The Washington Post is running a series of articles on the American Civil War in recognition of this year as the sesquicentennial of its commencement. The latest article explored five myths about why the South seceded, an excerpt:
Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.
On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War.
Thus, no, the South did not secede to protect state’s rights. Not to ruin the article for you, because it’s worth reading if you are at all interested in these sorts of things, the South seceded because of the growing hostility of the North towards slavery; slavery was so economically important to the South that its abolishment would destroy their way of life. Which it did. But that’s what happens when you pick a fight you can’t possibly win. Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg is emblematic of the utter folly with which the whole enterprise was afflicted. But enjoy the article. It’s an enjoyable little morsel of history in a couple of pages.