Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why the Confederacy?

I recently came across the article Five myths about why the South seceded which claimed as the first myth that the South did not secede over states' rights, but rather over slavery, claiming that
Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states' rights -- that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.
The author quotes some snippets from the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union to prove his case.

Notice that the author subtly morphs the argument about states' rights into an argument for the right to secede, which is not the same thing. Nonetheless, they did secede over states' rights, stating that encroachment on their rights justified withdrawal from the Federal Union. From the same document the author quotes (emphasis mine):
[South Carolina] declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union....

... the State of South Carolina ... should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act.

Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted.

We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.
Referring to the election of Abraham Lincoln, an avowed enemy of slavery, the document continues:
On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.
So yes, slavery was the issue that triggered the secession, but the reason given was that the the North was encroaching upon the Southern states' rights, and that the South would no longer have the power of self-government.

That sounds like an issue of states' rights to me.

I think the author is correct to claim that the South seceded over the issue of slavery; but I think he's incorrect to claim that it was not over states' rights. It was both: the South seceded because it wanted to exercise self-rule, particularly in the issue of slavery.

I'm torn about supporting the Southern Confederacy: I strongly believe the states have the right to secede, but I believe slavery is an abhorrent institution, incompatible with Christianity, Humanity, and the principles and Constitution of the United States of America, and this applies to slavery of anyone of any color or nation or gender. (I'm a little softer on "limited slavery" applied to perpetrators of crimes against others.)

I believe the South was inconsistent to claim the right to self-rule for themselves but not for their slaves. Insofar as the South defended slavery, I believe the South was evil.

But, insofar as the right to self-rule, I believe the South was fully justified in dissolving their union with the Federal Government.

Returning to the article, the author mentions as his point four that the North did not attack the South to preserve slavery, but rather to preserve the Union. This is clear from Lincoln's own words:
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. -
So no matter what the reasons were for the South to secede, the reasons for the war was about the North taking away the right of the South to self-rule; the South was a prisoner of the Federal Government. Thus I believe I'm justified in referring to the war as The War of Northern Aggression.

I can understand, and agree with, a war to rescue the oppressed from oppressors. Had the North fought the South to ensure freedom for all, and then to let those Southern states rule themselves thereafter, I could justify that. (It's a tricky situation, because if we're going to do that here in the Continental USA, why not a little further out, or a little further out, or on the other side of the world?) But to go to war to keep the Southern states prisoners to the Federal machine, that I can not justify.

While on this topic, let me add that I can not in good conscience say "indivisible" in the Pledge of Allegiance (although I have no problem with the rest of it, subordinate to the phrase "under God", which takes precedence). That's an outgrowth of the Northern aggression against self-rule. The United States itself is based on the right of the 13 colonies to divide itself from Mother Britain, a right which is built into the framing document of the Declaration of Independence:
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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government....

... it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
I recommend you go read the Five Myths... article; it's worth consideration.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

I agree completely!! Slavery is wrong. But the union is a voluntary union, and we have the right to leave it when the federal government oversteps its Constitutional limits. The federal government does not have Constitutional authority for many of its mandates to the states. I think we are very close to the time to secede again. Either the federal government needs to end its unconstitutional intrusions into the states' rights and the people's lives or it needs to be thrown out and replaced.