Cotton

The Irrepressible Conflict in Play

The term Irrepressible Conflict originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting a socioeconomic collision between the institutions of the North and the South. This confrontation settle the question of whether America would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. Lincoln alluded to the same idea in his 1858 “House Divided” speech. In the late 1850s the use of the phrase did not expressly include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would be resolved through violence or armed conflict.

The Irrepressible Conflict doing its Work

“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad,” is a trite saying, and one entirely applicable to the Democratic party, as is evinced unmistakably the last few years. Not looking for the remote causes that acted potentially to bring about the crisis in modern Democracy, we see it as it is, and find it in a state a distraction, and daily getting into “confusion worse confounded.” Not to go farther back into the past than a few months, we behold the once “harmonious Democracy” divided in the State conventions, held to select delegates to the national convention, and in many cases two antagonistical sets of delegates were the results of opposing conventions in the same State and of the same party.

Part IV of our Civil War collection, A Midwestern Perspective, consists of seven newspapers published in Indiana between the years of 1855 and 1869. These items provide pre-and post-Civil War information, in addition to coverage of the Civil War itself.

This state of things but foreshowed the “irrepressible conflict” that would take place at Charleston, and finally cause a disruption of the great Democratic party. The convention met; the same maddened feelings filled the breasts of the delegates there that had manifested themselves in the primary conventions, and the result was such a division of the party as to cause an adjournment to Baltimore, many hoping that enough vitality, honesty and patriotism were left in it to cause harmony yet to come out of a confusion-like chaos. But these, differences were irreconcilable and again the members of the once great Democratic party met but to become more infuriated and to separate without a ray of hope above the political horizon to cheer them in their diverse and weary wanderings.

The national Democratic party having been destroyed, the conflict was narrowed down to States, and in them “the work goes bravely on.” The conflict deepens as time moves on, and the breach between the two wings of the party becomes wider and deeper until now and then their identities are lost, so far as vital force is concerned, and they mingle freely with factions that make the fairest promises to them irrespective of principle.

And now we come down to a still narrower limit and the county convention is the last theatre of action of the “Democracy run mad,” and where the last drama of the “irrepressible conflict ” is performed. To such a scene many of our citizens were witnesses on last Saturday at the Democratic County Convention.— Trickery and knavery, aided by free whisky and filthy lucre, came out triumphant, and the scenes of Charleston were re-enacted at McClure’s school house in miniature, and the results were blood, torn shirts and a split party. So mote is be.

Source: Vincennes Gazette, August 4, 1860

Learn more about the doctrine of the Irrepressible Conflict in the  The Freeman’ s Catechism Concerning the Irrepressible Conflict.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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