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[personal profile] masque12
For those who like to make apologies for the Civil War and claim that the real cause was "states' rights", not owning people, I call bullshit.

The document in that link, "A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union.", published February 2, 1861, clearly lays out (along with similar documents published in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi) that slavery is the cause, that states' rights are a PROBLEM for the South, especially when Northern states use their states' rights to neglect to enforce bullshit like the Fugitive Slave Law, rather than following the Federal Laws that the slave states would prefer, and then of course there is the expected (but still appalling) bigoted statements about the superiority of the white race over that of the African.

States' Rights is a bullshit dodge. If someone wants to point out the differences in economic bases between the North and the South at the time, and mention how most of the Southern soldiers didn't own slaves and were just stupidly following their leaders the way most people do, fine, I'm with you on that. I'm not out to condemn people's ancestors (most of mine came over via Ellis Island after the Civil War), but quit making the states' rights argument. It's crap.

Edit: My phrasing was bad. The cause of the secession was slavery, not states' rights. The cause of the war was the US government's unwillingness to allow the South to secede peacefully.

Date: 2010-01-04 03:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OK, I realize I'm coming at this as a professionally trained historian, but...

Wasn't this issue already resolved by 1963? Are there really people for whom this will be news?

Date: 2010-01-04 09:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Most definitely. Here in the South, the "States' Rights" lie is taught in high school history classes (I can't speak to grades lower than that, I didn't live here then).

Date: 2010-01-04 09:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"States' Rights" later devolved into having another meaning: it was a blind used to gain support of whites who didn't own slaves, for the war. Those people had no slaves to fight for, so the "states' rights" rhetoric was corrupted in order to get them to fight.

Just FYI, I went to 2 different high schools here, and also went to junior high here, and I was never taught that "states' rights" was the reason for the war.

Date: 2010-01-04 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Just as a note, Keith is wrong about the high school thing... at least, this wasn't taught at either high school I attended, and one of them was Robert E. Lee High School!

Date: 2010-01-04 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I went to McCullough in the Woodlands, and they taught it there. I have talked to others in other states (north and south) who also got the idea from their own high school curriculum. James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and the recent Teach What Really Happened does surveys of the audiences when he lectures, and there's usually a widespread belief (minimum 60%) that States' Rights was the cause, and most say they picked that up in high school.

Obviously it's not that rigorous a survey, it's an audience poll, but nor is our personal experiences, which is dueling anecdotes. It sounds like you lucked out with better teachers than I did.

Date: 2010-01-04 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Eh, I don't think I necessarily had good teachers all the time... some were pretty shitty.

The thing is, indirectly, States' Rights are a cause of the war, if it goes like this:

Some states exercise their right to secede--> US refuses to acknowledge right to secede, promises to invade--> South fires first shot to protect themselves from inevitable invasion--> War!

I think the problem is that most people have a vague idea that "States' Rights" were a reason for the war but they don't really know what rights, or why, or how. It's not the right to tax or have slaves, it's the right to secede. When that right was denied, the Union was truly broken.

Date: 2010-01-06 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wondered about that. I taught at the University of North Carolina for a while, and I didn't get the impression that those students were coming from a background of complete ignorance. I mean, they couldn't find Afghanistan on a map, tell me Gorbachev's role in ending the Cold War, or define "Afrikaans," but they did seem to realize that the Civil War was about slavery, at least.

Date: 2010-01-06 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
To be fair, I think that at some schools there is not a lot of oversight about what particular teachers decide to say in class. In 9th grade I had a history teacher who told us that Israel's official name was "Republic of Zion". I didn't find out until I was an adult that it was actually the "State of Israel"... I guess that if it's not tested on, individual teachers can tell you a lot of things that are not necessarily true.

As I said downthread, however, the true cause of secession was slavery, but the cause of the war was the US government's refusal to recognize the voluntary nature of the union and, therefore, the right of individual states to secede. If the US had respected the voluntary nature of the union, there would have been no war. In that sense, "states' rights" was indeed the cause of the war.

Yes, I know the South fired the first shot, but they did so under threat of imminent invasion.

Date: 2010-01-06 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I would disagree. One of the main distinctions between the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution is that the latter does _not_ permit secession as a basic right. That's why it worked, and the Articles did not. During the period prior to the US Constitution, each State was a sovereign region, with no real responsibility to central authority, creating 13 weak countries that would have eventually been re-enslaved by England. By voluntarily sacrificing that power, the States created a nation that had some clout and became a true world power.

If there is any validity to your argument, it must be said that the rebel States were, in fact, in violation of this agreement and retroactively claiming to still be under the authority of the Articles of Confederation. Obviously this does not hold water.

Date: 2010-01-06 08:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The US Constitution does not deny the right of secession, and the 10th Amendment specifically says that the states reserve the rights not specifically prohibited them by that document.

There are other arguments for the legality of unilateral secession (such as the argument that Article 7 implicitly provided for the possibility of secession), but in my opinion this is the first and best one.

Date: 2010-01-04 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think you are confused about something: slavery was the cause for secession. It was not the cause for the war: the cause of the war was the refusal of the US government to acknowledge that states had the right to secede from the union. Before that war, the union was a voluntary one; afterward, it was not.

The war and secession are not the same thing.

Date: 2010-01-04 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I will concede that point, and edit my post in response.

Date: 2010-01-06 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Keith, just in passing, you might also be interested to know that Texan secession was (supposedly) a false front; supposedly, the government of Texas planned to rejoin the Union at the tail end of the war. They just didn't expect that end to come so soon.


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