William Seward: “An Irrepressible Conflict,” Rochester, NY, October 25th, 1858


Our country is a theater which exhibits in full operation two radically different political systems: the one resting on the basis of servile labor, the other on the basis of voluntary labor of free men.


These agnostic systems are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results.


Shall I tell you what this collision means? Those who think it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between two opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will sooner or later become either entirely a slave-holding nation or entirely free-labor nation.