When the former colony of the British Empire rose up in rebellion, the ragtag army led by General Washington defeated the well-oiled war machine of English. The founding fathers of the United States of America declared that all men are equal and proceeded to build a great nation. But less than a century the words uttered in the Declaration of Independence became the bone of contention for Northern and Southern states. The former wanted to abolish slavery while the latter desperately wanted to perpetuate an institution for the sake of their main source of livelihood – agriculture. The Southern states believed that it is their right to own and utilize slaves and then declared that they do not want any part of the Union. The government was forced to go to war to preserve the Union. In the aftermath of the bloody war, the South was devastated by the scorch earth policy of the North. Looking back it would have been better if diplomacy prevailed and that guns, cannons, and bayonets were never used to settle an issue.
War Was Inevitable
History repeats itself that is what some historians would like to say. In the case of the Civil War, there is a strange similarity to other great wars that were waged on this planet. There is the realization that there were things that could have been done to preserve peace. In the War for Independence, Americans did not wish to fight King George and they did everything they could to prevent unnecessary bloodshed. The Continental Congress – one that was hastily assembled to avert war – made its final move to plead with Great Britain.1
In the usual aftermath of a major conflict the high mortality rates as well as the destruction caused by exploding cannons, as well as the burning anger of soldiers wanting to avenge their fallen comrades – it is easy to conclude that everything was meaningless. It would have been much better if war was avoided and the issues settled not on the battlefield but somewhere where men of character can reason out with each other. But England’s dictator had no time nor the energy to spare to negotiate with his subjects.2 This was King George’s major blunder as Great Britain would eventually lose the war and then be forced to let go of one of the jewels of the crown of the British Empire which is the colony in the New World.
The Americans were serious in preventing a war that, “On July 8, it sent the Olive Branch Petition to the king. In November, word arrived that George III had not only snubbed the petition but also declared on August 23 that the colonies were in a state of rebellion and would be crushed by force.”3 With regards to the American Civil War a similar thing happened but this time both sides were unwilling to meet halfway to resolve the conflict. The Federal government was unwilling to see the problem from the perspective of the South. It was not possible to sustain their way of life without the use of slaves.
On the other hand, the South was unable to see the issue from the point of view of the Northern states. It was already made clear from many declarations as well as the passing of related laws that slavery is no longer acceptable in 19th century America. The Declaration of Independence authored by the founding fathers made it very clear that all men are created equal. It is now considered immoral for slave owners to continue enslaving people and treating them like the bests of burden. There are two sides of the argument here but both sides would not come together to create an acceptable solution for everyone.
The South made a move that forced the North to declare war. When the South made known their desire to secede, it was only a matter of time before Union soldiers would invade the South. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the following eyewitness account made it very clear that the Civil War should have been avoided, and he wrote, “Fields were laid waste, cities burned, bridges and roads destroyed … even most of the woefully inadequate factories were leveled … And if the Union forces did not loot quite as many smokehouses and pantries as they were blamed for, what they did do emphasized the helplessness of the once-proud Confederates.”4 The war could have been averted if only both sides were willing to make a compromise. Yet they did not and the negative impact of the war lingers on.
If given the chance to go back in time and present a strategy to prevent the Civil War from happening the first thing to do is to stop the Confederate politicians and generals from declaring that they will secede from the Union. Breaking away from the Union will force the Union into a corner, with very few options, and will be forced to fight back. Everything must be done to prevent them from declaring that they are going to break away. Furthermore, the leaders must be made to understand that the devastation that will be brought about by the Civil War will continue to affect them in decades to come.
Those who will act as peacemakers must approach the Northern politicians and generals and make them understand the fact that the South will never be able to survive without slaves. Then from this point onwards, out-of-the-box strategizing must be employed to solve these problems. First of all the North must be given a chance to demonstrate their belief that slavery is wrong and at the same time the South must be made to understand that they must begin to look for an alternative to slave labor.
This is when the North must come in to collaborate with the South with regard to labor-saving devices. Those who are from the North are experts on the use of modern technology. They must therefore utilize what they learned in the Industrial Revolution to develop machines that will help Southern farmers to survive without the use of manual labor. The South must also learn to develop their own factories especially those related to food canning as well as other facilities that can process raw agricultural materials and transform them into useful things that can be sold across the nation. In this way, the South can be slowly weaned from the need to have slave labor.
In deliberate planning to transform the way of life in the South, the Civil War could be avoided. Both sides must not do something to shame the other. In other words, both groups have a value system that they believe should not be violated. Peacemakers must be aware of the contrasting value systems and work around them to develop strategies and solutions that are favorable for both groups. In this manner, no one will be forced to take up arms to defend an ideology. By merely imagining the aftermath of war, generals and politicians would rather seek peace than bloodshed.
Franklin, John H. Reconstruction After the Civil War. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution. IN: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc., 2004.
Nester, William. The Frontier War for American Independence. (PA: Stackpole Books, 2004), p. 90.
William Nester. The Frontier War for American Independence. (PA: Stackpole Books, 2004), p. 90.
Merrill Jensen. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution. IN: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc., 2004.
John Franklin. Reconstruction After the Civil War. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 2.