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Posted at 10:28 AM ET, 01/24/2011

Lonnie Bunch: Did the seceding states believe they could leave peacefully without provoking a war?

By Lonnie Bunch

Founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Bunch

It depends on what faction within what state. I think there was a legitimate split. Some states felt that secession was the only way to protect their way of life. And many people believed that the North would just let the South secede. Many people thought that the North really didn’t care about the Southern way of life, and that the North wasn’t ready to risk a war to keep the Union together. In fact, some Southerners thought that if they were seen as another country, with diplomatic recognition from England or France, it would almost force the Union to accept their separation peacefully.

However, others believed that one of the greatest risks of talking secession was the possibility that the North might try to force them to remain in the Union. While most people hoped they could leave without war, there was a bellicose group who felt that if war had to come, let it come. Because southerners were a people who had a long military tradition, they believed that they could defeat the North if it came to war.

By Lonnie Bunch  | January 24, 2011; 10:28 AM ET
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