Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The War Between the States: 150 years later

On this day 150 years ago - April 12, 1861 - South Carolina artillerymen opened fire on Fort Sumter, a federal installation on an island in Charleston Harbor. The War Between the States was underway.

Almost exactly 4 years later - April 9, 1865 - Robert E. Lee would surrender to Ulysses S. Grant, thus effectively ending the war. In that four-year period, 620,000 Americans - from both North and South - would perish. That number is roughly equal to the number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, combined. It boggles the mind.

The outcome of the War Between the States was an incredibly strengthened federal government that showed once and for all that it was superior to the individual states, even though it was the states that had created the federal government - Frankenstein's monster turning on the good doctor, if you will. By the way, you notice that I call this conflict "The War Between the States." I do this because as easy as it is to simply refer to it as the Civil War, technically, it was no such thing. A true civil war is when two factions are fighting for control of the national government. However, the Confederates were not trying to march into Washington D.C. and take over the federal government - in fact quite the opposite. They were trying to break away from the United States. You could even more accurately call this war the War for Southern Independence. Even if you disagree with the cause for which the South was fighting for independence, that doesn't change the fact that this was the outcome for which they were fighting.

I freely acknowledge that the situation in North America would have been detestable if the Confederacy had prevailed in this war - slavery would have most likely lasted a couple more decades, for instance - but as fashionable as it may be to unquestionably cheer a Union victory, an honest student of history must acknowledge that with the victory going to the federal leviathan, the damage done to our individual freedoms across this entire nation cannot be overlooked.

From the moment the War ended, the term "states rights" has been considered a code word for slavery and racism. We see this today when individual states attempt to push back against the mandates our federal government places upon them, and the first thing we hear from the federal government-loving statists out there is that it is racist for a state to assert its rights, even if the issue - like health care - has nothing to do with race.

The War Between the States came down to an impossible choice between the excesses of the individual southern states, and the excesses of the federal government. The difference however is that if an individual state becomes too oppressive, one can always move to a less-oppressive state, or the other states can put pressure on the offending state(s). However, when the federal government reigns over us all, there is nowhere to run.

The Confederacy learned this lesson the hard way.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

No comments: