The Instigator
senseiseth
Pro (for)
Losing
14 Points
The Contender
Democritas
Con (against)
Winning
33 Points

Causes for the Civil War: Slavery Or States Rights?

Do you like this debate?NoYes+5
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Vote Here
Pro Tied Con
Who did you agree with before the debate?
Who did you agree with after the debate?
Who had better conduct?
Who had better spelling and grammar?
Who made more convincing arguments?
Who used the most reliable sources?
Reasons for your voting decision
1,000 Characters Remaining
The voting period for this debate does not end.
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/31/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 7,422 times Debate No: 5215
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (14)
Votes (8)

 

senseiseth

Pro

When it comes to the Civil War, it's been much like "what came first, the chicken or the egg"? Only with this argument it is which caused the war, slavery or states rights.

Now I am fervently for the argument that slavery was the cause of the war. The reason for this is because, in my opinion, slavery was not only an issue in and of itself, but it influenced the other issues which also had a role to play in the war's creation. It was much like a cancer in the American nation, infecting the nation everywhere it went.

I would like to have whoever wants to debate me to send here their opinions and reasons before I continue with mine. And I do look forward to whomever wants to debate on this issue.
Democritas

Con

History books, as well as Southern states themselves have said that the problem was over states rights. Slavery was in fact an issue, but it was part of the bigger issue of state sovereignty. Should states be told that they could not do something if a crushing majority of the people in the state wanted what they were told not to do? Should they be forced to accept a president that they didn't want?

They believed (rightly so) that they were "United States" and that they could break away and in effect disengage from the things they didn't like. In a sense they wanted to "un-unite" and become their own entity. The issue of slavery played into it, but it wasn't a major issue until the actual war started and Abraham Lincoln decided that he might as well go for broke and outlaw slavery too. None of the actions he took against slavery were taken until after the American Civil War started.
Debate Round No. 1
senseiseth

Pro

Democritas,

It is a fact that many of the men and women who had pushed for the act of secession had stated the issue of states was their reason for leaving the union. Yes, those of the South said that their state's sovereignty over its own affairs was the reason for leaving. And yes, the South said that they had the legal right to make such a decision.

However, I do not believe that this was the main push for the states to not only dissolve their own national ties, but to also take up arms against their former countrymen.

First and foremost, I would like to state on the attitudes of the issue of slavery when the war was coming to a head. The issue of slavery was in a lack of better term, gasoline with the other issues that tore our nation apart. And let's take a look at state's rights. The north and more importantly, the national government, was appearing to push an abolitionist agenda upon the South, forcing them to change an institution that had been for at that time had been around for more than a hundred years. Many of the founding fathers had slave, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. So those in the South would not go down lightly when it came to a outside influence telling those in the area to change what the South was accustomed to for so very long.

And if you look at the events that occurred after the war involving states rights, "the bridge to nowhere", civil rights, suffrage movement, medicinal marijuana, gay marriage, while there have been some moments of violence regarding these issues, not one of them threatened a nation to tear itself apart. Even with civil rights, no one of a serious nature ever threatened with the notion of seceding from the union.

Even men like Alexander Stephen, when he heard of the emancipation proclamation, stated that the true cause of the war had been brought to the front of the whole struggle. One John J. Chapman said that "There was never a moment in our history when slavery was not a sleeping serpent, it was coiled up under the table in the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention. Owing to the cotton gin it was more than half awake. Thereafter, slavery was on everyone's mind thou not always on his tongue."

And in regards to the idea that the South had a legal right for leaving the Union is also false and misleading. In the United States and even in the Confederate States Constitutions, almost word for word, there were two clauses that spoke of what the states could and could not do:

"1. No state shall enter into treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility..." I'll skip to the more relevant parts " 3. No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty tonnage, except on seagoing vessels, for the improvement of its rivers and harbors navigated by the said vessels; but such duties shall not conflict with any treaties of the United States with foreign nations; and any surplus revenue thus derived shall, after making such improvements, be paid into the common treasury. Nor shall any State keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engagement in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay. But when any river divides or flows through two or more States they may enter into compacts with each other to improve the navigation thereof."

Now, even if the state had anger against the government, it had no legal meaning to leave the Union. And by other states forming their own troops they were direct violation of the law in which they themselves had agreed to. And if there was no mention of secession in the Constitution, it does mention the method in which a state is brought into the Union. And logic must dictate that to enter the Union would be virtually the same for if a state wants to leave, that being the case, the South did only half of what was needed to be done in order to truly leave the Union. The legislation was passed by the mandate of the people, but it didn't get the authority of the Congress, and because of that, it was not a real nation, it was not outside of the Union, and it gave the Union north the reason and means to invade and subdue the rebellious South.
Democritas

Con

I must agree with the argument that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had slaves. That is beyond contestation. However, Thomas Jefferson as you should recall was the most vocal proponent of abolition when writing the Declaration of Independence. He backed down only to save the prospect of independence. Both men freed their slaves upon their deaths, but both were willing to give up their slaves for the greater good, though I must concede that they didn't.

Due to the wording of the constitution: "1. No state shall enter into treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility..." I'll skip to the more relevant parts " 3. No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty tonnage, except on seagoing vessels, for the improvement of its rivers and harbors navigated by the said vessels; but such duties shall not conflict with any treaties of the United States with foreign nations; and any surplus revenue thus derived shall, after making such improvements, be paid into the common treasury. Nor shall any State keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engagement in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay. But when any river divides or flows through two or more States they may enter into compacts with each other to improve the navigation thereof."

This is what bothered the southern states. They felt they had no rights to govern themselves. Slavery isn't even mentioned in the constitution at that point.
Slavery of course added fuel to the fire, but it wasn't the match, nor the kindling, nor even the logs that kept it going in the beginning. Slavery became the reason the northern troops kept fighting. Northern troops got to the point where they decided that if the south wanted to leave, why not let them. Slavery became a moral battle ground that fueled the Union Army and it became a battle of ethics and morals. It didn't happen until much later though.
Debate Round No. 2
senseiseth

Pro

It is true that Jefferson was a strong proponent of abolishing the institution of slavery, as were many founding fathers at the time, since many felt that slavery was a hypocritical tradition to have in a "land of the free". However, when the issue was first brought out in the halls of the Continental Congress, and later in the halls of the Constitutional Convention, delegates shouted and threatened to leave the talks and form their own nations. So those who wanted to end slavery had to chose the then greater good of passing it off to the next generation to handle with the best of their abilities.

That next generation, whose members included Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun, had to deal with compromises, a war with Mexico, and mini wars in Kansas and Nebraska which were started because of the issue of slavery, the economy wasn't involved, religion wasn't involved, social class wasn't involved, nothing but slavery, and nothing else. On top of that, the war with Mexico was the long term result of the annexation of the Texas from Mexico, which had begun because the American filibusters who moved there were bringing slaves into the region and Mexico had abolished the practice when it became a nation.

Several compromises were made to push the issue of slavery farther and farther down the road, to try and find a real long term solution to the slavery problem and try and avoid bloodshed. Which we can see by hindsight that all it did was delay the inevitable conflict. And these compromises were put in place because slavery was the defining issue since both sides were pushing to have more slave states or more free states depending on the side one was on.

The reason why slavery wasn't involved in the initial months of the war was because of the fact that had Lincoln and the Congress made the move to abolish slavery Missouri, Maryland and Kentucky would have left the Union within days of the law passing. One state carried have of Washington and another was Lincoln's birth state, neither of which would have been good for the overall war-effort. So the lack of slavery in legislation wasn't because of the lack of importance, but a need for good timing.

The same went for a lack of slavery in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Had the founding father mentioned slavery, there would have been at least two separate nations being formed within the beginning of the 19th century. This was also why the slave trade was set to become illegal in the United States in the 1820's as a compromise to the lack of abolishing slavery during the Constitutional Convention.
Democritas

Con

"It is a fact that many of the men and women who had pushed for the act of secession had stated the issue of states was their reason for leaving the union. Yes, those of the South said that their state's sovereignty over its own affairs was the reason for leaving. And yes, the South said that they had the legal right to make such a decision." In that paraghraph you almost make my case for me.

You have stated many times that slavery was an issue, and I have agreed. You have not been convincing that slavery was THE ISSUE.

The issue of slavery falls under the larger issue of states rights. So yes, slavery was an issue, but it was part of the larger issue of state's rights. You can, for as long as you would like, continue to state that slavery is what caused the American Civil War, but when you continually make a case for an issue that is a sub-issue, you are making the case for the larger issue as well which is what you have done.

I agree with your point on the Constitution, but not on the Declaration of Independence. Two nations would not have been formed, because no new nation would have been formed. When the vote came down to it, either they were voing for independence, or they were going to stay under the heel of England. There was no third option of forming tow separate nations, there just wouldn't have been one nation at all.

Also, in the constitution, Amendment about state's rights comes before that of slavery, and if you look at the gripes the southerners had, slavery wasn't really an issue since the north, although they disagreed with slavery, relied on it to get raw materials for the industries. The south was an agricultural society while the north was an industrial society. So even though the northerners disagreed in an ethical and moral sense, they didn't really in a practical sense, which is why in the beginning, they weren't fighting against slavery, they were fighting to keep their source of raw materials.
Debate Round No. 3
senseiseth

Pro

Yes, but what drove the South to take those steps to secession, what drove them to make the call to arms and leave the Union, form there own nation and go to war with their former nation.

It wasn't solely the economy, farming and industry have lived with each other in somewhat peace before the war and as continued to live with each other after the war.

It wasn't the solely politics; since the conservative and liberal sides of America have existed since the war.

It wasn't solely religion since our country has been trying to show acceptance and tolerance to almost every religion on the earth.

And it wasn't solely states rights since that issue has also again been raging since the war came to a close.

However, there has been one issue that existed before the war was started, one issue that had been used during the war on both sides to try and destroy each other, and one issue that drove each of the other issues involved into pushing the nation to a bloody and brutal war. And it was slavery.

And while the issue of states had been a major course of conflict within the United States, it was slavery that had made the issue of state's rights something to bring out a civil war. If you look back before 1860, there were several cases of state's rights being debated between the two sides before the war. The Alien and Sedition Act, New York City and the War of 1812, and McCulloch v. Maryland, all were fights regarding states, and only one had the scent of secession, and that wasn't too much of a worry.

Yet, when slavery began to take a greater and greater stage, then did the issue of state's rights begin to increase as well. Only when the issue of slavery began to a hold in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and start the war with Mexico, the fugitive slave act, the Dred Scott decision, it is almost impossible to say that state's rights was the initial start of the war, when the issue of state's right was fueled by slavery itself.

When a doctor treats an illness for a disease, they do not merely treat the symptoms of the disease but the disease itself. And when the Civil War began in its first few months, all that the Federal and Confederate governments were doing was treating the disease. It wasn't until the politicians (Lincoln and his cabinet) and the army ( Grant and Sherman) saw the effects that slavery had on this nation, did they make an actual effort to end the very thing that push all other issues into the anarchy of civil conflict.
Democritas

Con

Good cite with the supreme court case, however, what about Dred Scott? In that case it was decided that one state can not enforce it's rules upon a person passing through when it comes to property. It also stated that a black man has no rights that a white man is bound to recognize. Both became issues in the American Civil War, and yes, slavery was the most famous. Why? Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Elijah Lovejoy, Frederick Douglass.

However, none of these men would have ever supported going to war over that cause, they wanted it done diplomatically, through the government and the justice sysytem. Taking into account that these men save for John Brown were in effect pacifists, they would have never jumped at the south leaving for slavery reasons. Lincoln especially would've tried to do whatever possible, including allowing slavery to insure the continued survival of the Union.

The disease was states rights, and one symptom was slavery, so I agree with you on that one. Slavery was not Lincoln's primary concern, he wasn't for it, but it wasn't pressing on his mind. Any biography on Lincoln will tell you that.

Also, in the book "A House Divided", the author makes the civil war out to be more of a culture clash than anything else, which is what it was. Even though slavery was a part of the southern culture, it was not the only part.

I understand where you are coming from, but the points you are making pretty much support my point.
Debate Round No. 4
senseiseth

Pro

The Dred Scott decision did not effect the state's rights or the slavery issue directly, but it did show how much slavery had become a major in both the culture and with the overall health of the country. And if I am not mistaken, Frederick Douglas not only pushed for a abolition of the institution of slavery by any means necessary. He was the one who pushed Lincoln into seeing how much the issue of slavery had been effecting the country, and what could happen to the North's fortunes if and when African-Americans would be given the gun and put into the rank and file of the Union army.

In regards to John Brown, when he was hung for his actions in Harper's Ferry, many people in the North were comparing him to Jesus and Moses, although I do not see him as that in any possible way. And with Lincoln, it was not the case that he wasn't for it for it, it was that he didn't want it spreading further. he also felt that the issue was going to have to come to a head where we, the nation, would have be all of one thing or all of another in regards to the slavery issue. And when he saw first hand the tribulations that a slave had to endure, he wasn't exactly going to be a strong proponent to that issue.

And my argument in short is not that slavery was the sole and single cause of the war, which it was not, but that it was the issue that pushed everything else beyond the limits and resulted into what we might call a great cataclysm in our nation.
Democritas

Con

Then in a sense you contradict yourself as you said: '"When it comes to the Civil War, it's been much like "what came first, the chicken or the egg"? Only with this argument it is which caused the war, slavery or states rights.

Now I am fervently for the argument that slavery was the cause of the war. The reason for this is because, in my opinion, slavery was not only an issue in and of itself, but it influenced the other issues which also had a role to play in the war's creation. It was much like a cancer in the American nation, infecting the nation everywhere it went."'

You left no room for "Slavery might not be the sole cause." All you said was "Slavery or State's Rights", thereby contradicting yourself.

Any history major, history teacher, or history professor would attest that slavery was a big issue. I have not denied that. However, any Lincoln historian would tell you that Lincoln's primary goal was not the abolition of slavery, it was the continued existence of the Union. Yes, he did become the legendary hero in the fight for freedom, but he was thrown into it, he didn't do it voluntarily. Slavery came to a head after the war had started, so it really couldn't have been the cause.

Frederick Douglass advocated many means, but war was not one of them. He knew what a civil war might do to the country, and that it would take years, one hundred years legally, for the country to heal. We still aren't and that is an unfortunate cause, and something Frederick Douglass foresaw and that it why he never would've advocated war.

Same case with Lincoln. He knew that the prospect of taking on slavery was too much for the country to handle, but when the American Civil War started, he figured it was something he could throw in there for the better and kill two birds with one stone.
Debate Round No. 5
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RocketScienceTV 1 year ago
RocketScienceTV
*Tariffs of Abomination for one, where the north forced the south to buy from the north with inflated prices instead of buying from Europe.*

Tariffs in 1860, were not the issue, regardless of what Thomas J Dilorenzo may believe.

1.) The Tariff in effect in was The Tariff of 1857, and was highly favorable to the South.
2.) If the Tariff truly was the issue, the Southern States could have easily shot down the Morrill Tariff in Congress had they not seceded.
3.) Tariff rates in 1860 were among the lowest they had been in 20 years.

I'd suggest reading the Declaration of Causes of Mississippi, and the Cornerstone Speech.
Posted by Democritas 6 years ago
Democritas
The north was more industrial while the south was more agrarian which is why the population was so disproportionate.

Also, you haven't taken into account territories that were not yet states. People from territories fought in the American Civil War as well.

Very few free blacks owned slaves. The purpose was to buy slaves and free them, not keep them. There were systems in place for that.

Robert E. Lee wasn't fighting for slavery, he was fighting to preserve his culture. He was fighting for Virginia because he felt he had too as his ancestors Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee had done during the American Revolution.
Posted by hardluck 6 years ago
hardluck
In an 1856 letter to his wife Mary Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee called slavery "a moral and political evil."

The fact is large numbers of free Blacks owned black slaves; in fact, in numbers disproportionate to their representation in society at large. In 1860 only a small minority of whites owned slaves. According to the U.S. census report for that last year before the Civil War, there were nearly 27 million whites in the country. Some eight million of them lived in the slaveholding states.

The census also determined that there were fewer than 385,000 individuals who owned slaves. Even if all slaveholders had been white, that would amount to only 1.4 percent of whites in the country (or 4.8 percent of southern whites owning one or more slaves).
Posted by Democritas 6 years ago
Democritas
Actually, that's not true. Most just didn't have large numbers of slaves, but many people had one or two. They were fighting to live in accordance with the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. They were fighting to preserve their culture. The same thing Al Quaeda is fighting for, the preservation of their culture and belief system.
Posted by hardluck 6 years ago
hardluck
The main thing that y'all left out, is that very few people in the south owned slaves, most were just poor white trash. So my question to you is, how could the Confederate Government have gotten so many people to fight and die for something they didn't even have?
Posted by senseiseth 6 years ago
senseiseth
Also I have just looked into the "Tariffs of Abomination" and what the Southern states were trying to do were in every way, shape and form unconstitutional as stated in Article I Section X of the United States Constitution. That was a right that was reserved only for the Congress.

And the main supporter of the whole mess, John C. Calhoun, was a supporter of both secession and of slavery going so far as to claim that to fight with the right of slavery would bring about a great civil war.
Posted by senseiseth 6 years ago
senseiseth
Would it have been easier and more importantly cheaper to get a product from Boston to Raleigh then to have the same product come from London or Paris?

And no state before, during or after war ever truly threatened with the threat of secession. Even in the earlier years of this nation's life.

And it was South Carolina that left first, not North. And they left because of the victory of Abraham Lincoln and his views on slavery. Not because of taxes and tariffs.
Posted by Democritas 6 years ago
Democritas
Tariffs of Abomination for one, where the north forced the south to buy from the north with inflated prices instead of buying from Europe.

The south, looking to the Constitutional Amendment about state's rights, figured they could ignore unreasonable laws. That started it. Little things. Then North Carolina seceeded and got the ball rolling.
Posted by senseiseth 6 years ago
senseiseth
Because if you can answer that question, then you can then make the argument that state's rights was the major cause of the war.

However, if you just say that state's rights caused the war because of what people said when it began that's not the real reason.

Hitler invaded Poland because he said that his forces were attacked, yet history proved him wrong.

The war with Mexico was started due to an aggression by Mexico on our troops, and yet we were the ones pushing for a war in order to gain more land.

So any history student would learn the lesson to look beyond what is in front of them, in order to gain a better understanding of the entire situation.
Posted by senseiseth 6 years ago
senseiseth
But you still haven't answered the question: "What was the state's issue about?"

All you do is repeat the statement that the war was caused by state's right.

So, answer the question, what was the issue that spurred the state's rights issue?
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by senseiseth 5 years ago
senseiseth
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Vote Placed by jesus_lovesu 6 years ago
jesus_lovesu
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Vote Placed by kkcatlvr 6 years ago
kkcatlvr
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Vote Placed by Stereoprism 6 years ago
Stereoprism
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07 
Vote Placed by Nox 6 years ago
Nox
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:06 
Vote Placed by DesolateSights 6 years ago
DesolateSights
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Vote Placed by craiglightcap 6 years ago
craiglightcap
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:06 
Vote Placed by Democritas 6 years ago
Democritas
senseisethDemocritasTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07