Was Lincoln Wrong to Save the Union?

256px-Abraham_Lincoln_smallI’m taking a break from spouting off my opinion (well, at least until the comments section) this week to ask a philosophical/political question of my readers.

When it comes to Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Syria we are famous for supporting civil unrest against cruel leaders. We view self-determination as a great American virtue. We believe in government governing with the consent of the governed. So why didn’t we simply let the Confederacy exist?

I clearly don’t support slavery even if we remove the racist element and simply justify it as a means to a commercial end. Still the Southern states felt abused and oppressed by the Northern states and by Washington in general.

In James Buchanan’s wiki biography it states that he felt it was illegal for the Southern states to secede but it was illegal for the US to stop them. Therefore he left a disintegrating country to his successor, Abraham Lincoln. What kind of history would we have had if we simply let secession happen? Could we have existed as two separate countries, the United States and the Confederate States? Like East and West Germany, might we have eventually merged back together of our own volition without all the bloodshed of the civil war?

These thoughts occur to me as I look at the seemingly incurable polarization in modern society. Ignoring California, which in many ways is just a sociopolitical twin of the Northeast, many of our conflicts seem to split East/West and North/South based on cultural differences. The most striking is the latest debate on gun control where some of the most vociferous voices against control come from the South and West and the cry for greater control comes from the North and the East.

Was Lincoln and by extension, the United States, hypocritical not to let the South have the government they wanted back in 1861? What do you think?


Photo by D. Van Nostrand [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons