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States Rights or Slavery

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by Digital888, Jan 14, 2015.

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Was CW the more the result of States Rights or Slavery

  1. States Rights

    9 vote(s)
    8.3%
  2. Slavery

    72 vote(s)
    66.7%
  3. Both

    22 vote(s)
    20.4%
  4. Neither

    5 vote(s)
    4.6%
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  1. Digital888

    Digital888 Cadet

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    I have heard the debate about whether the CW was from the issue of states rights or the issue of slavery. My contention is that it is both. Before the CW, the country was more referred to as, These United States, which does suggest a type of plurality that would have a significant aspect of governance in states rights (after the CW, we were more referred to as The United States, giving a leaning toward Federal government).

    The issue of slavery had been a dynamic one. The country was divisive over slavery from the early years and that divisiveness grew as decades unfolded. As this issue grew neither the pro-slavery politicians nor the pro-free politicians wanted to be in the minority. And there was the effort to keep the number of free states and slave states equal. Maine's formation is one obvious example.

    So, while slavery was a state's right from our beginnings, it was also a growing contentious federal issue. As the world around The Union continued to abolish slavery (Mexico in 1820s, England in 1830s, France in 1840s), the issue of Slavery continued to create a growing schism, which was bringing more and more attention to the Federal Gov't.

    Lincoln was strongly against the Kansas-Nebraska Act provisions, while also stating several times before and during his early presidency that he would leave slavery alone in the states, where it had already been ratified and accepted by the federal government (His hope was that it would whither away and die through world opinion becoming more and more agains slavery. Bloody Kansas in the 1850s was like a type of microcosm of what was coming. The repeal of the Missouri Compromise brought the ire of many politicians while other politicians worked to keep it appealed through Stephen Douglas's "Popular Sovereignty".

    So, my contention, is that The CW came about as a result of the blurry lines that had unfolded with regards to states rights, territory's rights, federal laws and the growing ethical and moral world movement of abolishing slavery. It was not one or the other, it was both along with other disagreements - however, I would suggest that these "other disagreements" were exacerbated from this great BIG issue of slavery. Would love to hear your responses.
     
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  3. KeyserSoze

    KeyserSoze Captain

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    Slavery.
     
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  4. cash

    cash Brev. Brig. Gen'l

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    Not correct. The Shelby Foote-ism is that before the war the nation was referred to as "the United States are" and after the war it was "the United States is." That's not a result of the war. It's a result of the natural evolution of American English away from British English. That particular part is how collective nouns are treated. It just so happened that change occurred sometime after the end of the Civil War. Prior to that change someone would say, "The team are going to win." After that change, someone would say, "The team is going to win."




    It all boils down to slavery. If one wants to say state rights, then what state rights were in danger? Oh, yeah, the state's right to have ... wait for it ... slavery.
     
  5. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year Honored Fallen Comrade

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    Welcome to the forum, Digital. I voted slavery only, as the slaveholders were all too happy to stomp all over states' rights (and all other kinds of rights) when it came to using the federal government to protect and perpetuate slavery. I do agree though that states' rights played a role, but it was so secondary that it can't be put anywhere near an equal footing with slavery.

    The states' rights issue was whether a state has the right to secede unilaterally from the Union. And while I do believe that many soldiers on both sides were fighting over that issue, I don't believe it caused the war. Slavery was the cause, and unilateral secession was just the method chosen by the rebels to initiate and prosecute it.
     
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  6. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson Captain

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    Slavery..................

    Respectfully,

    William
     
  7. ErnieMac

    ErnieMac Captain Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Welcome Digital888. I have to vote for slavery. When I think about the cause of the war I ask myself would the War have begun if slavery had not existed? I can see no other issue of that time that would have driven emotions to the point that both sides were willing to go to war.
     
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  8. Rebforever

    Rebforever Major

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    States Rights to continue slavery.
     
  9. AndyHall

    AndyHall Colonel Forum Host

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    That's something that came from Shelby Foote, but it just ain't true. His framing was "the Uited States are" versus "the United States is," but in fact the latter was more commonly used even in 1860.

    I think there's some validity to the point Foote was trying to make, but the example he gives is pure fancy.
     
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  10. AndyHall

    AndyHall Colonel Forum Host

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    Yes. "States Rights" arguments are always about some specific thing -- true in 1860, and true in 2014.
     
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  11. Lost Cause

    Lost Cause 2nd Lieutenant

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    Well put, considering slavery was not universal in all states.
     
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  12. chellers

    chellers Lt. Colonel Trivia Game Winner Retired Moderator Honored Fallen Comrade

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    Welcome to CivilWarTalk.
     
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  13. NedBaldwin

    NedBaldwin Major

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    To me this is the most insightful part of what you wrote. The country went to war because slavery was becoming more and more a federal issue -- the key points of contention had to do with federal issues like fugitive slaves; territorial governance; and the slave trade.

    States Rights was not an issue except that the free-states were acting too free. South Carolina declared "these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States." and "But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution." So the exercise of States rights by the free States, and a lack of corrective power by the General Government, was offensive to the Slave Power and led them to action.
     
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  14. DanF

    DanF Captain

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    The seccessionists themselves answered the question. before the war and during they were clear that secession was about protecting and expanding slavery.

    It was only post war they tried to re write the reasons for the conflict.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
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  15. Stony

    Stony Captain Trivia Game Winner

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    States Rights. :D
     
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  16. Digital888

    Digital888 Cadet

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    States Rights to continue slavery.

    I take it this is a "both" vote.

    Regarding These United States vs. The United States, I was under the impression that this was more real than the Shelby Foote-ism. Is it not true that a lot of politicians and even presidents referred to the nation as "These" before CW and then more "The" after the CW.
     
  17. Northern Light

    Northern Light Major

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    Welcome from Canada! :beaver: Now matter what you call it, now matter how you argue it no matter how you slice or dice, it all comes down to the same thing; slavery.
     
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  18. Allie

    Allie Captain

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    A lot depends on how the question is worded. As worded, I have to say slavery alone. If there had been no slavery, there would have been no schism over states' rights, thus secession is "the result of" slavery, and war over the states' rights to secede followed from this cause.
     
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  19. 7th Mississippi Infantry

    7th Mississippi Infantry Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Welcome from South Mississippi.
    Great first post.
     
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  20. godofredus

    godofredus Sergeant Major

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    IMHO it was slavery, covered over by states rights. What became the Confederacy was perfectly willing to deny states rights to Northern personal liberty laws. The fugitive slave acts were deliberately crafted to circumvent the personal liberty laws. All depends what horse you're on.
     
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  21. YankeeDoodle

    YankeeDoodle Corporal Civil War Photo Contest
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    You can ask the same question about an incident in modern times..When George Wallace blocked the door of the University of Alabama to two black kids..he claimed it was just about state's rights.. I say it was an attempt to continue the state sanctioned and enforced laws discriminating against Black people...all dressed up in a pretty suit..
    If you want to know the cause of the CW read what the leaders said BEFORE and DURING the war...and compare that with what they said AFTER..
    States rights was then the same as it was in Alabama...a pleasant way to package a rotten product...

    http://www.archives.state.al.us/govs_list/schooldoor.html
     
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