The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
THE CIVIL WAR

AT the outbreak of war, what the Northerner saw confronting him was an organized attempt to overthrow the government and break up the nation in the interest of slavery. This as the essential fact took form in the circle of fire let loose on a beleaguered fort, and the Stars and Stripes lowered before an overwhelming force. Close following came the menace against the national capital, for Washington was believed to be in imminent peril. A Massachusetts regiment marching to its relief was assailed by the populace of Baltimore; communication was cut; and the city which was the centre and symbol of the national life seemed stretching her hands in appeal to the country's faithful sons. To the conscience, the heart, the imagination of the North, it was a war of national self-defense,-- a holy war.

What the Southerner saw was an attempt to crush by force a legitimate exercise of the right of sovereign States to an independent existence. The typical Southerner, whether he had thought Secession expedient or not, believed that each State was the rightful judge of its own course, that the citizen's first allegiance was due to his State; and that the attempt at coercion was as tyrannical as the refusal by Great Britain of independence to the American colonies. And, apart from all political theories, there instantly loomed on the horizon the armies of the North, bearing down with fire and sword on the people of the Southern States. The instinct of self-defense, and the irresistible sympathy of neighborhood

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