Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Civil War Today

The good news in a Pew Poll is that a majority of Americans think the Civil War is still relevant to politics today.  Unfortunately, by a margin of 48-38% Americans think that states rights, not slavery, was the principal cause of the Civil War, whose Sesquicentennial we celebrate over the next four years.  But limited government can't possibly be consistent with slavery.   It's best to argue from the principle of equality of natural rights and then proceed to the institutions that defend liberty--otherwise deviations rule. 

Lincoln made the case for a constitutionalism of natural rights yet again, 146 years ago, in his last public address, April 11, 1865, when he defended his Reconstruction policies.  There are states rights of course; but never at the ultimate cost of natural rights.

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The 48-38% (state’s rights v. slavery as cause of Civil war) doesn’t look so bad to me. Some years ago I sat at an Exchange Club meeting in Jonesboro, Arkansas. A Civil War reenactor in full Confederate uniform said that the cause of the Civil War wasn’t slavery. Every head in the room (mostly gray or bald) nodded in vigorous agreement.

The view that slavery was not the cause of the “recent unpleasantness” is a matter of pride in the South. It is also taught as routine in history classes all over the country. I am impressed that the numbers are more lopsided.

Interestingly, it is also many liberal teachers and professors who take the abolitionist view of the Civil War and fault Lincoln for not freeing the slaves sooner and have unwittingly contributed to the Lost Cause view.

yes, there is a left-right conspiracy to condemn Lincoln and, by implication, America. Obama's use of the Declaration and Lincoln is in this vein.

Actually, SLAVERY is taught as the primary cause of the Civil War in most (liberal) classrooms today. I'm impressed by these numbers. It means that all those "neo-Confederates" out there are actually in the mainstream, and most of their detractors are wrong in branding them as deviant or radical.

The actual causes of the Civil War were many, but at its core it was a group of States who feared that their economies (yes, slave economies) would be ruined by Northern meddling with slavery and tariffs. In addition, the cultural differences had been accentuated in the decades leading up to the war, and most Southerners were tired of being criticized and mocked (at least, that's what many historians say).

In my book, they had the LEGAL right to secede from the Union, but as I've said before, success in their independence might not have been a good thing for subsequent history. But we'll never know.

Alexander Stephens' "Cornerstone Speech" aside for now, Southerners were just as harsh on Northerners which is easily seen by the newspapers of the day. While some Northerners might have seen a society that institutionalized slavery as backward, the Southerners saw the Northerners as a race of placid book-keepers and bean-counters who lacked the elan of a Southern man. I love how the Southern apologists always play the victim route when discussing the Civil War.

That's like comparing "honkey" to "n.....", Andrew. Southern mockery of the North was reactionary and defensive -- we always seek to mock those who denigrate us. You didn't see things like the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" craze in the South, nor the constant complains of and vilification by abolitionists, always a very vocal minority in the North's moral community.

Yea, beancounters. That so much more offensive that barefooted, ignorant, slave-owning yahoos who couldn't scratch their own names in the mud with a stick.

That's like comparing "honkey" to "n.....", Andrew. Southern mockery of the North was reactionary and defensive -- we always seek to mock those who denigrate us. You didn't see things like the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" craze in the South, nor the constant complains of and vilification by abolitionists, always a very vocal minority in the North's moral community.

Yea, beancounters. That so much more offensive that barefooted, ignorant, slave-owning yahoos who couldn't scratch their own names in the mud with a stick.

"That so much more offensive that barefooted, ignorant, slave-owning yahoos who couldn't scratch their own names in the mud with a stick."

Almost sounds as bad as what slaveowners were saying about their slaves. Northerners were far from innocent on that count, but you get the point.

Accept for the radical abolitionists, a distinct minority, most white Americans had a poor opinion of black people (including 'Father Abraham'). White attitudes and slurs against black people was not a cause of the war, which is what we were discussing.

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