SLAVERY NO; SECCESION YES
By: Joseph Sobran
Back in the early part of 2001 two Bush cabinet nominees were being accused of a thought crime: being on the side of history's losers. John Ashcroft, prospective attorney general, and Gale Norton, prospective secretary of the interior, have said favorable words about the Confederacy.
What both Ashcroft and Miss Norton said was that the South stood for states' rights and resistance to an all-powerful federal government. Yes, it was also defending slavery, but that doesn't negate the good principles it fought for, any more than the American Revolution is discredited by the fact that Washington, Jefferson, and many other revolutionaries owned slaves.
Unfortunately, many Northerners insist on equating the perfectly constitutional principle of states' rights - more properly, the powers reserved to the states - with slavery and segregation.
You can (and should) be pro-secession without being
pro-slavery, as in fact many Americans, North and South, were. The
right of secession was affirmed by two Northern states, New York and
Rhode Island, when they ratified the Constitution.
States [i.e., the federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States." The Constitution doesn't prohibit the states from seceding, so that power remains with them. The fact that the North won the Civil War doesn't alter the principle, unless might makes right.
During the debate over ratification of the Constitution, opponents of ratification made many dark predictions: the Constitution would enable the federal government to impose tyranny, it would lead to "consolidated", centralized and monolithic government, and so forth. But nobody complained that the Constitution would prevent the states from reclaiming their independence, as they certainly would have done if the Constitution had been understood to rule out secession. After all, the Declaration of Independence had established the right of the people to "alter or abolish" any form of government that injures their rights.
Since the Constitution doesn't forbid the states to secede, the North found it necessary to violate the Constitution in order to suppress Southern independence. Lincoln was forced to usurp legislative powers by raising troops and money and by suspending the writ of habeas corpus; when Chief Justice Roger Taney ruled such acts unconstitutional, Lincoln wrote an order for Taney's arrest! He never followed through on that, but he did illegally arrest 31 antiwar members of the Maryland legislature and install a puppet government. He went on to crush freedom of speech and press throughout the North. Such was Lincoln's idea of "preserving the Constitution" and "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
The notion that Lincoln "saved the Union" is as naive as the notion that he "freed the slaves." The Union he saved was not the one he set out to save. The Civil War destroyed the "balance of powers" between the states and the federal government which he had promised to protect in his 1861 inaugural address.
This was not Lincoln's intention, but it is the reason
many of his champions praise him. James McPherson celebrates Lincoln's
"second American Revolution";
SEE Slavery NO; Secession YES on page 2