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Opening Arguments

Of course the issue was slavery

You know the argument that the Civil War was really not about slavery -- slavery was just the spark that set off the war, but each side was really figthing about something else , a commitment to states' rights in the South, a desire to preserve the nation in the North. West Point historian Ty Seidule begs to differ:

Some argue that the South only wanted to protect states’ rights. But this raises an obvious question: the states’ rights to what? Wasn’t it to maintain and spread slavery? Moreover, states’ rights was not an exclusive Southern issue. All the states — North and South — sought to protect their rights — sometimes they petitioned the federal government, sometimes they quarreled with each other. In fact, Mississippians complained that New York had too strong a concept of states’ rights because it would not allow Delta planters to bring their slaves to Manhattan. The South was preoccupied with states’ rights because it was preoccupied first and foremost with retaining slavery.

[. . .]

And it wasn’t just plantation owners who supported slavery. The slave society was embraced by all classes in the South. The rich had multiple motivations for wanting to maintain slavery, but so did the poor, non-slave holding whites. The “peculiar institution” ensured that they did not fall to the bottom rung of the social ladder. That’s why another argument — that the Civil War couldn’t have been about slavery because so few people owned slaves — has little merit.

Of course the result of the Civil War was the beginning of the great expansion of federal power and the diminishing of state power, but that doesn't make federalism the primary cause of the war, unless you consider it in this light: The stronger the government's power is, the more authoritarian it becomes, the closer to totalitarian it gets. What is more totalitarian than slavery, the complete domination of people to the point where they're not even considered human?

Related question: Was John Brown a hero or a villain?

Posted in: History


Tue, 08/11/2015 - 5:17pm

I doubt if the average person that fought on either side thought about slavery or state rights (actually power).  These individuals were citizens of their states primarily and that is where most loyalties rested.  The concept of first being an American or a U.S. citizen did not begin until after the War.

 Today it is still possible to have an ignorant  dislike for people from other states because of the boobs they keep voting into office.  It doesn't matter which side you take.  We still don't love everyone else.

It seems that there are three elements that are used to create and maintain some sort of balance of freedom in the U.S.  The people, the states, and the federal government.  The people are the priority to protect from any attack on freedom.  We try, as far as I am concerned, to use the state governments to protect us from the federal government.  We also try to use the federal government to protect us from the state governments.

In the U.S. Constitution the federal government was granted, by the people, certain powers with the implied power to see those completed if needed.  All the rest was left to the states and people.  The federal government has no authority where the states have the power.  The two cannot have co-equal power in the same realm.  The ACA is unconstitutional because insurance is a state regulated enterprise.  The states need to fight any usurpation of this authority.

The increase in federal power after the Civil War was with the consent of the states when they ratified the Civil War amendments.  No matter what crap that is printed about the 14th Amendment, the primary purpose of this was to give the federal government the power to force the rights primarily, but not completely, listed in the federal Bill of Rights onto the states.  Before it was ratified, the author John Bingham changed the proposal to also limit state power to infringe on these rights.  He cited Barron v. Baltimore as the reasoning for the addition.  Too easy too prove.  Start with The Congressional Globe, February 26, 1866, page 1033, H.R. #63.

Since the Civil War the U.S. federal government, with the federal courts winking, has assumed too much power in areas of state responsiblity, and have been eclectic about which individual rights they will protect against state abuse.