Who would I side with in the Civil War?
I’ve always known that the Civil War was about more than slavery, but until recently I had never studied the Civil War in any depth. However, now that I have an idea of the issues involved, I can finally say with which side I would have sided. But before I can tell you which side that is, we need to take a look at a few concepts.
First, we need to establish that the American government was founded on the idea that government gains its legitimacy through the consent of the governed. Without that consent, the government loses its right to govern. This idea is clearly articulated in the Declaration of Independence.
Second, when the southern states seceded, they no longer consented to being governed. Consequently, the US no longer had any legitimate claim on these states and had no right to intervene in their affairs. If government receives its legitimacy through consent of the governed and that consent is lost, then that legitimacy is also lost.
However, the southern states, when they chose to secede, did not have the consent of their governed because slaves were not allowed to vote. Therefore, this decision was essentially nullified. This then gave the Union the right to intervene.
The US government was also established on the principle that all men are created equal with unalienable rights. What was meant by “all men,” however, had never been established. The nation was left to decide whether or not blacks were men.
This had been left up to the individual states to answer until just before the war came about. During the years preceding the war, the northern states had come to believe that the phrase literally meant all men, regardless of race. On the other hand, the southern states did not want this and thought that the decision should be theirs to make for themselves. It was largely due to this conflict that the war finally came about.
So who would I have sided with? I would have sided with the Union. When the southern states chose to secede, they did so without the proper consent of the governed, thus nullifying the decision. The ideas upon which the nation had been founded needed to be defined on a federal level, and the north was able to bring that about through the war.