When South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, they weren’t looking for trouble – they just decided that the confederation of sovereign states they had joined so long ago no longer offered them much good, and in fact now did them more harm by threatening to end the traditional way of life their people had followed for so many years. Inspired by South Carolina, six other states followed, and these seven states formed a separate federation of states, with the justification that they had so different a culture and way of life that they deserved to have their own government. Their claim had some merit, too – in the old Union, either nothing was ever accomplished because of the radically different views of the two sides, or one side would smother the other’s opinion and impose their own on them (which pretty much always was to the northern states’ advantage, and with no southern support). So, the collection of states formed a new union independent of the United States of America so that they could practice their own lifestyle without interference from a federal government they effectively had no say in. As Henry David Thoreau said in “Civil Disobedience”, published in 1849,
[…]to be strictly just, [a government] must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it.
In line with this idea, the southern states that seceded were merely ensuring that they could have an influence on the policies imposed on them, which, to be fair, was also one of the underlying ideas behind the American Revolution.
On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president of the United States of America, forever shattering the peaceful intentions of the innocuous Confederate States of America. He immediately refused to recognize the country as such, and wanted to enforce his own country’s policies in it, despite their protests that he had no jurisdiction there. The Confederate States of America offered to buy the land from the United States of America, but Lincoln refused, saying it belonged to the United States regardless. He went on to say that any purchase of the land would be a recognition of the country’s sovereignty, which Lincoln vehemently opposed. The final straw came when Lincoln ordered his troops to defend a fort that was on Confederate soil – when the Confederates tried to reclaim the plot of land that was located on their soil but under Union possession, they refused to yield. And thus started the first hostilities of the Civil War; when Union troops occupying foreign soil refused to return it to the sovereign country to which it belonged, they were effectively stealing that land from said country, which is more commonly known as an invasion, which is considered an act of war by all.
[Oh man, the comments are going to be hateful, so a little disclaimer: this just comments on the South’s point of view, and only kind of reflects my own. Don’t worry, I still ❤ Abe Lincoln.]
Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address
“Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau