In 1858, Senator William H. Seward of New York examined the sources of the conflicts between the North and the South. Some people, said Seward, thought the sectional conflict was "accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral." But Seward believed that these people were wrong. The roots of the conflict went far deeper. "It is an irrepressible conflict," Seward said, "between opposing and enduring forces."
By 1858, a growing number of Northerners were convinced that two fundamentally antagonistic societies had evolved in the nation, one dedicated to freedom, the other opposed. They had come to believe that their society was locked in a life and death struggle with a Southern society dominated by an aggressive slave power, which had seized control of the federal government and imperiled the liberties of free people. Declared the New York Tribune:
We are not one people. We are two peoples. We are a people for Freedom and a people for Slavery. Between the two, conflict is inevitable.
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