On this particular Independence Day, I want to discuss a different war of independence - the war for Southern Independence. In common parlance, the Civil War. Civil War is a mistaken nomenclature, however. Civil War means to parties fighting for control of the same government. The War for Southern Independence was an invasion of a foreign country, as the states in the South that were attacked by the North had all seceded and were thus no longer part of the United States.
I have to put in a paragraph here that I am not, nor would I ever, defend slavery. It is an unfortunate statement about the quality of education in this country that I have to say this. The War of Southern Independence was not about slavery. (On this see Tom Woods "Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, for example; also see Tom DiLorenzo's work on Lincoln). So when I am talking about the evils of the war, I am not talking about a noble endeavor to free slaves. I am talking about aggression based on economic concerns. Note that if the war was about slavery then the U.S. would have been the only country that had a war to free slaves. Also, four states in the Union allowed slavery after the secession: Missourri, Kentucky, Maryland, and New Jersey. If this war was about slavery, why were these states not warred upon?
The point I am trying to make is that states are the source of federal power, not the other way around, and states have a right to leave the union if they want to (again see Tom Woods on this, and it's important derivative power: nullification). The American war for Independence (the Revolution) was fought to establish the principle of self-government. The independent states, after the war, formed a union and a central government. This was done mostly because of the two-fold need of wanting a central representative to deal with foreign governments and to provide defense services generally. The federal government was not supposed to have more power than the states. The War for Southern Independence and Reconstruction changed that.
The Declaration of Independence states that if a government is destructive to the ends of the people, then the people have the right to dissolve that government and start a new one. That's what the secessionists were after, in the same way the Founding Fathers wanted to remove the British government and establish their own. And didn't the British have forts in the American colonies, just like the Union had Fort Sumter in South Carolina?
The Union had the option to let, as is proper, states secede from the Union. And President Buchanan did not go to war with the first seven seceding states. But Lincoln, once President of the Union, did. And then the next four seceded because they were forced to choose. Lincoln fought to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves. Lincoln viewed the Union as his empire, and was not about to allow it to shrink.
Had the Union shrunk, the likely outcome would have been catastrophic for the North. Why? Because of trade tariffs. The North was industrialized and the South was agrarian, and the Union had a trade tariff raising the cost of imported goods. This policy obviously favored the North over the South, since cotton and tobacco traded on world markets. Now, if secession had been allowed, the South would have been a free trade zone and foreign powers would have preferred to trade with the South, not the North. So the North saw a huge loss of trade if the South were to successfully secede.
And then, after the war, Reconstruction came. Reconstruction was essentially reparations the Republicans wanted from the South. The most important effect, though, was to install the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment essentially puts the federal government above the various state governments as the last word on laws that affect the state. And that was the end of the united States of America, and the beginning of the USA.