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A Moral Accounting of the Union and the Confederacy

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Tags U.S. HistoryWar and Foreign Policy

07/30/2014Donald W. Livingston

What it means to be an American, both for Americans and foreigners, is largely determined by one’s attitude toward the war to defeat Southern independence in 1861–65. More books have been written about this war than about any other event in secular history, and they continue to pour forth. It has been a war to conjure with. To Americans, at least, it has seemed pregnant with transcendent, mythical, and theological meanings. What meaning can libertarians find in that great struggle?

Volume 16, Number 2 (2002)

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Contact Donald W. Livingston

Donald Livingston is a professor of philosophy at Emory University with an "expertise in the writings of David Hume." Livingston received his doctorate at Washington University in 1965. He has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow and is on the editorial board of Hume Studies and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. Livingston is a constitutional scholar and an expositor of the compact nature of the Union, with its concomitant doctrines of corporate resistance, nullification, and secession. The doctrine coincides with federalism, states' rights, the principle of subsidiarity. His political philosophy embodies the decentralizing themes echoed by Europeans such as Althusius, David Hume, and Lord Acton and Americans such as Thomas Jefferson, Spencer Roane, Abel Parker Upshur, Robert Hayne and John Calhoun, which holds the community and family as the elemental units of political society. As Livingston affirms, the compact nature of the Union is opposed to the innovative nationalist theory of Joseph Story, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln which contends for an indivisible sovereignty, an inviolable aggregate people, and that the American Union created the States following the American War for Independence. This theory as articulated by Lincoln has been characterized by Livingston as "Lincoln's Spectacular Lie."

Cite This Article

Livingston, Donald W. "A Moral Accounting of the Union and the Confederacy." Journal of Libertarian Studies 16, No. 2 (2002): 57–101.

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