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The Constitution and the Civil War Any combination of words is open to interpretation especially an intentionally vague document like the Constitution By being open to radically different interpretations the Constitution became a weapon for sectional discord and tension in the years preceding the Civil War When it was framed the Constitution was deliberately ambiguous on the subject of slavery even though men like Thomas Jefferson were for outlawing the institution and others southerners for the most part were all for codifying it Instead their expedient compromise to ignore the issue proved to be a curse to posterity since the hesitancy and confusion of the nation on the slavery issue was thus embedded in the cornerstone of its government Because the Constitution speaks of property and states rights as well as the equality of men without any specific clarification of the relationship of these principles to slavery it was used to support both sides of the debate Because of this ambiguity on the matters of states rights of property rights and of the very definition of all men it buckled when confronted with the question of slavery and the nation buckled with it The identity of a state in relation to the nation is never properly defined in the Constitution and this was a source of much conflict From the beginning under the Articles of Confederation the individual states were protective of their powers and only established a strong national government after much coaxing Even then states were wary of outside influence and vociferous when regional concerns were threatened As the political cartoon in Document F shows the people were likely to take a national policy that ran contrary to their beliefs as being inherently tyrannical On the issue of slavery the government wasnt even sure if it had the power to make a nationwide ruling because the Constitution could be interpreted to say both yes and no On one side President James Buchanan
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