Flowery language can be used to express powerful ideas. The word "equal" in the Declaration does not mean equal outcomes, but equal opportunities; an argument going on today. Jim, your thesis on the cause of the war rings true. I think if the Southern states had waited, they could have had some effect on the politics resulting in their downfall. Secession provided Lincoln with a cause more likely to be rallied around than the abolition of slavery. Given more time, the South could have been better prepared. Being in the Union, we now have a better chance of restoring obedience to the Constitution through the ballot than if we had stayed out. Slavery would have eventually been abandoned, with far better results than ensued when it did pass away. The immediacy was a large cause of the evils of Reconstruction, and of the Jim Crow era which followed.
BTW, Jim, the trees analogy was General Gordon's, not mine. I too thought it was apt. Stan