Author Topic: Did the South have a point in seceding?  (Read 4118 times)

Offline GuyMontag

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Did the South have a point in seceding?
« on: January 17, 2014, 03:00:55 AM »
It seems that there are Confederate sympathizers in the Tea Party, as well as those who think the cause was a pointless hissy fit.  not sure if it's 50/50.  (I tend to fall into the latter category.)

What was the war about?  I'd say that it was merely because the South seceded, and Lincoln wasn't about to let that happen without a fight (a la Andrew Jackson - only this time it wasn't just South Carolina).  When we get to whether the Confederacy had a legitimate point, though, I fail to see why anyone would answer yes. 

Every president we'd had since our near civil war in 1850 was either completely OK with slavery (Zachary Taylor) or willing to work with/appease its proponents (Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan). 

The Fugitive Slave Act, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and, finally, the Dred Scott Decision were basically a CHECK and MATE for the South.  Slavery wasn't going anywhere by the time 1860 rolled around, and Lincoln didn't intend to really touch it in the states it existed in.

I never bought the states' rights argument.  Kansas rejected slavery, as did (I believe) California, and the Fugitive Slave Act prevented any state from harboring runaway property.  The South just hypocritically wanted the entire country to accept the institution and shut the hell up about it.

Thoughts?  (apologies if this rambled - insomnia.)

Offline Ek Ehecatl

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2014, 06:35:39 PM »
You are correct, there was more to it. I suggest you read the Confederate Constitution, and compare it tooth US, it will become clear.......maybe.....
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Offline daidalos

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2014, 09:58:41 PM »
Lincoln actually stepped outside the enumerated boundaries of his Constitutional authority as President several different times during his Presidency.

For example the emancipation proclamation, that wasn't an act or law enacted via the congress. It was a decree issued by the executive branch, which then said we will enforce by use of military force if need be.

Much as we see President's doing today.

As for secession, that's an issue the Federal Constitution never really addressed.

However given that the states are/were allegedly a sovereign institution in and of themselves in our republic, it seems only logical that they would have the right to leave said union of states, just as easily as they joined it, should their people decide to do so.

In our civil war, that was yet another area where the President stepped outside the enumerated boundaries of his power and authority as enumerated by the Constitution, as Lincoln simply by means of a decree  stated that the states have no right to leave the union. This was not an act of Congress, it was not subject to judicial review, it was a decree by the Executive, who then used the Federal military to enforce it.
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Offline GuyMontag

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2014, 10:23:52 PM »
Lincoln actually stepped outside the enumerated boundaries of his Constitutional authority as President several different times during his Presidency.

For example the emancipation proclamation, that wasn't an act or law enacted via the congress. It was a decree issued by the executive branch, which then said we will enforce by use of military force if need be.

Much as we see President's doing today.

As for secession, that's an issue the Federal Constitution never really addressed.

However given that the states are/were allegedly a sovereign institution in and of themselves in our republic, it seems only logical that they would have the right to leave said union of states, just as easily as they joined it, should their people decide to do so.

In our civil war, that was yet another area where the President stepped outside the enumerated boundaries of his power and authority as enumerated by the Constitution, as Lincoln simply by means of a decree  stated that the states have no right to leave the union. This was not an act of Congress, it was not subject to judicial review, it was a decree by the Executive, who then used the Federal military to enforce it.

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/south_secede/timeline_secession.cfm

The problem with your response is this - all of Lincoln's abuses of power were *after* the South seceded.

They seceded, from what I understand, because they were terrified of Lincoln (and half had done so before his inauguration - the other half did so immediately after it).  Like I said, though, he vowed not to touch slavery where it existed.  He didn't go into his presidency intending to kill the institution...that just kind of happened.

Do the states have the right to leave for any reason - just because they fear the President?  That seems to be the only reason why it happened. 

(and I'm far less well-read on this subject than I'd like to be.  Was Lincoln well known as an antislavery firebrand?  I'm only mildly familiar with Lincoln's Congressional career before he won in 1860, but I know he wasn't as vehemently antislavery as Thaddeus Stevens or William Seward.)
« Last Edit: January 17, 2014, 10:30:39 PM by GuyMontag »

Offline Greystone

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2014, 10:28:30 AM »
Were the Southern states legally justified in seceding? I'm inclined to believe that secession is legitimate if done legally, but the question is whether or not the southern states did so legally. From my perspective it seems that since it requires both the will of the state and the will of the congress for a state to enter the union, then it stands to reason that not only will the state have to vote to leave the union, but congress will have to vote in favor of permitting the state leaving as well because the citizens in these states also have legal representatives in the congress that they would have directly elected, and so they are not solely under the authority of the state government on this issue but also have rights in regards to the federal government that need to be protected.

 Judging from this, I don't think the Southern states seceded in a way that would have conformed to the logic and spirit of the constitution. If congress voted to let them leave and their legislatures voted likewise then I'd say it was legitimate, but as it is congress did not permit this.

Offline TboneAgain

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2014, 11:06:42 AM »
Were the Southern states legally justified in seceding? I'm inclined to believe that secession is legitimate if done legally, but the question is whether or not the southern states did so legally. From my perspective it seems that since it requires both the will of the state and the will of the congress for a state to enter the union, then it stands to reason that not only will the state have to vote to leave the union, but congress will have to vote in favor of permitting the state leaving as well because the citizens in these states also have legal representatives in the congress that they would have directly elected, and so they are not solely under the authority of the state government on this issue but also have rights in regards to the federal government that need to be protected.

 Judging from this, I don't think the Southern states seceded in a way that would have conformed to the logic and spirit of the constitution. If congress voted to let them leave and their legislatures voted likewise then I'd say it was legitimate, but as it is congress did not permit this.

You may have an arguable point for states admitted after the Constitution was ratified, like Tennessee and Alabama, for instance. But what of the original thirteen, like Virginia and Georgia? What of the Carolinas -- one state at ratification, but two at secession? What about West Virginia -- did it "un-secede" right in the middle of everything?

I rather think the question is more complicated than the answer you suggest.
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Offline GuyMontag

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2014, 12:58:07 PM »
What about West Virginia -- did it "un-secede" right in the middle of everything?

this reminds me of when my TA (from South Carolina) made a comment during discussion section once -

"What?  West Virginia?  You mean the illegal state?"

Offline Bismarck Revivalist

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2014, 07:33:26 PM »
"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its 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." - Confederate veep Alexander Stephens

Now, I'm no fan of the tyranny of the feds, but the tyranny of the states over the common man is bad too, no?

Offline TboneAgain

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2014, 09:18:17 PM »
"Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its 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." - Confederate veep Alexander Stephens

Now, I'm no fan of the tyranny of the feds, but the tyranny of the states over the common man is bad too, no?

Those Democrats say the damnedest things, don't they?

Stephens spoke as the Vice President of the Confederate States of America. Whatever opinions we may have of the CSA, Stephens and his compatriots considered it the functional and political equivalent of the United States. In other words, he spoke as what you have termed a "fed," and not as a representative of any state.

There's nothing good about tyranny; kind of a silly question really. But if you want an example of tyranny by a state, you might want to look elsewhere. There are plenty to find. I would suggest you concentrate more on official acts; as generally understood, tyranny is composed of acts, rather than of mere statements of policy or opinion.
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Offline Bismarck Revivalist

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2014, 03:40:33 AM »
Those Democrats say the damnedest things, don't they?

Stephens spoke as the Vice President of the Confederate States of America. Whatever opinions we may have of the CSA, Stephens and his compatriots considered it the functional and political equivalent of the United States. In other words, he spoke as what you have termed a "fed," and not as a representative of any state.

There's nothing good about tyranny; kind of a silly question really. But if you want an example of tyranny by a state, you might want to look elsewhere. There are plenty to find. I would suggest you concentrate more on official acts; as generally understood, tyranny is composed of acts, rather than of mere statements of policy or opinion.

So secession was about states' rights, but the CSA magically became a federal entity so everything's OK? Or are you not one of those types of people? In that case, please forgive my error.

And here's an act for you: seceding from the United States of America simply because you have an (unfounded) fear that the President might take away your precious right to own other people. And statements have power, my friend.

Offline TboneAgain

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2014, 10:39:54 AM »
So secession was about states' rights, but the CSA magically became a federal entity so everything's OK? Or are you not one of those types of people? In that case, please forgive my error.

And here's an act for you: seceding from the United States of America simply because you have an (unfounded) fear that the President might take away your precious right to own other people. And statements have power, my friend.

You're the one who brought up states' rights, though I can't say why. I said that Stephens spoke as the VP of the CSA; I can prove that to be factually correct. Are you disputing it? I said that the CSA considered itself the political equal of the USA; that is factually correct and again, I can prove it. Are you disputing it? Those two statements being factually correct, my contention that Stephens spoke as what you want to call a "fed" is a rather remarkably well-supported contention, wouldn't you agree?

Seceding from the US because you fear that the newly-elected US president will clear the way for the US government to destroy your generations-old agriculture-based society -- regardless of what specific measures, such as abolishing slavery, are used to do so -- is a remarkably sane and sensible thing to do. In fact, to do otherwise, to remain in the Union, bowing to political and economic ruin imposed by a government increasingly distant and at odds with the very essence of your society, doing so without resistance or rebellion, is cowardly capitulation indeed.

I can hardly help noting your interesting take on the power of the spoken word. You criticize the South on the one hand for taking precipitous action based on "an (unfounded) fear that the President might..." take action detrimental to the South; one must assume that such a fear was based on things Lincoln (and others) had said. But in the very next sentence you revere the power of statements. Which is it? Was the South justified to react to the statements, or was it not? Either way, we had been discussing a specific instance of racist speech by Alexander Stephens, not the vastly wider subject of why the southern states seceded.

Forgive your error? I forgive errors after they have been acknowledged and corrected. We're not there yet.
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Offline Bismarck Revivalist

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2014, 05:08:17 PM »
You're the one who brought up states' rights, though I can't say why. I said that Stephens spoke as the VP of the CSA; I can prove that to be factually correct. Are you disputing it? I said that the CSA considered itself the political equal of the USA; that is factually correct and again, I can prove it. Are you disputing it? Those two statements being factually correct, my contention that Stephens spoke as what you want to call a "fed" is a rather remarkably well-supported contention, wouldn't you agree?

Seceding from the US because you fear that the newly-elected US president will clear the way for the US government to destroy your generations-old agriculture-based society -- regardless of what specific measures, such as abolishing slavery, are used to do so -- is a remarkably sane and sensible thing to do. In fact, to do otherwise, to remain in the Union, bowing to political and economic ruin imposed by a government increasingly distant and at odds with the very essence of your society, doing so without resistance or rebellion, is cowardly capitulation indeed.

I can hardly help noting your interesting take on the power of the spoken word. You criticize the South on the one hand for taking precipitous action based on "an (unfounded) fear that the President might..." take action detrimental to the South; one must assume that such a fear was based on things Lincoln (and others) had said. But in the very next sentence you revere the power of statements. Which is it? Was the South justified to react to the statements, or was it not? Either way, we had been discussing a specific instance of racist speech by Alexander Stephens, not the vastly wider subject of why the southern states seceded.

Forgive your error? I forgive errors after they have been acknowledged and corrected. We're not there yet.

You're making a B.S. distinction between "feds" and "states" here, but the fact remains that you seem to think states have the right to take away others' rights. Unless you do not - please tell me yes if you think secession was about states' rights and tell me no if you think it was not. If you say no, I will acknowledge and correct my error. Now I have some questions I'd like you to answer:

What evidence did the South have that Lincoln would destroy their agricultural society?

Isn't Stephens, the Confederate VP, a good representative of the positions of the Confederate leadership?

If a society is based on human slavery (and the South was based on slavery at the roots of it all), doesn't it deserve economic ruin if that would free those slaves?

Do you think that if the South had remained independent they would have abolished slavery at the same time as they did IRL?

If the answer to that last question is "no, they would have abolished it later", do you consider continuing slavery worth supporting the South's right to secede?

Offline mdgiles

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Re: Did the South have a point in seceding?
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2014, 10:22:10 AM »
If the South wanted to secede they should have used the method prescribed in The Constitution - Amendment. When the New England states decided to secede during the War of 1812, they sent a delegation to Washington to ask their representatives to ask for a secession amendment. Unfortunately for them, the US had won that war and a peace treaty had been signed before they arrived. The only thing they succeeded in doing, was killing the Federalist party. The South had run the US government for so long they simply felt they could run roughshod over the rest of the states. And those states were tired of bending over backwards to please the South, only to have the South repay them with treason. 
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