Thanks Pete for the insightful response.
I think that during the pre-hostility’s period the South’s emphasis on the 9th and 10th Amendments (state’s rights, etc) indicates their embrace, predicated on economic concerns, for the founding ideal of the sanctity of the ‘state’ as the constitutional ground of the polis. The question of moral/immoral secession is essentially a political question that rests with the will of the people in convention.
I think the Southern states that ‘went out’ did so for a number of reasons, not just African chattel slavery (ACS). ACS was interwoven throughout the national culture and during the founding period, among the white population, ACS was pretty much accepted as a cultural norm in both the North and South. In fact while the Constitution contained a clause that provided for the outlawing of the slave trade for a twenty year period, that document also made concessions to slavery; Article IV, Section 2, and of course the ‘federal ratio.’ But, I’m only going over common knowledge. When it came to ACS most folks, North and South, saw it as an institution that should be gradually extirpated.
As you know, there were a number of intrinsic political issues in play during this period: the tariff, oft overlooked by the politically correct in the continuing effort to locate Southern apologists on the side of pro-slavery, the compact theory, and Nullification, an issue that is again in the public square.
Perhaps the most important issue of those days was not the economically doomed ACS, but the question of the compact theory. What was it that the founder’s wrought? A republic grounded on the idea that the individual states were the fundamental political unit with sufficient rights to constitutionally limit the actions of the central government or a strong, consolidated federal regime? I might mention here the position of Madison and Jefferson in their “The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798”, the Hartford Convention, and Calhoun’s “Exposition and Protest” to illustrate the dominate position of the compact theory (state’s rights) during this period. In fact “ . . . American nationalists had never systematically defended perpetual Union.”
Consequently, I would argue that while the question of ACS permeated society, the inherent issue of the ‘late unpleasantness’ lay in competing visions of the central government. And, while most of the ‘people’ held with the compact theory and limited government in Washington City, the bankers, manufacturers, and mercantilists of the North (the so-called ‘monied interests) embraced the obvious economic advantages inherent in consolidation.
Jeffery Rogers Hummel in his seminal study, “Emancipating the Slaves, Enslaving Free Men,” provides a great deal of insight in his analysis of the results of the ‘late unpleasantness:’
“The Yankee Leviathan co-opted and transformed feminisim the same way it had co-opted and transformed abolitionism. It had shattered the prewar congruence between antislavery, antigovernment, and anti-war radicalism. It had permanently reveresed the implicit constitutional settlement that had made the central and state governments revenue-independent. It had acquired for central authority such new functions as subsidizing privileged businesses, managing the currency, providing welfare to veterans, and protecting the nation’s morals at the very moment that local and state governments were also expanding. And it had set dangerous precedents with respect to taxes, fiat money, conscription, and the suppression of dissent.”
The War for Southern Independence was caused by a myriad of immoral acts, usurpations, and the threat to ‘domestick’ institutions however, inherently it was about the expansion of the power of the central state to benefit an elite. Ironically, the war which the Lincolnites tell us began to restore the Union and ended with the goal of destroying the ‘peculiar institution,’ ultimately resulted in the demise of the republic.