States’ rights were a factor in the Civil War

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell as, in my opinion, unfairly criticized for not mentioning slavery in his original Confederate History Month proclamation ("Obama: Slavery omission ‘unacceptable,’ " Web, National, Friday). In any event, he apologized the next day, stating that the original document had been meant to promote tourism in Virginia, which next year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

There are two questions here that need to be considered. First, was the governor deliberately trying to be demeaning by not mentioning slavery? Second, why are we still arguing about the causes of the Civil War 150 years later?

The mainstream media, political pundits, members of the opposing party and some black leaders have brought undue attention to this incident by chastising the governor for his lack of sensitivity and knowledge of the Civil War. I am certain Mr. McDonnell not only is knowledgeable about the war’s events but also, like most of us, recognizes the evil connected to slavery and condemns all aspects of it.

Even though President Lincoln’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, made it clear that slavery was not the issue, everyone knew he opposed slavery. Lincoln did state, however, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists." He also made it clear that any escaped slaves would be returned to their original owners. Yet the war started one month after this speech anyway. In fact, seven states already had seceded before Lincoln was even inaugurated. Four of the 11 states that seceded had proclaimed in their own state resolutions that slavery was indeed the issue over which they were seceding. Even though not all the seceding states mentioned slavery in their resolutions, it most likely was an unstated factor.

Northern industrial leaders had persuaded Congress to levy unfair tariffs on English goods being shipped to the South. The northern manufacturers wanted to force the South into buying their more expensive goods. If Congress had abolished the tariffs and allowed each state to decide for itself on the slavery issue, we may not have had the Civil War.

We didn’t actually need a civil war to abolish slavery, as it was being abolished slowly throughout the world anyway. Hopefully, our leaders will recognize that we still have states’ rights issues today and will correct them before we resort to another civil war.

St. Joseph, Mo.