Abraham Lincoln eBook

George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 609 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.


1. The Case of the South against the Union.

The Republicans of the North had given their votes upon a very clear issue, but probably few of them had fully realised how grave a result would follow.  Within a few days of the election of Lincoln the first step in the movement of Secession had been taken, and before the new President entered upon his duties it was plain that either the dissatisfied States must be allowed to leave the Union or the Union must be maintained by war.

Englishmen at that time and since have found a difficulty in grasping the precise cause of the war that followed.  Of those who were inclined to sympathise with the North, some regarded the war as being simply about slavery, and, while unhesitatingly opposed to slavery, wondered whether it was right to make war upon it; others, regarding it as a war for the Union and not against slavery at all, wondered whether it was right to make war for a Union that could not be peaceably maintained.  Now it is seldom possible to state the cause of a war quite candidly in a single sentence, because as a rule there are on each side people who concur in the final rupture for somewhat different reasons.  But, in this case, forecasting a conclusion which must be examined in some detail, we can state the cause of war in a very few sentences.  If we ask first what the South fought for, the answer is:  the leaders of the South and the great mass of the Southern people had a single supreme and all-embracing object in view, namely, to ensure the permanence and, if need be, the extension of the slave system; they carried with them, however, a certain number of Southerners who were opposed or at least averse to slavery, but who thought that the right of their States to leave the Union or remain in it as they chose must be maintained.  If we ask what the North fought for, the answer is:  A majority, by no means overwhelming, of the Northern people refused to purchase the adhesion of the South by conniving at any further extension of slavery, and an overwhelming majority refused to let the South dissolve the Union for slavery or for any other cause.

The issue about slavery, then, became merged in another issue, concerning the Union, which had so far remained in the background.

The first thing that must be grasped about it is the total difference of view which now existed between North and South in regard to the very nature of their connection.  The divergence had taken place so completely and in the main so quietly that each side now realised with surprise and indignation that the other held an opposite opinion.  In the North the Union was regarded as constituting a permanent and unquestionable national unity from which it was flat rebellion for a State or any other combination of persons to secede.  In the South the Union appeared merely as a peculiarly venerable treaty of alliance, of which the dissolution would be very painful,

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Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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