Conflict between the U.S. northern and southern states, which seceded to form the Confederacy

The American Civil War (also known as the American War Between the States and some other names) was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865. The War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Largely as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861, when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, shortly after President Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. The loyalists of the Union in the northern states proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the south, who advocated for states' powers to uphold slavery.

Articles

America's Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861, by Murray Rothbard, The Costs of War, May 1994
Based on a talk given at the Mises Institute's Costs of War conference, published in The Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson (editor)
"We remember the care with which the civilized nations had developed classical international law. Above all, civilians must not be targeted; wars must be limited. But the North insisted on creating a conscript army, a nation in arms, and broke the 19th-century rules of war by specifically plundering and slaughtering civilians ... Sherman's infamous March through Georgia was one of the great war crimes, and crimes against humanity, of the past century-and-a-half."
Benjamin Tucker, Liberty and Individualist Anarchism [PDF], by Wendy McElroy, The Independent Review, 1997
Presents a short biography of Tucker and then the history of the Liberty journal, including its major themes, the debates over Stirnerite egoism vs. natural rights and its literary and international coverage, concluding with commentary
"True to the maxim 'war is the health of the state,' the Civil War had nearly killed the radical individualist movement in America. The rampant growth of government caused by the war and its aftermath had created an environment increasingly hostile to individual rights. ... the Civil War had dealt such a severe blow to the individualist movement that it never recovered. The war ushered in conscription, the suspension of habeas corpus, widespread censorship, military law, political prisoners, and legal tender legislation, as well as soaring taxes and tariffs. The status and functions of government inflated as never before."
Benjamin Tucker, Individualism, & Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order, by Wendy McElroy, Literature of Liberty, 1981
Bibliographical essay covering the people and radical movements that influenced Tucker in his founding and publishing of Liberty, its major themes and contributors
"The Civil War dealt such a severe blow to individualism that it never recovered. ... Schisms within the libertarian movement resulting from the Civil War were equally destructive. Some of the abolitionists welcomed the conflict as a holy war to end slavery. Others considered it an inevitable evil and so supported the North as the lesser of two evils which at least promised the desirable goal of emancipation. Even the staunch pacifist William Lloyd Garrison supported the North much to the horror of Ezra Heywood and Lysander Spooner, who saw the War as a massive violation of life and property, which could not be justified by any goal."
Gone With the Wind: An American Epic, by Donald W. Miller, Jr., 17 Apr 2007
Review of Margaret Mitchell's book with some commentary on the film
"Between 1823 and 1888, every country in the New World that had slaves, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, ..., freed them peacefully - except Haiti (in 1804) and the United States, who did it through war. The Confederate States of America would have freed their slaves peacefully fairly soon after it became a nation had it not been attacked and destroyed by the Union."
Related Topic: Gone With the Wind
Emergencies: The Breeding Ground of Tyranny, by William L. Anderson, Future of Freedom, Nov 2006
Examines the long history of "emergency powers" claimed by U.S. Presidents, including recent examples such as sanctions stemming from the International Economic Powers Act and the so-called War on Terror
"The war that dominated his presidency — whether one wishes to call it a 'Civil War' or a 'War Between the States' or something else — also was waged without constitutional authority. ... None of the first seven states that announced secession from the United States bordered the nation's capital, and neither they nor the states that later joined the Confederate States of America ever called for an invasion of the United States. ... After the Fort Sumter incident of April 1861, Lincoln announced his intention of invading the Confederate states, an action that triggered the secession of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas."
Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882), by Roderick T. Long, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"... Emerson expressed admiration for John Brown's attempt to spark a slave insurrection at Harper's Ferry. When the Civil War broke out, Emerson supported the Northern cause—but only on the premise that slave emancipation, not the mere preservation of the Union, would be the outcome of Union victory. Indeed, through his lectures and essays, Emerson has been credited with helping to make emancipation a Union aim in the war, as it had not obviously been at the start. Emerson also maintained that freed slaves should receive both suffrage and financial compensation."
Empire or Liberty: The Antifederalists and Foreign Policy, 1787-1788 [PDF], by Jonathan Marshall, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1980
Describes the arguments regarding foreign policy made during the period of ratification of the United States Constitution by the Federalists and the counterarguments, "largely ignored" by historians, from the Antifederalists
"In the specific American context, Clinton believed that the South's 'passion for aristocratic distinction' and for slave-holding meant that it could never 'be as tenacious of the liberties and interests of the more northern states, where freedom, independence, industry, equality and frugality are natural to the climate and soil, as men who are your own citizens, legislating in your own state ...' It would take three-quarters of a century for this cultural antagonism to finally rend the American empire, but Clinton was already able to foresee that sectional conflicts could not always be contained within a liberal, republican system."
Federalist No. 5: The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence, by John Jay
Ironically argues that separate confederacies, specifically Northern and Southern, may result in conflict between them since one could be at war with a foreign nation with which the other wants to be at peace
"The proposed confederacies will be DISTINCT NATIONS. Each of them would have its commerce with foreigners to regulate by distinct treaties; and ... those treaties [would] be essentially different. Different commercial concerns must create different interests, and of course different degrees of political attachment to and connection with different foreign nations. Hence it might and probably would happen that the foreign nation with whom the SOUTHERN confederacy might be at war would be the one with whom the NORTHERN confederacy would be the most desirous of preserving peace and friendship."
Related Topic: United Kingdom
Historian Paul Johnson on American Liberty, by Paul Johnson, The Freeman, Jun 1996
Topics discussed include religious freedom, abolishing slavery, the impact of immigration, the Founding Fathers, the U.S. Constitution, individualism, reining in government and the prospects for liberty in America
"Organized religions, however, remained largely silent on the slavery issue before the Civil War. Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans avoided public debate which would split their ranks. Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and Baptist church leaders tried but were less successful in avoiding debate about slavery. After the outbreak of the Civil War, religious leaders quoted Scripture to support their respective sides. Northern clergymen portrayed the conflict as a holy war. Southern clergymen did as much as they could to prolong the futile struggle."
How Lincoln Gave Us Kwanzaa, by Joseph Sobran, The Reactionary Utopian, 7 Dec 2006
While planning for his holidays, Sobran discusses a couple of books about the Gettysburg Address
"Back in 1862 you could have been arrested for saying U.S. troops should be pulled out of the Confederacy, because Abraham Lincoln insisted that they were fighting for 'a new birth of freedom.' Lincoln is the subject of yet another new book — worshipful, naturally ... Lincoln's worshippers ... overlook his gross violations of the Constitution: usurpations of power, suspension of habeas corpus ... Unless the North conquered the South, Lincoln said at Gettysburg, self-government itself would 'perish from the earth.' Balderdash, of course. Yet most Americans still take Lincoln's war propaganda as self-evident truth."
Is Any War Civil?, by Sheldon Richman, 4 Dec 2001
Considers the controversy over whether Iraq was engaged in a civil war in 2006, and Tony Snow's comment contrasting the situation with the American 1861-1865 conflict
"Although that conflict is called the Civil War, in fact it does not satisfy Snow's definition. ... Northerners and Southerners were not fighting over who would control the government of the United States. Eleven southern states had tried to leave the Union and become their own country, the Confederate States of America. President Lincoln declared the secession illegal and went to war to prevent it."
Related Topic: Iraq War (2003)
John Bright: Voice of Victorian Liberalism, by Nicholas Elliott, The Freeman, Aug 1988
Biographical essay, discussing in detail many of Bright's activities, in and out of Parliament, such as the repeal of the Corn Laws, opposition to the Crimean War, his view on colonial India and the United States, Parliamentary reform and Ireland
"When civil war erupted, Bright was concerned for the future of the republic, but allied himself with the cause of the North. English liberals weren't unanimous in supporting the North. Cobden initially inclined toward the South, and The Economist sympathized with the South throughout. A humanitarian always, Bright supported the North because of the issue of slavery, which appalled him. ... He also maintained a correspondence with the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Charles Sumner. He encouraged caution and diplomacy; some of the letters he wrote to Sumner were read to President Lincoln."
Les Economistes Libertaires, by Carl Watner, Reason, Jan 1977
Discusses the French economists of the 19th century and in particular Gustave de Molinari and his thoughts on the provision of security and defense services by private agencies
"The principle of secession was exemplified by the South's position in the American Civil War. In L'Économiste Belge, Molinari declared himself in favor of the South's position. Secession from an existing political state was, for Molinari, nothing other than the principle of free exchange transported to the political sphere. Although he distinctly decried the advocacy of slavery, Molinari thought the North's position was equally compromised by its failure to allow the South to secede and by maintaining protectionist tariffs."
Lysander Spooner (1808-1887) and Foreign Policy: Spooner's Real Views About Everything, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 8 May 2000
Begins wih biographical summary and then delves into Spooner's views on slavery, the U.S. Constitution and the War Between the States
"Spooner had been such a radical abolitionist that he busied himself with schemes to make 'private war' against the slaveholders of the South. Yet, when the war came, he joined that minority of abolitionists who did not support it. Spooner's lack of trust in government had so far matured that he felt morally bound to oppose organized state war, whatever its alleged purposes. In any case, Spooner did not accept that the war had been fought 'to free the slaves.' He saw that as an after-the-fact apology brought in later to justify mass slaughter and centralized tyranny."
Lysander Spooner, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Nov 2005
Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; from 1852 to Spooner's death, examining An Essay on the Trial by Jury, the No Treason essays and his subsequent influence
"In 1861, the Civil War erupted. Spooner's hatred of slavery did not lead him to join with most abolitionists, who supported the North. Even William Lloyd Garrison abandoned his pacifist views. Garrison later became critical of Lincoln's clear desire to preserve the Union at almost any cost; he believed the focus should be on abolishing slavery. By contrast, Spooner never thought the war was being fought for freedom or justice. ... Spooner also offered an economic analysis of the war in which he argued that Northern business interests supported the conflict in order to control Southern markets."
Patriotism along the Southern Border, Part 2, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Jan 1999
Continues discussing patriotism and treason in the historical context of Mexico and the territories annexed by the U.S. after the Mexican-American War, up to the early 20th century; includes parallels in more modern contexts
"The American Civil War 12 years later — 1860-1864 — raised interesting questions about patriotism and treason. Was Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, a patriot or a traitor? At the conclusion of the war, he was arrested and almost executed for being a traitor. Sam Houston, the first president of Texas and the man who had led the Texas army that defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto, stood against secession. Was he a traitor or a patriot? ... The south Texas border areas were the scenes of interesting experiences during the Civil War. There were battles along the Rio Grande between Yankee and Confederate forces."
Peace and Pacifism, by Robert Higgs, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Reviews what prominent classical liberals and libertarians had to say on the subject of peace and war, as well as the history of United States wars from the War of 1812 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the efforts of those who opposed them
"The U.S. Civil War gave rise to considerable resistance on both sides, and opposition grew as the war dragged on, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties on each side. Implementation of conscription in the Union provoked tremendous outrage and sparked riots in many places. ... Partisan opposition to the war by northern Democrats, whom war supporters smeared as 'Copperheads,' prompted the Lincoln administration to censor the mails and the telegraph, to suppress hundreds of newspapers, and to arrest and imprison thousands of civilians, denying them access to the writ of habeas corpus."
Ron Paul and the Empire, by Steven LaTulippe, 31 Jul 2007
Considers what steps the establishment could take to prevent Ron Paul from becoming President
"America is actually a carefully concealed oligarchy. ... When its authority over the Southern states was challenged in the 19th Century, the oligarchy suspended the Constitution and launched a bloody war that killed three quarters of a million people. They arrested newspaper editors, deported antiwar congressmen, and burned down several American cities."
Related Topics: Law, Ron Paul, United States
Taking the gloss off of the Great Emancipator, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, Chicago Tribune, 12 Feb 2009
Examines Lincoln's attitude toward the abolition of slavery as well as the effects of his war on the growth of government
"Beyond its horrendous cost in lives and money, the Civil War brought about a dramatic surge in the size, scope and intrusiveness of government. ... The war occasioned protectionist tariffs, a vast array of internal excise taxes and the country's first national income tax. The national debt climbed from a modest $65 million to $2.8 billion. ... Lincoln's war delivered a blow to civil liberties. The Union imprisoned without trial or charges at least 14,000 civilians. ... the federal government monitored and censored the mails and telegraphs, and shut down more than 300 newspapers for varying periods."
Related Topic: Abraham Lincoln
The Acton-Lee Correspondence, by John Dalberg-Acton, 4 Nov 1866
Exchange of letters between Lord Acton (4 Nov) and Robert E. Lee (15 Dec 1866)
"... I formerly traveled in America, and ... afterwards followed the progress of the four years' contest as closely and as keenly as it was possible to do with the partial and unreliable information that reached us. ... I have before me an elaborate work by a Prussian officer named Sander. ... His feelings are strongly Federal, his figures, especially in estimating your forces, are derived from Northern journals, and yet his book ends by becoming an enthusiastic panegyric on your military skill. ... he dwells with particular detail and pleasure on your operations against Meade when Longstreet was absent, in the autumn of 1863."
Related Topics: Massachusetts, United States
The Federal War on Gold, Part 2, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Sep 2006
Continues with the brief monetary history of the United States, discussing Abraham Lincoln's war loans and legal tender law, and the Supreme Court cases of Hepburn v. Griswold and Knox v. Lee
"In 1862, Congress granted Lincoln's request to issue $150 million in Treasury notes to finance the war effort during the War Between the States. In simple terms, the federal government was borrowing money, and the money it was borrowing was the gold and silver coins that had been established as the legal money under the Constitution. ... When the notes came due, the Treasury would have to repay the lender in money — that is, in gold coins."
The Great Writ Then and Now, by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman, Nov 2009
Chronicles the history of the writ of habeas corpus from the Magna Carta through the American Civil War to Guantanamo Bay and "enemy combatants"
"The writ continued to be intimately connected with slavery. During the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in both 1861 and 1862; it was not restored until 1866. The first suspension came early in the Civil War through an edict in 1861, when an estimated 20,000 Confederate sympathizers in Baltimore tried to block the movement of Union troops to Washington, D.C. John Merryman, an officer in the Maryland cavalry and a secessionist, was among the thousands arrested. ... The second suspension occurred when Congress instituted America's first national military draft in July 1862, which incited widespread rebellion."
The Progressive Era, Part 1: The Myth and the Reality, by William L. Anderson, Future of Freedom, Feb 2006
Examines various aspects of Progressivism's "much darker tale", tracing its roots to 19th century Unitarians and pointing out Progressive support of prohibition and segregation
"Progressives had their forbears in the Unitarians of early- and mid-19th-century New England. ... When war broke out between North and South in 1861, the Unitarians were among the most forceful in calling for the complete destruction of the South, and while their influence on the actual fields of battle was negligible, they were highly influential on the political home front. (For example, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic,' was a Unitarian.)"
The Roots of Individualist Feminism in 19th-Century America, by Wendy McElroy
Introduction to Freedom, Feminism, and the State, a collection of 22 essays edited by McElroy
"The Civil War changed feminism. Individualism,in America was dealt a stunning blow by war measures ... With the cry of "no taxation without representation" still echoing from the recent past, government was viewed as requiring the consent of its citizens ... When the North refused to permit the South to withdraw its consent by seceding ..., the consensual view of government was weakened. "One Union Under God" became a common sentiment. Generally, feminists supported the war as a means of ending slavery, and, in devoting themselves to the war effort, they shelved the women's rights issue."
Wartime Attacks on Civil Liberties, by George Leef, Future of Freedom, Dec 2005
Review of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (2004) by University of Chicago Law School professor Geoffrey R. Stone
"With the Civil War ... civil liberties and freedom of speech took a pummeling ... The most famous case is surely that of Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, an anti-war Democrat. The military governor of the region, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, had issued an order declaring that any expression of sympathy for the Confederacy would be subject to military punishment. Vallandigham challenged the legitimacy of the order and in a speech ... in Columbus, called the war "wicked, cruel, and unnecessary" Upon hearing of the speech, Burnside ordered Vallandigham's arrest and trial before a military commission."

Interviews

The Real DiLorenzo: A 'Southern Partisan' Interview, by Thomas DiLorenzo, 17 Jun 2004
Interview by Southern Partisan magazine, about DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War (2002)
"Do you think the War was inevitable?
I think it was avoidable ... People hate to think all that death was unnecessary, but it was avoidable if people stuck to Jefferson's thinking on secession and the consent of the governed. If they would've let the Deep South go, they would've eventually reunited. That would’ve forced the North to be less aggressive with its economic plans, its grandiose Manifest Destiny to have an empire ... It would've brought them to their senses, but they couldn't tolerate that. So, they had to kill one out of every four adult white males in the South to get their way."

Books

Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War
    by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, 1996
Partial contents: Slavery and States' Rights in the Early Republic - Emergence of the Republican Party - The Confederate States of America - The War to Abolish Slavery? - Dissent and Disaffection-North and South - The Ravages of Total War
Related Topic: Republican Party
The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
    by Thomas DiLorenzo, Walter E. Williams (Foreword), 2002
Partial contents: Lincoln's Opposition to Racial Equality - Why Not Peaceful Emancipation? - Lincoln's Real Agenda - The Myth of Secession as "Treason" - Was Lincoln a Dictator? - Waging War on Civilians - Reconstructing America - The Great Centralizer
Related Topic: Abraham Lincoln
When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession
    by Charles Adams, 2000
Partial contents: The Dangerous Road to Secession - Lincoln Crosses the Rubicon - Whose War Was It, Anyway? - British Scholars Speak - A Just War? - The Peacemakers - The Trial of the Century That Never Was - Reflections: Healing the Breach

Videos

HOWARD ZINN: "Holy Wars", by Howard Zinn, Democracy Now!, 11 Nov 2009
Talk given at Boston University, discussing the American "Holy Wars": the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II

Podcasts

Lincoln's War, by John V. Denson, The Lew Rockwell Show, 7 Aug 2008
John Denson and Lew discuss how Lincoln managed to get the South to "fire the first shot"

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "American Civil War" as of 24 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.