How did a strong belief in states' rights affect the South during the war?

1 Answer
Oct 27, 2017

The belief in states' rights had both positive and negative affects on the South.


The South originally seceded from the Union because of their belief in states' rights, among other factors. Southern people generally believed that each state should be able to determine its own laws, especially as regards rights and slavery. To some degree, this belief united the Southern people. They knew that the fundamental basis of their ideals and lifestyle would be destroyed if they lost the war, and so were determined to fight with everything they had. Southern troops were often much more passionate than Northern troops, at least at the beginning of the war.

However, there were also difficulties that arose from the belief. When eleven states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy, they elected Jefferson Davis to be their president. But Davis had little political experience. He found it increasingly difficult to govern a group of states that believed so strongly in their individual rights. For instance, he tried to introduce conscription - a required enlistment in the army for eligible people. However, some states disagreed with this, and so refused to implement it. These internal disputes may have been a contributing factor in the South's eventual loss. The Confederacy did not have the strong and united governing body of the North.

Therefore, it can be seen that the South was both helped and hurt by the strong belief in states' rights.