Chamblee54

Why The War Between The States Was Fought

Posted in History, Library of Congress, War by chamblee54 on May 7, 2017


Recently, Mr. Trump said something stupid about the War Between the States. After his comments began to filter into the marketplace of ideas, people began to react. There was a good bit of self righteous talk about how bad the Confederacy was. Maybe it is time for another point of view. This feature will have minimal research. Mostly, PG is typing things he has heard and thought. It is possible that some items will be incorrect. The reader is encouraged to do their own research. Comments are welcome.

When the colonies declared independence in 1776, nobody knew how things would turn out. First, Great Britain needed to be defeated. After that, the Articles of Confederation went into effect. “Under these articles, the states remained sovereign and independent, with Congress serving as the last resort on appeal of disputes. Congress was also given the authority to make treaties and alliances, maintain armed forces and coin money. However, the central government lacked the ability to levy taxes and regulate commerce…”

This arrangement was not working, and the Constitutional Convention was called. Originally, the CC was going to revise the Articles of Confederation, but wound up throwing the whole thing out, and creating the Constitution. This document called for greater federal authority. The issue of what powers to give to the states, and what powers to give to the central government, was contentious. It remains controversial to this day.

Had any group of antonymous states formed a federal union before? Usually, such a union is the result of a conquest, with one of the states ruling the others. It is unclear whether such a union had been attempted before, or how successful it was. When the “founding fathers” created the constitution, they probably did not foresee how it would play out. The current system, with a massive central government cat-herding the 50 states, would have been laughed off as a dangerous fantasy.

So the states start to have disagreements. One of the things they disagreed over was slavery. Yes, this was an important factor in the unpleasantness to come. Slavery also influenced a lot of the economic conflicts. The North wanted high tariffs to protect industry. The South wanted low tariffs, so they could sell cotton to Europe. There were many other ways for the states to not get along.

Finally, in 1861, the disagreements became too big to ignore. The south seceded, and the War Between The States began. The Confederate States of America was a looser union than the United States. The thought was that the states were more important than the federal union. Mr. Lincoln disagreed. (One popular name for the conflict was Mr. Lincoln’s war.) Many people say that Mr. Lincoln was not especially concerned about the slaves, but wanted to keep the union together.

How does slavery enter into this? Imagine the conflict over states rights vs federalism to be an open tank of gasoline. The lit match that was thrown into that tank was slavery. When the winners wrote the war history, it sounded better to say that the war was fought to free the slaves. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

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