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Today, rather than split sectionally by slavery, America divides ideologically over the scope of federal authority. Kansas and other state legislatures have declared that national gun laws do not apply to firearms made and owned within their borders. South Carolina and others assert that President Obama’s medical-insurance legislation is unenforceable on their soil.

The 10th Amendment reads “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.” Red-state America fears Supreme Court commerce clause rulings have made the 10th Amendment a dead letter.

In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln spoke of “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He said the Civil War was being fought to determine whether any nation so conceived could long endure. It turns out that question remains unresolved.

Eric Rozenman is a Washington, D.C.-based news media analyst.