did the constitution in the 1850's become the reason for seccesion in america?

i need to write an essay so just give me a good thesis agreeing or disagreeing.. thanx

2 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Controversy between the North and South raged for years over administration and enactment of tariff laws. A new wrinkle was added when the North began to openly defy fugitive slave laws. Northern states refused to honor warrants for capture and return of slaves to the South. The North's attitude was in direct defiance of federal law and of the Constitution which clearly mandates that each state of the Union must recognize Constitutional laws of all other states. Additionally, the federal government refused to intervene on behalf of the South. During the elections of 1860 Abraham Lincoln made it clear that he would not enforce fugitive slave laws and that he supported existing tariff laws and administration.

    A present day analogy would be if those states which do not have the death penalty refused to enforce fugitive warrants for murderers because the states issuing the warrants have the death penalty. If the non-death penalty states refused to honor such warrants in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court, AND the federal government sided with the defiant states, we would have a Constitutional crisis similar to the one which existed in 1861. Would the question then be over the death penalty, or would the question be over obeying the Constitution and the laws of the land?

    The beginning of the Civil War was inevitable when in December, 1860 and January, 1861 six Southern states, led by South Carolina, seceded from the Union. On March 2, 1861 Texas joined them. The argument was over states rights. Specifically, whether the federal government had powers to interfere with the right to own and trade property including slaves. Great compromises had been reached in the drafting of the Constitution. Article I, Section 2, recognized that slavery existed and provided for a fractional head count of slaves as the basis for determining representation in congress. Article I, Section 9, gave congress the power to enact laws restricting or forbidding importation of slaves after 1808 but the Constitution did not give congress power to interfere with ownership of slaves in those states which allowed ownership when the Constitution was adopted.

    The Constitution did, however, give congress powers to make laws in territories of the United States, notwithstanding the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott, and to admit new states to the Union. Congress, especially the Republicans, had become pro-active in abolishing slavery in territories and failing to admit states which were not free states. The South viewed the territories as economic opportunities for the sale of slaves and other "property" and saw the Federal activity as an encroachment into their rights.

    There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution or any other legal document which precludes any state or group of states from seceding from the United States. This was also true in 1861. Today, countries are split and otherwise reconfigured almost daily and the United States has evolved as the world's moral leader in supporting rights of peoples to declare themselves independent. This is a comfortable position for politicians to take... as long as it takes place somewhere else. Suppose New Mexico decided to secede? We know well what the response of national politicians AND the people of the remaining states would be.

    The one constant since 1861 is that secession was not and will not be tolerated. Politicians will reach deep into their grab-bag of excuses (national security, minority rights, etc.,) and go to war if necessary to stop it. But when it happens in Yugoslavia, watch the American politicians change their tune.

    By the way, you have a brilliant teacher/professor. He's making you see the subject in depth and this portion of history is rarely touched beyond the surface rhetoric.

  • 1 decade ago

    The previous post is very good... you may also want to add that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave since it only applied to the states that seceded (which Lincoln had no control over, and that type of change could not be made by the president without the judicial and legislative branch - hence the constitutional ammendment). As an interesting side note, there were still states in the union with slaves during the civil war. It was more about the tarrifs on sugar and cotton than anything else.

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