The Civil War can be explained as a war between pro and antislavery states, whereby slavery was a significant catalyst to secession that resulted in the war. Many scholars, authors, and key public figures during that time had different opinions and ideas on whether secession that would lead in the Civil War was just or unjust. The war would later resolve three commonly asked questions of whether the USA would be dissolved into a confederation of sovereign states or a unified nation with a sovereign national government, and if all men would live equally with liberty. Abraham Lincoln and Preston were some of the profound people who addressed the public on issues concerning secessions form the Union. They form the basis of this assignment as they had different opinions on whether states had the right to secede from the Union or not. According to Preston, the secession of the Southern states from the Union was just and their right due to the disparities experienced in the South politically, economically, and socially. On the other hand, Lincoln felt secession was against the law and constitution, and it was his mandate as the president to “preserve, protect, and defend it (Lincoln).”
Secession from the Union for Preston was the most appropriate and just thing for the Southern state. He shows this belief when he says in his address, “I should make an argument before you in proof of the right of secession (Preston).” To defend this point and argument, he outlines and explains five main reasons why secession is legal and just among the Southern States. Primarily, Preston believes that the disparities in the political arena of the country, where slave States were excluded from any governmental action, their sovereignty assumed, and lack of admission into the Union was enough to justify the secession action. Secondly, lack of protection among not only the slave states but also their property is reason enough for the slave states to secede from the Union. Preston states, “A majority of the non-slaveholding States have not only refused to carry out the provisions of the Constitution and laws to protect slave property but have made stringent laws to prevent the execution of those provisions (Preston).” He tries to show that economically and socially, Southern states are facing disparities and inequality that have never been addressed. Thus, seceding would be a legal and just action to take.
Thirdly, Preston believes it is legal for the Southern States to secede from the Union as the antislavery states keep invading their states and annihilating them, which is a felony. In addition to that, Preston states that the fact that the ‘highest constituted authority’ approves of these invasions, clearly shows the non-slave holding states do not protect or accord them their rights.
Preston further shows many ways in which the Northern states have played a crucial role in their decision to secede from the Union. He shows ways such as political inequalities, unlawful invasions approved by the Northern states, perseverance to exterminate slavery on a religious basis, and implementation of stringent laws against property claiming and protection. Preston widely shows how the Northern States have used religion to deem slavery as immoral and a grave offense against God. “And many of the States by legislative action, have declared that the institution of slavery, as it exists in the Southern States, is an offence to God, and, therefore, they are bound by the most sacred duty of man to exterminate that institution (Preston).” Slavery is acceptable in the Southern states, but when the Northern states use legislative power to exterminate it, they are threatened and forced to secede from the Union for survival. Preston outlines political inequalities, such as excluding the states from all governmental actions, lack of the right to claim property, and lack of sovereignty when their states are invaded under the instructions of the Northern legislation.
Lincoln, on the other hand, argues that states should not break away or secede from the Union. He states, “I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual.” Perpetuity is unchanging or unending of something (Lincoln). Lincoln further states that the Union would endure forever, since it is impossible to destroy or break it, “impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself (Lincoln).” Lincoln states that no states can secede from the Union solely while doing it lawfully, as it requires other states to rescind, and any attempts to secede would be termed as a rebel or insurgency. Lincoln explains that seceding from the Union should be done lawfully and with the approval or repeal from other states. Secondly, he compares secession with divorcees and asserts that a country cannot break and go out of presence as the divorcees would. Physically, that is impossible since states will remain to be neighbors and cannot completely go out of presence (Lincoln). They would face each other and decide to have cordial or hostile relations. Concisely, Lincoln tries to show that states can break away from the Union; however, it would be the hardest decision to make. This is an indirect way to illustrate the inability of states to break away from the Union.
Abraham views the South as a significant half that completes the Union. When Lincoln says, “I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them.” He tries to maintain the peace in the two regions without pointing fingers or causing any conflict (Lincoln). This shows that he seeks to unite the areas and remain peaceful despite the disagreement on slavery being present. As the president, Lincoln shows that he is ready to take up the mandate of the Presidency and maintain peace and order in the regions. “The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.” Through these words, he shows the need for diplomacy, peaceful coexistence, and he would use the power and authority granted to ensure wars, and bloodshed are avoided (Lincoln). Lincoln is not only ready to protect the Americans (whether from the Northern or the Southern states) but also the government, where he asserts that he must preserve, protect, and defend it.
The coming of
the Civil War is seen when the Southern States feel secession is the legal
action to take due to the disparities and stringent laws placed on them by the
Northern States. However, as the president, Lincoln tries to solve the conflict
through diplomatic and amicable ways. He explains how difficult and damaging
seceding would be, thus highlight discouraging secession.
Lincoln, Abraham. First Inaugural Address. 4 March 1861. 2 December 2019. <file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/Abraham_Lincoln_First_Inaugural_Address_1861.pdf>
Preston, Hon. John S. Address Of Hon. John S. Preston To the Convention of Virginia. 19 February 1861. 2 December 2019.
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