Trace Adkins: The Last Shot’s Not Been Fired in States’ Rights Fight

Country music superstar Trace Adkins stopped by the formal commencement of Tennessee’s sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War Friday where he did a little dreaming out loud of a day when the U.S. federal government shows more respect for state sovereignty.

Adkins, whose great-great-grandfather fought in the war, said he believes the period of remembrance underway to honor the 150-year anniversary of America’s bloodiest conflict is a unique opportunity to reconnect people to their heritage and teach children about history and the sacrifices their ancestors made for their most cherished beliefs.

“Over the generations it has seemed to me that Southern children, because of that terrible slavery issue, have been made to feel apologetic — if not guilty or ashamed — of their heritage,” Adkins told an audience gathered for the Sesquicentennial Signature Event at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville (pdf). “And I for one hope my children don’t feel that way, because everybody knows or should know that the majority of soldiers that fought for the Confederacy did not own slaves. I know that my grandfather didn’t, and had no aspirations of owning slaves. It wasn’t part of his makeup.”

“The main issue” that motivated the South to resist the North, said Adkins, “was states’ rights.”

“That’s what my grandfather told me — that that’s the reason why his grandfather went to war in the first place,” said Adkins.

Furthermore, he added, while the issues of slavery and secession from the Union may have been “settled” by the war, fundamental questions about what role the states have in plotting their own political destinies were not resolved. Had they been, “we wouldn’t still be arguing about it today,” said Adkins.

Adkins also revealed — for the first time in public, he said — that as a statement of allegiance to states’ rights and tribute to the men of the Confederacy who fought to defend the concept, he refuses to cut his hair.

“I’ve had a lot of people over the years ask me, ‘Why’s your hair so long?,’” said Adkins. “The answer to that question is, towards the end of the war when the outcome was obvious to everybody, there were a group of incredibly dedicated Confederate soldiers who said, ‘For me this issue is not settled, and until the issue is settled, I’m not going to cut my hair.’ Neither will I.”

Adkins has in the past written about his understanding of and support for states’ rights. In his 2007 memoir, “A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck,” he asserted that the Civil War “was essentially fought over states’ rights, a concept that gets glossed over as if ‘states’ rights’ was a slogan that somebody pulled out of thin air and didn’t have any real meaning”:

But it did have some meaning. It still has meaning. States are still saying to the federal government, ‘You are not going to dictate to us how we may conduct our lives in our own state.’

“Today, instead of the blue and the gray, we now have blue states and red states. As we the people of the United States of America become more fragmented and less united, I believe we’ll see more and more states going their own way, passing their own laws, to the point where people will have to choose which state to live in based on which key laws each state passes in its own legislature. It’s not just a conservative or liberal matter, it’s more of a lifestyle choice. For instance, if you believe in abortion rights, you need to live in New York. If you oppose abortion, live in Alabama or South Dakota. If you believe in gay marriage, you might want to move to Massachusetts. If you’re against motorcycle helmet laws, then you can reside in Arizona. Strict or less strict gun laws. Medical marijuana. These are but a few state issues that now dictate where people can ideologically choose to live in the United States. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing, as long as Americans are free to travel and live in whatever state best fits their lifestyle and beliefs. That’s what states’ rights means to me today.

51 replies on “Trace Adkins: The Last Shot’s Not Been Fired in States’ Rights Fight”

Mr. Adkins may need to think about the economic realities of his “Americans are free to travel and live in whatever state best fits their lifestyle and beliefs” statement. Property taxes, property values, rental rates, etc. are much different in Alabama than they are in California or New York.

Whichever state I choose to live in, I am constitutionally-protected in my struggle to create a society in which I would like to live.

Yes, Ms. Mancini, you are constitutionally protected to ‘create a society’ in any state you live in. However, if the ‘society’ you seek is the liberal-Progressive society that is destroying many of the ‘blue’ states via their Socialist ideas, please do us all a favor and move to one of those states so that those of us who truly love the America of our founding fathers can continue to enjoy our capitalist version of society. I suspect your ‘struggle’ consists of the desire to change all states to blue states by implementing the oppressive policies of the left and destroy the very Constitution you are hiding behind.

Please tell me how the values that allow people to take care of their families and make their lives better are not the values of every American in every state in the country? Please tell me how wanting everyone in every state to have one good job that enables them to work hard during the day and get paid decently enough so they only have to work at one job and can spend quality time with their kids is not a value of every American in every state in the country? Please tell me how wanting everyone to have a quality education so that they can become productive members of society is not a value of every American in every state in the country? Please tell how wanting safe roads to drive on and safe food to eat not to mention adequate and affordable healthcare for everyone is not a value of every American in every state in the country? Please tell me how these values can destroy anything?

Mary: They don’t. But that won’t stop the non-thinkers to turn to the Glen-cyclopedia Beck-tanicca, and tell you why you are wrong.

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I get so tired of faux conservatives pushing their revisionist history and falsehoods. Posting some quick facts to refute the neocon attempt to inject “truthiness” into the discussion. Far from “oppressing” the red states and their short sighted leadership, the blue states actually financially support the red states while attempting to improve living conditions for all americans, not just themselves.

So if anyone should be upset about “states rights” it should be the blue, after all we’re paying the taxes so the red states can choose to remain ignorant and backwards. It’s a little like loaning money to a deadbeat uncle, we know we’ll never get the money back and somehow it will be our fault when he comes back asking for more money in a few months.

Adkins may be right about state rights being a key issue in the civil war, but that issue has long be decided by any american with much sense. America has zero chance of trying to maintain itself as one of the best countries in the world without the combined force of all of our states. Those who fought for an indivisible union realized we would never be strong enough as individual states to compete on the world stage. A state, such as Alabama, on it’s own would be like a third world country. Most poor and uneducated states receive an inordinate allocation of tax dollars for their citizens. Our country would simply cease to exist of state rights were championed over federal rigts.

“Please tell me how these values can destroy anything?” – Mary Mancini

I’ll GLADLY tell you how: because the “solution” to all of that is bigger, more expensive, more intrusive government. Because when you stop talking in airy platitudes, and get down to the practical reality, it involves gov’t stealing your money, your property, your individuality and giving it to someone else.

A wise man said, “The bigger the gov’t, the smaller the individual.”

The Civil War was decided. Period. Instead of telling people that they should only be allowed to live in states that meet their particular “requirements” how about REALLY understanding the Constitution. Stop wearing the flag and stuffing apple pie and instead read what is says, in particular the “Full Faith and Credit Clause”. Google it if need be. For some of the “questionable” aspects, such as gay marriage, a marriage is guaranteed to be legal across the states. To me, it is a contract. You can dress it up, have roses and even someone of a religious affiliation perform a ceremony, but in reality, it is just a contract.

Folks down south (I lived in Birmingham, AL), you all lost the damn war. Cut your hair and call it a day. Period!

Dear Mark: When did a free education, the federal highway system and the FDA/EPA/FHA become ‘airy platitudes’? I understand your arguments and I think they come from a good place: where people were independent, not only from their government but from one another. The nation and world we live in is no longer like that. We can break down the federal government if that is your wish, quite frankly that may be just what this country needs. But if that happens don’t expect a second renaissance in America. Expect the vacuum of power to be filled with thugs and zealots on either side as the middle part of America struggles to go on, as they always have. This nation is special because we come from different places, and because we understand that relying upon your neighbor for something isn’t shameful. One man builds cars, another man holds court while another paints houses and in the end of the day they put most of their wealth towards one another and some of it towards government, which while imperfect is still better than the alternative. I am part of a nation that does just that – I wish people like you would go somewhere else.

The civil war was about states rights – absolutely – the states right to allow people to own other people in the USA.

Should say – the state of Tenn decide to allow people to own folks based upon some physical characteristic – like – let’s say blue eyes. Assuming whoever this guy Adkins is kids have them – would he support a states right to do so? Aw shucks! Well honey – too bad for ya – that’s just a states rights issue. And don’t think of moving ’cause we’ll track you down in other states & bring you back ’cause that comports with states rights as seen then too. Daddy still loves you darlin’ – but you’ve been bought by the man with the whip. Move along now.

Not everybody belives in the same values, which is why everybody deserves a choice. Having everything dictated to you, telling you how you live your life, is not what everyone wants. With states being allowed to created their own laws, at least the people have a choice. And isn’t that what the constitution states? The right to life, liberty and the persuit of happiness?

Some people might disagree with topics such as welfare. I, for one, feel that the local community would be better off deciding who gets a helping hand – those that deserve it, instead of just anybody that can trick the system. Our nation was once strong when we pulled together to help those who needed a helping hand, not just those too lazy to go out and work.

I agree, however, that there needs to be limited federal government intervention to oversee some things, like national security. However, as well all know, too much money is waisted by governments which could be better put to use by local communities for schools, roads, for better local inspectors who eat that food to ensure its safety. Mr. Adkins mentioned specific topics which are more controversial than “safe food” or “better roads” which we all agree upon.

What makes one person so much better than another to tell them how to live their lives?

In Minnesota, if you can’t afford healthcare, you can buy into state Minnesota Care (income limits apply). Yes, you pay a sliding fee, but you get pretty good health benefits. Also, children from poor (and working poor) families qualify for Medical Assistance and WIC until they are 2. MN also has high taxes. It”s a trade off that every citizen has a right to. Why is that so offensive to so many?

“A wise man said, ‘The bigger the gov’t, the smaller the individual.'” — That “wise” man was conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager. Though the “a wise man said” bit is a nice way of trying to obscure the fact that it’s basically just Rush Limbaugh-lite. By the way, this is also the guy who said it was un-American for a Muslim to take a federal oath of office on the Koran rather than the Bible.

And, speaking of “un-American” — Isn’t it a bit ironic to see people defend the “States’ Rights” of the Civil War while also proclaiming themselves the “real Americans” who love this country. The people who fought for states’ rights tried to SECEDE from America!

I think Mark is right, the feds are stealing money from Mass. and NY, and giving it to AL, SC, and the like. I think that Tennessee should, in an act of solidarity to our oppressed brothers and sisters to the north, ask DOT and DOE to move all “their” assets out of TN.

Coincidentally, I just finished both Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War” and “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Trace should read them. The only states right the the south was concerned with was it’s right to own people, which the North actually conceded, but that still wasn’t enough–the South insisted on being able to own them in the new territories that were being added at that time.

He’s right. The war was not about slavery. Slavery existed all over the world in 1861, not just the South. When northern states abolished slavery, they went so far as barring Black people from living in their state. (This included Lincoln’s Illinois!) Which act was more inhumane?

The following can all be found on this very good civil war website;

This is a quote from Edmond Ruffin (The father of South Carolina’s treason) about why South Carolina is angry witht the uppity Yankees (from 1856);

“Slavery is not intrinsically right, it is only circumstantially right under a set state of circumstances. The right rule is freedom, but slavery is an exception to that rule; and if right, right as all exceptions are, according to the circumstances which surround it.”

here is part of Georgia’s statement of planned treason;

“….For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property…”

(note how they are reffering to the slaves as property) Their ‘Platform’ is even worse.

Here is part of Texas’ reason for treason;

“…WHEREAS, The recent developments in Federal affairs make it evident that the power of the Federal Government is sought to be made a weapon with which to strike down the interests and property of the people of Texas, and her sister slave-holding States, instead of permitting it to be, as was intended, our shield against outrage and aggression…”

Here is Alabama, in their reason for treason, sticking up for slavery euphamistically;

“Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of president and vice-president of the United States of America, by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions …”

(I didn’t know owning someone was a ‘domestic institution ‘)

Here is Virginia, telling us what its really about;

“…and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States…”

The US Civil War was (as has been said by better writers than I) essentially treason in defence of slavery. I repeat; The US Civil War was treason in defence of slavery.

Any other notion is utter nonsene. State’s right’s my @$$, the South committed treason because they needed a huge pool of VERY cheap labor to do the work for them.

Everyone and anyone who holds the ‘Stars And Bars’ is holding treason in defence of slavery.

Well said Mary Mancini! These people act as though they are ready to fight another Civil War over their right to persecute others. What the hell is wrong with you people? Can we please enter the 20th century since we are now in the 21st? Our long ago veterans are spinning in their graves, even the Confedrate ones I suspect. They would tell you live and let live and with a high tide all boats rise. Get it together SmithCo Conservative.

If I understand this argument correctly, the Civil War was only about slavery. Lincoln, the great emancipator, did not like slavery, but also did not want to free the slaves in the US. He very vocally wanted to send them elsewhere as he felt they would be a burden on the Republic (in fact he tried to ship a boat full of slaves to Haiti, it didn’t work out).
A large part of the secession had to do with tariffs between the states and representation in congress. Yes, slavery tied into this, but was not the reason that soldiers chose to fight. The South didn’t conscript soldiers as the North did.
The Republic conceded to many of the Confederate demands, particularly that they did not allow tariffs between states. To say that the Civil War was about slavery is the same as saying that the Cold War was only about state power. The problems leading up to any civil war are complex, there is never one issue that can define the entire fight.
Many northern land holders had slaves and were not happy about giving them up. Please don’t discredit our national history by ignoring the republican debates leading to Lincoln’s election. Also, take into account the way the freed slaves were treated once the Northern army freed them, they had no place to go so they followed the army expecting to be fed and clothed.
I don’t feel that any human should be subjugated to mistreatment or the loss of their rights, but I also don’t think that the US should be apologetic about our past.
The war was fought, a lot of people died, and concessions were made on both sides. If you disagree, then the civil rights movement must have happened 100 years before Malcolm X. Oh yeah, and the north should be an African utopia, full of non-prejudiced sons of liberty, instead of 3/5ths representation.
In truth, the north didn’t really care about the slavery thing, they just didn’t want the slaves to be counted as people when it came time to take a census and appoint members to the House of Representatives. Also, women weren’t counted because they couldn’t own land.
Since the war was fought almost completely on southern soil, why was the Republic so quick to end it? Agriculture. Most exports at the time were grown in the South, so every field that was burned in the war cost both sides dearly.

“The south didn’t conscript soldiers and the north did.”

WRONG!!! All southern soldiers during the first year of the war were volunteers — they enlisted for one year of service. After that the Confederate government drafted them for the rest of the war, and began drafting civilians. By the end of 1862 almost every man in the Confederate ranks (including those who’d started out as volunteers) was a conscript.

The tariff thing is also a myth propagated by defeated confederates after the war. The tariff was at its lowest level in a generation when the deep south seceded, and had they remained there would have been no chance of a rate hike because the Democrats still controlled the senate. After the deep south bolted, Congress raised the tariff — and after it did Virginia voted AGAINST secession. Also, go through the declarations of causes the secession conventions issued — the word tariff doesn’t appear once in any of them. Tariffs were NOT a significant factor leading to secession.

Shall we go on?

‘state’s rights’ sounds wonderful if those states weren’t denying basic human rights to their own citizens based solely on the color of their skin.

hmm, there were no white slaves? and all citizens (not just land owners) were able to vote? Your history seems WAY simpler than the facts suggest, Mr IA

look up the phrase “Dixiecrat”. Also, see Montgomery Bus Boycott or Little Rock High School for information as to what ‘states’ rights’ really means underneath the hyperbole. who came in and made them behave? the feds.

Dear Kellen: Ah, I see. Freedom and liberty are out of date in the brave, new “modern” world. You seem perfectly content to be a cog in a welfare state, but I don’t.
And you said “I wish people like you would go somewhere else”? Where? You may have dozens of mediocre, shabby, overtaxed welfare states to go to, but there aren’t any other comparably free countries that I can flee to from here. This country is the last, best hope of humanity.

jkd2 – I see you figured out Google. Congrats. It doesn’t matter if Kermit the Frog said it, it’s undeniably true. The bigger the gov’t, the smaller the individual.

“No aspirations of owning slaves?” Yeah, my great-great-grandparents couldn’t afford any either.

I’m not surprised to see more pro-Confederate schmucks coming out of the woodwork. The Tea Party is the Confederacy’s direct spiritual descendant, a bunch of dupes fighting for “states’ rights” when the only right you’re actually fighting for is the right of the super-rich to perpetuate a broken, damaging system so that you personally can die in poverty. Slavery was the “right” that was being defended because the landowners were not wanting to pay White Laborer Prices for the trades they were having their slaves learn.

That is the stand the Confederacy took- the right to own one set of people to keep from paying another set of people a fair wage for their labor to avoid being somewhat less wealthy. And when they couched it as a question of states’ rights, that second set of people were willing to ignore that they were also being wronged in this scenario and go get their brains blown out to protect the status quo. It was an honorless, ignorant, wasteful and self-destructive decision and their descendants should be ashamed every day of their lives. Especially if, like Mr. Adkins here, they’ve gone to great lengths not to bother learning anything from the situation.

I am so impressed that a country singer can put a couple sentences together. Now let’s educate him and we’ll be cookin’ with gas.

1) The Civil War was begun to allow the southern states’ right to own slaves to continue. To deceive oneself that there was another reason shows ignorance.

2) Concluded in 1865, the Civil War was a crushing defeat for the southern states. The South is still recovering from the naivete and stupidity that led it’s leaders to believe that they could win a war with the North.

3) Many honorable men died on both sides and the reason for their deaths should be lamented by all Americans. As usual, the greed of the rich resulted in a great loss of life of mostly lower class men.

4) To celebrate the loss of an immoral war 145 years after it ended, while still trying to deny the reasons it was fought, is very sad.

Finally, 5) The reason Trace Adkins’ son feels a need for guilt is because his dad is still spouting a lie that has been allowed to live for way too long. Real men and women would have honored the dead with the truth many years ago. Some folks never grow up.

I cannot believe the energy that has been burned up over something so obviously false for this long by so many. But I guess nobody likes to suffer shame. That’s the real reason the truth has been ignored these many years.

Stonewall and Robert E. made for some great stories when we were kids. But shouldn’t we grow up and become men and women?

HL Mencken got it right:

The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and silly. It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost gem-like perfection—the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases. Nothing else precisely like it is to be found in the whole range of oratory. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous.

But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—”that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary.

So, how’s that destruction of State’s Rights working out for ya’ll at the airports these days? All that liberty to travel freely without molestation sure ain’t the same without being treated like prisoners entering said penitentiary.

Before the War of Yankee Aggression, no tax on your income. What you earned you kept. It was your property. No Internal Revenue Service or its agents.

Aw, this is too easy. It always is. Government educated, in government schools with government textbooks produces government approved responses. Ya’ll head on off to the local airport now, ya hear? You’ll know your people by the Nitrile gloves they wear.

“as a statement of allegiance to states’ rights and tribute to the men of the Confederacy who fought to defend the concept, he refuses to cut his hair.”

Trace is too young to remember how, in 1969, freedom-loving young men with long hair were harassed and assaulted in the South. Just wanting to live their own way.

And while his sentiment about living in the state that fits your lifestyle sounds pretty good, what happens when a motorcyclist without a helmet drives across the line into a helmet state? These are the UNITED States and we have to understand the issues of interstate commerce and travel. Some things will work (medical marijuana would be fine for states’ rights), but highway building doesn’t.

All Americans must make personal sacrifices in the War on Terror. President Bush told us that the United States is fighting an enemy that hates our freedoms. Therefore we as patriotic Americans must surrender our freedom of privacy to protect our freedom to board an airplane. If a state decided it had the right to allow airline passengers to board without being searched then that state would be commiting treason in the War on Terror.

Trace Adkins was born in 1962. It would be extraordinary if his grandfather was even alive before the 14th Amendment was passed in 1865. Not impossible BUT rather unlikely.

SmithCoConservative: hiding behind the U.S. Constitution? Really? Really?

SCC! We all “hide behind our Constitution”! Most of us don’t call it hiding, though. We stand out in the open and live our lives and expect it to protect us from those who would take away our rights. It is rumored that within that Constitution are listed the very rights that need protecting!

So nice of you to enlighten us about the nasty, nasty liberals, though. Taking advantage of the rights provided by the United States Constitution like it is meant to protect them from bad stuff and all that. Crazy-ass liberals! Let’s lock ’em up. Everyone knows they’re heathens, anyway.

I’m just glad our Founding Fathers made it plain to conservatives that the good ole’ U.S. Constitution was only meant for conservatives. Which is all right, I guess. If one can own a few slaves and still revere the Constitution, then personal ownership of the Constitution itself isn’t that much of a stretch.

Give me a break!

Dan Geer: your reinvention of the Gettysburg address story is rich in ironic justice, is it not? But you’re right about one thing. The policies of the U.S. government during Reconstruction certainly did nothing to heal the gaping wound opened when the Confederate States of America perpetrated the war on the United

Oops! … States of America.

Still, Jim Crow managed to punish those slaves for being freed. Poor, poor South. A legacy to be admired. Responsible for slavery, responsible for the slaughter of Americans by Americans, and then responsible for making sure that the ex-slaves didn’t rise above their station without a horrendous fight that still goes on today.

The Southern states seceeded in order to preserve the institution of slavery and, potentially, expand it into new territories. We know this because they said so in the articles they drafted explaining their decision. While men like Mr. Adkins’ great-great-grandfather — and several of mine — undoubtedly volunteered to fight for the Confederacy for a variety of personal reasons, just as soldiers do today, at the end of the day they fought for a terrible, terrible cause. As Grant said in his memoir, reflecting on Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.” If Mr. Adkins wants to do honor to his Confederate ancestors, he first has to acknowledge them in all their complexities, good and bad.

My ancestor fought on the side of the Confederacy and I am proud of him for taking a stand for what he believed in. Like Trace, my ancestors did not own slaves; but they didn’t believe that the government should tell each state how to manage its own business. I see a lot of bickering back and forth in these comments, but I think that many are missing the fact that both sides of the story need to be told. If children are only taught one side it is basically brainwashing them to think the one group wants them to think rather than letting them decide for themselves. Also as for States Rights, the individual should be able to decide what rules/laws are in effect for that state – if one state does not want funded abortions or maybe wants a limit on how long a person can be on welfare, that state should decide and that state should fund or not fund the program.

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