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Abraham Lincoln was a conservative statesman on the intellectual model of Cicero. In his dignity there was no hubris; much, he knew, must be left to Providence…

LincolnThe Roman Republic was at the back of the minds of the framers of the American Constitution; it was their hope that the chief magistrate of these United States would conduct himself with “the high old Roman virtue,” becoming an exemplar of pietas, gravitas, constantia, firmitas, comitas, disciplina, industria, clementia, frugalitas, and severitas.

George Washington, a grand gentleman of the old model, suffused with the unbought grace of life, set high the standard for these virtues. Eight decades later, there appeared a public man of an origin very different from Washington’s, who nevertheless has come to stand as Washington’s equal in republican virtue.

From a disaster greater still, we were saved by the presidential dignity of Lincoln, from whom few had expected any dignity at all. Both the New England of Hawthorne and the backwoods Illinois of Lincoln were faced by the whirlwind of fanaticism that had first stirred in their youth, had wailed onward to Fort Sumter, and then had raved triumphant from Manassas to Appomattox. That whirlwind might have left total devastation, had not Abraham Lincoln’s dignity withstood it in some degree.

The war made Lincoln great—not by chance, but by summoning forth the noble fortitude and gravity that had no more than peeked out from him in his Illinois years.

How far Lincoln himself was conscious that a Providential purpose worked through him, we cannot be certain; yet some such apprehension reigns from the phrases of his speeches and letters between 1861 and 1865.

For all that, ever since his boyhood his friends had perceived in this curious being some element of greatness. Lincoln possessed the incongruous dignity that was Samuel Johnson’s, too. Here stood a man of sorrows. It always has been true that melancholy men are the wittiest; and Lincoln’s off-color yarns, told behind a log barn or in some dingy Springfield office, were part and parcel of his consciousness that ours is a world of vanities. When he entered upon high office, this right humor became an element of the high old Roman virtue: comitas, the belief that seasons gravitas, or the sense of grand responsibility.

He was no woman’s man, and his marriage was made tolerable only by his own vast charity and tenderness, but he never was the man to weep over his own blemishes or blunders.

Lincoln’s awareness of this ineluctable reality, combining with his knowledge of the weaknesses of poor, sinning mortality, made demand strong in his sadness and gave him the power to endure with humility and generosity the awful burdens of his office.

Pietas was his, too, in the old Roman sense: Willing subordination to the claims of the divine, of “the contract of eternal society,” of neighbors, of country.

There have lived few Americans more abundantly graced with the theological virtues, charity most of all. The New Testament shines out from his acts of mercy, and the Old from his direction of the war. We all know the deep piety of his Gettysburg Address; and in some of his letters there looms a stern justice, at once Christian and classical.

Prudent amidst passion, Lincoln never was a doctrinaire; he rose from very low estate to very high estate, and he knew the savagery that lies close beneath the skin of man, and he saw that most men are good only out of obedience to routine and custom and convention. The reckless fire-eater and the uncompromising Abolitionist were abhorrent to him; yet he took the middle path between them not out of any misapplication of the doctrine of the Golden mean, but because he held that the unity and security of the United States transcended any fanatic’s scheme of uniformity.

Here, he was like Edmund Burke; yet it is improbable that he read much Burke, or any other political philosopher except Blackstone; his wisdom came from close observation of human nature, and from the Bible and Shakespeare. The Radical Republicans detested him as cordially as did the Southern zealots. In his conservative object, the preservation of the Union, he succeeded through the ancient virtue of prudentia.

Lincoln was a conservative statesman on the intellectual model of Cicero. In his dignity there was no hubris, no presumption; much, he knew, must be left to Providence.

Lincoln knew that what moved him was a power from without himself and, having served God’s will according to the light that was given him, he received the reward of the last full measure of devotion. He did not assert dignity; rather, he was invested with it.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Republished with gracious permission from The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal (February 1970). 

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9 replies to this post
  1. I would recommend reading the scholar Thomas DiLorenzo, whose work helps to deconstruct the mythology of the Lincoln Cult.

    He makes about 71 discrete factual, legal, political, or moral accusations or allegations against or about Lincoln or his subordinates as follows:

    Saying contradictory things before different audiences.
    Opposing racial equality.
    Opposing giving blacks the right to vote, serve on juries or intermarry while allegedly supporting their natural rights.
    Being a racist.
    Supporting the legal rights of slaveholders.
    Supporting Clay’s American System or mercantilism as his primary political agenda: national bank, high tariff, and internal improvements.
    Supporting a political economy that encourages corruption and inefficiency.
    Supporting a political economy that became the blueprint for modern American.
    Being a wealthy railroad lawyer.
    Never defending a runaway slave.
    Defending a slaveholder against his runaway slave.
    Favoring returning ex-slaves to Africa or sending them to Central America and Haiti.
    Proposing to strengthen the Fugitive Slave law.
    Opposing the extension of slavery in the territories so that “free white people” can settle there and because allowing them to become slave states would dilute Republican influence in Congress because of the three-fifths rule.
    Opposing black citizenship in Illinois or their right to immigrate to that state.
    Failing to use his legendary political skills to achieve peaceful emancipation as was accomplished elsewhere–Lincoln’s war was the only “war of emancipation” in the 19th century.
    Nullifying emancipation of slaves in Missouri and Georgia early in the war.
    Stating that his primary motive was saving the union and not ending slavery.
    Supporting a conscription law.
    Sending troops into New York City to quell draft riots related to his emancipation proclamation, resulting in 300 to 1,000 deaths.
    Starting a war that took the lives of 620,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians and caused incalculable economic loss.
    Being an enemy of free market capitalism.
    Being an economic illiterate and espousing the labor theory of value.
    Supporting a disastrous public works project in Illinois and continuing to support the same policies oblivious of the consequences.
    Conjuring up a specious and deceptive argument against the historically-recognized right of state secession.
    Lying about re-supplying the fed’s tax collection office known as Fort Sumter.
    Refusing to see peace commissioners from the Confederacy offering to pay for all federal property in the South.
    Refusing to see Napoleon III of France who offered to mediate the dispute.
    Provoking Virginia to secede by taking military action against the Deep South.
    Supporting a tariff and other policies that systematically redistributed wealth from the South to the North, causing great consternation in the South.
    Invading the South without consulting Congress.
    Illegally declaring martial law.
    Illegally blockading ports.
    Illegally suspending habeas corpus.
    Illegally imprisoning thousands of Northern citizens.
    Tolerating their subjection to inhumane conditions in prison.
    Systematically attacking Northern newspapers and their employees, including by imprisonment.
    Deporting his chief political enemy in the North, Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio.
    Confiscating private property and firearms.
    Ignoring the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
    Tolerating the arrest of ministers who refused to pray for Lincoln.
    Arresting several duly elected members of the Maryland Legislature along with the mayor of Baltimore and Maryland Congressman Henry May.
    Placing Kansas and Kentucky under martial law.
    Supporting a law that indemnified public officials for unlawful acts.
    Laying the groundwork for the establishment of conscription and income taxation as permanent institutions.
    Interfering with and rigging elections in Maryland and elsewhere in the North.
    Censoring all telegraph communication.
    Preventing opposition newspapers from being delivered by the post office.
    Illegally creating the state of West Virginia out of the “indestructible” state of Virginia.
    Tolerating or supporting mistreatment of citizens in conquered territory.
    Taxing those citizens without their consent.
    Executing those who refused to take a loyalty oath.
    Closing churches and arresting ministers.
    Burning and plundering Southern cites.
    Quartering troops in private homes unlawfully.
    Creating an enormous political patronage system.
    Allowing an unjust mass execution of Sioux Indians in Minnesota.
    Engineering a constitutional revolution through military force which destroyed state sovereignty and replaced it with rule by the Supreme Court (and the United States Army).
    Laying the groundwork for the imperialist and militarist campaigns of the future as well as the welfare/warfare state.
    Creating the dangerous precedent of establishing a strong consolidated state out of a decentralized confederation.
    Effectively killing secession as a threat, thus encouraging the rise of our modern federal monolith.
    Waging war on civilians by bombing, destruction of homes, and confiscation of food and farm equipment.
    Tolerating an atmosphere which led to large numbers of rapes against Southern women, including slaves.
    Using civilians as hostages.
    Promoting a general because of his willingness to use his troops as cannon fodder.
    DiLorenzo blames Lincoln for the predictable aftermath of the war: the plundering of the South by Lincoln’s allies.
    Supporting government subsidies of the railroads leading to corruption and inefficiency.
    Supporting a nationalized paper currency which is inherently inflationary.
    Creating the federal tax bureaucracy and various taxes that are still with us.
    Establishing precedents for centralized powers and suppression of liberties that continue to be cited today.
    Ending slavery by means that created turbulence that continues to this day.

  2. @ Kozinski

    While I have not read DiLorenzo’s book (though I intend to do so before the year is out) so I cannot speak to most of the points you’ve listed, there are a fair number that are laughable and weaken the argument of Lincoln’s critics.

    For starters:

    “Starting a war that took the lives of 620,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians and caused incalculable economic loss.”

    I’m sorry but the South started the war, and from the very beginning sought to carry the war into Kentucky and Maryland to “liberate” them. Did Lincoln exacerbate the issue? You can make that argument, but even there you are weak ground. He was putting down an insurrection, I don’t know how you can do that without raising troops.

    To say that Lincoln started the war, is to argue that you as an aggressor can walk up to someone, punch them in the face, and if they retaliate, accuse them of starting the fight. After all there would not have been a fight if he hadn’t fought back, eh?

    As to the South’s right to succeed in their secession, that is another argument, but the South did start the war.

    A few more of the silly points that detract from the greater legal and constitutional arguments you wish to make:

    “Promoting a general because of his willingness to use his troops as cannon fodder.”

    Without context I can only assume you mean Grant? Grant was willing to go on the attack and hit the enemy on multiple fronts, something that the Confederacy’s limited manpower was incapable of dealing with. Grant recognized the weaknesses of his opponents and exploited them. Lincoln realized this and promoted the man who beat Lee.

    Did Grant lose troops? Yes, but the attacker always loses more troops than the defender in an age where battle was decided by masses of troops firing massed rifle volleys. This is as true of Lee in earlier battles where he assumed the offensive (the seven days campaign) as of Napoleon. This critique of Grant can only exist among a readership bereft of knowledge concerning the art of war.

    As this point serves only to dehumanize and make a monster of Lincoln, by asserting he did not care for the lives of those lost in this great conflict, something that was neither true of Lincoln or his General, it calls into question the motive of those who willingly propagate and popularize this false assertion.

    “Ending slavery by means that created turbulence that continues to this day.”

    What, the Emancipation Proclamation? You can’t mean the war as again, by any metric, the South started it, and the dead have long been buried. Yes, the war has had long aftershocks, but again Lincoln didn’t bring that on. The South, feeling their hold on Federal power slipping (as DiLorenzo correctly notes I’m sure), threw a tempter tantrum and started a war, secure in their feeling that Europe, with its supply of cotton cut off, could not long abide before intervening on behalf of the Southern states.

    “Failing to use his legendary political skills to achieve peaceful emancipation as was accomplished elsewhere–Lincoln’s war was the only “war of emancipation” in the 19th century.”

    What?! Lincoln was President for mere months before the war was started. What political program could he have put in place in such short time in an age where the telegraph had just come to be?

    And the idea that the Federal government could have mustered the necessary amount of cash to buy and free the slaves ala Britain (a much smaller and more prosperous nation, in which slavery was not as common or entrenched) is laughable. If Import and Export taxes were enough to enrage the South to go to war (they were not) how well would an additional tax have gone over?

    The fact is that the South believed their way of life was under attack. This way of life was slavery. It was viewed as a good even for those members of the community who did not or could not own slaves. It is hard to fathom a view that believes the ownership of fellow beings necessary to the propagation of a great civilization, but it existed nonetheless despite its forgotten and thankfully now alien nature.

    Bad decision making has consequences. And the South blundered greatly by starting this war. So while Lincoln cannot be absolved of all blame, to blame him for every privation suffered by the citizens of the South who brought it on themselves is to swing the pendulum too far.

    Yes a cult exists around Lincoln, and as a natural contrarian I find it distasteful, but to swing the pendulum back the other way and blame Lincoln for everything is equally wrong, and distressing. Rehabilitating the Southern Cause, which was neither Conservative, nor congruent with the dignity of Man, is a waste of effort for modern Conservatives.

    I am sure that DiLorenzo’s able scholarship can make a better case for itself than your list of bullet points, and am looking forward to reading his book. But I must question the Libertarian starting point for many of the assertions as being both devoid of context, and unrealistic.

  3. To say, as Andrew Webster does, that the South fought for their way of life, and that way of life was simply slavery, is a very simplistic view of the Civil War and certainly one propagated by Northerners, but then to the victor goes the spoils which include the writing of the “official” story taught schoolchildren. And bear in mind that this writer has been a Northerner all his life. The way of life Southerners defended in the Civil War involved much more than keeping their “peculiar institution” and even a casual perusal of the Webster-Hayne debate in 1830, more than thirty years before the Civil War, bears that out. For those of the South it was about preserving self-government of the people of the states as opposed to those, like Webster, who thought, and continue to think, of the United States as one people. And the issue in the Webster-Hayne debate began not over slavery but land policy and first pitted Western and Eastern interests against one another. The debate ended in being about keeping reins upon federal encroachment of powers not granted. As Hayne argued in this debate, the issue was “the right of a State to judge of the violations of the Constitution on the part of the Federal Government, and to protect her citizens from the operations of unconstitutional laws” and he made clear that the idea that the national government alone decides the limitation of its powers “was utterly subversive of the sovereignty and independence of the states.” Today we should also see the doctrine that the separation of powers would provide this protection as nonsense since all three branches of national government have encroached upon the people of the states in an effort to centralize power in the national government and empower individuals with lifetime membership in that government. Given the facts of the human condition, who’d a thunk. And this clear divide revealed in the Webster-Hayne debates of both the interpretation of the Constitution and the nature of the Union goes back all the way to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the debates in the state legislatures upon the question of ratification.

    It can be argued that some Southerners attached themselves to the doctrine of state’s rights in an effort to defend their “peculiar institution,” but this does not detract from the important issues of Constitutional interpretation and the limits of the national government that were in much debate during the decades leading to the Civil War. Given that the nationalist view has led to a presidency that can by decree decide what bathroom to use, or by the vote of five justices force a baker to act against his or her conscience, this writer can only see both Hayne and the so-called Anti-federalists as more in the right. But then Irving Babbitt wrote well when he described the collision between human rightists and states rightists during the War period as one between “two opposing camps of extremists and fire-eaters; so that the whole question of union, instead of being settled on ethical lines, had to be submitted to the arbitrament of force.”

    The irony of the Webster-Hayne debate is that Webster propagated this nationalist view only in the service of New England sectionalism. And today the “we’re all in this together” crowd propagates such only in the service of identity politics and administered freedom. Who’d a thunk.

    • I bristle at the idea that I subscribe to a “simplistic” view of the Civil War, having evolved from being pro-South as a teenager. But as I am still youngish (south of 30) and can be rather hotheaded, I shall proceed cautiously.

      You say that “For those of the South it was about preserving self-government of the people of the states as opposed to those, like Webster, who thought, and continue to think, of the United States as one people”

      I ask you, which institution in the South was under attack? I posit that none were. If the South was acting to preserve self government of the people, what was the North doing that was threatening self government? I genuinely wish to know.

      I don’t believe it was Import and Export taxes. I don’t believe it was state’s rights, as the South saw no problem in lording the Fugitive Slave Act over states like Wisconsin.

      I believe the reason the South attempted to secede was due to the Missouri Compromise, the election of Lincoln, and the John Brown raid on Harper’s Ferry. All three reasons have slavery at their heart.

      The South watched as a man who wasn’t even on the ballot of their states ascend to the Presidency. Their power to represent themselves in Washington had lessened. That this man might be sympathetic to abolitionists did not help.

      That Slavery could not expand into new states meant that at some point in the future the free states would greatly outnumber the slave states in representation.

      That John Brown was popularly regarded in the North as a misguided hero, and not a terrorist, was the nail in the coffin. The South saw the direction the country was headed, and moved toward secession. That the “peculiar institution” and the protection of it was at the heart of the matter is to my mind without question.

      Was the South legally free to secede for such reasons? I don’t think so, not at a time when no-fault divorce wasn’t legal. This view that the South could just up and leave the Union is a modern one.

      • Mr. Webster, I do not insult your intelligence by using the word simplistic, but my previous comment was to make the point, over against yours, that most events in human history and particularly war will almost always be the result of many factors, not one. You boil the Civil War down to slavery, and my prior comment refutes that view well enough as the conflict between North and South traveled many roads as briefly pointed out in the previous comment on the Webster-Hayne debate concerning land policy turning to the nature of the Union.

        On what many Southerners thought was under attack, that would be their view of the nature of the Union and the Constitution, and I’ve already spoken to that point as one cannot read the Webster-Hayne debate and not see that many in the Union had different ideas of just what it meant, as well the Constitution. Webster obviously would not agree with Hayne on the doctrine of nullification for example or the compact theory of the Union. The very nature of the Union is what many Southerners thought then was under attack the key word being “consent” and this for many years since the debate between Webster and Hayne occurred in 1830. And the debate did not begin with them for which see below. Many Southerners took the words of the Declaration of Independence, first used by the New Englander clergyman Moses Mather in a Revolutionary sermon, seriously when Mather repeatedly wrote, “For deprive us of this barrier our liberties and properties, our own consent; and there remains no security against tyranny and absolute despotism….” It was then, and still is, about the line that the federal government is not to step over. And bear in mind the fact of human nature, for to speak of “consent,” “tyranny,” and “despotism” while holding slaves, whether in 1775 or 1861, speaks to the fact of a human propensity for hypocrisy and that coming usually from conflicting interests, of being on the horn of a dilemma real or imagined.

        On the question of the legality of leaving the Union, Northerners certainly did not question it when some had thoughts of seceding during the Hartford Convention of 1814-15 over “Madison’s War “as the War of 1812 was called by Northerners. So no, a right to secession is not a “modern” idea. And none of the Founders brought a legal argument against the possibility of secession by the Northern states at this time but only wrote that they hoped it would not come to that which it did not as soon thereafter both sides for diverse reasons needed peace. During the later secessionist crisis President Buchanan asked his Attorney General Jeremiah Black if there were any legal recourse to hold states within the Union and the answer was no although Black did not see secession as Constitutional. Of course it would not be as that document was one which formed a Union and did not speak of a manner of secession but only of amending the document itself; however the people of the states through their representatives ratified that document and not the people as a whole nation, another point of difference between Northerners and Southerners that goes back to the fight over the Bank of the United States which pitted Madison himself who said that the Constitution was ratified by the people of the individual states in their conventions, against Chief Justice John Marshall who thought that the state ratifying conventions were mere formalities and that the people as one whole ratified the Constitution, this despite the Framers making ratification by each state a legal necessity for the document to become law for that state. Thus the people of the individual political societies called states voted to join the Union, and as such could be the only political society that could rescind that vote as the people of the states gave their consent to a limited grant of powers to the federal government and reserved the rest to the people of the states. If this understanding were betrayed the Bill of Rights which originally, before the nationalist idea of incorporation, protected the people of the states against federal overreach could be invoked. It was not for nothing that the Second Amendment was contained therein.

        The nationalist understanding of the Union won the day and thus was the most important political aspect to come of the Civil War, that the people of the united States are actually one, “one nation…indivisible” as the Pledge of Allegiance states, an understanding to which most Southerners at one time would not have adhered. This nationalist view of the Union is why most Americans today cannot understand why the popular vote should not determine who becomes president and one of the last holdouts of the people as political societies in their states simply be absolved, that is the Electoral College.

        You say slavery caused the war, I say it is far more complex than that with the very nature of the Union being the TNT waiting to be ignited and slavery the spark that did so.

        • Your learned response is why I appreciate The Imaginative Conservative as it attracts the finest people. I only said that I “bristled” in an attempt at humor, which I completely failed at. I do not express myself well in writing and have been attempting to change that.

          I do think that you are over complicating the reasons for the Civil War. As the South previously had seen fit to exercise Federal power over various states, I do not feel that they were strident states rights advocates until the balance of power shifted to the Northeastern states.

          And while Secession is viewed as an option in those days, there needed to be a litany of abuses and usurpations (as in a divorce) that simply had not been met. This idea that the South had the Right of Secession as a matter of course, and without explanation, seems to my mind to be a modern idea, taken from an atomized culture. Our Founding Fathers produced a long list of grievances against the Crown of England. The South, while producing a list of complaints, did not simply have a good enough case to render the Union in two, and risk destruction of the whole by outside forces.

          I continue to maintain that no Southern institution of self governance was stake, that no train of abuses and usurpations of power had occurred. That the South, while making the argument of localized government against overbearing Federal power, was doing so in defense of the “Peuliar Institution.” Doubtless many thought, and were acting on the slippery slope paradigm, that while the North was meddling with slavery today, what of tomorrow?

          Yes, I concede that for many Southerners, they were fighting for something other than Slavery. But when I say that Slavery was the reason, for the War, I am saying that it is the one issue, that if you subtract from the argument leading up to the war, you find yourself without a war. No issue of Slavery = no Civil War. You subtract any other issue from the tinderbox and you still have a Civil War.

          But my main point in addressing an earlier commentator is the revisionism that seems directed at rendering Lincoln a one dimensional monster. A cold blooded political animal that started the bloodiest war in American history. This is a strange view, considering that the South started the war. I find this kind of revisionism that depends on ignorance to be most distasteful.

          • I apologize for the late reply, life interferes. We have then another issue upon which to vehemently disagree that being that you don’t express yourself well in writing as I think you do as your responses were both concise and articulate.

            The legitimate points you raise concerning the Southern states not having else to fight for beyond slavery, or we could say “property” from their perspective, have in part been asserted also by some concerning the Founders and the Constitutional era. Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States pretty well boils that period down to the Founder’s economic interests, although the Southern historian Forrest McDonald I think pretty well refutes that interpretation in his book Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution. But it is still an interpretation that at least informs some thought to this day, although I would disagree with Beard and see much more at play.

            I look at human history as more subtle and more difficult to ascertain truth concerning events because of the human condition which can give us both a simpler view of a given event, but also a more complicated perspective. We can say of a simple matter like why did Joe and Tom get into a fight and understand it was over Cindy, but if both were put on the psychiatrist’s couch we may find more at play such as Cindy not being of great important but ego and possessiveness being the evils at play and this because those involved both have problems with being insecure, etc. and so it is less about being in love with her.

            I think both Lincoln and Daniel Webster as examples of the human condition complicating our motives and thus our history as both made statements earlier on that contradict positions taken later. During the Civil War West Virginia seceded from Virginia upon all of the questions involved concerning the War. Lincoln did nothing to stop this but then the region of West Virginia wished to remain in the Union so why would he? But even further, Lincoln said in 1848, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.” But why not then apply this idea to the Southern states since Lincoln first made preserving the Union paramount? Perhaps he had come to a different view, or perhaps a more careful reading of the statement reveals what Lincoln meant in that “having the power” means that a war would of course be necessary and if the side wishing to secede wins the war they then make secession stick; otherwise they would be reconstructed no matter how they were “inclined.”

            Webster opposed Hayne concerning the nature of the Union in 1830, but while opposing conscription during the War of 1812 he said, “Is this…consistent with the character of a free government?…It will be the solemn duty of the State Governments to protect their own authority over their own militia, and to interpose between their citizens and arbitrary power. These are among the objects for which the State Governments exist; and the highest obligations bind them to the preservation of their own rights and the liberties of their people.” Interposition would later be an idea on which Webster would oppose Hayne in 1830 so although the issue in 1812 was conscription Webster does use the plural of “objects” “rights” and “liberties” so we can assume that Webster at this time understood the Bill of Rights as limiting federal power in a similar manner as Hayne later would and as applying to other issues besides conscription and state militias. I think the manner in which one takes a side then its opposite at another time or in another context reveals the human condition as a large player in just why historical interpretation is a difficult art with so many subtleties and nuances for which to give an account. Ideas are more subtle than property and so I think more difficult to ferret out from the fray of just what leads to a given war or other event in politics.

            The bottom line for me is the Founders left two issues unresolved and also planted an idea all of which led to a conflagration that destroyed a republic and put in place the cornerstone for a nation: federalism, slavery, and the idea of a right to rebellion, or secession, as asserted in the Declaration of Independence. In the Civil War and its aftermath, all three were answered in the negative, as federalism gave way to nationalism, the right to secession to “indivisibility”, and slavery to freedom. The end result is that the slaves were freed yes, but the political cost to federalism and the nature of the Union was catastrophic as the national government could now solely decide what belonged to its sphere and the states’ rights clause contained in the Virginia document ratifying the American Constitution that the limited powers granted to the federal government “may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression….” now was definitively made null and void.

          • @ Kevin Mack. For some reason I only have the option to reply to myself, and not you, but that will not constrain me.

            I do think that the South saw themselves as a separate people, whose interests would be better served by a separation. They may have been correct in that distinction, but I continue to think their case for secession was not strong enough to necessitate a war, anymore than one person in a marriage becoming bored with their spouse should be free to rip apart the family unit and doom its progeny to the bleak landscape that has afflicted so many modern families.

            I still believe in the right of secession, but there must be a moral, and legal case. I continue to believe that the South did not adequately make a case worthy of sundering the Union and jeopardizing its progeny. There was not a strong enough case for divorce.

            That the South, which saw fit to wield Federal power when it held the reins, and later provided the power bases to the progressive campaigns of Woodrow Wilson, and FDR (who concretely altered the power structure between Federal and State), should be cast as the defenders of State’s Rights is ironic.

            I do appreciate your responses. Concerning the Civil War I’ve managed to read this year “The Grand Design: Strategy and U.S. Civil War” and “Rebel Yell.”

            I will try to add to my list:

            “Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution.”

            “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.”

            I don’t believe that the idea of Secession has been permanently answered in the negative as it is viewed romantically by millions of our fellow countrymen to this day. Indeed, our country was founded on Secession, so it will never forgotten.

            Just as I frown on no-fault divorce, but readily support divorce, or separation in the case of abuse, I think most Americans believe that Secession is still a viable course of action if in the course of human events…

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