I've always kinda viewed it as a Fed vs. state thing. Which is why I hate it when people vomit out regurgitated lies about the civil war - it was about states rights vs federalists. so in my view, it's been going downhill since we lost that one. Think about this - a nation of united states, each sovereign within its own geographical boundaries, and the Federal government acting only in times of need, which require a united action (e.g. threat of war).