The House Divided
IT WAS THAT ASTUTE POLITICIAN, WILLIAM H. SEWARD, WHO PROPHESIED IN 1858 the advent of "an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces." The New York senator, soon to become Lincoln's Secretary of State, was certain beyond all doubt that the nation could not long endure half slave and half free. Compromise was merely vain and ephemeral strategy to escape the hard responsibility of decision. Yet responsibility would have to be faced and the verdict would have to be decisive. No section of the country was more cognizant of this verity than the South. Harassed by mounting pressures conjured by northern radicals and perfectionists, southern leaders found that the once ugly thought of secession began to take on a certain luster. Assurances from mammon-hungry businessmen who feared the loss of lucrative trade and placid churchmen who thought any compromise better than disruption sounded hollow in their ears. They saw all too clearly that the price of a preserved union would be the surrender of their institutions, their values, their way of life.
Since the admission of California as a free state, southern power in the national legislature was at best tenuous. Apprehensive capitalists in the North were solidifying their position through economic marriage with the West, thus preparing for the possible severance of ties with the South; with increasing security they showed themselves more amenable to an antislavery position. Even the two largest Protestant communions had be-