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In United States history, the American Civil War was due to a dispute over the rights of the states. In the Election of 1860, the Democratic Party split in two because the candidate nominated by Northern Democrats was not supported by the southern Democrats. Stephen A. Douglas was too liberal for the South because he supported the theory of popular sovereignty in the new territories, where the majority of the people in the territories would decide whether slavery would be allowed in the territories. This concept had led to Bleeding Kansas, a series of bloody uprisings in Kansas Territory where the theory was tested. They nominated a candidate who was opposed to this. The Democratic vote was split between the two candidates, allowing the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln to take the election. Although there was a majority of the electoral votes going to Lincoln, there was only a plurality of the popular votes. If one was to combine the Northern and Southern Democratic Parties, They would have a majority of the popular votes. Lincoln's radical platform called for the prevention of the expansion of slavery, and he eventually outlawed the practice of slavery in the Union. The South foresaw this happening, and instead of taking another blow from the North-dominated government, they seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. This effort was spearheaded by South Carolina, the beating heart of the South. The oppressive policies of the North forced the South to secede by their domination of government and their refusal to balance power.

Of course. The slave states could not only secede from the Union by the Union's own laws, but they were completely justified in doing so.

The Laws
The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution is famous for being used by secession supporters. Just so you know, this writeup will not be an exception.
Let us consider what makes something legal or illegal. I hold that laws, and only laws determing legality. These laws only restrict; they forbid rights, so that people, in excercising certain harmful rights, will not harm others. The venerable Webster1913 itself states that 'anything is legal which the laws do not forbid'
Thus, we have a concrete set of documents that can let us decide if something is legal or not. And furthermore, since the Constitution is a 'supreme law of the land', overruling laws made by Congress in event of a conflict, if we find that the Constitution supports secession, we will have essentially proven our point.
The 10th Amendment to the US Constitution states that 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.' Basically, what this amendment is saying is that all rights not surrendered by the states still belong to them. Secession is not mentioned in the Constitution, thus, the States return it. And there you have the single greatest argument for secession.

The Responses
Several protests are usually put up by the opposition at this point. One of them is that this is a 'loose interpretation' of the 10th amendment. This is simply not true. A 'loose interpretation' is an interpretation based on the implied meaning of a statement. Indeed, it is those who state that 'the 10th amendment was not made to support secession' who use a loose interpretation, based on the belief that the founding fathers implied that the states could not assume the massive powers granted to them by this amendment.
Furthermore, the very argument that the founding fathers did not create the Constitution to be broken has serious flaws. There are two in particular that I will address. Firstly, the founding fathers are (and were at the time of the Civil War long dead. Their former opinions carry no legal weight -- and cannot be known to us. While we may guess at what they would have though, our guesses are simply speculation. All we have left to decide by is a Constitution. Secondly, the Constitution was not ratified by the states with the understanding that said states would also be endorsing the opinions of the founding fathers. Thus, the constitution that was adopted by the Union was adopted on the understanding that what was in it would be the supreme law of the land, no more, no less.

Justification
I hold that the South was both economically and politically justified in seceding. At the time of secession, the South owed huge amounts of money to the North, and this debt was getting larger every year. Another point is that a mercantilist and agrarian economy are not compatible. For example, on the issue of Tariffs you have a win-lose situation. Either the North wins and the South loses or vice versa. And in the pre-Civil war days, the flow of the money was north. And perhaps worst of all, the agrarian South, significantly poorer than the North, was paying 82% of federal expenses. If that isn't economic oppression, I don't know what is.
So why didn't the South stop this persecution? For the simple reason that the North had a majority in both houses of Congress. Things did not get any better for the South when Abraham Lincoln, a Kentuckian who openly declared that he was for limiting slavery was elected president. While not hurting the South directly, this would only increase the congressional advantage the North enjoyed.
So what about compromise? Well, if past experience was to be any judge, compromise did not work. There had been three compromises passed since before the Civil War: The Missouri Compromise, The Compromise of 1850 and The Kansas-Nebraska Act. What did this lead to? The South was a minority in Congress. The territory gained during The Mexican War was to become free, thus increasing the chokehold of the North when these territories would become states. And The Fugitive Slave Act, consolation to the South from the Compromise of 1850 was effectively nullified in the North by 'personal liberty laws', despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that stated that the first Fugitive Slave Act was constitutional.

To recap, the 10th Amendment provides, without doubt, a permit for secession. Furthermore, the South, always on the losing end of the bargain throughout the ages, had good reason to secede, or else be dominated by the North. Thus, it was both legal and justified for the South to secede from the Union.


Response (2001-3-14) I believe Gorgonzola has very skillfully misunderstood my post. A quick search would show you that I do not mention the word "moral" in my writeup. Instead, the writeup deals wholly with the political and economic aspects of Southern secession.

To start out with, some flaws must be pointed out. While Gorgonzola evokes sympathy with images of Legreean plantation owners who worked thousands of slaves to death, the fact is the South was never the domain of aristocratic farmers (as is a popular misconception). Rather, the small farmer always made up a large majority. (Of course, this does not lessen the moral wrongs of that time and society, but it's always good to know exactly what the facts are).

Furthermore, I don't see how my claiming that the South was justified in seceding means that the South was justified in slavery. Keep in mind that had the South not seceded, the end of slavery would have come much later (perhaps not at all, who can tell?)

When Gorgonzola writes "The idea of Southern slaveholder as a victim of "economic oppression" is particularly laughable.", it almost seems like a deliberate misunderstanding. It seems as though Gorgonzola is taking my statement to the fact that the South was economically oppressed by the North and converting it into saying that the wealthy plantation families were being economically oppressed. Let me rectify this immediately. According to http://web.hist.uib.no/delfag-h98/bondevik/table2.htm , 22% of adult white males in Virginia in 1860 were slaveholders. Of these, an extremely small number ("the best families") were the wealthy plantation owners that Gorgonzola apparently believes constituted the whole south. Why is it so scandalous to suppose that the large non-slave majority (or even most of the slave owners -- they were quite poor as well) were economically oppressed by Northern merchants who controlled trade?

In closing, Gorgonzola's writeup addressed such a different topic from my own that it deserves its own node (was he arguing that the South could not morally secede from the Union? He stated that slavery is immoral, which we both agree on, but the conclusion drawn from that is that secession is immoral? Why would secession be immoral just because slavery is? But I digress). The US Constitution gave the south to secede from the union. Indeed, their doing so probably brought about the end of the peculiar institution more quickly. I fail to see how I am a horrible trollish person by attempting to conduct an objective analysis of whether the South was committing an illegal act in seceding from the union. (Just for the record, I'm neither black nor white, though I can't see how it would matter -- though the friend who informed me about this response to my writeup said (his exact words) "someone seems to think you're a white supremacist" :) Incedentally, this is the first time anyone has posted a writeup in response to one of mine, so I feel rather proud.)

A particularly pernicious idea. I thought perhaps that the sickening writeup above might be a troll, but in the end, I decided it was too dangerous to leave unanswered.


This bit of legalistic claptrap is frequently used by people who fantasize about undoing the result of the Civil War. Face it, buddy. It's over. If it were merely an exposition of the loopholes left in the Constitution, it might not be so bad. Unfortunately, the author goes further, attempting to present a political and economic "justification" for secession! Right off the bat, we are told

laws only restrict; they forbid rights, so that people, in excercising certain harmful rights, will not harm others.

Does anyone else see a fundamental disconnect here? A significant portion (and, in Mississippi and South Carolina, a majority) of the South's population were treated as livestock, subject to harm at the whim of their owners. An appeal to rule of law is a spectacular bit of psychological transference, a way of deflecting attention away from the institution of chattel slavery which was the fundamental cause of the war.

(And yes, slavery was the fundamental cause of the Civil War. During the Colonial Era, Southern slaveholders had marginalized themselves economically by becoming dependent upon the labor of their slaves, inflating their net worth by including human beings in their property holdings. Racism was used as a divide and conquer mechanism to gain political and economic control over non-slaveholding whites. These were fed racial hatred from the cradle, resulting in their transferring dissatisfaction with their lot in life onto black people. As the years progressed, the lifestyle to which the slaveholders had become accustomed squeezed them more and more economically.)

The idea of Southern slaveholder as a victim of "economic oppression" is particularly laughable. If their toll in human life and dignity were not enough, slaveholders extracted all of the labor and economic output of their slaves, and gave nothing in return. The amount of wealth stolen in this way staggers the mind. However, instead of recognizing slavery as one of the greatest crimes in history, the possibility that it might have been ended is presented to us as a justification for secession!

So, perhaps, the southern states wanted to secede for reasons of their own, and perhaps nothing in the Constitution was stopping them from doing it. Certainly no sense of morality was.

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