The civil war is a catastrophic event in United States history which can never be forgotten. It was a war between the states, specifically the South and North union. The civil war started because of reasons such as slavery and states’ rights. Regarding the question, Was the Civil War repressible or irrepressible, something that is irrepressible is defined as something that is not able to be controlled, which was seen several times during the Civil War. The Civil War was irrepressible because of the ongoing differences of slavery and conflict between the North and the South.
The book, The Irrepressible Conflict: Slave Taxation and North Carolina’s Gubernatorial Election of 1860 by Donald C. Butts goes into the many conflicts that explains much about the South secession and the history of confederacy. One of the conflicts was the controversy of slave taxation in North Carolina where the state’s slaveholders wanted their slaves taxed as persons (Butts, 1981). This was a method that provided much of their wealth to be received as a substantial tax exemption (Butts, 1981). On the other hand, non-slaveholders wanted slaves to be taxed ad valorem, which is according to their value as property (Butts, 1981). This issue demonstrated that a breakaway existed between the slaveholding whites who dominated most of the state’s government, and the non-slaveholding whites, who made up the majority of the population. As Butts writes, “While united in their racism and in their acceptance of the institution of slavery, these two groups disagrees violently as to who should rule in Southern society and what privileges, if any, should accrue to the owners of property in slaves” ( 1981, pg. 44). The slaveholders believed that the ownership of property in slaves entitled them to powers which they fought continuously to maintain (Butts, 1981). The non-slaveholders rejected the notion that ownership of property entitled a person to legal and political advantages (Butts, 1981). This divide between the North in the South led to a weak confederation statement and left the states at constant battle.
Prior to fighting, the relationship between the North and the South had disputes over taxes. According to the article The American Civil War: A North-South Divide, which was published in History Today Volume 61 Issue 9, written by Tim Stanley, “The North financed its industrial development through crippling taxes imposed by Congress on imported goods. The South, which had an agricultural economy and had to buy machinery from abroad, ended up footing the bill” (Stanley, 2011). When the secession hit the 1850s, Congress raised the imported tax from 15 to 37 per cent (Stanley, 2011). The South threatened the secession and the North was outraged. With time, economic and cultural fear pushed the country further into war. The Republican party was not abolitionist, it was anti-slavery. Abraham Lincoln stated in his 1861 inaugural address, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery and where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so…if I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it” (Stanley, 2011). The commanding words of his speech led the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 only freeing slaves in areas occupied by the Union forces and slave-holding states fighting for the union became excluded (Stanley, 2011). The Emancipation Proclamation changed the legal status of millions of enslaved African Americans to be freed in all the areas of the Confederacy that were in rebellion against the Union (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). Abraham Lincoln showed sympathy with slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation.
As mentioned earlier, the North and South had disputes over slavery about either wanting an entire slave-holding nation or a free-labor nation. This time period from 1850 until 1869 is called The Irrepressible Conflict. At first, each side tried to settle their differences through comprise but the ongoing quarrel led to slavery as being an irrepressible conflict (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). This of course led to the bloody Civil War in 1865 and the North winning preserved the Union and soon after the war, slavery was outlawed throughout the United States (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). California was looking to apply for statehood in 1849 and the application brought up debate about whether it should be a free state of a slave state (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). This brought up the argument about how to deal with slavery and with The Compromise of 1850, it succeeded in bringing an agreement on California (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). As stated in the article The Irrepressible Conflict, “Measured designed to satisfy the North included the admission of California to the Union as a free state and the abolition of the slave trade in Washington, D.C. To try and satisfy Southerners, Congress ruled that when the new territories of New Mexico and Utah became states, the residents would decide whether or not to allow slavery” (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). The Compromise was multiple laws that made modifications to the North and South.
To go into how the Civil War happened, it began on April 12th 1861 when the Southern troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston and both sides prepared for the battle after the clash at Fort Sumter (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). The North had more financial and industrial strength compared to the South but they found diligently to try and beat the North (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). At first, the South were at a higher point but the North turned it around and ended up defeating them. The Confederate resistance wore down and the Union armies swept towards the South (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). On April 9th 1865, General Robert E. Lee who was the commander of the Confederate army surrendered to the Union commander, General Ulysses S. Grant (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). At the end of the war, the North went out to establish terms under which Confederate states would be readmitted to the Union (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). This process following the war in which the South returned is called Reconstruction.
The Reconstruction divided the Northerners into two groups to end the resentment between the North and the South (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). Many believe that Lincoln would have been able to work out a compromise but he was shot by an assassin on April 14th 1865 and died the next day (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). Vice president Andrew Jackson became president and tried to carry Lincoln’s policy but failed and was unable to overcome the radical opposition (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). The Reconstruction included laws to further the rights of blacks and the 13th Amendment of the Constitution did just that; it outlawed slavery throughout the United States (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). The 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, confirmed the citizenship of the backs and the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870 which made it illegal to deny the right to vote on the basis of race (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). White Southerners resented the new system and joined the Ku Klux Klan which is a secret society that uses violence to keep blacks from voting and reaching equality (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). Congress kept insisting that the Confederate states should agree and follow federal laws before being readmitted to the Union and between 1866 and 1870, all the Confederate states returned to the Union (AUC, The Irrepressible Conflict). All of this expanded the legal rights of blacks and later set up public school systems which at first, was based on white supremacy and unfortunately, a black’s place in society still haunts us until this day.
The Civil was seen as irrepressible because of the continuous conflicts between the North and South and with the sudden death of Abraham Lincoln, things became twisted for a while until the Reconstruction period after the war. The Amendments helped with the rights of blacks and the Emancipation Proclamation helped many African American slaves to be free from the areas that were in rebellion against the Union. The North and South had difficulty coming to an agreement about their policies and slavery which woefully led to the Civil War. You can now see how and why it was an irrepressible time period between the states.