Section: 1 |
2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
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Clearly, the Framers intended for
secession to be a last resort measure, but recognized that it was
a requirement for states to remain independent and supreme. The state legislatures,
as representatives of the people, would not
have agreed to ratify the Constitution in 1787 unless the sovereignty
and independence of the several states were protected and preserved.
The maintenance of state militias and limitations on a federal armed
forces were intended to keep the balance of power on the side of the
states. But there is further evidence that
secession was a generally accepted right retained by the
On numerous occasions, secession was advanced as a possible
resolution to sectional disputes. Secession was expressed as a
right by the New England states in 1803, 1811, 1815 and 1845. In
1803, when the Louisiana Purchase was proposed, the New England states
opposed it. Timothy
attempted to form a secession movement among the New England states
and New York. It failed when Aaron Burr lost his bid to be Governor
of New York.
On Jan. 14, 1811, Rep.
Josiah Quincy (1772-1864) of Massachussetts,
threatened Congress that his state would secede if Louisiana were admitted
as a state. In 1815, the Hartford Convention was held in secret to address
the need for New England states to secede. The New England states
had suffered economically due to the ongoing hostilities with Britain (War
of 1812) and secession was thought to be a means of striking a bargain to
resume northern shipping commerce.
In 1845, the New England states again threatened to secede because
they opposed the admission of Texas as
a state. They opposed any new state which would be sympathetic to
existing southern states. This was just 15 years before Lincoln and his Republican
party decided that secession was no longer a right and that a bloody war
was justified to prevent any state from seceding. In 1844,
abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison advocated northern secession to avoid
association with slave states in a speech to the annual meeting of the
Anti-Slavery Society of America which was published in the
Quincy, Timothy Pickering or William Lloyd Garrison ever called
? No. Was the right of the New England states to
secede ever challenged?
No. It was a generally accepted
right. Why then, beginning in 1861, were the southern states labeled
as "treasonous" and "rebellious" for exercising their rights?
Declaration of Independence justified the secession of 3,000,000 colonists
in 1776, I do not see why the Constitution ratified by the same men should
not justify the secession of 5,000,000 of the Southerners from the Federal
Union in 1861...
We have repeatedly
said, and we once more insist that the great principle embodied by
Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that government derives its
power from the consent of the governed is sound and just, then if the
Cotton States, the Gulf States or any other States choose to form an
independent nation they have a clear right to do it...
The right to
secede may be a revolutionary one, but it exists nevertheless; and
we do not see how one party can have a right to do what another party has
a right to prevent. We must ever resist the asserted right of any
State to remain in the Union and nullify or defy the laws thereof;
to withdraw from the Union is another matter. And when a section of
our Union resolves to go out, we shall resist any coercive acts to keep it
in. We hope never to live in a Republic where one
section is pinned to the other section by bayonets
." --Horace Greeley, New York Tribune [ full editorial 12/17/1860
"If the right of secession be
denied...and the denial enforced by the sword of coercion; the nature of
the polity is changed, and freedom is at its end. It is no longer a
government by consent, but a government of force. Conquest is
substituted compact, and the dream of liberty is over." --Albert Taylor Bledsoe, from
Is Davis a Traitor?
In 1788, the Massachusetts state convention ratified
entry into the Union by a vote of just 187 to 168. Let us suppose that,
a couple of years later, a second vote has rescinded the first, and
Massachusetts respectfully announced: “Upon further consideration, we
have decided that belonging to the Union is not in the state’s best
interest.“ I wonder if anyone can imagine George Washington issuing the
“ It has come to my attention that Massachusetts
intends to depart the Union. I declare Massachusetts in rebellion! I am
requesting the Governors of the states to muster armies which are to
proceed to Massachusetts and invade it. I am dispatching federal
warships to blockade Boston Harbor. Upon capture, the city is to be
burned to the ground. Federal commanders shall torch other Massachusetts
cities and towns as they see fit.
“I, George Washington, do further
declare, that because the people of Massachusetts have perpetrated this
brazen treason, all their rights are forthwith revoked. Of course, if any
Massachusetts resident disavows his state’s dastardly decision, and swears
an oath of loyalty to the federal government, his rights shall be
restored. Such cases excepted, federal soldiers should feel free to loot
any Massachusetts home. Crops not seized for army provisions should be
destroyed without regards to the needs of the rebels and their families.
After all, war is hell.
“And to citizens of other states, take warning!
Consorting with the Massachusetts rebels will not be tolerated. It
has come to my attention, in fact, that certain leaders and legislators in
New Hampshire and Connecticut have expressed sympathy for their cause ! I
am ordering federal troops to round up these “border state “ turncoats. They
will [be] jailed without hearings. I hereby revoke the right of habeas
corpus just accorded under the Constitution. In times as these, suspicion
alone shall be suitable cause for imprisonment....”
No one believes Washington would have issued such
a proclamation. And if he had, he would have swung from a tree. True,
Lincoln did not state things so bluntly, but the foregoing accurately
reflects Yankee policy. What had changed between 1789
and 1861 to warrant such a response? --James Perloff, article in Southern Partisan, 2nd Quarter 1997
[ Full Article ]
Given the preceding, secession was a generally
accepted right, a right asserted as available to
northern states to be exercised at their discretion. But in 1861, the
U.S. Government asserted that it was not a right (at
least not a Southern right), and "preserving the Union" was its
first justification for bloody conquest (followed later by
abolition). Therefore, the victorious conquerer had to continue to
maintain that secession was wrong during the post-war occupation. If
secession were really "treason," then one would expect that dozens of
Confederate leaders would be tried and convicted for such offenses leading
to such destruction, right? Read the next section (Part III) to see
how confident the victors were in their convictions.
The links below will lead the reader to a reasonably
comprehensive understanding of the Confederate
Secession in principle: Part
What does the
Confederate flag represent?
Copyright © Steve Scroggins - All rights reserved.