Apr. 20th, 2010

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So the current hubbub about the Civil War, specifically about VA's Governor declaring April Confederate History Month. The defenders of the Governor's actions (basically to ignore the role of slavery in the origins of the conflict, then when called on it issue a wishy-washy quasi-apology) generally default to one specific defense: It was about States' Rights.

Utter Bullshit.

I direct you to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In it the South managed to get Federal law passed requiring non-slave states to return escaped slaves, regardless the states' own laws. So the South used Federal Law to force the North to participate in the slave economy and, in the case of law enforcement, become human traffickers.

The South was perfectly happy to use Federal Law to trump that of local law, be it state, county or city, in pursuit of the furtherance of slavery. Then when it was clear the tide had turned in Federal Government they claimed States' Rights? Hooey.

And anyone claiming that, anyone asserting the South was fighting for some Jeffersonian Principle of Democracy rather than fighting to keep human beings as property, is either ignorant of the truth or lying.

And in case anyone was wondering, the debate about States' Rights vs. Federal Government over [insert individual cause here] is nearly as specious.

Abortion opponents push for State law to ban abortion but are also trying for a Federal ban with the realization some states will never go their way. Environmentalists or their sympathizers (like, say, Me) see California's State legislation on the subject as superseding weaker Federal law but want Federal stronger to force other states to regulate coal plant emissions. On pretty much every side of the fence we care about our issues more than we care about a particular theory of government, and that hasn't changed. I'd say there's nothing wrong with that.

What is a problem is using those theories to justify an armed revolt that killed over half a million soldiers when even a cursory look at history contradicts you.


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