The Civil War & States’ Rights

All the graves of US Confederate soldiers have opened up, and the evil dead are walking among us in the form of revisionist amateur-historians. For only a mindless corpse could make the case that the American Civil War was fought over states’ rights. Here’s why –It’s an undisputed fact that leading up to the Civil War, the slave states demanded, in no uncertain terms, that by law all slaves that runaway to free states ought to be forcibly returned to their masters; it was a major issue leading up to the war. The slave states argued that states ought to be able to decide for themselves whether or not to participate in slavery. And to this day Confederacy sympathizers attempt to fight the Civil War for a second time by saying that it was really all about states’ rights, and not so much about that pesky side-issue called slavery. Bullshit, I say.

The difficulty with this most hypocritical of arguments is that for slavery to have continued, the free states would have had to comply with the returning of runaway slaves, which is an act of slavery in itself. But how can a state have a choice if it is forced to participate in an evil it wholeheartedly rejects?

Do you see the contradiction? The South was happy to use the states’-rights argument when it worked in its favor, but when it was inconvenient it insisted that the law compel the North to participate in the horrors of slavery. You can’t have it both ways. Either a state had the choice or it didn’t. What the South really desired was that all the states abide by the tenets of slavery, which wasn’t going to happen, hence the inevitable war. The Union either had to consist of all free states or all slave states; it could not exist peacefully as a combination of both.

I recommend everyone read The Causes Of The Civil War (edited by Kenneth Stampp), a wonderful little book of essays, which chronicles the politics preceding the war.


Filed under Culture Warfare, Politics, Uncategorized

4 responses to “The Civil War & States’ Rights

  1. Darrell

    Northern arguments
    The historian James McPherson[3] noted that Southerners were inconsistent on the states’ rights issue, and that Northern states tried to protect the rights of their states against the South during the Gag Rule and fugitive slave law controversies.

    The historian William H. Freehling[4] noted that the South’s argument for a states’ rights to secede was different from Thomas Jefferson’s, in that Jefferson based such a right on the unalienable equal rights of man. The South’s version of such a right was modified to be consistent with slavery, and with the South’s blend of democracy and authoritarianism.[4]

    Various historians and commentators, including Adams[5], Sinha[6], and Richards[7], among others, are of the opinion that the States’ Rights argument made by supporters of the Confederacy was in fact a thinly disguised justification of continued slavery in the southern states, and/or moves by the Southern states to violate the states’ rights of Northern states.

    Historian Henry Brooks Adams explains that the anti-slavery North took a consistent and principled stand on states’ rights against Federal encroachment throughout its history, while the Southern states, whenever they saw an opportunity to expand slavery and the reach of the slave power, often conveniently forgot the principle of states’ rights—and fought in favor of Federal centralization:

    Between the slave power and states’ rights there was no necessary connection. The slave power, when in control, was a centralizing influence, and all the most considerable encroachments on states’ rights were its acts. The acquisition and admission of Louisiana; the Embargo; the War of 1812; the annexation of Texas “by joint resolution” [rather than treaty]; the war with Mexico, declared by the mere announcement of President Polk; the Fugitive Slave Law; the Dred Scott decision — all triumphs of the slave power — did far more than either tariffs or internal improvements, which in their origin were also southern measures, to destroy the very memory of states’ rights as they existed in 1789. Whenever a question arose of extending or protecting slavery, the slaveholders became friends of centralized power, and used that dangerous weapon with a kind of frenzy. Slavery in fact required centralization in order to maintain and protect itself, but it required to control the centralized machine; it needed despotic principles of government, but it needed them exclusively for its own use. Thus, in truth, states’ rights were the protection of the free states, and as a matter of fact, during the domination of the slave power, Massachusetts appealed to this protecting principle as often and almost as loudly as South Carolina.[5]

    Sinha[6] and Richards[7] both argue that the states’ rights that the Southern states claimed were actually:

    States’ rights to engage in slavery;
    States’ rights to suppress the freedom of speech of those opposed to slavery or its expansion, by seizing abolitionist literature from the mail;
    States’ rights to violate the sovereignty of the non-slave States by sending slave-catchers into their territory to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, to seize supposed runaway slaves by force of arms.
    States’ rights to send armed Border Ruffians into the territories of the United States such as Kansas to engage in massive vote fraud and acts of violence; see Slave Power and Bleeding Kansas;
    States’ rights to deem portions of their population “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”, by means of the Dred Scott decision;
    States’ rights to secede from the United States after an election whose result they disagreed with, the election in 1860 of Abraham Lincoln;
    States’ rights to seize forts and arsenals of the United States following their purported secession; see Fort Sumter;
    “Historians, like contemporaries, have long noted that an overwhelming majority of South Carolinians were for secession. But a majority of South Carolinians had nothing to do with secession or the glorification of human bondage. A majority of South Carolinians in 1860 were slaves.”

    States’ rights to have a less democratic form of government; Sinha, in particular, argues this point, illustrating that the state of South Carolina, home of John Calhoun, the ideological godfather of the Slave Power, had a far less democratic order than the several other United States. Although all white male residents were allowed to vote, property restrictions for office holders were higher in South Carolina than in any other state.[4] South Carolina had the only state legislature where slave owners had the majority of seats.[4] It was the only state where the legislature elected the governor, all judges and state electors.[4] The state’s chief executive was a figurehead who had no authority to veto legislative law.[4]
    States’ rights to overturn the ideal expressed in the Declaration of Independence — that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
    Sinha[6] and Richards[7] both conclude their cases by arguing that the Civil War had nothing to do with “states’ rights”, democracy, or resistance to arbitrary power. They argue that it was instead the result of the increasing cognitive dissonance in the minds of Northerners and (some) Southern non-slaveowners between the ideals that the United States was founded upon and identified itself as standing for, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights, and the reality that the slave-power represented, as what they describe as an anti-democratic, counter-republican, oligarchic, despotic, authoritarian, if not totalitarian, movement for ownership of human beings as the personal chattels of the slaver. As this cognitive dissonance increased, the people of the Northern states, and the Northern states themselves, became increasingly inclined to resist the encroachments of the slave power upon their states’ rights and encroachments of the slave power by and upon the Federal Government of the United States. The slave power, having failed to maintain its dominance of the Federal Government through democratic means, sought other means of maintaining its dominance of the Federal Government, by means of military aggression, by right of force and coercion, and thus, the Civil War occurred.

  2. Information above taken from Wikipedia.

  3. BOB

    well then your iformation may be wrong/tampered with because its wikipedia!

  4. thedarwinreport

    You can find the declarations of secession from the rebel states online. They all state unambiguously that hostility to slavery is the reason for their departure from the Union. And the book I mention –The Causes Of The Civil War (edited by Kenneth Stampp)– is a collection of essays from contemporaneous politicians from both sides of the conflict.

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