On the Civil War

“He says the war was never about slavery,” I explained. “It was about states’ rights.”

“It was about one right only,” Mr. Magundi replied: “the right to allow slavery. The southern states worried about states’ rights only because they thought their right to slavery was endangered. South Carolina led the secession, and her leaders produced a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes” in which there is not a single complaint that is not related to slavery. The North knew that there was no other dispute; the South claimed no other dispute; it was slavery, and nothing else. Now, you can produce a good, coherent constitutional argument that the states ought to have had the right to determine for themselves whether to allow slavery. And you can produce a good argument from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, or of the Christian religion, that no one ought to be allowed to hold another human being as a slave. In the incompatibility those two arguments you have the cause of the Civil War, and it is not necessary to go looking anywhere else for it.”

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