Slavery Was The "Tipping Point"of States' Rights
Slavery and economic corruption were certainly a part of the issue that led to the
Civil War. But, the issue was not the greater question. The greater issue was
whether or not each state had the right to set its own social and political agendas, with
sovereignty and autonomy from the central federal government.
This kind of thinking is displayed in our current pornography laws which have been
interpreted by the Supreme Court as being applicable based on the standards of the
community. It's as simple as the idea of birds of a feather flock together. Except, that
in our mobile and communication age, it is less possible to define the boundaries of any
What would surprise most people, though, is that the majority of Southerners were
neither slave or land owners. Further, that most slave owners were not so much
opposed to the end of slavery, but of losing their economic investment in slaves. Slaves
were expensive, and the use of slaves was not actually profitable for many years.
Secondarily, they were concerned of a violent "black backlash" toward former
slave owners when they became free.
For the most part, the manufacturers in the North benefited from slavery as well. Even
though the North did not utilize slaves themselves, the wages they paid to blacks were low
and the quality of life itself (not counting basic liberty) was not much better than
living on the plantation.
The North had something of a "don't ask, don't tell policy". Their
objections toward slavery became heightened when they were asked to accept legislation
that would require other states and the Federal Government to assist the slave owners in
capturing and enforcing, as a federal mandate, the laws of the states. That same
sentiment is expressed in the original, unamended U.S. Constitution.
That attitude is very similar to the way we now turn our heads to certain human rights
violations in other nations so that we do not disturb our economic relationships.
If you think about autonomy and how Federal law supercedes local law, and think about
it in terms of States' Rights and self-governance, it would be like all of the states
having laws with the ability to charge Federal agencies with the job of enforcing them.
If you study the writing of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, it quickly becomes
apparent that this movement to require the North to honor the Southern States demand for
enforcement of laws that supported ownership of slaves, coupled with the election of (and
economic corruption in the administration of) Abraham Lincoln who endorsed an end to
slavery, that led to heightened tensions, secession of Southern States, and ultimately,
the Civil War.
If you look a little more closely, though, they both cite the words and actions of
Jefferson Davis as inciting division instead of seeking ways to resolve the impasse.
He and his proxies used the issue of religious "divine rights" and
defiance of a central government that sought to impose statutes over the states regardless
of the preferences and interests of their communities.
But, the defiance, division and hatred they generated became the rallying cry for the
troops they amassed. And, like Robert E. Lee himself, even though not totally convinced or
committed by the cause of either side, sides were chosen based on loyalty to home states,
communities and families.
Both state that if compromises had been reached concerning compensation for emancipated
slaves, or at least tolerance of the unwillingness of the North to enforce the property
rights the Southerners claimed, that the Civil War may have been delayed or avoided
Instead, divisive politics led 620,000 Americans to fight and die. Instead, John Wilkes
Booth and others assassinated Abraham Lincoln and other heads of state in order to
"decapitate the Lincoln regime" (as we would put it these days).
Despite the military victory by the North, it has often been argued (credibly, in my
opinion) that either side could have won, depending on the turn of a few key events.
Further, that the population and wealth of the North overcame the Southern armies.
Many Southerners did not accept that they had been beaten, but that the majority overcame
their minority, and wealth overpowered will. (Notice any similarities to modern events?)
Lee set an example for the South by accepting defeat and surrendering to Grant at
Appomattox. He was a true statesman, and supported the policies of the
administrations after the assassination of Lincoln.
But, a military victory did not settle the question for many in the South. It
simply forced them to accept it, but they resented it.
In the years following the war, the Ku Klux Klan emerged, and used terrorist tactics to
suppress voting by blacks, and physically attacking political candidates with whom
they disagreed (a practice that seems to be reemerging. 5/12/2003 in Florida)
More than 130 years later, it is still a source of division in this country.
I say, it's an issue we're facing again. It's a conversation we need to complete.
But that conversation can only be completed if our leaders actually believe in
the unity of the United States. It can only be effective if our leaders actually agree
with the Constitution, and if our leaders actually uphold their oaths of office.
Just because a war becomes covert does not mean the war is over.
When cells of Americans or a political party seeks to deprive others of Civil Rights,
it is called racketeering.
When they take physical actions to harm or intimidate others, they become terrorists.
When the government refuses to take appropriate action against that terrorism and
racketeering (as in the example of Saudi Arabia), then it becomes state sponsored
terrorism (the U.S. definition).
And, someone who offers themselves up as representatives to this government who oppose
the basic tenets of this nation are perjuring themselves when they take the oath of
office, and are traitors to the great American dream.
They do not have the courage to declare their real motives and beliefs, simply because
they know that their hatred of freedom and American Democracy would be rejected.
"America will never be destroyed from the
outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed
ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln
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(C) 2002,2003-2009 Charles Rehn Jr IV All rights