The South may have been more justified than most dumb masses believe.
The South disbanded from the United States, leaving two halves of a nation calling themselves the Union and the Confederacy. They warred for four long years over many interrelated issues. The South worried about losing the balance of power in Congress held between slave states and free states because of recent legislation. The legislation would eventually give the North more seats in Congress allowing soft despotism to arise, and the North could economically run the South into the ground. Certain politicians and states of the South called for a fortification of the states’ rights with a defense known as “nullification”. Nullification would have allowed individual states to opt out of federal laws that they individually believed were unconstitutionally crafted. The South needed slavery to survive and the North had ever increasingly encroached on the institution’s right to exist. The North had threatened the South’s very existence and did not allow it any peaceful means, like nullification, to keep the status quo of its society and so the South did the only thing it could in order to survive, the South seceded. The North backed the South into a corner and the South reacted in a logical way. Did the South do just what the colonists did to the British less than one hundred years before? To survive as a successful economic entity and not in subservience to another part of the United States, the South had to secede and had the right to do so. The Civil War was not a civil war, but a war for Southern Independence. The South did not declare any sort of conflict with the North; rather the North forced the unnecessary conflict. The South merely declared independence from a ruling body that no longer governed how they saw fit. Did the North have any right to militarily force the South to rejoin them? Did the South have the right to secede from the Union? To put it simply, if one believes that a people have a right to govern themselves, then yes the South had every right to break away from the looming body of tyranny. The northern states had no constitutional right to overtake the southern states. And since the North used force to reunite the Union, creating an even more massive rift between the northern and southern societies, there was never again a Union among the States. The recapturing of the Southern states created a nation, one with a very powerful centralized federal government. Had the United States followed the beliefs of the majority of the Founding Fathers, they would have allowed the South to secede, govern itself, and let slavery die out on its own. The South had the right to secede and America would have been better off had the South been allowed to do so peacefully.
"The best men in the South have long desired to do away with the institution [of slavery], and were quite willing to see it abolished.” None other than the Confederate general Robert E. Lee said this and it carries quite a bit of weight. An icon of the confederacy blatantly stated that slavery was not his cause for fighting the war against the Northern aggressors. What then was the cause? Of the many, slavery was one, but the South seceded because the North had become excessively oppressive with its congressional power found in the unequal representation in Congress. Through the tariffs of 1828, 1833, 1842, and onward until the point of Disunion, the United States’ fiscal system protected the Northern manufacturers and caused the South’s economic decline. But tariffs were not the only weapon of oppression; the North used “fishing bounties, tonnage duties, and every measure that the ingenuity of avarice could devise” to oppress the Southern economy to the point of collapse. The northern states used the southern states like they were colonies. The Southerners were not allowed to spend and invest their money where it would be used best, they were forced to purchase higher-priced, often inferior, products made in the North. John C. Calhoun said “We are told, by those who pretend to understand our interest better than we do” and it sums up the southern plight nicely. The North tried to overrule the South, and the North told the South what was best for them; they did not allow the South to have any meaningful input into their own economic and societal fate.
The South invested great effort in maintaining peace but the North would not even begin to compromise. The General Assembly of Virginia, along with the rest of the South, proposed resolution after resolution in attempt to avoid a military conflict. The resolutions only asked for a few revisions of the Crittenden Compromise but some northern states would not even send representatives to the Peace Conference that Virginia held. The stubborn North caused America as an experiment in self-government, to fail.
People of the 18th century founded America upon the idea of self-governance. The constitution they forged had been engraved with the very idea that men have the right to govern themselves. The North claimed that this same centrifugal constitution “claims… allegiance because it is law and order”. Though it may have been the supreme law and order of the land, this did not override the liberal political philosophy that the modern Western world sprung from: a government of its people produces the best government for those people. The aggressive actions of the North through the unnecessary Civil War countered and checked America’s democratic principals into a corner. Senators in Maine should not have had a say in how Texas would usher out its era of Slavery, especially not through an avoidable conflict.
Though the North at every Southern attempt may have thrown a states’ rights compromise away, many still claim that slavery was the universal cause of the Civil War. Regardless of the reason for the South’s secession, had the Confederacy abolished slavery during the Civil War, would the North have immediately stopped invading the South? The answer is no. The North would not have allowed any of the southern states to leave the Union even if they abolished slavery before they seceded. The Union fought the Confederacy not because they practiced slavery, but because they seceded from the Union. For further proof, look to the words of Abraham Lincoln himself in his first inaugural address, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.” Again, later in the address he stated that each State needed to control its own institutions according to its own “judgment exclusively”. Lincoln said that such individual control was “essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric [depended]”. In his address, Lincoln contradicts his future claimed motivation for starting the Civil War, slavery. In a letter to Horace Greeley, Lincoln, the figurehead of the North, contradicts himself again with “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.” If the Union only wanted to keep the South in the Union for the sake of keeping the Union as it was, and not for the moral cause of being able to abolish slavery, then why were Southern fears realized when the Union abolished slavery with the Reconstruction amendments? Did the Union need to strip the States of their power to control domestic institutions in order to keep the Union alive? Was this Union, one without such liberties as being able to control one’s own economic policies, and one bound together by a moral lie in Lincolns dishonest, afterthought of a crusade against slavery, even worth preserving? Since Lincoln and the North used the controversial issue of slavery to centralize the government to the point of allowing Congress to ascend to the level of a hidden despot, was this Union the one the South had agreed to join in the first place, back when they signed the Constitution?
In his inaugural address Jefferson Davis said the Constitution “had been perverted from the purposes for which it was established” and by this he harked back to the Declaration of Independence. Davis said that the States agreed to a Constitution that protected the people, a government that fueled from the consent of the governed. If the misrepresented South had hardly a say in the government of themselves, then would not the very purpose of the Constitution be moot? Would not the logical and right thing to do then be to use one’s “inalienable right” taken from the Declaration of Independence and start anew?
The South said they had enough reason to break from the Union because the North economically crippled them. The Union made the claim that they had not oppressed the South at all but that was not the case. This propaganda, though popular in many high school textbooks, was just propaganda retold by the winner. The South lived off of their agriculture, and the money they made from exporting it to other industrial countries. The business-driven North relied on the South for many backing products to fuel their manufacturing and young industrialized economy. In order for the North to protect itself from the European manufacturers and maximize the size of their markets and thus their profits, protective tariffs became commonplace in the beginning of the 19th century. In response to the Panic of 1819, Congress scheduled tariff rates to increase by 5% from the 25% before the Panic of 1819. Though this helped the northern manufactures fight off the overseas competition, this higher tariff crippled the southern exports, the farmers, and the whole southern economy. Then again with the Tariff of 1824, Congress raised the tariff rate to 35% but why? The government did not need any more money; the treasury reported a surplus annually. Then, in 1828 the Tariff of Abominations wreaked havoc on the Southern economy. The tariff elevated the rate on manufactured goods to around 50% of their value, meaning that the South had to pay tremendously expensive prices for the goods they themselves did not produce. This extremely high tariff also made it so the British could not afford enough Southern cotton, further hurting the South. For ten years, 1832-1842, tariffs were reduced thanks to Andrew Jackson and his Compromise Tariff. The nation saw an increase in capital in all aspects; from the southern farmer providing for his family to the funding for the Mexican-American War, the low-tariff free trade policies of the 1840’s and early 1850’s allowed the country to prosper. But then in 1857, the Republicans called for higher tariffs. This was due in part to the Panic of 1857 but Republicans raised the tariffs much higher than necessary, hurting the Southern economy. Southern fears and calls for nullification were soon justified when by 1865, tariff rates were a whopping 47% higher than in 1857. Had the South been allowed to nullify the protective tariffs before the tariff issue swelled, choked half of the United States economically, and ultimately caused secession, the South would have had hardly any reason to secede from the Union. The Union would have been alive and healthy. The United States economic policies benefited only a section of the country. The misrepresented South had the right to undo the stranglehold on their economy, and legally they had the means with secession.
The Constitution nowhere stated that secession was unconstitutional, nor did it state that the States signed a permanent contract, binding them to the experiment that was the United States of America. Had the Articles of Confederation been a permanent contract, America would have continued down the spiral of failure past the 1780s. It was but a contract, one that eleven states withdrew from and then drafted the modern Constitution.
But what was the point of drafting any constitution? What function did a constitution serve? John Calhoun said it best with, “The object of a Constitution is to restrain the government, as that of laws is to restrain individuals.” The reason for restraining the government was to prohibit the oppression of the minority. If all people held the same interests the Constitution would not be needed. The Constitution gave the central government only the powers necessary to regulate the States individual interests. Calhoun also said that the only way for this regulation to be preserved was for “each co-estate [to have] the right to judge of its powers, with a negative or veto on the acts of the others.” But what happened when the States lost their right to interpret the laws made by their own binding central government that they appointed? The Southern states claimed the right to secede from a government that did not represent, protect, and serve them. The states were not granted the right to nullify federal laws because of the Jacksonian criticism, “ if a State may declare one law to be void, it could pick and choose those laws it would obey, and those it would defy” and every other State would be picking and choosing which federal mandates to follow and the Union would collapse in on itself. This was a possible but unlikely outcome. The opposite logic, James Jackson Kilpatrick’s logic, must be applied as well in defense:
If power-hungry Federal judges may impose one unconstitutional mandate, they may impose a thousand, each more oppressive than the one before, until all liberties are extinguished.
This was exactly what was happening in the 19th century, the victim being the South. Northern interests dominated the Federal government and choked the South economically and politically to such an extent that the South had no other option but to secede. The action of secession was a group of states going “all-in” in a poker game, trying to win back the freedom they had lost and to retain the freedom they were about to lose. With basic political philosophy in mind, the South theoretically would have been supported by great minds such as John Locke, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. The North would have been supported by historical minds such as Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes. Who influenced the Founders? It seems to be the ones who would have identified with the Southern plight of secession.
The Southern plight can be summed into one John C. Calhoun quote found in his Anti-Wilmot Proviso Resolutions. Calhoun said all people had an absolute right to shape and assume the government that they believe will best “secure their liberty, prosperity and happiness.” The South believed that the Federal Government did not do those three things for them, and they could govern themselves better than a central government comprised of many conflicting interests. They were right. How could a government, owned by the cries for Northern development, satisfactorily govern a region with such opposing interests as the South had at the time of the Civil War? The South rightfully fled the oppressive Union for greener pastures. The Union wrongfully used military force, unconstitutionally took half of the nation captive and strangled a people to their knees. The overreach of power led to further breaches in the Constitution by the Federal government in later years, and in hindsight, all individuals on American soil would have been better off had the nation split into two. The South would have retained its right to govern itself for the better and the North would have been able to keep its Federal government in check. Instead, the Northern oppression and aggression forever blemished the Constitution, skewed the future of the nation, and crippled the spread of liberty in the world.
 Donald Miller. “The Economic Causes of the Civil War”. Liberty Magazine. (October 2001)
 Edward A. Pollard, A Peculiar and Noble Type of Civilization. (United States, 1972), 19-20
 Robert P. Broadwater. Did Lincoln and the Republican Party Create the Civil War? (North Carolina, 1958) 47
 Ibid, 54-55
 Phillip S. Paludan, “The American Civil War as a Crisis in Law and Order,” Ameriacn Historical Review (October 1972), vol. 77, No. 4, 1034
 Abraham Lincoln, Presidential Inaugural Address (March 4, 1861) Paragraphs 3-5
 Roy P. Basler, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln “Letter to Horace Greeley”
 Charles B. Dew Apostles of Disunion (University Press of Virginia, 2001) 13
 Richard Wigginton Thompson, The History of Protective Tariff Laws (R.S. Peale and Company, 1888) 146-149
 Richard Wigginton Thompson, The History of Protective Tariff Laws (R.S. Peale and Company, 1888) 162
 The Encyclopedia Americana (Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1920) 398
 Richard Wigginton Thompson, The History of Protective Tariff Laws (R.S. Peale and Company, 1888) 299
 James Jackson Kilpatrick, The Sovereign States. “The Case for Nullification” (Chicago, H. Regnery Co., 1957) 188
 Ibid, 190
 Ibid, 197
 Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, A Voice from the South. “Anti-Wilmot Proviso Resolutions” (Baltimore: Western Continent Press, 1847) 71