Slavery and States' Rights

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Slavery and States Rights was a speech by Joseph Wheeler on July 31, 1894. This speech is considered to be a nationalist look at American Civil War causation and is generally understood to argue that the North was to blame for the war.



The Richmond, Virginia Dispatch stated, "The House of Representatives being in Committee of the Whole, on appropriations and expenditures, and having under consideration the bill to remove the charge of desertion standing against Patrick Kelleher, late private, Company C, Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, Mr. Wheeler, of Alabama, as a member of the Committee on Military Affairs, made a speech."

In his speech, Wheeler argued that the North, prior to the Civil War, had failed to comply with the terms of the Constitution. In particular, he argued that slaves were property and that Northern states had infringed on the constitutional property rights of the slaveholders. He also argued that not only had the North encouraged secession, but that in the past it had, itself, sought secession, and thus that secession was a right of the South. In an aside, Wheeler insinuated that the North was to blame for slavery.

In Which Wheeler Argues That the North Violated the Constitution

Wheeler explains (paraphrased), "I refute allegations that the responsibility of the war rested altogether upon the southern people. Many States of the North enacted laws making it a criminal offence for any official to comply with his oath of office." Wheeler was arguing that the failure of northern states to comply with the fugitive slave laws was in violation of the Constitution. (See: nullification)

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