The Union, that is, that was freely agreed to by the sovereign States in the wake of independence from Great Britain.
Today marks the beginning of the doomed-to-fail war for Southern independence, a war in which the federal government ordered the invasion of the Southern States to prevent them from seceding from the voluntary union which they had joined. It was ruthless and unconstitutional. More than 600,000 Americans died, including more than 50,000 deliberately-targeted civilians.
If you ever want to read one of the most brilliant, yet most inapposite, speeches ever penned by guilty man, read the Gettysburg Address. It states the most laudable aspirations, evokes the most powerful emotions, stirs the love of country embedded in every human heart– and then applies these notions to the combatants dedicated, knowingly or not, to destroying them.
The evil of slavery did not justify the actions of the North. Lincoln had no desire to launch a crusade to end it, nor was there popular support to do so, nor did the Constitution he had sworn to protect and defend allow it. There was no attempt to end slavery in any Northern state where it was legal. And Lincoln wanted to colonize African-Americans back to Africa when all was done. A few distubing quotes from the Great Emancipator can give you an idea:
“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” (Letter to Horace Greeley, 1862)
“I am not now, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of the white and black races. I am not now nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor of intermarriages with white people. There is a physical difference between the white and the black races which will forever forbid the two races living together on social or political equality. There must be a position of superior and inferior, and I am in favor of assigning the superior position to the white man.” (from a speech given by Lincoln in 1858)
“I cannot make it better known than it already is that I strongly favor colonization.” (Message to Congress, December 1, 1862)
Not the picture most are given about Lincoln. Yet, even if we accept the sanitized version of history, even if ending slavery were his only motive, it could not have justified the launching and conduct of the war. Yes, slavery was a grave evil, yet are we to accept a purely utilitarian ethic if the good one wishes to accomplish is good enough?
And when one considers that nearly every nation in the West that had allowed slavery, other than the United States and Haiti, also ended it peacefully before the end of the nineteenth century, without causing the death of more than 600,000 people, it should give serious pause. The percentage of the population killed, if you were to apply it to the population of the United States today, would yield more that 6 million dead.
Considerations of whether the country merited such a painful chastisement because of its deeds are worthy ones, but they do not change the morality of the decision to inflict it.
A free and voluntary union was replaced with a permanent and servile one, to be enforced by the bayonet. You can see the logical conclusion of this union at the airport, groping 6-year-olds in a security line in the name of safety.