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Old 09-11-2019, 09:14 PM
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The Civil War was not about states' rights


It could not have been. Southern states started announcing their secession immediately after Lincoln was elected -- before he had actually done anything to threaten their internal autonomy -- before he had even taken office. And Lincoln was not really an abolitionist. If they had not seceded, he would not have done anything to threaten their peculiar institution -- at most, he would have vetoed admission of any new slave states to the Union. The Southern elites must have known that, but they didn't care; they simply did not care to remain in the Union under a president whose party included an abolitionist wing.

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Old 09-11-2019, 09:30 PM
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Oh, dude. This is really a bad idea for a thread.
Of course the south didn't want Lincoln as president. He was a known to abhor the institution of slavery. The slavery problem had been talked about since the North American continent was discovered and Europeans began arriving.
There's NO cite that will tell you the South WASN'T interested in secession for states rights. No true one. IMHO. It was common knowledge. The south didn't want to give up slavery because of cotton. That was the main money crop. It made many people filthy rich. They would do anything to preserve that, including Secede from the Union. As well they did, to disasterous results.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:37 PM
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There's NO cite that will tell you the South WASN'T interested in secession for states rights.
N.B.: I mean "states' rights" as distinct from "preserving slavery."
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:43 PM
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Is there a list of issues that you are checking off as you make all these threads that have been done to death already?
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:48 PM
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Is there a list of issues that you are checking off as you make all these threads that have been done to death already?
Personally, I appreciate the newcomer enthusiasm and I hope the OP decides to stick around, albeit eventually morphing into more of a respondent then an initiator.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:01 PM
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There's NO cite that will tell you the South WASN'T interested in secession for states rights.

So ... it WAS about states rights?
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:12 PM
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Personally, I appreciate the newcomer enthusiasm and I hope the OP decides to stick around, albeit eventually morphing into more of a respondent then an initiator.
I did not mean to come across as unwelcoming. I was attempting to playfully poke fun at the pattern I was noticing. I should have included winkyface or smiley face.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:14 PM
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The best reply to anyone harping about 'states rights' was made years ago by Crash Course:

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John: Today, we discuss one of the most confusing questions in American History: What caused the Civil War? Just kidding, it's not a confusing question at all: Slavery caused the Civil War.

John-From-The-Past: Mister Green, Mister Green, but what about like States' Rights and Nationalism, Economics...?

John: Me-From-The-Past, in your senior year of high school, you will be taught American Government by Mister Fleming, a white southerner who will seem to you to be about a hundred and eighty-two years old. And you will say something to him in class about States' Rights, and Mister Fleming will turn to you and he will say "A State's Right to what, sir?", and for the first time in your snotty little life you will be well and truly speechless.
Crash Course US History, The Election of 1860 and the Road to Disunion

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Old 09-11-2019, 10:15 PM
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One thing I find most telling is the Ordinance of Secession of Alabama. The fifth paragraph reads in part:

That the people of the States of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, be and are hereby invited to meet the people of the State of Alabama ...

Those 15 states did not all secede, but they did have at least one thing in common. I'll bet you can guess what it is.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:39 PM
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So ... it WAS about states rights?
What do you they wanted states rights for?
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:45 PM
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N.B.: I mean "states' rights" as distinct from "preserving slavery."
In the confederation of the South the 2 things were interconnected. The Civil war was fought to preserve a lifestyle and the riches the South had. Of course they wanted autonomous rights. To keep doing exactly what they were doing.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:45 PM
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Really, it was about elites' rights.

"I am an aristocrat. I love liberty, I hate equality."

-- John Randolph of Roanoke

The Southern landholding-slaveholding elite dominated their state governments to the exclusion of other whites -- and even passed a lot of laws centralizing as many functions as possible at the state level, it being easier for them to control their state governments than a plethora of local governments.

The abolitionists were abolitionists purely and simply out of sympathy for the slaves. They were a minority without much political clout. But there was a much larger number of white Americans who didn't care about the slaves, but hated and feared what they called the "slave power," that is, the political power of the Southern elite. Their fear was that those aristocrats hoped to make all America like it was in the South, dominated by an elite. And it was not a groundless fear. One Southerner published a book arguing that the ideal society was an aristocratic society, with an elite monopolizing all the wealth, power and education, and all others dependent on them.
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:46 PM
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What do you they wanted states rights for?
I don't know, but your double negative is confusing. Did you say what you meant to, or was it bad bad bad grammar?
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:54 PM
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I don't know, but your double negative is confusing. Did you say what you meant to, or was it bad bad bad grammar?
B--a--d grammar. So sorry. I'm a southerner we like our double negatives.
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Old 09-11-2019, 11:01 PM
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In the confederation of the South the 2 things were interconnected.
Of course they were, but "states' rights" sounds like a nobler and more disinterested cause -- which is why lost-causers persisted for decades (and some neo-Confederates even persist today) in insisting the war was for "states' rights." "States' rights" sounds like a simple extension of the local-self-rule cause for which the Revolution was fought. Of course, the war ended with the South reduced to an economic colony of Northern business interests, which it remained until the 1960s -- about the same time the civil rights movement started to win. A connection there, perhaps? Maybe the white South owes MLK a debt of gratitude -- no movement, no New South.
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Old 09-11-2019, 11:04 PM
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B--a--d grammar. So sorry. I'm a southerner we like our double negatives.
Ain't no thang!
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Old 09-11-2019, 11:44 PM
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It could not have been. Southern states started announcing their secession immediately after Lincoln was elected -- before he had actually done anything to threaten their internal autonomy -- before he had even taken office.
Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot in most southern states. Southerners felt, with some justification, that he was being rammed down their throats in a rigged election. And Lincoln's party was, at that point, a single-issue one: No slavery in the new territories. Saying he wasn't yet an abolitionist is like saying Elizabeth Warren isn't primarily coming for your guns.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:56 AM
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N.B.: I mean "states' rights" as distinct from "preserving slavery."
But there is no such distinction. They are the same thing.

In case you didn't get past some of the unnecessary snark in this thread, take another look at the humorous quote in post #8.
And try to answer the question in the last line of the post.

(here's the answer:
The southerners did want states' rights. Well, actually, only one specific right. The states' right to preserve slavery.)

And welcome to the Dope.
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Old 09-12-2019, 07:43 AM
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The southerners did want states' rights. Well, actually, only one specific right. The states' right to preserve slavery.
Well - one other right as well. The right to secede from the Union to preserve slavery.

Also, welcome to the Dope, kirkrapine.

Regards,
Shodan

PS - Gee whiz, a "what was the Civil War about" thread, and a 9/11 truther thread. It's Old Home Week on the SDMB. I wonder if we landed on the moon, or if vaccines cause autism.
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Old 09-12-2019, 07:57 AM
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The treasonous states were not interested in the concept of states rights. Apologists sometimes say things like "well, it's a balancing act between overreach by the federal government versus condoning the peculiar institution," but the traitors don't even have that fig leaf. They were all for restricting northern states' rights to harbor escaped slaves. They were only interested in states' rights for themselves, and not in any way out of any adherence to a noble precept of independence.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:08 AM
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The Confederacy didn't think that free states should have the right to make slavery illegal in their own state. Thus the south's objection to Transit Laws and the famously poor reaction to the Lemon v New York case.

"States Rights" like "Lost Cause" is just pandering to people that want to believe racism is honorable and just.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:17 AM
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Is there a list of issues that you are checking off as you make all these threads that have been done to death already?
I think it's great! I'm looking forward to the "Cats should not be declawed" thread and the "Don't spank your children" thread.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:17 AM
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N.B.: I mean "states' rights" as distinct from "preserving slavery."
It's a euphemism. And like all euphemisms, it's used to package something unpalatable as something agreeable. In fact, this specific euphemism has been used over and over again for the purpose of making something awful (slavery, segregation, gay-bashing, etc.) sound reasonable ("states rights"). And like with many such euphemisms, we do well to not just accept the euphemism; what people advocating for "states rights" want is for the states to continue to have the right to discriminate against whoever they so choose - do not doubt for a second that when granted the opportunity to enshrine that discrimination in federal law despite the objection of states, they will abandon their interest in "states rights" at the drop of a hat.

But yes, well-recognized, the cause of the The War To Preserve And Expand Slavery was slavery. There is no serious dispute about this among historians and anyone claiming otherwise should be seen as deeply suspect, as though they had insisted that there were no mass killings at Auschwitz. This is extremely well-trodden ground.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:24 AM
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The Southern states also opposed states' rights for things like the Fugitive Slave Act, which was giving massive power to the federal government over northern states.

"States' rights" was bullshit then. It's still bullshit now, for the most part.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:27 AM
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IIRC, just about all of the eleven seceding states issued declarations setting for the reasons for their urgent departure. And they just about all listed preservation of slavery as reason #1.

Also there's Alexander Stephens' "Cornerstone Speech," where the Confederacy's new Vice-President said that the Confederacy's "foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

And of course, it is worth recalling that Abraham Lincoln did not propose to end slavery, rather proposing only that no new states be admitted to the Union as slave states. Absent the war, it would have taken a Constitutional amendment to end slavery in the Southern states, and Constitutional amendments need to be ratified by 3/4 of the states.

With 15 slave states in the Union, the end of slavery would have probably been at least two generations away - plenty of time for the Southern aristocracy to adapt to changed circumstances. But the idea of slaves ever becoming free and having human rights was anathema to them.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:06 AM
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It was specifically about a state’s right to secede. There is really no getting around that.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:15 AM
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It was specifically about a state’s right to secede. There is really no getting around that.
Secede? Why would they want to secede?
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:33 AM
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... And Lincoln was not really an abolitionist. If they had not seceded, he would not have done anything to threaten their peculiar institution -- at most, he would have vetoed admission of any new slave states to the Union....
Yes; Southern appetite for secession was rather low in 1858, and Lincoln himself wasn't seen as a great "danger." But there was another man whose actions had a very strong effect on unifying the southern states and tilting them toward succession(*) — that man was John Brown the Martyr.

(* - Several pages near the linked-page 421 help develop that case; I hope Google lets you view several of them.)
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Old 09-12-2019, 10:18 AM
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Yes; Southern appetite for secession was rather low in 1858
Of course. Legally, they'd won. The Dred Scott decision and the Fugitive Slave Act had effectively made the entire country slave territory.

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Lincoln himself wasn't seen as a great "danger."
But the abolitionist movement he was part of (to the extent he could be effective at that point) wasn't going away.

This "states' rights" nonsense, ignoring the Supremacy Clause, didn't go away after the war, either - it became the cover story for Jim Crow, lynchings, segregation, vote suppression, and other things that usually could not be proudly supported directly. It hasn't gone away yet.
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Old 09-12-2019, 10:29 AM
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N.B.: I mean "states' rights" as distinct from "preserving slavery."
Well duh. That's kind of the whole point. The whole thing was in a very limited, technical sense about states' rights, but the rights in question all revolved around slavery and its preservation. It's not like the southern states rebelled because of Federal overreach in any other sort of state right.

So saying it's about states' rights is a disingenuous modern-day attempt to portray the Southern states as somehow more virtuous than they were.
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Old 09-12-2019, 10:40 AM
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The whole thing was in a very limited, technical sense about states' rights, but the rights in question all revolved around slavery and its preservation.
Read any secession declaration - any of them - and you'll see they were all about slavery and a state's "right" to practice it.

Quote:
So saying it's about states' rights is a disingenuous modern-day attempt to portray the Southern states as somehow more virtuous than they were.
It's also a way to defend (or avoid confronting) modern-day racism and related practices, as well as other deplorabilities that conveniently correlate with it.
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Old 09-12-2019, 10:47 AM
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Well duh. That's kind of the whole point. The whole thing was in a very limited, technical sense about states' rights, but the rights in question all revolved around slavery and its preservation. It's not like the southern states rebelled because of Federal overreach in any other sort of state right.

So saying it's about states' rights is a disingenuous modern-day attempt to portray the Southern states as somehow more virtuous than they were.
When a state's right conflicted with protection of slavery, the South chose slavery (as in the "Fugitive Slave Act" which interfered with the right of states to decide how to enforce their laws). When the First Amendment conflicted with slavery, the South chose slavery (as in the laws prohibited anti-slavery literature from being distributed in the South (where there were some abolitionists around, after all)). There was no principle that the South held in higher regard than slavery, no principle they would not abandon if it conflicted with the wish to preserve slavery.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:00 AM
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Andy L, you left off a big one - the southern states also opposed letting a state decide if it was a slave state or free state, and supported having Congress declare that certain states were slave states regardless of what the population or government of the state wanted. The Kansas–Nebraska act grew out of their staunch opposition to states rights in regards to being a slave or free state in the first place. This really highlights that the only "State's Right" that they cared about was the right for a state to be a slave state, even deciding 'slave vs free' was a State's Right they opposed.
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:28 AM
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Andy L, you left off a big one - the southern states also opposed letting a state decide if it was a slave state or free state, and supported having Congress declare that certain states were slave states regardless of what the population or government of the state wanted. The Kansas–Nebraska act grew out of their staunch opposition to states rights in regards to being a slave or free state in the first place. This really highlights that the only "State's Right" that they cared about was the right for a state to be a slave state, even deciding 'slave vs free' was a State's Right they opposed.
Thanks!
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:40 AM
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What the OP fails to realize is preservation of slavery was seen as a state right. Read the text of the Corwin Amendment.
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No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
So it wasn't about slavery except it was in that the South wanted the right to keep slavery. There were other state-rights issues as well (tariffs and the power of the Feds in a Federalist system being the biggest ones) but slavery was the most tangible and thus become the representation for everyone for "state rights".
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Old 09-12-2019, 11:46 AM
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What the OP fails to realize is preservation of slavery was seen as a state right. Read the text of the Corwin Amendment.

So it wasn't about slavery except it was in that the South wanted the right to keep slavery. There were other state-rights issues as well (tariffs and the power of the Feds in a Federalist system being the biggest ones) but slavery was the most tangible and thus become the representation for everyone for "state rights".
The South very explicitly opposed "states' rights" on a host of other issues already mentioned. If they were actually for the concept of "states' rights", they would have been in favor of them on those issues as well. But they really just cared about slavery.
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Old 09-12-2019, 12:29 PM
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What the OP fails to realize is preservation of slavery was seen as a state right. Read the text of the Corwin Amendment.
And then remember that the Southern states explicitly wanted the exact opposite, and demanded to interfere in the domestic institutions of new states as they were added by forcing them to be slave states regardless of what the people and/or government of the state wanted.

Quote:
So it wasn't about slavery except it was in that the South wanted the right to keep slavery.
So your position is that Confederate Vice President Alexander H Stephens didn't understand what the South wanted, that in spite of what he said it was all just about some States Rights which happen to include slavery? What documents from before 1865 support your claim? Here's a quote from his most famous speech on the topic, I think that the VP of the Confederacy is a pretty authoritiative source here:

Quote:
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution, African slavery as it exists amongst us – the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”1

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. . . .
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:30 PM
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Secede? Why would they want to secede?
According to the articles of secession, mostly slavery.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:37 PM
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Andy L, you left off a big one - the southern states also opposed letting a state decide if it was a slave state or free state, and supported having Congress declare that certain states were slave states regardless of what the population or government of the state wanted. The Kansas–Nebraska act grew out of their staunch opposition to states rights in regards to being a slave or free state in the first place. This really highlights that the only "State's Right" that they cared about was the right for a state to be a slave state, even deciding 'slave vs free' was a State's Right they opposed.
In the antebellum US, Southern pols had one overriding imperative, which was to preserve the even balance between slave states and free states (or, ideally, to make slave states outnumber free). That way, no antislavery bill would ever pass the Senate. There was even a clique called the Knights of the Golden Circle who hoped to annex Caribbean and Central American countries as slave states.
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:50 PM
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What do you they wanted states rights for?
To preserve control of the House of Representatives.

A like the cartoonist Patis definition of the Civil War: "One day, some people took their states and went home. We shot them."
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Old 09-12-2019, 01:55 PM
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There is also a corollary. Since generalized states’ rights were anathema for slaveholders, states’ rights are in no serious way associated with the promotion of slavery.

As others have pointed out, states’ rights were a more effective instrument against slavery than for it. Secession included. For example, wise abolitionists such as Garrison advocated for secession.

Last edited by WillFarnaby; 09-12-2019 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:01 PM
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Say, what about states' rights to legalize marijuana?
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by WillFarnaby View Post
There is also a corollary. Since generalized states’ rights were anathema for slaveholders, states’ rights are in no serious way associated with the promotion of slavery.

As others have pointed out, states’ rights were a more effective instrument against slavery than for it. Secession included. For example, wise abolitionists such as Garrison advocated for secession.
Historically, state and local control has been far, far more harmful to black people than federal involvement. I don't think this is due to something special about state and local control (I'm fine with state and local control in general... except when the state and local officials in control are white supremacists), but rather something special about the ruling class in the South through our history.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:04 PM
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These confederates sound like a bunch of dicks, wot?
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:09 PM
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B--a--d grammar. So sorry. I'm a southerner we like our double negatives.
Or at least, you don't not like them.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:14 PM
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What the OP fails to realize is preservation of slavery was seen as a state right. Read the text of the Corwin Amendment.

So it wasn't about slavery except it was in that the South wanted the right to keep slavery. There were other state-rights issues as well (tariffs and the power of the Feds in a Federalist system being the biggest ones) but slavery was the most tangible and thus become the representation for everyone for "state rights".
Except that it wasn't.

When South Carolina seceded they issued an official statement explaining why they were doing so. And it mentioned states rights.

South Carolina condemned them.

They complained about how the federal government was allowing some states to enact laws that restricted slavery inside those states. South Carolina said they wanted a national government that would protect slavery, even in states that didn't want it. And they were seceding in order to create such a national government.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:31 PM
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These confederates sound like a bunch of dicks, wot?
They still are today.
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Lake County Commission Chairwoman Leslie Campione said in a July 30 public meeting that she felt “sorry” for people who view the planned relocation of a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith to their community as “indicative of current day racism.”
...

For not holding the July 30 vote in abeyance when notified of the curator’s improper behavior and after hearing about an email in which he stated that he had “fought the good fight for my Confederate friends” and remarked he would “stay true to your cause.” In that email, he called those in opposition “unruly, nasty and vicious people.”
The good news is that Florida will no longer be represented in Statuary Hall by a racist and traitor, best known for killing captured black Union POW's but for little else. Instead, Mary McLeod Bethune, sort of the female Booker T. Washington, will get the spot.

Last edited by ElvisL1ves; 09-12-2019 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 09-12-2019, 02:50 PM
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Neither the North nor the South believed in states' rights regarding slavery, as explained by other people upthread. The South left due to fears of abolition of slavery. There is an argument that the South had the right to secede, and the North should have let them go due to state's rights, but the South attacking Fort Sumpter certainly gave the North other reasons to reclaim them.
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Old 09-12-2019, 03:40 PM
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Neither the North nor the South believed in states' rights regarding slavery, as explained by other people upthread.
Some people did. This was the basis for Stephen Douglas' principle of Popular Sovereignty; he said each state or territory should be allowed to either adopt slavery or prohibit it within its own borders.

Most people were willing to concede the choice to states. The sticking point was territories. Pro-slavery people said that territories should be required to allow slavery until they became states and they could then abolish it if they wished. Anti-slavery people took the opposite position; they said slavery should be prohibited in territories but that states could later enact it if they wished.

Both sides were being disingenuous. They knew that the way a territory was run would establish the way the subsequent state would be run. If Congress allowed slavery in a territory, slave owners would move there and would form a strong opposition to banning slavery after statehood. The same would be true if Congress prohibited slavery; with no slave owners in the territory there would be no political pressure to establish slavery in the subsequent state.
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Old 09-12-2019, 05:04 PM
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Say, what about states' rights to legalize marijuana?
As your original post implies, this has nothing to do with the Civil War, which had everything to do with slavery.

~Max
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