Kongstad, you’re dead on about neo-confederates and the actual confederates alike. The level of blatant hypocrisy in period texts about the issue gets pretty extreme.
When South Carolina finally staged the counterrevolution that it had threatened in one form or another for decades, they published a list of reasons for it. The document included this complaint:
The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States.
The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.
This from the same state that pioneered the theory that states could nullify federal law within their bounds whenever they felt like it. “States’ rights” was always a strategy employed for particular ends, chiefly the protection of slavery, and never an end in itself. Specifically, it was a strategy for preserving slavery in the minority section against a majoritarian threat to its continued existence. When Southerners had control of the national government, as they did almost constantly until March of 1861, they rarely cared much about limiting its power. Quite the opposite, so long as they considered slavery viable within the Union they were quite committed to extending that power.
In 1860, the state of Virginia was actually pursuing a Dred Scott style case that would have put before Roger Taney’s Supreme Court whether such a thing as a free state was even legally possible. They wanted to strike down New York’s law that slaves taken into the state in transit and resident there too long became free. If that went, then slaveholders would have gained the power to hold their human chattels indefinitely within the free states. At that point, the distinction between a free and slave jurisdiction became meaningless. But when Virginia decided that while it would not rush to join South Carolina and the rest for its own sake, it would rush to join the movement against suppressing the Deep South’s counterrevolution. That more or less killed interest in the lawsuit.