Why the Civil War?

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With secession being more openly discussed as a political option, it is instructive to read/listen to the responses of the statists. The superficial answer has been the non sequitur that “the civil war resolved this question.” This is no more intellectually viable an argument than to suggest that Ronald Reagan’s presidential victories resolved the question of the policies of future occupants of the White House. It also ignores two important points: (1) secession is a remedy necessarily implied in the “social contract” theory of the state. (That governments have never been created by contract, but always by conquest, need not concern us at this point. The statists like to insist upon the social contract explanation, so they must take all aspects of contract theory.) (2) This nation traces its beginnings back to the Revolutionary War, which was premised on the legitimacy of secession from British rule. Intelligent minds need read only the first portion of the Declaration of Independence to confirm this.

It was almost amusing to read a recent article/editorial in the Minneapolis StarTribune bemoaning a resolution unanimously passed by Republicans in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. The resolution read: “Be it resolved the Republican Party of Minnesota supports nullification of unconstitutional federal laws and secession as options to enforce state sovereignty.”

The newspaper writer declared that “Jefferson Davis . . . couldn’t have written it any better,” then alluded to the “nearly 300 Minnesotans [who] lost their lives in the Civil War, fighting to keep the United States whole.” Her comment would seem to fly in the face of establishment-driven American history, that has long insisted that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves.

I cannot speak to the motives of Northern soldiers who fought in this war. My grandfather (who I never knew) and his three brothers fought for the North (my grandfather was the only one of the four who survived it). I strongly suspect that the motives of most soldiers was – as reflected in some of Mark Twain’s personal recollections — based more on seeking an “adventure” than fighting for any political or humanitarian principle. Still, it is interesting to note how interchangeable are the explanations of the Civil War — and of Abraham Lincoln, for that matter — when it comes to upholding the priority of centralized federal power.

4:16 pm on April 19, 2010