population. Can such a defence be framed in view of the acceptance by most of us of the general principle which has of late been called "the self-determination of peoples"?

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