The more I read about the war’s origins, the more I dislike the slaveocrats. The Lost Cause tradition has swathed the discussion in the States’ Rights argument, but even a scratch on its surface reveals the ugly truth beneath. Eric Foner agrees in this article for Politico.
Whenever I lecture to non-academic audiences about the Civil War era, someone is bound to insist that the South fought for states’ rights rather than the long-term survival of slavery. In an extreme version of this view, Abraham Lincoln was not the Great Emancipator but a tyrant, the creator of the leviathan national state that essentially enslaved white Americans. This reading of the conflict is why a remarkable number of libertarians, self-proclaimed defenders of individual freedom, sympathize with the Old South, and why some even make excuses for slavery.
But this history omits one important part of antebellum history: When it came to enforcing and maintaining the peculiar institution against an increasingly anti-slavery North, the Old South was all too happy to forget its fear of federal power—a little-remembered fact in our modern retellings of the conflict.
When the South Wasn’t a Fan of States’ Rights – Eric Foner – POLITICO Magazine.