Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, in Savannah, Georgia on March 21, 1861
First, he makes it fairly clear that the Civil War was fought over slavery, even though there were no promising federal proposals to abolish it at the time.
The entire “cornerstone speech” is here, and well worth reading in full, because there are other points he raises that are still being debated, beyond the issue of slavery.
One of the things most fascinating to me about the speech is the rejection of the idea of national common wealth and federal rules or regulations, which dovetails in many ways with today’s conservatism. The idea of subjecting all commerce and improvements to local municipalities is, in my mind, counter to the idea of the United States being an actual cohesive nation (which was likely intentional, as the CSA was to be a confederation of states), and seems to me the basis for claims that the Civil War was about states’ rights.
States’ rights, however, were not the foundation of the revolt, but rather a conservative cause that was written into the new constitution, on par with presidential term limits, unrestricted corporatism (under a different name at the time, of course), and allowing cabinet officials to debate in the new congress. It is fascinating that most of those issues are still key conservative causes today.
Destroying the federal government’s power has risen and fallen in importance as a conservative goal for decades and decades, but has always been debated. Grover Norquist has been the most outspoken recent proponent, and his Club for Growth has succeeded in making it an integral part of the GOP’s mainstream base concerns today.
To me, this is nothing other than an “anti-patriotism,” and an idea that holds our entire country back from being as great as it really can be. It cripples our capability and willingness to respond to national crises, alienates whole communities from each other, undermines our health policies, and exacerbates our fiscal problems.
This is why I am opposed to nuclear power in the US. It’s not because I’m opposed to nuclear power per se, but because Congress and the GOP continue to undermine the federal government’s power to regulate. Comparing our regulatory abilities to those of Japan, I simply do not believe nuclear facilities in the US will be properly maintained over the long term.
This approach to government needs to be finally called what it is: destructive, anarchic, and frankly anti-American.