In our modern society, there still exists a large segment of the population who believes that the Civil War was not an issue of slavery, but of states' rights. The do-gooder Federal Government decided to arbitrarily exercise its power to usurp the right of the Southern States to have free labor. How dare they! Many people still use this rallying cry of "States' Rights" to justify their hatred of the Federal Government...
Let me begin that saying that the notion that the Civil War was not about slavery is utter rubbish. If you truly believe that "States' Rights" was the issue, let's discuss the right in question -- the right to completely override and subjugate the rights of another human being in order to completely eliminate the cost of labor. The white supremacist magazine, Southern Partisan, is one of the most outspoken critics of the federal government. They proudly uphold the philosophies of David Duke and Lee Harvey Oswald, selling those famous "Death to Tyrants" T-Shirts sporting a picture of Abe Lincoln (a shirt Timothy McVeigh was wearing when he was apprehended, the smart guy that he is). How ironic that John Ashcroft, our new Republican Attorney General, supports this publication. He told them in an interview:
Your magazine also helps set the record straight. You've got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like Lee, Jackson and Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect, or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.
Interesting. I believe he means slavery was the perverted agenda. So what was the good, justifiable agenda? The right to reserve the right to have slaves? Or the right to pursue a war that kills hundreds of thousands of people over the right to reserve the right to have slaves? Some might say "The Union started the war," but give me a break. Did the South really expect to peacefully split entirely from the Union without any retaliation, simply because they wanted a limitless source of free labor?
Before I continue, let me remind you that Abraham Lincoln was our country's first Republican president. He was obviously completely against the notion of slavery, but also made large efforts to claim that the war was about preserving the union, and not ending slavery. This was necessary to rally his troops for patriotic reasons rather than (non-nationalistic) ideological ones. What's strange is how people seem to be interested in certain state's rights, while completely ignoring others. And what, exactly, is so patriotic about leading one half of a country to war with another over such an atrocious "right?"
There are several examples of state's rights being usurped with little complaint from any side. There's the drinking age, for one. Each state would be able to make their own decision if it weren't for the fact that they would be denied highway funding for doing so. Cannabis was first outlawed by passing a federal tax that made it so expensive to legally manufacture that it was de-facto illegal (I believe the tax rate was $100 per ounce of marijuana, hemp fiber, whatever). There are drug laws in place that force states to suspend licenses for minor cannabis possession. Student loans can be stolen away as well. During our last presidential election, the Supreme Court essentially usurped from Florida its own power to decide its own elections. Nary a cry was heard from the Republicans on this issue. They will tell you that Roe vs. Wade is a state's right issue, because it denies the states the right to execute abortion doctors and imprison "abortion victims."
So why are some people still up-in-arms over the right to own slaves? Well, for one, the Old Testament seems to outright condone slavery. The Book of Exodus spends a lot of time describing the proper treatment of slaves, including how to beat them without incapacitating them (which would make them useless to you). I find it ridiculous that people can say, with a straight face "The Civil War was about sovereignty, not slavery." What they're really saying is "The Civil War was about the right of the states to completely deny the rights of another group of people for completely arbitrary, cruel reasons." The Civil War was a devastating, bloody war, with over six hundred thousand deaths involved. I guess it's hard for the sympathizers of the old South to admit "We were wrong," but I find it outrageous that our current Attorney General of the United States of America is on their side.