The case against secession was best made before 1861 by James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, the 15th and 16th Presidents of the United States. Buchanan made his case during his December 3, 1860 State of the Union address and Lincoln made his case during his March 4, 1861 first inaugural address. Unfortunately for their cases against secession, their speeches were filled with a smorgasbord of logical fallacies and unsupported political rhetoric.
Their speeches also showcase how politicians mislead the public, wittingly or unwittingly, into policies that are destructive to the entire nation. The war that transpired as a result of the general acceptance of their rhetoric was completely unnecessary and avoidable. Its prevention required a President willing to act within constitutional bounds and only resort to war for a just cause and then only as the very last resort to restore justice under God’s Law.
Much of the world’s current instability in relation to the United States can be traced to a lack of a cohesive long term foreign policy and American interventionism. Although, America’s foreign policy changes with every incoming presidential administration in which each President decides, based on political expediency, in what countries he will interfere and what polices he will pursue, one thing remains constant from administration to administration, interventionism.
As a result of interventionism, neither America’s allies nor its enemies know what to expect out of America from one four year period to the next, except that America will interfere or not interfere with their sovereignty if it fits the political agenda of the elected President. Recent examples of this include involvement in the Contra War in the 1980s, the Kosovo War in the 1990s, and the Iraq War in the 2000s.
In addition to active involvement in the internal affairs of other governments, America’s foreign military bases, financial support for foreign governments, and membership in collective security agreements such as NATO, SEATO and the UN are symptomatic of our interventionist foreign policy.
Many Americans are waking up to the seemingly insurmountable problems caused by decades of failed policies and short term “fixes” to systemic issues by both political parties. Most Americans do not understand the root cause of many modern issues and consequently support polices that increase problems instead of resolving them. The key to understanding the root cause of most modern national issues is in understanding Lincoln’s political agenda and how he violated the Constitution to achieve it.
Roughly 150 years later, the war fought on American soil by Americans against Americans, which, including civilian deaths, cost over 700,000 American lives is still a very sensitive subject.
Much changed in American society as a result of the war. America went from being a nation of individual States with a limited government to an amalgamation of States with a near absolute government; from a diverse nation with a variety of local laws to a homogeneous nation with uniform local laws dictated by a central government. From a government that regulated commerce to protect the weak against the strong to one that interferes with commerce to protect the strong against the weak. From a nation that tempered the excesses of big business to protect citizens to one that promotes the excesses of big business that exploit citizens. From a nation that listened to the voices of all constituencies to one that rides roughshod over constituencies based on the unrestrained will of the majority. These changes are made somewhat palatable if Americans believe the war was fought for a good cause and so school children are still taught the war was fought to end American slavery.
The Law of Nations, which governs how one nation relates to another, was so much a part of our founding culture that the framers of the Constitution only referenced it once in the Constitution, in which it states: “To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and offences against the Law of Nations.” Although, only referenced once in the Constitution it was referenced thirteen times, according to Madison’s notes, by Constitutional Convention delegates during the Constitutional Convention and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story in his Commentaries on the Constitution referenced it numerous times when expounding on Constitutional clauses dealing with foreign policy. Additionally, one can also see evidence of the Law of Nations articulated in George Washington’s farewell address, the Monroe Doctrine, in every President’s Congressional request for a declaration of war until the Civil War, and in other writings of our founders. The absence of a declaratory statement identifying the Law of Nations as the foundation of American foreign policy should not be taken to mean that its tenants are any less binding today. Just like English Common Law was the foundation upon which the Constitution was written, so too is the Law of Nations the foundation upon which the framers defined the foreign policy powers delegated to our national government from the people.