The Constitution: the Source of Secession
The Constitution’s inadequacy in dealing with the issue of slavery ultimately led “the failure of the union that it had created” as it revealed the contrasting American ideals that were held by the North and the South. The Constitution did not provide a clear solution to slavery and left it up to the following generations to decide whether the institution was constitutional. Furthermore, it failed to address the issue of sovereignty and whether the states held power over the Union or vice versa. Thus, the Constitution aided to the fall of the union that it was attempting to uphold. The Constitution acted primarily as a source of sectional discord because it sanctioned the institution of slavery in the eyes of the South. The southern states held that “Slave States contribute mainly… to the acquisition of [new states],” and constitution-ally, must be allowed to “carry their property into their own land” (Document B). This southern belief created a divide between the constitutional issue of property and the moral issues of whether a human being is considered property or whether “a man’s right to liberty is as inalienable as his right to life” (Document D). Similarly, in the case of Dred Scott vs. Sanford, the Supreme Court decided that “people of African ancestry… were not intended to be included under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution” and are therefore not “entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by [being a] citizen,” furthering the idea that slaves were private property (Finkelman). This division in moral belief versus the unclear concept of property in the Constitution allowed the South to believe that seceding was, in fact, a necessary, constitutional act.
In addition to the idea of slaves being property, the Constitution allowed for popular sovereignty, for laws regarding slavery to be decided by the people of a particular state, to become an issue. In the Kansas-Nebraska Act,...
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