Why not negotiate
in the previous section, emotions were running high by March 1861.
Southern states were declaring independence but rather than addressing
their concerns, Lincoln was talking about
protecting Government property and enforcing the collection of duties and imposts. The country was a
powder keg waiting for a match. A little good faith
negotiation would have gone a long
way toward dampening the environment of war.
Springer, in his book WAR For What?,
views the question this way:
"Conditions in the 1860's were screaming for
negotiation, concession, compromise, but during his campaign for
election, Lincoln made no effort to win over the South. He knew he
would get few votes there and didn't want to risk losing any in the
North by appearing too weak, perhaps. It can therefore be said
that it was not war that
Lincoln was planning, but how to accomplish the objectives
of the Northern economic interests. However, it was obvious that Southerners would fight
for their rights as any self-respecting people would, and that the program of the
industrial clique could not be carried out except by coercion."
"This was a moment for
statesmanship. The big question in everybody's mind was,
'Will Lincoln negotiate or resort to coercion?'....It is unrealistic to
believe that Lincoln, skilled politician that he was, would have found
it impossible to use his talents for peace. One simple device
might have been a prompt post-election speech offering to discuss
proposals from the South. This might have brought down to half
speed the rush toward secession, and a formula for peaceful co-existence
might have been worked out. But Lincoln made no move.
He never tried for peace. Why?
There seems but one answer: he knew that
there was no peaceful way the ambitious industrial clique could carry out
its program for subjugation of the South."
"If the North could have achieved
complete domination of the country without war, there would have been no
war. If the South would have been willing to submit peacefully to
being outvoted of every issue, burdened with excessive taxes through
exhorbitant tariffs, and ruined financially by disruption of the
economic and social system, everything would have been just fine----for
Many Southerners were opposed to secession, not on
Constitutional grounds, but because they were not convinced it was the
best way to protect the South's interests. But they were 100% united
on the core issues.
Lincoln had to know that they would not submit peacefully to total
domination...he had to know that it would not be a quick skirmish.
He was facing war with one fourth of the American population and one third
of the states. In the face of such a
catastrophic and destructive war, what moral man would not explore ALL
possibilities for honorable peace? In the end, it appears that political interests, that is, the
economic interests of the Northern industrialists who
were Lincoln's power base, were more important than avoiding
avoidable human suffering.
The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war
appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.
Why did the Southern
states declare independence? This issue will
be addressed in the next section.
Why was there war?
Copyright © Steve Scroggins - All rights reserved.