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Resolved: "The USA was justified in its declaration of was against the CSA"

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/5/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 737 times Debate No: 84589
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
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Hello there,

The full resolution is as follows:

Resolved: "The United States of America (USA) was justified in its declaration and pursuit of war against the Confederate States of America (CSA) in the early 1860s"

To be clear:

Pro/For/Affirmative (Aff.) will argue that the USA was justified in its pursuit of war with the CSA. The Aff. will have to defend the actions of the USA.

Con/Against/Negative (Neg.) will argue that the USA not only was unjustified in its pursuit of war with the CSA, but the the southern states that seceded were justified in their secession. The Neg. will have to defend the actions of the CSA.

I will be carrying the burdens of the Con/Against/Negative. If you decide to accept this debate, you will be carrying the burdens of the Pro/For/Affirmative.


No Ad Hominem
No Kritiks
You must cite ALL sources IN-CASE or else they cannot be supported
You are allowed to miss ONE round but you'd be giving your opponent a chance to expound his case.
And last, but not least, you must respect everyone, debaters and voters alike.

Thank you and Good luck


Greetings Arrowjaw,

I eagerly look forward to having my first debate with you.

Resolved: "The United States of America (USA) was justified in its declaration and pursuit of war against the Confederate States of America (CSA) in the early 1860s"

In order to uphold the above resolution, I must successfully prove that both of the aspects contained within are justifiable. For declaration of war, I will offer a thorough legal argument in favor of the USA. For the pursuit of war, I will offer one other argument in favor of the USA. I will begin with the former.

Declaration of War:

The USA is justified in declaring war against the CSA because the latter unlawfully seceded from the union.

Since the adoption of the U.S Constitution, Northern and Southern states struggled to maintain unity over several issues:

"In the spring of 1861, decades of simmering tensions between the northern and southern United States over issues including states" rights versus federal authority, westward expansion and slavery exploded into the American Civil War (1861-65)"


My argument focuses on the clash of rights, namely that the CSA did not have the constitutional right to secede.
The first evidence appears in Article IV, Section 3, which states that:

"New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

Notice two things about this provision.

First, only admission into the union is mentioned; nowhere in the U.S Constitution is there stipulated a process for secession from the Union. Thus, considering that the purpose (according to the Preamble) of the U.S. Constitution was to "... form a more perfect Union" (which infers that the lenient Articles of Association were imperfect), there existed and continues to exist no constitutional allowance for secession.

Second, states could have divided or merged within the union on one condition: the state legislatures and Congress must both approve. Theoretically, the Southern states could have "seceded" by merging into a massive, quasi-Confederate state and this would have been legitimate. However, when South Carolina seceded in December, 1860, it committed two egregious offences. On one hand, it outright abandoned the union and, on the other, did so without the consent of Congress.

Given the absence of a constitutional provision for secession and also the proved breach of protocol by the Southern states, I conclude that secession is unconstitutional and, therefore, legally unjustifiable. Furthermore, the 10th Amendment does not afford states the ability to secede as said power is explicitly and implicitly withheld.

The second evidence for the U.S. Constitution disallowing secession comes from James Madison and Joseph Story.

James Madison, who has been deemed the "Father of the Constitution", is a credible authority given his classical education and his involvement in getting the Constitution ratified (i.e. speaking at the state conventions, writing essays for the Federalist, etc.). If anyone knew whether the Constitution permitted for secession, it would be him:

"Any federal republic by its very nature invited challenge to central control, a danger that James Madison recognized. He sought at the convention a clause that would prohibit secession from the proposed union once the states had ratified the Constitution. In debate over other points, Madison repeatedly warned that secession or 'disunion' was a major concern."


Joseph Story, who wrote his famous Commentaries on the Constitution, concurred with Madison. In his aforementioned work, Story comments on the meaning of the Preamble:

"The language is, 'We, the people of the United States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.' The people do ordain and establish, not contract and stipulate with each other. The people of the United States, not the distinct people of a particular state with the people of the other states. The people ordain and establish a "constitution," not a "confederation." The distinction between a constitution and a confederation is well known and understood. The latter, or at least a pure confederation, is a mere treaty or league between independent states, and binds no longer, than during, the good pleasure of each. It rests forever in articles of compact, where each is, or may be the supreme judge of its own rights and duties. The former is a permanent form of government, where the powers, once given, are irrevocable, and cannot be resumed or withdrawn at pleasure. Whether formed by a single people, or by different societies of people, in their political capacity, a constitution, though originating in consent, becomes, when ratified, obligatory, as a fundamental ordinance or law. The constitution of a confederated republic, that is, of a national republic formed of several states, is, or at least may be, not less an irrevokable form of government, than the constitution of a state formed and ratified by the aggregate of the several counties of the state."

(Source: Note: Look for " 352)

Therefore, according to both Madison and Story, the Constitution ought not and does not permit secession.

A third and final evidence that the Constitution disallows for secession is found in President Abraham Lincoln's First Presidential Address, in which he debunks the legitimacy of secession:

"Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union.
But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.
It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances."

(Source: , Note: Look for paragraphs 14-16)

Thus, according to Lincoln - an esteemed lawyer himself, the Constitution cannot be construed to permit secession.

For these three evidences, the CSA did not have the constitutional right to secede.

Pursuance of War:

I diverted most of my allotted characters toward the issue of secession, where I feel the debate will be most fierce.
Yet, there remains the question of whether the USA's wartime actions are indeed justifiable.

Let me begin with a brief concession: both the USA and CSA committed immoral acts. The murder, rape, and pillaging of civilians on both sides is a great example. While General Sherman's infamous March to the Sea, in which he indiscriminately slaughtered Confederate soldiers and Carolinian residents, is admittedly indefensible, the CSA had its share of transgression as well. Neither faction completely adhered to the classical rules of Just War Theory. Thus, this is a moot point.

Nevertheless, I will argue that the USA's handling of the Civil War is more justifiable than the CSA's.

First of all, the CSA was a collection of disaffected states in rebellion, not an actual sovereign government because it's formation by secession lacked legitimacy (as previously established). Consider also that the attack on Fort Sumter was initiated by the CSA vis-"-vis naval bombardment in April, 1861. Accordingly, the USA's efforts to reclaim the rebelling states and repel the belligerent rebels constitutes a defensive war. This is important because, according to both natural and common law, the aggressors' actions are always less defensible than the defendants' counteractions. Think about it. If I attacked someone, the law would label me an assailant and I would consequently be shown little mercy in court. In the same way, the CSA started the Civil War by attacking Fort Sumter and thus began an offensive war. Granted, even if the CSA tried to ward off the USA's invasion of the South, it needs to be remembered that the USA was simply retaliating against the CSA's instigation of the Civil War. This matters because it proves that the USA's wartime actions were more justifiable than the CSA's due to the former fighting a defensive war.

Second, the Civil War was a war of attrition, meaning that victory could only be achieving by depleting the enemy of the means to fight. The USA did this through military campaigns in the Western and Eastern theatres, blockades of Southern ports, and so forth. Moreover, the USA was more modernized than the CSA and, thus, had a distinct advantage over the mainly agricultural South. Factually, the CSA was doomed to lose even before the Civil War started. But instead of prolonging the war and extenuating the South's suffering, the USA - under Generals Grant and Sherman - plowed through the South and nobly ended the war at Appomattox in 1865.

Thanks for reading; I await your response.

- Mr. Speaker
Debate Round No. 1


I look forward to debating you as well.

I presume that you accept all rules and regulation put forth and presented in the introduction, as you have accepted my debate.

Before I begin I would like to lay out what I plan to present and argue in my case. First and foremost, I will provide definitions. If my opponent does not present counter definitions, he automatically accepts mine. After definitions, I will analyze the resolution and strive to give you, the voter that is, a better understanding of it. After that I will move into my contention on my stance. Lastly I will respond to my opponents arguments.

Nota Bene: I am not professing support of any of the CSA's values, nor do I agree with more contemporary versions of the CSA. I am debating this topic because, as the great philosopher and statesman Edward Burke once stated, "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."


As the Con/Against or the Negative, as I will call myself in this debate, I declare that the resolution was false, and that its counter is instead true: "The CSA was justified in its secession from the union."


In any debate, we must define terms so that we may ascertain what we are actually arguing about.
USA: The United States of America; pretty obvious
CSA: The Confederate States of America, formed in 1861 and dissolved after its defeat by the USA in 1865; commonly called the Confederacy.
Justified: "to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded" [1]
Declaration of War (Not "Was" as is in the title of the debate): "A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another." [2]

Resolutional Analysis:

In this resolutional analysis I will be explaining the resolution to you so my case makes more sense. Foremost, you must remember that it is my duty to uphold the opposite of the resolution. The opposite of the resolution is as follows: "The CSA was justified in both its secession and following war with the USA" (which I will call the Union for this debate). My first observation of this resolution is the word justified is not defined as a specific kind of justification. It is up to the debaters to show which form(s) of justification their sides uphold the best. My second, and last, observation is that the terminology "declaration of war" also includes action leading up to the declaration of war. My opponent, thus, must justify the actions of the USA before the declaration of war.

Contention I: The CSA Was Justified in its Secession from the USA By Moral Right and By Law

The CSA was justified in its secession from the union because, by law, they had the formal right and by human nature they had the moral right. If I may quote the declaration of independence itself: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another...they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation" [3]. The most fundamental document in US history, the founding papers which created a new nation from a small collection of colonies outright, states in its starting lines that any country on earth, any body of people or colony or territory has the basic, human right to separate from the patria, the fatherland, from which it was begot. In the final lines of the quote I just stated, it is said that a people should declare why they are separating from their fatherland before they actually do. The CSA most certainly did this. At this link here [4] you can see that each state that seceded presented major reasons why it left the Union.

Again I quote the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" [3]. Here it is stated that all people have basic rights. One of these is liberty. Before I explain how liberty ties in with this, let me provide a little background. The north and the south had become increasingly separated since the revolutionary war. The south had remained an agrarian and rural society with predominantly traditional and conservative people. The north, however, had evolved into a booming, industrious part of the US. New political ideas about how the country should be run we very common in the north. Eventually, the north's new progressive ideals began to press down on the south. Slavery (Which I in no way condone or support), a tradition that had been practiced in America since before the British has formed acute colonies there, was deeply frowned upon by northerners. Soon progressives such as Abraham Lincoln began to immerse from the roiling sea of politics. Immediately the progressives took action against slavery. The southern states were very abrasive to this sudden breach of their tradition. They felt that their liberty was being taken away. made four charts of the major states of the confederacy that explain why the south seceded. 3 out of 4 times the most predominant reason was slavery [5]. This brings us to another quote from the Declaration of Independence: "...That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of [Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [This government], and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness..." [3]. As we can see, according to the Declaration of Independence itself the south was justified and permitted, by law and by moral right to secede from the United States. They had the right to set up their government as they wished. Their basic rights were being trampled upon by the United States, therefore they had every right to leave the Union.

Responses To Opponents Arguments:

As his first reason or contention for the unjustification of the south's secession from the Union, by opponent presents this statement: "The USA is justified in declaring war against the CSA because the latter unlawfully seceded from the Union." I have shown, in my previous contentions, that the CSA did, in fact, have the ability to secede from the Union under law according to one of the most fundamental documents in history: the Declaration of Independence. The south's secession from the Union is very similar to colonial America's revolution against the British Empire in the late 1700s. The thirteen colonies rebelled against Great Britain because of the British Government's oppression of the people. They rebelled because the British were impressing their views and traditions upon them and forcing unfair taxes on them. The CSA rebelled because the Union was impressing their views of slavery upon them, because the northern government was becoming increasingly estranged from the people of the south, and because the northern politicians were preventing expansion of southern traditions into new territories. As we can see, the similarities between the colonial Americans and the confederates are staggering. The CSA felt the same way our founding fathers did. They felt backed into a corner by the reasons I have stated above. Therefore, according to our US Declaration of Independence, the CSA did have the moral obligation to its people to secede, and the lawful right.

My opponent then proceeds to state, and I quote: "My argument focuses on the clash of rights...". He then goes on to state that the constitution does not allow the CSA to secede by law. Though law is an important aspect of everyday life, it is obvious that revolution is neither justified nor permitted by law. For example, let my bring up the American Civil Rights movement which took place in the mid-20th century. The civil rights movement required that people break the law in order to change the country. My earlier example of the colonial Americans applies to this as well. As we can see, revolution cannot be bound by strict law, instead it must be measured by moral urgency, which the southern people most definitely had.

Lastly, my opponent brings up the example that the south was on the offensive most of the Civil War, but he does not present any major reasons why this helps his case. Instead, this statement helps my case. The reason is this: an offensive action by rebels shows that they are ready and willing to stand and fight against a formidable enemy. If a rebellion did not have the will power nor the justification to fight like this, they would crumble swiftly. This shows the the CSA had the moral justification to attack the north, and in turn, to defend itself.

To conclude:

I have shown how the CSA not only had the moral right to secede, but also the lawful one. I have shown how my opponent's case has no warrant as structured law has no place in the moral urgency of rebellion, and I have shown that the south's offensive action in the war shows that their rebellion was justified.

Thus have I spoken and thus I await thine response.




Before I refute Con's contentions and clarify my own, I would like to thank my opponent for being thorough. Far too many times, online debaters are apathetic in their research and argument; I appreciate my opponent's efforts to make this round a stellar one.

First, I contest one of Con's definitions. He used the Wikipedia definition of Declaration of War to mean "...a formal act by one nation... against another." This definition is inappropriate because the CSA was never legally its own nation; it was still a part - although they denied it - of the USA. After all, the conflict is called the Civil War and this infers one nation fighting against itself. Don't believe me? Consider the French Revolution. It was also a Civil War because it posited the French monarchy against the French commoners. How about Britain during the 1600's? King Charles I was deposed during a Civil War between his loyal Cavaliers and his enemies the Roundheads. Also in British history, the War of the Roses, the Golden Revolution, and the American Revolution (which Con used for one of his arguments that I will shortly address). My point is that the American Civil War was similar to other, foreign civil wars because all of them had one thing in common: one nation fighting among itself. If Con's incorrect definition is accepted, then it implies that the American Civil War was two nations combating each other. That, as I have shown, is simply not the case. Therefore, I order Con to revise it.

Second, while on definitions, Con did not define "pursuit of war", which I think is strange considering that it is part of the resolution we're debating. So, Con, please define it!

Now, having "dispensed with the formalities" (Source: Darth Vader, Star Wars Episode V), I will rebut Con's two contentions.
They are: "The CSA was justified in its secession from the union because, by law, they had the formal right and by human nature they had the moral right"

1. The CSA's secession is justified by Moral Law.

Con supported his claim by quoting from the Declaration of Independence. He also favorably compared the American Revolution to the Civil War. I will begin with the Declaration of Independence.

Yes, I concede that people have a moral right to disband from any government that infringes on their humans rights. However, as Con himself stated, " made four charts of the major states of the confederacy that explain why the south seceded. 3 out of 4 times the most predominant reason was slavery [5]. " The South left to protect their "right" to slavery! Slavery is not a human right, even if it was considered so by some back then. Con's moral argument is ridiculous because the South seceded mainly to secure an IMMORAL "right!" Therefore, the Declaration of Independence is inapplicable to the South and does not support Con's argument.

As for the American Revolution, I discussed this in my objection to Con's definitions. The American Revolution was comprised of two governments (not one because that would infer a civil war) combating each other. If Con contests this fact, I will resort to proving it in Round 3. But I think it's validity is obvious. By contrast, the Civil War was one nation divided against each other. Thus, Con's argument is a fallacious false analogy and ought to be rejected as such.

2. The CSA's secession is justified by Law.

My response is simple: What law? The Declaration of Independence? It's not a statutory law, it's a resolution! Proof? Never has the Supreme Court used the Declaration of Independence to decide a case. The D of I has always been used from inspiration, not legal reasoning.

However, I have quoted from the "Supreme Law of the Land" (Source: The U.S. Constitution, Article V) and will do so again.

PAY CLOSE ATTENTION. This should settle the debate!

Article I, Section 10:

"No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance or Confederation; ..."

Did you notice the word "Confederation"? What was the South called? Oh, that's right, it was the Confederacy!

Here's another important fact: The U.S. Constitution supersedes the Declaration of Independence! Even if the thirteen original states had the power to secede, it was relinquished, forfeited, conceded, etc. when they voluntarily ratified the U.S. Constitution.

All of my sources - which Con failed to address - agree with me. James Madison hated secession. Joseph Story said that the Constitution prohibited secession. And President Abraham Lincoln, although admittedly biased, gave a logical, articulated explanation of why secession is no longer allowed. I have proved this fact and, unless Con can unilaterally nullify the U.S Constitution, I deserve to win this debate on that point alone.

Finally, I would like to respond to Con's refutations to my arguments.

1. "I have shown, in my previous contentions, that the CSA did, in fact, have the ability to secede from the Union under law according to one of the most fundamental documents in history: the Declaration of Independence."

Again, the Declaration of Independence is NOT law. It's a resolution which can be used for inspiration, but not for legal proof! Yes, the D of I is a fundamental document, but it is irrelevant to this debate. If anything, the D of I helps my case because the South seceded to defeat an IMMORAL right. Until Con proves that subjugating blacks falls under "life, liberty, and property", then the South's secession remains unjustified.

2. "Though law is an important aspect of everyday life, it is obvious that revolution is neither justified nor permitted by law"

Ok, if revolution is not permitted by law, then why do you try to justify the South's rebellion with a "legal right."
Don't you see it!? Con just contradicted himself! He stabbed himself in the back!

Now, regarding the Civil Rights Movement, Con says: "The civil rights movement required that people break the law in order to change the country."

Yes, it did. But that's irrelevant. The difference between the CSA's secession and the Civil Rights movement is crystal clear! The former left the Union to - once again - defend the IMMORAL right of slavery. The latter did mostly non-violent resistance in order to have the U.S recognize its MORAL, human rights. I am sorry, but comparing the CSA's rebellion and the Civil Rights movement's resistance is like saying that apples and oranges are the same. Not only that, but Con's comparison is downright offensive! I demand that Con apologize for tainting the Civil Rights movement to attempt to justify the CSA's slavery. The two historical occurrences are antithetical opposites; they do not belong together!

3. "Lastly, my opponent brings up the example that the south was on the offensive most of the Civil War, but he does not present any major reasons why this helps his case."

I did present reasons. Maybe Con was sleeping when he read my arguments? (This is a joke, not a personal attack).

Here's what I said:

"Granted, even if the CSA tried to ward off the USA's invasion of the South, it needs to be remembered that the USA was simply retaliating against the CSA's instigation of the Civil War. This matters because it proves that the USA's wartime actions were more justifiable than the CSA's due to the former fighting a defensive war."

Contrary to what Con said, an offensive war implies aggression, not justification. Whoever defends is the most likely to be justified, just like when homeowners combat robbers or if Ukraine fought to reclaim Crimea from Russia. Here's the fact: The CSA started the Civil War when it bombarded Fort Sumter in April, 1861. The USA, of course like any rational country, declared war in return. With this knowledge, how can Con's assessment be correct? According to Con's theory, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the imperialist country was justified simply because it was offensive. That's absurd!

Well, as I have shown, Con is incorrect on multiple accounts. I do believe I have settled the debate.

Even so, I eagerly await Round 3.

- Mr. Speaker.
Debate Round No. 2


arrowjaw forfeited this round.


I am disappointed by your negligence, arrowjaw. Your choice to forfeit has robbed both myself and readers of a truly intriguing topic and debate. I thought you were better than ignoring your responsibilities.

In any case, I deserve to win this debate on two accounts:

1. My arguments have been re-emphasized and his rebuttals have been refuted.

2. Arrowjaw forfeited. Because I have been robbed, I am entitled the win for recompense.

This is a tragedy.

- Mr. Speaker
Debate Round No. 3


arrowjaw forfeited this round.


My arguments stand and await response.
Debate Round No. 4


arrowjaw forfeited this round.


The debate is over. Arrowjay failed to address my arguements. I deserve to win by default.
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Mr.Speaker 2 years ago

Are we even debating "pursuit of war" anymore? Most of our discussion seems to revolve around "declaration of war". With your permission, Arrowjaw, I would like to focus on "declaration of war" and drop "pursuit of war" because it is clear that both the CSA and USA did indefensible atrocities. I don't want to have a moot debate, do you?

- Mr. Speaker
Posted by arrowjaw 2 years ago
~In reply to Mr Speakers Comment~

Thank you for informing me,

Posted by Mr.Speaker 2 years ago

I appreciate your thorough reply. Unfortunately, I am occupied with other tasks and will not be able to respond for at least two days. But, rest assured, I have no intention of forfeiting and will reply before the time limit elapses.

- Mr. Speaker
No votes have been placed for this debate.