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American Civil War

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    Hi guys, so I have to do a piece of coursework about the causes of the American civil war.

    I have to write using two historians arguments (quotes) but have no idea which historians to use or which quotes.

    Anyone mind giving me a hand?

    Here is one to start with:

    An exchange with a Civil War historian

    By David Walsh
    19 June 1995

    [Originally published in the International Workers Bulletin, June 19, 1995]


    A comment by James McPherson ( if you read the link you may find another historian on say determinism you could counterpoint, it is an interesting discussion anyway)

    "I've often been asked also whether I consider the Civil War to have been unavoidable, irrepressible. Because that's an old debate: was it an irrepressible conflict or a repressible conflict? My usual answer to that question is that some kind of a showdown between a Northern free-labor capitalist economy and the ideology and social structure that it generated, and a Southern plantation slave-labor economy and its ideology and its social structure ... these two societies were on a collision course. In that sense, there is a degree of determinism. But I usually answer the question by saying that the Civil War that happened, that is, the war from 1861 to 1865 that killed at least 620,000 men, that wasn't inevitable, that came about because of cause-effect, contingent developments that could have happened in other ways. Just to take an obvious example. Either Jefferson Davis could have decided to leave those 80-odd Union soldiers at Fort Sumter alone, just wait them out, let the supplies go in. Or Lincoln could have said, all right, in the interests of peace we'll pull out, give you Fort Sumter. That could have happened. But it was policy decisions in a certain political context made by these individuals that brought on the war in 1861 that evolved in the way that it did. So I guess my answer is that there are certain things that seem to be inevitable and determined by long-term historical forces, like the conflict between free labor and slave labor in the mid-nineteenth century in the United States, but that the specific American Civil War that we know happened, didn't have to happen that way."

    James M McPherson
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