THE NATIONS: Repressible Conflict?

In 1858 William H. Seward minted a round, shiny phrase. He described the difference between Northern wage labor and Southern slave labor as an "irrepressible conflict." Later, Seward's friends explained that he had not meant that war was inevitable, much" less that it was desirable. Abraham Lincoln profoundly believed that war was undesirable, and hoped that it was avoidable, when he came into the Presidency and put Seward in his Cabinet. But Seward's phrase had caught on. Hotheads on both sides used it. By the time the shooting started, civil war was indeed "irrepressible."

Last week the possibility of World...

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