The Irrepressible Conflict -- By: H. Von Holst

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 041:162 (Apr 1884)
Article: The Irrepressible Conflict
Author: H. Von Holst


The Irrepressible Conflict1

H. Von Holst

Ladies and Gentlemen.—A foreigner venturing to lecture before an American audience on the Irrepressible Conflict,— is not that “carrying owls to Athens “? Perhaps I would have no right to complain if that should have been your first thought when you learned on what subject I proposed to address you. What I have but studied in dusty documents is with many of you a chapter of your own life, of which no line can ever be obliterated from memory, because it has been written into your hearts with blood and with tears. Yet, as I have these last fifteen years devoted the best part of my time

to the study of this question, it may not be presumptuous to suppose that, in the course of my researches, I may have come across some facts which have escaped your notice at the time and which it is essential to know if one is honestly desirous to judge correctly, i.e. justly, the men and the events of the past. And, at all events, I think that, without exposing myself to being accused of a lack of modesty, I could claim to be able to tell those younger members of my audience who lived through the days of the civil war in the nursery many important things about this pivotal question of their country’s history which would be more or less new to them. But however that be, I shall not attempt to do so. It is, on the contrary, my intention to speak about what I do not know myself, because that will not only be of greater interest and more profitable to you, but may also eventually lead to a positive good result. This announcement may possibly appear to you a sheer absurdity, and yet I trust that ere I am done you will admit that I was right.

You remember that William H. Seward was the father of the expression “the irrepressible conflict,” a phrase which, like a stroke of lightning, rent the dark clouds in twain, opening the eyes of thousands to the fact which the majority of statesmen and politicians had been so anxiously striving to conceal and cover up by their policy of “compromise.” But Seward himself was at that time far from grasping the import of his own declaration in its whole breadth and depth. The conflict Between the North and the South really was an irrepressible one in the fullest sense of the word, simply because in the nineteenth century a wedlock between liberty and slavery is a contradiction in terms; but, with the exception of the outright abolitionists nobody wholly grasped this fact, and they only felt it, but cannot be said to have fully understood it. When the catastrophe came, that is to say, when the stern facts had put the seal upon the assertion that the conflict...

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