It can be argued that the American Civil War was caused by principle. If Stephen Douglas had won the 1860 election instead of Abraham Lincoln, there would almost certainly have been no Civil War. Douglas was a pragmatist who was opposed to abolition on the pragmatic grounds that dumping thousands of ex-slaves into the labor market would cause wide-spread white unemployment and depress the Northern economy.
He was also a small-d democrat who honored the Constitutionally granted right of the territories to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted slavery.
Pragmatically, of course, slavery was incompatible with the economic constraints of the industrial Revolution and would have died out in the South, as it already had in Europe, in any case.
The newly formed Republican Party, however, was evangelically anti-slavery and fervidly opposed "on principle" to allowing slavery to spread into the Western territories. And they were determined to impose their principles on the Southern States by whatever methods and at whatever cost.
Not surprisingly, almost immediately following Lincoln's election, seven Southern States seceded from the Union, to be followed later by four border States. Thus principle trumped pragmatism and precipitated the bloodiest war in U.S. history.
We may be on the verge of another American Civil War brought on by another conflict between principle and pragmatism. The principle involved in this case is not anti-slavery but anti-guns. There are those in America who support the principle that guns are evil and must be destroyed. As you read this, the recent shooting spree by a nut case in Santa Barbara is being ballyhooed in the Managed State Media preparatory to another Dianne Flintstone assault on the Second Amendment.
Meanwhile, we pragmatists are loading up our Visa cards buying more guns and augmenting our stockpiles of ammunition. As pragmatists, we're not concerned with the possible effects of misusing firearms, only with their necessity to our security and to our freedom.
The most critical question facing America today is how do we defuse the anti-gun hysteria being promulgated under the principle that guns are evil. The politicians who are pushing disarmament are, I hope, aware of the number of armed men they are facing in the United States. I'm not at all sure that they are aware of their pragmatic determination to hold on to their arms.
We are already seeing, as we saw in Missouri in the late 1850s, border skirmishes in New York, Connecticut, and Colorado between the would-be gun grabbers and pragmatic Americans. I only hope Barack Obama is not stupid enough to fire on Fort Sumter. I'm not betting any Yankee money on it, though.