Busting the myth that the Civil War was about "states' rights"

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“Heritage not Hate!”

But defenders of the Confederate flag seem to be pretty ignorant of the heritage. . .


Thats a hell of a quote.


Oh they are aware. They just learned not to say it aloud unless they’re in the “right” company.


I saw this earlier today. It sums it up in a nut shell. Once I read Southern States Secession Statements and Constitutions, it was really damn clear it was about slavery.

When someone says “states rights” I always countered with, “The right for what, exactly?”


Colonel Tigh?

I wouldn’t trust him, dude was a toaster.


I don’t know why this was ever a widely held myth in the first place. Just look at the language in which states declared their rebellion.

They’re talking almost exclusively about slavery in a document that was specificity designed to explain why this was happening.

Of course, back then, nobody would have denied the actual causes.


There was a really great article in The Atlantic in June by Ta-Nehisi Coates making this same argument. It’s worth a read.


“Americans should be proud that their government waged a war to end slavery.”


Just because one side was fighting to maintain the status quo and slavery doesn’t mean the other side was fighting to end slavery. We take one man’s word when he speaks for all southerner’s who fought but when Honest Abe says he didn’t fight the war to end slavery we ignore it and just pretend the Southerners who point to the other issues - like the taxes Abe mentions - are making things up. Slavery existed after the war and continued to exist for many years under different names under the union.

"My policy sought only to collect the Revenue (a 40 percent federal
sales tax on imports to Southern States under the Morrill Tariff Act of
1861)." reads paragraph 5 of Lincoln’s First Message to the U.S.
Congress, penned July 4, 1861.
"I have no purpose, directly or in-directly, to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have
no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so," Lincoln
said it his first inaugural on March 4 of the same year."


Not cool, man. That’s our word. You breeders don’t get to use it.


Its a widely held myth because its what the education system in the South teaches. Which continues to this day with Texas making it very clear in their latest social history books that the civil war was about state rights. Despite the fact that the deceleration of causes for Texas is very clear on why they left the Union.


We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.


Hell, the Confederate Constitution specifically forbade any member state from passing laws against slavery. That doesn’t sound like the sort of thing you’d include in a document that supposedly valued “States’ Rights.”

Article IV Section 3(3)
The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.


Lincoln wanted to prevent a war altogether and he tailored his first address to Congress accordingly. Once avoiding a war was no longer an option he waged that war to its logical conclusion; i.e. to the abolition of slavery.

There are no contemporary accounts of secession-supporting Southerners who argued that a Federal ban on slavery would have been acceptable if only the Morrill Tariff Act of 1861 was repealed.


First of all, we are not just taking “one man’s word” that it was about slavery. We are taking multiple Southern leaders’ words, and the words they themselves put into their declarations of secession in writing.

Secondly, Lincoln was a politician, and like all politicians he said stuff that was more about getting votes and being diplomatic than about actual policy. The GOP was founded by abolitionists, abolition was their raison d’etre, and Lincoln was their first President (which explains why the South seceded shortly after he took office-- they thought he was about to abolish slavery.) By seceding the South gave him justifiable cause to begin a war that would end slavery, even if he couched his words in diplomatic sleight-of-hand early on. If you want to say that Lincoln and the North weren’t taking the high moral ground, that it was about taxes, well. . . where is the morality in the South seceding to protect slavery?

And as for “sharecropper” replacing “slave”. . . that’s an example of the South desperately trying to cling to the institution of slavery by watering it down and changing the name. That isn’t exactly the Federal government’s fault.


Of course the idea that very many citizens of the North were primarily concerned for the treatment of African Americans and wanted to welcome them into the rights and responsibilities of citizenship is JUST as absurd. Mostly they didn’t WANT to compete against slaves economically, and they didn’t particularly want “negroes” as neighbors either. More Northerners were motivated by fear of the increasing wealth and power of the class of “wealthy Southern plantation owners.” than by any love for their brother man.


Perhaps, but there is no denying that the Abolitionist movement was opposed to slavery on moral grounds, first and foremost; I am not aware that William Lloyd Garrison ever made an economic argument for ending slavery. I would also question whether thousands of Northerners joined the Union army in 1861 because they were deeply concerned about the wealth and power of Southern plantation owners (you can claim patriotism, but not really economic fear for that.) The inherent racism of American society or not, there was still a powerful moral impetus for fighting the war; Northerners may have felt the “Negro” was still inferior, but they nevertheless considered them humans and not property.


Since nobody’s perfect, the morality of human beings is always prey morality. “I don’t need to be a perfect person, I just need to be better than that guy.”

The argument of a lot of folks with “Southern Pride” seems to be “No you’re not! My great-great granddaddy wasn’t a BAD PERSON! He fought for RIGHTS, not SLAVERY!”

Which, you know, if you went back in time and asked him, he’d probably say he was fighting for slavery.

(As an aside, I think a fruitful avenue for discussion is to look deeply into the problems with the idea of “immoral actions makes you sub-human” that is really at the heart of a lot of the cognitive dissonance of the Southern Pride types. Slavery was morally reprehensible, yes, but the people who perpetrated it weren’t cartoonish villains (for the most part), they were people trying to do right and failing. How normal people trying to do right can cause such monstrous cruelty to other human beings is something that is vital for folks to understand, but isn’t something we’re that interested in figuring out as a society. I’d love a serious examination of how and why normally good, decent people can be encouraged to defend their monstrous behavior, how that happens, why it happens, how it might be prevented in the future…but there’s so much effort going into re-writing history that there’s almost none left over for serious examination of one of history’s deepest horrors)


And if I recall the timeline correctly, the southern states had a majority in the Senate, where the Morrill Tariff was stalled… until, due to secession, that majority was lost.


It was about states’ rights…to allow slavery.
And economics… of slavery.
And longstanding tensions between the North and South… over slavery…


Hoo boy, this one makes an agreeable argument, but most of the rest of these Prager University videos are pure right-wing rhetoric. Ya know, Lincoln was a Republican.