The American Civil War, taking over six hundred thousand lives and resulting in over one million deaths, remains the worst domestic rift ever to take place in the United States to date. It was waged between the Confederate States of America and the Union between 1861 and 1865. The war was largely triggered by concerns that during the revolution were left unanswered. The first debate was whether America was made up of a soluble union of independent states or was an indivisible republic that could rule the states through a sovereign central government. The second issue was whether the nation still upheld slavery despite the existence of a constitution that sought equality. The revolution had taken place in the 18th century between 1765 and 1783 pitting the colonial government and the states. It led to the declaration of independence but Americans ignored these two issues that continued brewing rivalries among its population (Fritz 2). This paper will discuss important issues surrounding this war and similar civil wars and offer thoughts on war and peace.
Causes of the Civil War
The civil war was sparked by the uncompromising interests of the free and slave states. When Abraham Lincoln rose to power in 1860, he made a pledge that he would keep slavery out of America. After his victory, the southern States seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. Lincoln’s regime and the northern states did not recognize this recession and viewed it as a genesis of denegation of America. In April 1861, the Confederate army forced a federal garrison in Charleston Bay to lower the American flag. More states joined the Confederate while Lincoln urged the militia to take arms and suppress it.
Civil War Description and Events
By the end of 1961, more than one million Americans were actively involved in the war. The war continued to intensify with President Lincoln determined to capture the south and dismantle the institution of slavery. He preached on the importance of equality as enshrined in the constitution. Notable battles were fought at Shiloh in Tennessee, Fredericksburg in Virginia and Nashville where the Confederate army lost heavily. The war was put to a halt in the spring of 1865 when major Confederate armies surrendered. Jefferson Davis, who had become president of the Confederate, was captured in Georgia in May 1865 (Linderman 108.). The country started reuniting once more having learnt enough lessons on the importance of peace. However, the most important impact of this war was the answer to the two questions that had led to its rise. It was now evident that America was ruled by one indivisible sovereign federal government and state governments were to function under its jurisdiction (Fritz 8). The fact that the Confederate army had lost in the war meant that the country had to initiate a journey towards the disintegration of the institute of slavery.
The American Civil war might have been seen as a disaster at the time. However, the war was necessary because it made one side compromise its interests to peacefully coexist with the other. The war can also be looked at from another perspective; if the two issues that sparked it off would have been resolved at the declaration of independence, the conflicts would not have culminated into a full-blown war. However, it is better that the war took place early enough and provided time for the country to enjoy the rapid economic development that resulted from the industrial revolution. It made Americans learn a lesson that sharp divisions are disastrous to a nation and that each person must be willing to compromise their efforts for the sake of peace rather than be forced into it. It also made citizens more willing to accept democracy as the best way of having a government in place rather than let everyone have their way.
Thoughts on Peace and War
Modernization of societies has seen people gain voice on how they want to be governed. This has seen a rise in democracies where the majority have their way while the minority is forced to compromise their interests for peaceful coexistence. However, these individuals are still left to voice their contrary opinions and hold the existing regimes to account. This is what characterized freedom and democracy. However, not all individuals are satisfied about democracy where the majority have it all and the minority have nothing at all. While talking about the many imperfections of democracy, President Barrack Obama quoted Winston Churchill who once said that democracy is the worst form of governance were it not for the others (The White House n.p). He goes ahead and states how a section of the population will have it all and the other go home empty-handed. This means that democracy does not lead to the gratification of all the members of a society. Individuals are still trying to have their voices heard despite being in the minority group.
Civil wars mainly result from the uncompromising nature of individuals who form the minority groups. Civil wars still exist in the contemporary societies whose democracies are yet to fully mature. Many of these conflicts exist in countries that have no good laws in place and are ruled by dictators who mainly rise to power through coups. I recently watched a documentary on Rwandan Civil war that took place in the African republic of Rwanda in the early 1990s. The war was sparked off by a group of refugees who formed a rebel group and fought the existing government. The group assassinated the president and sparked a war between two ethnic groups: Hutu and Tutsi. The two ethnic groups had fought over control of the country with each wanting to impose one of their own on the other. The war led to the killing of over 4000 people with millions displaced to their homes. The civil war in Rwanda is a clear case of efforts by dictators to take over power with the claim that they were seeking to liberate their country (Collier 16). They were met with resistance from the government that could not simply relinquish power because of the fear that they would destroy the innocent citizens who did not support them. It is important to note that the long-term effect of the civil war in Rwanda is similar to that of the US. Currently, Rwanda has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, with The World Bank estimating its growth at 7.5% (The World Bank n.p). The country has experienced little internal rife since the end of the war because the people appreciated the importance of peace and compromising their interests for the sake of coexistence.
Both war and peace can only exist if the citizens of a country resolve to maintain them. Most countries rely on democracy where the preferences of the majority carry the day while the minorities are forced to compromise their interests for coexistence. The American civil war took place because none of the sides could compromise their interests in regard to the issue of slavery. The north wanted total eradication of slavery and implementation of equality while the south preferred maintaining the status quo because the majority of its citizens benefited from it. However, the war had a positive impact on the wellbeing of the Americans because they came to appreciate the importance of peace and are now willing to compromise their interests to facilitate peaceful coexistence.
Collier, Paul. Breaking the conflict trap: Civil war and development policy. World Bank Publications, 2003.
Fritz, Christian G. American sovereigns: the people and America’s constitutional tradition before the Civil War. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Linderman, Gerald. Embattled courage: The experience of combat in the American Civil War. Simon and Schuster, 2008.
The White House. Remarks by President Obama at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece. Office of the Press Secretary, November 16, 2016. Web. February 8, 2017.
The World Bank. Rwanda: Country Overview. The World Bank, 2016. Web. February 8, 2017.