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Causes of the War - Why did Lincoln not choose peace?

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Why not negotiate peace?

As demonstrated 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.

Francis W. 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 the North."

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. --Robert Lynd

Why did the Southern states declare independence?  This issue will be addressed in the next section.

Why was there war?

....under construction

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