Paul Finkelman


The southern states did not leave the Union because the national government was trampling on their “rights.” The states that left the union never asserted that they were being denied their “states’ rights” —that the national government had obliterated the lines been between national power and state power. Nor did the southern states complain that the national government was too powerful and so it threatened the sovereignty of the state governments. On the contrary, as I set out below, the southern states mostly complained that the northern states were asserting their states’ rights and that the national government was not powerful enough to counter these northern claims. Similarly, the secessionists did not complain that an oppressive national government was infringing on the civil liberties of southern citizens; rather the complaint was that the national government refused to suppress the civil liberties of northern citizens.