Gettysburg to America, 2013: Learning the Historical Cost of Federal Overreach

Written by Suzanne Olden on November 22, 2013

The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest three day battle in American History. From July 1st until July 3rd 1863, Union and Confederate troops fought ferociously in and around the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. All in all, the Civil War cost an estimated 618,000 to 700,000 American lives. If asked, most Americans don’t know the true reason why the Civil War took place. It wasn’t fought over slavery. It was fought over the struggle between state rights and federal overreach.

The 10th Amendment to the Constitution says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Today we have a plethora of issues that have spurred huge amounts of Federal overreach. Now, as 150 years ago, the issue of whether states should decide what works best for itself may revolve around different surface issues, but the basic precept remains the same.

150 years ago yesterday, President Abraham Lincoln went to Gettysburg to dedicate its National Cemetery. His words still resound today:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Before the Civil War, people passionately believed that slavery needed to be stopped NOW and demanded the federal government to DO SOMETHING. It is and was a morally repugnant practice. Laws were passed. Southern states got mad. Lincoln added fuel to the fire by unconstitutionally depriving people of property without due process of law when he wrote and instituted the Emancipation Proclamation. He had a valid reason: slavery is morally offensive and people needed to be free. Regardless of his valid reasons, his actions and actions of the Federal Government before that, pushed the South into a corner and the entire Nation into a very costly war.

Some Historians have argued that the institution of slavery was dying out and continued to do so without the intervention of the Federal Government. It’s very limited spread westward was a testament to that. Had southern states not been backed against a wall, they argue, hundreds of thousands of lives – black and white – wouldn’t have been lost to war. The resentments and then humiliation of the south at the hands of Sherman and by the post-war Carpetbaggers would have never happened.

I would further their arguments and say that without Federal overreach and its consequence of war, groups like the KKK may never have been founded. Jim Crow laws may never have passed and who can say how our history may have been different in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Who’s to say if the divisions that the current administration so voraciously feed would even be an issue to divide us?

It appears that history has been lost on us as a nation. More than ever the federal government walks all over the 10th Amendment. I found it very interesting that SCOTUS Justice Ginsburg criticized the Roe v. Wade decision as an overreach by the Court. She argued, and I agree in principle, that by making such a sweeping decision, SCOTUS put gasoline on the fire and gave the pro-life movement something to rally around.

Issues like healthcare and gay marriage may have found a less difficult, albeit slower, toe hold had a “federal case” not been made about them. Better yet, more workable solutions for one or the other, or other issues that we now expect the federal government to handle, may have come into play. When not pushed and rushed, solutions can be better thought through. Amazingly, bills can actually be read so we know what is in them. Instead the left pushed their agendas federally, and now they have to deal with the consequence. The American people are standing up and fighting back.

I hope that the divisions caused by the overreach of the current administration don’t lead us to another civil war. Maybe if they learned from history instead of revising it…

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Suzanne Reisig Olden is a Catholic Christian, Conservative, married mother of two, who loves God, family and country in that order. She lives northwest of Baltimore, in Carroll County, Maryland. She graduated from Villa Julie College/Stevenson University with a BS in Paralegal Studies and works as a paralegal for a franchise company, specializing in franchise law and intellectual property. Originally from Baltimore, and after many moves, she came home to raise her son and daughter, now high school and college aged, in her home state. Suzanne also writes for The Firebreathing Conservative website ( and hopes you'll come visit there as well for even more discussion of conservative issues.