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John Marszalek: Could the war have been prevented?

By John Marszalek

Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history at Mississippi State University


Of course. No event in human history is predestined to occur just as it did.

However, to avoid a war over slavery sometime would have required the 19th century before 1861 to have developed differently: no religiously based abolition or religiously based pro-slavery; no Manifest Destiny; no Mexican War and a U.S. victory within it to bring new territories into the nation; no anti-slavery movement insisting that slavery be kept out of these territories and a pro-slavery movement which insisted just the opposite; no social, political, and economic upheaval which produced a Republican Party united around the slavery in the territories issue and a slave South united in just the opposite direction; no Abraham Lincoln; no southern fire eaters; and on and on and on.

Contra-factual history is entertaining, but anyone's interpretation is as good as anyone else’s. The war came, in fact, and this is the real issue.

By John Marszalek  | November 9, 2010; 4:21 PM ET
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