Before the publication of Harry Jaffa’s classic, Crisis of the House Divided, there was a school of thought — for that matter, here and there it still exists — holding that the Civil War proved completely unnecessary. Slavery had been contained, this school contended, and in only a few decades the peculiar institution would have died out without a fight.
Harry Jaffa disagrees.
By the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Jaffa argues, the proslavery South had become self-confident and aggressive. It believed modern science had demonstrated the superiority of the white race. It had succeeded in getting Congress to roll back the Missouri Compromise, reopening the possibility of slavery in the new states in the West. And in the Dred Scott decision in 1857, the proslavery South believed, it had been utterly vindicated.
One man, Jaffa contends, recognized what was taking place.
Lincoln saw that unless Dred Scott was itself rejected, slavery would become lawful in all the states.