American Civil War: Just Or Unjust?

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Douglas Mitchell section 2 History 118 March 20, 2007 American Civil War: Just or Unjust? The Civil War has been called the defining war for Americans. It decided that the country would not support slavery, nor would it allow the South to leave the Union. It shaped us, in large part, into what we are today. But was it a "just war," an "unjust war" or some combination of both? This paper will try to answer that question. Before we can apply the principles of just or unjust war to the struggle in America in the 1860s, we have to find out what the terms mean. They are philosophical, and people have been wrestling with them since ancient times. War itself has a very specific definition, which it is useful to mention here because we have to know what war is before we can determine whether or not it is just. War must be understood as "an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities" (Orend, 2005). Fistfights, gang rumbles, family feuds and other such endeavors are not wars (Orend, 2005). Classical war "is international war, a war between different states, like the two World Wars. But just as frequent is war within a state between rival groups or communities, like the American Civil War" (Orend, 2005). In addition, war is "precisely, and ultimately, about governance" (Orend, 2005). It is a "violent way for determining who gets to say what goes on in a given territory" (Orend, 2005). Orend points out that the mere threat of war, or mutual dislike and disdain, are not necessarily indicators of war. "The conflict of arms must be actual, and not merely latent, for it to count as war" (Orend, 2005). In addition, the conflict must be "both intentional and widespread"; border skirmishes and occasional firefights between "rogue officers" are not
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