Here's how a former Confederate officer, Gen. John Gordon, framed the debate:
During the entire life of the Republic the respective rights and powers of the States and general government had furnished a question for endless controversy. In process of time this controversy assumed a somewhat sectional phase. The dominating thought of the North and of the South may be summarized in a few sentences.Or from the Virginian, Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter:
The South maintained with the depth of religious conviction that the Union formed under the Constitution was a Union of consent and not of force; that the original States were not the creatures but the creators of the Union; that these States had gained their independence, their freedom, and their sovereignty from the mother country, and had not surrendered these on entering the Union; that by the express terms of the Constitution all rights and powers not delegated were reserved to the States; and the South challenged the North to find one trace of authority in that Constitution for invading and coercing a sovereign State.
The North, on the other hand, maintained with the utmost confidence in the correctness of her position that the Union formed under the Constitution was intended to be perpetual; that sovereignty was a unit and could not be divided; that whether or not there was any express power granted in the Constitution for invading a State, the right of self-preservation was inherent in all governments; that the life of the Union was essential to the life of liberty; or, in the words of Webster, "liberty and union are one and inseparable."
When this Union was originally formed, the United States embraced too many degrees of latitude and longitude, and too many varieties of climate and production, to make it practicable to establish and administer justly one common government which should take charge of all the interests of society. To the wise men who were entrusted with the formation of that union and common government, it was obvious enough that each separate society should be entrusted with the management of its own peculiar interests, and that the united government should take charge only of those interests which were common and general. To enforce this necessary distinction, it was provided that all powers, not specially granted, should be reserved to the people and the States, and a list of the granted powers was carefully and specifically made. But two parties soon arose in regard to these limitations. Those who wielded the powers thus granted became interested to remove these limitations as far as possible, whilst the minority, who belonged to the governed rather than the governing party, early learned to regard these limitations as the best and surest defences against the abuses and oppressions of a despotic majority. . . .Yep, sounds to me exactly like bin Laden and the ilk.
The contest between the two sections over the limitations in the constitution upon the governing party under it began with the commencement of its history, and ended only, as I shall presently show, with the revolution which destroyed the old form and established the despotism of a majority of numbers. It is in the history of this context we must look for the true causes of the war, and the use made of the victory by the winning party will show the object and nature of that contest. When it became obvious that the only protection of the rights of the minority against the encroachments of the majority was to be found in the limitations upon the power of the governing party, a death struggle arose between the two parties over the constitutional restraints upon this power. The struggle between the two parties commenced at the beginning of the government. These were respectively led by Hamilton and Jefferson, the one with an avowed preference for monarchy, the other the great apostle of democracy, men of signal abilities, and each conscious of what would be the consequence of complete and perfect victory on either side. The party of power showed a constant tendency to draw all important subjects of jurisdiction within the vortex of Federal control, and an equally persevering effort on the other to limit that control to the strict necessities of a common government.