Essay on Rhetoric: American Civil War and Legitimate Authority

Submitted By bingham21
Words: 2485
Pages: 10

“The ‘just cause’ stipulation of the just-war tradition assumes that nations have a prima facie right to self-defense. Usually, unprovoked aggression provides a just cause for a declaration of war by the victim. But even the basic right of self-defense cannot be held absolutely.” With this quote, philosopher Thomas O’Connor establishes that self-defense was not a pliable cause for the Southern attack on the North, regardless of what conflicts were under development between the Union and the Confederacy. Even though O’Connor does not directly state the just- war tradition to be related to the Civil War, through extensive research, it is possible to explore the possibility that the Civil War was in fact unjust in its entirety. The American Civil War was unjustly fought based upon a majority of the aspects found within the ‘just-war tradition’ explained to us by O’Connor in his article, A Reappraisal of the Just-War Tradition. Now, the question is what is war? Daniel Statman states in his article Can War Be Fought Justly? The Necessity Condition Put to the Test, “A war is a conflict between collectives which are metaphysically distinct from individuals and hence warrant a morality of their own which is different from an irreducible to the morality that governs the relations between individuals.”
When considering the just-war tradition, the first aspect one must analyze is, was the war conducted for a just cause. As O’Connor mentions in his article, the only morally justified motive for an authority figure to decide to go to war is for a very momentous event. He states, “The modern view, however, correctly understands international conflict as a long term process; the specific ‘cause’ leading to an outbreak of hostilities may be less important than the underlying circumstances in the relationship between the warring nations.” What this quote establishes is that the consequence of war between nations, or in the Civil War’s case a War Between the States, could be more severe than what caused the motive for going to war in the beginning, which makes the cause of war unjust. The cause of the Civil War dates back to the 1850s when social and political developments such as, the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the Fugitive Slave Act, Bleeding Kansas, the Dred Scott decision, and John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry drove the house further apart. However, there is not only one cause for the division of the house. There are several, each one negotiable in one way or another. The cause of the Civil War is a subject that has been under much controversy. While slavery was not the entire cause, it was the root of numerous causes. The issue that led to the disorder of the Union was imbedded in the debate over the future of slavery. That dispute led to the succession of several states from the Union. Succession brought about a war in which the Northern states fought to preserve the Union, and the South fought to institute Southern liberation under its own constitution.
Referencing back to the definition of what a just cause for war is, the root of slavery does not satisfy the qualifications. A just-war cause as stated by Statman is, “If an aggressor poses a threat to a potential victim. Even if the way a victim can stop an aggressor from carrying out an unjust act upon him/her is to carry out a self-defensive act, which would otherwise be immoral, which carrying out a self-defensive act might still be disproportionate to the unjust attack. This would then be ruled out as morally just.” In this situation, the North and the South are fighting against one another. However, the fight is not only between the states, it is brother versus brother, father versus son, etc. Families are divided and bonds that would otherwise not be broken are diminished. Statman also states within the same article that “when two collectives are engaged in war against one another, the individuals fighting in the war lose their identity