A New Civil War?

Posted on April 15, 2018


As the State of California cranks up its resistance to the federal government’s “interference” it its internal affairs, with respect especially to immigrants and sanctuary cities, it might do us well to remember another period in our history when different states took the federal government to task for interfering in their affairs.

Let me take a few liberties here. I have substituted “California” for “Alabama” in the following document:

“Be it declared and ordained by the people of the State of [California], in Convention assembled, That the State of [California] now withdraws, and is hereby withdrawn from the Union known as “the United States of America,” and henceforth ceases to be one of said United , and is, and of right ought to be a Sovereign and Independent State.”

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, or simply forgot, that document is from the State of Alabama Ordinance of Secession, January 11, 1861.

Thirteen states passed similar ordinances in 1860 and 1861.

Let’s be clear here. The issue for the thirteen states was slavery. As the Texas Ordinance of Secession of Feb. 23, 1861, stated very clearly: “WHEREAS, the recent developments in Federal affairs make it evident that the power of the Federal Government is sought to be made a weapon with which to strike down the interests and property of the people of Texas, and her sister slave-holding States, instead of permitting it to be, as was intended;”

South Carolina, which led the secessionist movement, was equally clear: “Those [Northern] States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign [archaic; take oneself far away] the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

If you want to see clear, unexpurgated examples of true racism, get online and read some of these ordinances of secession. They make great legal disquisitions and defenses of the states as being sovereign and independent as described in the Constitution, but the basis for secession was clearly to maintain slavery in the Southern states.

The issue was both legal and moral. The Southern states pointed to the very origins of the American Revolution. A people who had been tyrannized and oppressed by King and Parliament had a right to secede, according to the unwritten compact or contract that existed between rulers and people. If one or the other violated the contract, it could be declared null and void. That was the legal, political, and philosophical basis for the Revolution, and the Southern states claimed the same privilege of secession themselves.

The federal government, or the Northern states in the main, rejected the argument and remained loyal and obedient to the Constitution and declared that the Southern state were largely in a state of treason and rebellion. Hence the “Rebels” of the Confederacy and the “Yankees” of the Union. Yankees were largely New Englanders but came to encompass most of the Union.

The moral issue was slavery. The abolitionist movement was in full swing in many northern states, while the southern states claimed slaves as property—chattel slavery—which could not simply be stripped from them because of Yankee moral or religious sentiments. The Constitution protected private property.

The Civil War that ensued (1861-1865) claimed roughly 620,000 soldiers. It was only as recently as the Vietnam War that the total amount of American deaths in all foreign wars eclipsed the number who died in the Civil War alone. This is one end—a terrible slaughter on both sides—that ensued from defiance of the Constitution.

Today California, and some other cities in other States, are claiming that their statutes related to immigrants, immigration, and sanctuary cities override federal laws. Radicals of the Left in California are even pushing for independence from the Union. The issue of immigration and the phenomenon of sanctuary institutions (churches were at one-time sanctuaries) are two subjects apart from but related to the origins of our Civil War. We’ll deal with them in a future column.

The simple argument I make today is we are dealing with fire, a deadly fire that swallowed up our nation in a holocaust of war and suffering between 1861 and 1865. And its shadow still haunts us.

Published as “Defiance of federal law is playing with fire,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, March 25, 2018