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Secession, Ignorance, and Stupidity:

A recent Zogby/Middlebury Institute poll shows that 22% of Americans believe that "any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic." Belief in states' and regions right to secede was especially common among blacks (40%), Hispanics (43%) and people aged 18-24 (40%). Interestingly, political liberals (32%) were more likely to believe in a right to secession than conservatives (17%). 18% of respondents say they would support a secession movement in their own state, including 24% of southerners.

Constitutional law professor Ann Althouse claims that these poll results show that "all these people [who believe in a right to secession] have the law wrong and don't seem to know the basics of the history of the Civil War." She concludes that the pro-secession survey respondents are "fascinatingly stupid."

I certainly agree with Ann that much of the public is shockingly ignorant about American history and constitutional law. This is one aspect of the more general widespread political ignorance that I have often written about on this blog and elsewhere (e.g. here and here). At the same time, I don't think that ignorance is necessarily a sign of stupidity.

I. Secession and the Constitution.

More importantly, I don't think that belief in a right of secession by itself demonstrates ignorance about either law or American history. The Constitution is famously silent on the issue of secession. It doesn't explicitly guarantee states a right to secede, but also doesn't explicitly forbid secession. Interestingly, the Articles of Confederation explicitly stated that the union is "perpetual" (which seems to foreclose secession), but the Constitution which superseded the Articles does not include any such language. This silence has led to ongoing debate over the constitutional status of secession. Prior to the Civil War, many respected scholars and political leaders claimed that secession was permitted by the Constitution. Many were apologists for slavery, but by no means all. For example, political leaders from several northern free states asserted that they had a right to secede at the 1814 Hartford Convention. In light of this history and the ambiguity of the constitutional text, I don't think that belief in a right to secession is at all unreasonable, much less a sign of obvious ignorance or stupidity.

II. Secession and the Civil War.

Many people, of course, believe that the issue of secession was definitively resolved by the Civil War; Ann may be alluding to this when she writes that the survey respondents she criticizes "don't seem to know the basics of the history of the Civil War." There is no question that the federal government defeated the south's attempt to secede. However, superior military might doesn't prove superior constitutional right. There are many instances in American history where federal and state governments managed to get away with violating the Constitution by applying superior force. The imposition of Jim Crow segregation on blacks in the South is the most notorious example.

To avoid confusion, I should emphasize that I think that the federal government was right to suppress the Confederates' efforts to secede. But not because secession is always illegal and impermissible. Rather, the Union was right in that instance because the southern states sought to secede for the indefensible purpose of protecting and extending the evil institution of slavery. Moreover, none of the southerners' constitutional rights had been infringed by the federal government. Things would look very different if a state sought to secede for the purpose of defending fundamental human or constitutional rights rather than continuing to violate them; if, for example, the feds were trying to force slavery on unwilling free states.

During the Civil War, even some defenders of the Union admitted that secession might be justified in some instances. For instance, in his First Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln stated his view that the Union is "perpetual," but also that "If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view justify revolution; certainly would if such right were a vital one." Lincoln (correctly) denied that any such thing had happened in the case of the South in 1861, but left open the possibility that secession might be permissible in a situation where the federal government really had deprived a minority of a " vital" constitutional right.

Secession can be used to advance evil ends, such as the protection of slavery. But it can also be used to pursue good ones. After all, the United States was established by means of secession from the British Empire. More recently, the secession of the Baltic States from the Soviet Union, and the secession of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia have caused far more good than harm.

In sum, the text of the Constitution is ambiguous about secession, and nothing in our later history definitively forecloses the possibility that secession might be permissible in some situations. The Zogby poll respondents might be ignorant in so far as they may believe that the federal government will allow states to secede at will. But they are not necessarily ignorant or stupid to believe that states have a right do so - irrespective of whether the federal government is likely to honor that right. Even as a matter of practical political reality, the federal government's reaction to a serious modern secession movement is likely to be dictated more by the immediate circumstances than by the long-ago precedent of the Civil War. Without knowing the background of the future dispute in question, it's hard to predict whether the feds would use force to prevent secession or not.

UPDATE: In addition to criticism from people who think that any form of secession is unthinkable, I also expect criticism from those who claim that the South seceded for more admirable reasons than the protection of slavery. Unfortunately for these people, Confederate leaders at the time clearly stated that slavery was the cause of secession. For example, in his famous 1861 "Cornerstone Speech," Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens emphasized that "slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization . . . was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." He also avowed that the enslavement of blacks was the "cornerstone" of the new Confederate government and constitution. For most pro-slavery southerners, states' rights were merely a tool for protecting slavery. When slavery could more effectively be promoted through federal power, they were perfectly willing to jettison their states' rights principles, as in the case of their trampling on state prerogratives for the purpose of enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act (as I briefly discussed here).

b10621:
Althouse's "fascinatingly stupid" comment is about par for her course. I stopped reading her about two years ago when I realized that I couldn't take her seriously.
7.24.2008 10:04pm
Studying for the Bar (mail):
Seems like Zogby asked the wrong third question. Asking whether the respondent believes that the system is "broken" seems too extreme. What if belief in a right of secession tracks more closely to some variation of "Do you believe the country is on the right track or wrong track"-type questions plus the depth/strength of that response? That might explain why political liberals (Democrats out of the Presidency for 8 years) respond the way they do, rather than ignorance of history and law. And why the groups identified, who generally skew more Democrat than Republican, respond this way.
7.24.2008 10:09pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
You are quite right, Ilya, about the reasons for southern secession. Southern political leaders were unapologetic about it at the time. South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession was quite specific about the protection and preservation of slavery, devoting several paragraphs to complaints about lax enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, and complaining also that Lincoln's "opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery." The Confederate Constitution included slaveholding as a fundamental right. Only after the war did Confederate apologists begin inventing other justification for secession.

On the other hand, Lincoln's acceptance of a hypothetical "moral" right to seceed did not affect his belief that there was no legal right to seceed. "The North will not leave the Union, and the South shall not," he said (I am paraphrasing from memory here; he was probably more eloquent).
7.24.2008 10:13pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
Oops, make that "secede."
7.24.2008 10:15pm
Ilya Somin:
On the other hand, Lincoln's acceptance of a hypothetical "moral" right to seceed did not affect his belief that there was no legal right to seceed. "The North will not leave the Union, and the South shall not," he said (I am paraphrasing from memory here; he was probably more eloquent).

I'm not sure about that. Lincoln clearly believed that the it was illegal for the South to secede for the reasons stated in 1861. But I'm not so sure he claimed that secession is always illegal, regardless of circumstances.
7.24.2008 10:16pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):
After the Civil War, Southerners created alternate reasons for their attempted secession. On the other hand, Northerners claimed that their victory was a vindication of the "once a State, always a State" principle (i.e., secession is always illegal) and that Lincoln was an Abolitionist from the beginning. People know of these distortions more than the true history of the Civil War.
7.24.2008 10:22pm
roy (mail) (www):
I suspect the results are muddled by differing definitions of "right" too. For many, there simply is no distinction between "has the right" and "should have the right".
7.24.2008 10:24pm
rfg:
With the Constitution silent on this point, the legality of secession can only be established in the traditional way- if you suceed it's legal; if you don't it's not.

This is better expressed in "Why does treason never prosper? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason!"
7.24.2008 10:25pm
Milhouse (www):
1. I don't see why it matters why the South decided to secede. If secession is a right then it can be exercised for any reason or none. "Prudence" may "dictate" that one shouldn't do so "for light and transient causes", and "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" might impel one to make sure that at least the reasons one makes public should be ones that most people will think substantial, but at the end of the day the only valid judges of whether secession is justified are those who embark on it. Once the South had seceded, the North should have dealt with it just as it did with slave-holding Brazil.

2. If bad motives invalidate a secession, then we should bear in mind that among the Thirteen Colonies' reasons for seceding from the UK were that they wanted the freedom to invade and encroach on Indian lands, that they expected the UK to defend them without having to pay a penny for the cost of that defense, and that they thought the Quebecois ought to have had the common law imposed on them by force. None of these are all that noble.

3. That said, when the Confederacy in its constitution explicitly denied the right of secession to its member states, it seriously tarnished the legitimacy of its own secession.
7.24.2008 10:32pm
MarkField (mail):

Lincoln clearly believed that the it was illegal for the South to secede for the reasons stated in 1861. But I'm not so sure he claimed that secession is always illegal, regardless of circumstances.


Lincoln distinguished between secession and the right of revolution. He conceded the latter, as did virtually everybody. The term "secession" was generally used to claim a Constitutional right to leave the Union. Lincoln denied any such right.
7.24.2008 10:32pm
H Bowman, MD:
Doesn't one or more states specifically have the right to leave? I recall that some state or another specifically was given that right when they joined the union. I can't recall which state, right now.
7.24.2008 10:36pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):
Doesn't one or more states specifically have the right to leave? I recall that some state or another specifically was given that right when they joined the union. I can't recall which state, right now.

Irrelevant. Under the "equal footing doctrine", either all of the States have the right to secede from the Union or none do.
7.24.2008 10:43pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
the Union was right in that instance because the southern states sought to secede for the indefensible purpose of protecting and extending the evil institution of slavery

We would all agree I hope, in 2008, that slavery is indeed an evil institution, though it is allowed to exist. In 1860 it was a legal institution, and one on which the Southern cotton producing states were critically dependent. They were rightfully concerned based on the election results of 1860 that Congress, dominated by Lincoln's party and leaning (or being pushed by activists) toward anti-slavery legislation, would abolish slavery and economically devastate the South.

So it is false and misleading to suggest that some abstract love of slavery was the reason for secession. And it is disingenuous to stand today and condemn a culture that was in effect forced into a choice of secession and likely war, or accepting politically-dictated economic collapse and the chilling prospect of several million ex-slaves wandering about the countryside with little other than crime to sustain them.
7.24.2008 10:44pm
EconGrad:
I think any discussion of whether or not secession is legal is most likely a moot point -- mostly for the reason 'rfg' gives above: if you decide to secede and succeed, then who cares if it was legal, and the same if you decide to secede and are beaten back in line. The only reason I can see for pondering the legality is with regard to speculating what, if anything, the Supreme Court might be expected to do if a State decided to pursue this option.

It sounds like Montana was recently on record as at least pondering the issue pending the outcome of Heller (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1973142/posts or just Google Montana secede). I for one felt they were wholly justified in their position, and in fact admired their courage in the matter. Not that SCOTUS is likely to be "bullied" by such tactics, but one has to wonder what would happen if 10 or 15 States got together and says "if SCOTUS decides so-and-such a right doesn't exist, we will secede".

I like Montana's attitude toward the Feds in general. They aren't afraid to say "this isn't any of your concern and we're not playing". Take for example Montana's refusal to play ball with the Federal "REAL ID" program. Kudos to Montana (and Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington too). If more States started acting like sovereigns instead of subjects, things might just be a little different.

Honestly I don't think the Feds probably fret too much about Montana seceding all on her own, but if she did, it would be interesting to see the response.
7.24.2008 10:44pm
trad and anon:
The poll question posted is phrased in two different ways on the same page. In the textual description, it puts the phase "peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic," but the text above the response numbers says that the statement was "I believe any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic". Those two words make a big difference—is the only real-world case this question applies to North vs. South, or is it about the Basques and Kosovars too? The question also doesn't make it clear whether they're asking about a legal right or a moral one.

In any case, it seems remarkably silly to ask whether or not a state has the the right to secede under the Constitution. Secession seems like the kind of extralegal event that makes anything the Constitution said about it either way mere surplusage, just as the Constitution was ratified on its own terms and not those of the Articles of Confederation.

Also, the Civil War seems to establish that states at least have the power to secede. I don't think any members of Congress were seated for the secessionist states during the war, nor did they have any electors in the 1864 election, except for those from the new state of West Virginia, carved out of Virginia without the Virginia legislature's consent. Assuming we think everything that happened during the Civil War regarding these issues was constitutional, I don't think this can be justified unless you conclude that the secession was effective and the southern states were not part of the U.S.
7.24.2008 10:44pm
NaG (mail):
There would not be a USA without secession.

In the end, might pretty much makes right when it comes to this. Just because we think that Taiwan should be allowed to secede because it wants more freedom doesn't mean China's gonna let that happen. On the other hand, we basically enforced Kosovo's slow secession from Serbia. If only Taiwan was trying to escape a weaker country, we would have helped it succeed by now.

I think it was Texas v. White where the U.S. Supreme Court basically called the Civil War an unconstitutional act by the South. The only reason why that decision carried any credibility was because the North won, not because of some undeniable constitutional jurisprudence.
7.24.2008 10:49pm
merevaudevillian:
Doesn't this render amendment by 3/4 of the States rather silly? That is, if 3/4 of the States may bind the other 1/4, but that quarter may freely secede (albeit to its own detriment or with great difficulty), wouldn't that undermine the purpose of amendment; that is, the ability to bind the union without unanimous consent?
7.24.2008 10:51pm
trad and anon:
The only reason I can see for pondering the legality is with regard to speculating what, if anything, the Supreme Court might be expected to do if a State decided to pursue this option.
Declare it a political question?
7.24.2008 10:52pm
Vova (mail):
Ilya, your disparagement of the Confederacy is correct, but to "emphasize that I think that the federal government was right to suppress the Confederates' efforts to secede" either does not follow from your reasoning, or it does not mean what it implies in context.

The implication, as I read it, was that the means the Union chose to return the Confederacy to the Union and to stamp out slavery was morally and legally right because of the ends. However, if your motivations are fundamentally humanitarian, you would require the North to go about ending slavery by not just any means that happened to accomplish it. The Civil War was arguably more destructive than anything else the Federal Government has ever done, and it's important to ask how slavery could have been ended with less loss of life.

An alternative reading of your statement is that you recognize that Confederate secession would have been less likely had abolition been rightly pursued by other means.
7.24.2008 10:53pm
Fub:
H Bowman, wrote at 7.24.2008 9:36pm:
Doesn't one or more states specifically have the right to leave? I recall that some state or another specifically was given that right when they joined the union. I can't recall which state, right now.
Texas apparently reserved the right to divide into five states after admission. But this is apparently limited by the U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, which requires the consent of The Congress. Whether the condition under which Texas was admitted constitutes congressional consent, I have no idea.
7.24.2008 10:54pm
zippypinhead:
Here's a thought: While a right of secession is not enumerated in the Constitution, one could make a strong argument that dissolving the Union entirely (by dissolving or radically altering the Constitution) is clearly one of the options available in Article V. Thus, at least hypothetically, the South could have abrogated the Union legally and non-violently and thus effectively seceded -- but for the inconvenient fact that they didn't have the votes to actually ratify such a plan.

I seem to recall that some state officials in Montana recently took the position that if Heller had come out differently on the issue of an individual right to keep and bear arms for personal protection, that position would have violated something in the 'contractual' terms under which Montana joined the Union, and would have given the state the legal right to secede. Anybody know the details?
7.24.2008 10:55pm
jvarisco (mail) (www):

the Union was right in that instance because the southern states sought to secede for the indefensible purpose of protecting and extending the evil institution of slavery.


I don't see how this is a constitutional argument? Slavery may be evil, but it was certainly constitutional. You might argue that what Lincoln did was morally right, but that's very different from saying it's constitutionally right. I'm not arguing that you're wrong (I think there are good reasons why secession is unconstitutional), but this strikes me as a pretty weak argument for it.
7.24.2008 10:56pm
Rex (mail):
Big difference between a right to secede and a legal right to secede. Some of us remember the words, "When in the course of human events . . ."

So do I think that there is aright to secede? You betcha, depending on the circumstances.
7.24.2008 10:59pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):


Here's a link to an article about the Montana resolution.



Here's a link to the complete text of that resolution.
7.24.2008 11:00pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):
http://www.reason.com/blog/printer/125075.html

http://progunleaders.org/resolution.html

For some reason the "Link" function failed.
7.24.2008 11:02pm
advisory opinion:
Texas v. White precludes the right to secession "except through revolution or through consent of the [other] States":

When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.
7.24.2008 11:03pm
mls (www):
Nothing secedes like success.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
7.24.2008 11:04pm
Hoosier:
"They were rightfully concerned based on the election results of 1860 that Congress, dominated by Lincoln's party and leaning (or being pushed by activists) toward anti-slavery legislation, would abolish slavery and economically devastate the South. "

How were they "rightfully concerned"? The Republicans WERE "anti-slavery." But that is very different from "abolitionist." The make-up of Congress would have precluded any attempt at passing abolitionist legislation, starting with Lincoln friend and fellow Illinoisan Sen. Lyman Trumbull. The secessionists had heated up their rhetoric so much by 1860 that they had convinced themselves that Lincoln was another John Brown. That's really not Lincoln's fault. or the Republicans'.

"In any case, it seems remarkably silly to ask whether or not a state has the the right to secede under the Constitution. "

Well, the basis for the state secession resolutions was just this question. Confederate politicians argued that this was right inherent in the US Constitution and the principles of the Founders.
7.24.2008 11:08pm
NI:
Whatever SCOTUS might have to say about it today, in 1861 SCOTUS was dominated by Southerners who might well have ruled that the South did have the right to secede. And I've always been curious about two things: (1) Why the South never sought a declaratory ruling on the question from what would likely have been a friendly court; and (2) whether Lincoln would have respected the rule of law had SCOTUS done what I think it would have.
7.24.2008 11:10pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):
There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.

My guess is that "through consent of the States" is a reference to Article V. In other words, a Constitutional amendment is the only means by which any State could secede from the Union within the Constitutional framework.
7.24.2008 11:10pm
TheFlamingoKing (mail):
Rex has it right. Some rights are not granted by a document.

I'm always reminded of this quote, from rapper Ice-T when discussing free speech and his record "Cop Killer":

I think that people who are backers of the First Amendment and anti-censorship have to realize that when you jump on the First Amendment, what you're doing is trying to use the system's tool, the Constitution, to defend you. We need to just get away from that and just say, 'Yo, I can make this record because I have grounds to make this record. I have human rights, so (f___) the First Amendment, we have human rights to speak. I don't need your Constitution to give me that right.' As long as you use their laws, they'll twist that law against you. I think that sooner-or-later we've gotta realize that this Constitution is something that can be bended, folded, spindled and mutilated to serve their system. We have to turn it around and say, 'Yo, we don't need the Constitution.'

The government is not the grantor of the rights bestowed in the Bill of Rights, nor any other rights not explicitly stated there, including secession.
7.24.2008 11:13pm
Hoosier:
jvarisco: "I don't see how this is a constitutional argument? Slavery may be evil, but it was certainly constitutional. You might argue that what Lincoln did was morally right, but that's very different from saying it's constitutionally right. I'm not arguing that you're wrong (I think there are good reasons why secession is unconstitutional), but this strikes me as a pretty weak argument for it."

It is also not an argument supported by history. Lincoln used the armed forces of the US to prevent secession long before he decided to use them to end slavery. Only after the Emancipation Proclamation was promulgated did the fight for Union become a fight for abolition in the policy of the executive of the Federal Government. So was the Union morally wrong until 1863?

(And, yes, we all know that the EP allowed for slavery to continue in areas not in rebellion at that time. But this was always meant to be temporary.)
7.24.2008 11:14pm
George Weiss (mail) (www):

There are many instances in American history where federal and state governments managed to get away with violating the Constitution by applying superior force.
The imposition of Jim Crow segregation on blacks in the South is the most notorious example.


but Jim Crow WAS constitutional...until it wasn't.

plessy v Ferguson had told the states that the 14th isn't violated as long as your separate but equal, and the supreme court overturned civil; rights statues banning segregation in the private sector as not regulating anything...

only after brown vs board and the court adopted permissive commerce clause doctrine to uphold the civ rights act of 1964 that jim crow finally ended.
7.24.2008 11:14pm
Cornellian (mail):
They might be thinking of a moral right rather than a legal right, in which case the constitutional interpretation is irrelevant.
7.24.2008 11:17pm
Hoosier:
What has never been clear to me when this issue comes up is why a creature—in the original sense of that word—of the nation would have an inherent right to secede from that nation. Can one really hold that this right was granted to states, even implicitly, when they joined the Union?


So even if five states could claim the inherent right of secession,for the sake of argument, the other six could not. Texas presents a special case, since it joined the Union by means of a voluntary annexation treaty. The Texans could have insisted on an expicit right to secession at time that the treaty was being negotiated. They did not. To claim such a right in 1861 strikes me as an "inventive" reading of the Constitution.
7.24.2008 11:27pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Just to bring in a few international law principles, there has been discussion of situations like secession such as the Aaland Islands case at the ICJ seeking to secede from Finland and the Canadian Supreme Court advisory opinion on the modalities of Quebec seceding from Canada.

The basic idea on secession was whether one of three situations were present. 1) whether there was an internal means of self-determination. That would mean participation in the process of selecting representatives in the national, state and local government. 2) A second independent question was whether this was a post-colonial setting. 3) A third independent question was whether the situation was that the area seeking to secede was occupied by foreign power(s). These were all situations where a right to self-determination could be triggered so that unilateral secession was possible. If there was one of these settings, then the affeected secessionist people could proclaim independence from the predecessor state.

If there was internal self-determination then the process of secession would have to be through consultation and consent between the state and the separating entity.

One other thing about secession is what aspects of the international obligations of the predecessor state devolve upon the successor state and the secessionist state? These were some of the thorny issues with the Soviet Union's obligations for example being transferred to the Russian State.

I once had a colleague who said that 1990-2040 would be occupied with issues of succession of states in what had been the old Eastern Europe.

A fascinating topic. With states having debts, the pressure of the international financial systems tends to lead to allocations of obligations by agreement. Such agreements might be part and parcel of the opening of diplomatic relations with the seceding state. You all remember the Czarist bonds being revived against Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union? The world and the financial markets have a long memory.

Best,
Ben
7.24.2008 11:36pm
ck:

They were rightfully concerned based on the election results of 1860 that Congress, dominated by Lincoln's party and leaning (or being pushed by activists) toward anti-slavery legislation, would abolish slavery and economically devastate the South.


This is not correct. Abolishing slavery would require a constitutional amendment, which would require ratification by 3/4 of the states. Given that no southern state would ratify such an amendment, there was no chance of it passing.

My understanding (and I ask for corrections by anyone better-read in the relevant history) is that the South's real concern was that Lincoln campaigned on an explicit promise to forbid the formation of any new slaveholding territories in the West, or the admission of any new slave states to the Union. So years down the line, a 3/4 state majority for an antislavery amendment might form. In other words, they were less concerned about an immediate abolition of slavery than about possible abolition years or decades in the future.


And it is disingenuous to stand today and condemn a culture that was in effect forced into a choice of secession and likely war, or accepting politically-dictated economic collapse and the chilling prospect of several million ex-slaves wandering about the countryside with little other than crime to sustain them.


This is just silly. The South had other choices, including the morally obvious one: free their slaves and allow them to take jobs. That is (to oversimplify a great deal) basically what happened after the War, after all.
7.24.2008 11:46pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
What has never been clear to me when this issue comes up is why a creature—in the original sense of that word—of the nation would have an inherent right to secede from that nation. Can one really hold that this right was granted to states, even implicitly, when they joined the Union?

So even if five states could claim the inherent right of secession,for the sake of argument, the other six could not. Texas presents a special case, since it joined the Union by means of a voluntary annexation treaty. The Texans could have insisted on an expicit right to secession at time that the treaty was being negotiated. They did not. To claim such a right in 1861 strikes me as an "inventive" reading of the Constitution.
Bingo. A point I always make when debating neo-confederates, which they always ignore. Even if voluntarily joining the union gave a state the right to voluntarily leave the union -- a claim which simply does not follow -- that can't apply to half the confederacy, which did not "voluntarily join the union" at all. Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Florida were never sovereign states that voluntarily joined the U.S.; they were creations of the U.S.

Of the states, only the 13 original colonies, Vermont, Texas, California (loosely speaking) and Hawaii were ever independent, sovereign entities.
7.24.2008 11:51pm
SIG357:
If you believe that the Declaraton of Independence accurately describes the natural rights we possess, then you must believe in the right to secession. It goes on at some length about our right to self-determination. Rather more than it does the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
7.24.2008 11:53pm
SIG357:
What has never been clear to me when this issue comes up is why a creature—in the original sense of that word—of the nation would have an inherent right to secede from that nation. Can one really hold that this right was granted to states, even implicitly, when they joined the Union?


By that logic the colonies had no right to leave the British Empire. Is that really what you want to say?

And yes, many states made their joining contingent on the US having a certain Constitution. If that is altered without their consent then basic contract law says that they should be able to withdraw from the compact.
7.24.2008 11:57pm
B. R. George (mail):
Is it possible that the poll respondents are understanding `right' to mean something other than `legal right'?

After all, the legal and constitutional issues aren't explicitly mentioned anywhere in the poll article, and many prominent political philosophies hold that people are as a pre-political matter endowed with certain inalienable rights, of which no legal or political institutions can deprive them, and which they need no legal justification to claim. Whether this is the case may be in doubt, but, if the respondents in question believe it true, then in answering the question they aren't expressing a legal view of any kind, so their responses can't be taken as an indication of legal ignorance.

Maybe the idea of rights outside of a legal framework is such a fringe position that we can safely assume none of these people are thinking of it, but it seems like we'd need to run another poll about that question before we could be sure, especially since the idea that a region or a people might have a right to determine for itself its political status - that that natural law might entitle one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the Earth the separate and equal station - has had some prominent supporters at various points in history.
7.24.2008 11:58pm
SIG357:
The Texans could have insisted on an expicit right to secession at time that the treaty was being negotiated. They did not. To claim such a right in 1861 strikes me as an "inventive" reading of the Constitution.


It's not inventive at all. It's based on the principles outlined in the Declaration.

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

7.25.2008 12:01am
Tritium (mail):
If I recall correctly, the dispute was about the Federal Government asserting it's authority above and beyond state authority. However, in the U.S. Constitution, it states that it is the "Supreme Law of the Land", state law not withstanding. Basically, the Federal Government originally granted powers were restricted to state to state interaction as well as Foreign Relations. In all actuality, the Federal Government today is not Constitutional on so many levels. Due to this fact, the Federal Government has breached the very document responsible for its existance. (Many Many Many Times.)


"...the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust."
"...that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants."

-Federalist Paper No. 1


The constitution actually sets up a government the governs the states within the union to prevent war amongst themselves for petty differences or jealousies. Hints are made on this subject relating to Natural Law. First form of government a person experiences is the family unit. The community of family units are not told what they can or cannot do in private, only laws respecting how you interact with other members within the cummunity. Then County Government, State, and finally, federal. Any acts of Congress were to be limited to the General Welfare of the people, not people of other countries, and definitely not for expanding an empire.

If there's anything we learn from history, it's how often it repeats itself, like a snake biting it's own tail for eternity.
7.25.2008 12:07am
SIG357:
In other words, a Constitutional amendment is the only means by which any State could secede from the Union within the Constitutional framework.


That would make a lot more sense if it was only by a Constitutional amendment that new states could join.
7.25.2008 12:07am
zippypinhead:
Wait a minute, this is mind-boggling. Soooo, we can conclude from this thread that if one vote had been different in Heller, the following might have happened:

1. The Montana legislature would declare the United States in breach of the Compact under which it joined the Union, and would announce unilateral plans to secede.

2. But then Attorney General Clinton would file suit against Montana at the direction of President Abraham Obama, claiming that Texas v. White precluded unilateral secession, and arguing that Montana could only secede if an authorizing amendment were enacted pursuant to Article V of the Constitution.

3. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Stevens, would reaffirm Texas v. White as good law and enjoin Montana from leaving.

4. But the International Court of Justice would intervene sua sponte, citing the Declaration of Independence to rule that the U.S. Supreme Court has violated the human rights of the good citizens of Montana, who have an inherent right to self-determination (but not necessarily armed self-defense).

5. And then a newly-emboldened Montana would call for an Article V Constitutional Convention, and virtually every special interest group in the country would support this call for their own parochial reasons. The special interests would ram the convention petition through enough state legislatures to make it official, and would then send their highest-paid lobbyists to represent them at the convention.

6. The outcome of which would be... mud.

Nope. Won't happen. Too many lawyers. Hollywood would veto the story proposal as not having enough box office draw. This one ain't Gods and Generals. Not gonna do it, wouldn't be prudent...

;~}
7.25.2008 12:07am
SIG357:
Texas v. White precludes the right to secession "except through revolution or through consent of the [other] States"

Sorry, but this is one of the many subjects in life which the Court is not entitled to speak on. That opinion is not worth the paper it's written on.
7.25.2008 12:16am
Mike Keenan:
Under Lincoln's logic, would the North have had the right to secede from the South over slavery?
7.25.2008 12:32am
U.Va. 3L:
FWIW, Virginia, Rhode Island, and New York all ratified the Constitution with "reservation clauses," reserving them the right to secede.

The problem you run into with the reservation clauses is that it's not exactly clear who retains the right. If the people have the right, it's simply a right of revolution, which is uncontroversial. But if the states have the right, then it's secession.

Another problem, at least with respect to those three reservation clauses, is that the Constitution was already in operation by the time NY, VA, and RI ratified. If you're looking for a right to secession in the Constitution, you presumably want to show that it was originally considered to be part of the Constitution. The reservation clauses provide precious little evidence of that, because NY, VA, and RI were already superfluous, from a ratification standpoint.
7.25.2008 12:33am
MarkField (mail):

My understanding (and I ask for corrections by anyone better-read in the relevant history) is that the South's real concern was that Lincoln campaigned on an explicit promise to forbid the formation of any new slaveholding territories in the West, or the admission of any new slave states to the Union. So years down the line, a 3/4 state majority for an antislavery amendment might form. In other words, they were less concerned about an immediate abolition of slavery than about possible abolition years or decades in the future.


Very close. Lincoln also campaigned against slavery in the Territories at all (not just the formation of slaveholding Territories).

William Freehling argues that the South seceeded because it couldn't tolerate an anti-slavery party at the head of the national government. That would have meant, for example, that anti-slavery literature might have been allowed to pass through the mail (instead of being seized, as had been the case since the 1830s). It would have meant public discussion about the morality of slavery and of the benefits of abolition (a crime in the South). It would have meant anti-slavery judges, and all the basic political discussion which the North tolerated and the slaveholders had successfully censored. It was these consequences and others, Freehling says, which caused the secessionists to roll the dice.
7.25.2008 12:40am
MarkField (mail):

Under Lincoln's logic, would the North have had the right to secede from the South over slavery?


No. Lincoln took the view I mentioned above, namely that secession (which implied a legal or constitutional right to leave) was not permitted. He admitted that revolution -- and extra-constitutional right -- could be justified in the proper case.

Interestingly, some abolitionists agreed that secession was legal and urged the North to let the South go.
7.25.2008 12:43am
Lulz:
zippypinhead: hillarious :-)
7.25.2008 12:47am
ForestGirl (mail):
SGI357 beat me to it, but I thought of the Declaration of Independence immediately when I heard the question too.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...

How would Thomas Jefferson have answered the poll question?
7.25.2008 1:01am
LM (mail):

How would Thomas Jefferson have answered the poll question?

"What did Adams say?"
7.25.2008 1:12am
Dave N (mail):
NI wrote:
Whatever SCOTUS might have to say about it today, in 1861 SCOTUS was dominated by Southerners who might well have ruled that the South did have the right to secede. And I've always been curious about two things: (1) Why the South never sought a declaratory ruling on the question from what would likely have been a friendly court; and (2) whether Lincoln would have respected the rule of law had SCOTUS done what I think it would have.
I am not so sure. In fact, I believe NI is mistaken.

At the time Lincoln was inaugurated as President, in March, 1861, the following justices were on the Court:

Chief Justice Roger Taney of Maryland;
Justice John McLean of Ohio (who dissented in Dred Scott);
Justice James Wayne of Georgia;
Justice John Catron of Tennessee (who joined the Dred Scott majority but opposed secession to the point he actually fled Tennessee);
Justice Samuel Nelson of New York;
Justice Robert Grier of Pennsylvania;
Justice John Campbell of Georgia (who resigned from the Court in April, 1861, and jointed the Confederacy);
Justice Nathan Clifford of Maine.

Thus, the Taney Court, at the time of Lincoln's inauguration, had Chief Justice Taney and Justices Wayne and Campbell as being sympathetic to the Confederacy with Justices McLean, Catron, Nelson, Grier, and Clifford opposed.

But even that count is somewhat misleading. Justice Campbell originally opposed succession. He resigned from the Court after concluding that he had been lied to by Union officials about reinforcements at Fort Sumter.

Chief Justice Taney issued Ex Parte Merryman (an opinion stating the President had no right to suspent the Writ of Habeas Corpus) as a Circuit Justice and it was never a holding by the full Court.
7.25.2008 1:44am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
George Weiss,

No, Jim Crow in general was not constitutional even under Plessy v. Ferguson. In the case of the schools, the pretense (though not the reality) was that black and white schools, though separate, were equal. Many of the Jim Crow laws did not establish separate but putatively equal facilities for blacks: they excluded blacks outright.
7.25.2008 2:03am
A. Zarkov (mail):
She concludes that the pro-secession survey respondents are "fascinatingly stupid."

Widespread ignorance of basic facts goes well beyond law and history, and even the college educated can be "fascinatingly stupid.". One would think that graduating seniors at Harvard University would know what causes the seasons. But evidently they don't. In 1982 a sample of graduating seniors were asked "what causes the seasons," and 21 of 24 asked could not give the correct answer! A Harvard history professor (parent of a graduating senior) also got the question wrong. Of course the seniors gave the wrong answers in strong and confident tones.

Why should we be surprised that the average Joe doesn't know the law regarding secession when even the graduates of our most selective university don't understand seasons, something every one experiences all the time?
7.25.2008 2:19am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Trad and Anon:

1) Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee rejected his state's declaration of secession, and served until his resignation on March 4, 1862.

2) In summer 1862, special elections to the U.S. House were held in Union-occupied Louisiana; two Representatives were elected, and served until the end of the Congress, March 4, 1863.

3) Virginia legislators from the western part of the state and the Union-occupied areas along the Potomac acted as the full legislature of the state. They elected U.S. Senators for Virginia, to replace the secessionists who left in 1861. These Senators were seated and cast votes.

4) Supreme Court Justices Catron of Tennesse and Wayne of Georgia remained on the Court despite the actions of their native states.

These facts establish clearly that the declarations of secession had no legal power, and that the "seceding"
states were never out of the Union, even if it was practically impossible for Senators and Representatives to be elected from those states.

5) That same rump Virginia legislature approved the establishment of West Virginia as a separate state, which satisfied the Constitutional requirements.

U. VA 3L: Neither Virginia nor any other state "reserved a right to secede" when ratifying the Constitution. Virginia's resolution of ratification states that the powers granted to the government are not irrevocable and may be resumed by "the people" - not "Virginia" or even "the people of Virginia". It is rhetorical re-assertion of the right of revolution, and says nothing about any legal rights of the state of Virginia.

SIG357: The Declaration asserts the moral right of revolution: that when legally constituted authority becomes oppressive, the people have a moral right to break the law and overthrow it.

That principle does not mean that legally constituted authorities must surrender to anyone who claims to be oppressed. And it most certainly does not mean that a U.S. state has a legal right to repudiate Federal authority.
7.25.2008 2:24am
jdege (mail):
Lincoln was opposed to secession, and would have done anything he could have to stop it ... but there wasn't much he could have done, had the South seceded peacefully. Absent the Ft. Sumter crisis, Congress may well have ratified the secession, which would have tied Lincoln's hands.

But the critical fact was that there weren't all that many states that had seceded: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Most notably, North Carolina and Virginia had not seceded, and showed no likelihood of doing so. And absent North Carolina and Virginia - which held the majority of the South's population and the vast majority of the South's industrial capacity - the Confederacy was not a viable state.

South Carolina intentionally instigated the crisis at Ft. Sumter - fired on Union troops - knowing that it would trigger a military response by Lincoln, and hoping that the actuality of a Union invasion would motivate North Carolina and Virginia to join them in secession. Which it did.

But nothing about the process gives any insight as to whether unilateral secession is Constitutional, or whether secession with ratification by Congress is Constitutional. The only question at issue is whether a proclaimed secession followed by attacks on federal troops would be considered an act of rebellion. But that was a question that had been settled way back in the Whiskey Rebellion.
7.25.2008 2:47am
Joshua:
Put me in the "might makes right" camp here. There is also the small matter of the federal government having at its disposal a large number of nuclear warheads, all the better to simultaneously (1) employ a scorched-earth policy against and (2) make a big, glowing, radioactive example out of any state that looks like it might be able to win a conventional war of secession. All it takes is the will to use those nukes to that end, which when push comes to shove may not be as lacking as you might think (or at least like to think).
7.25.2008 2:47am
Kazinski:
Many people, of course, believe that the issue of secession was definitively resolved by the Civil War;

Some cases are just too important to leave to the Supreme Court.
7.25.2008 2:55am
Dave N (mail):
Adding to my prior post, when Justice Campbell resigned in April, 1861, he was replaced by David Davis of Illinois. Justice Davis had been Abraham Lincoln's campaign manager in 1860 and was one of his longtime friends.

Thus, after Justice Davis joined the Court in 1862, Chief Justice Taney only had one other ally who was arguably sympathetic to the Confederacy.

Adding to this, Justice Peter Daniel of Virginia died in April, 1860 and was not replaced until 1862 by Justice Samuel Miller of Iowa.

The bottom line this: Dred Scott was decided by a vote of 6-2--Chief Justice Taney joined by Justices Wayne, Grier, Daniel, Campbell, Catron.

Justice Nelson concurred but did not join Taney's decision. Justices Curtis and McLean dissented.

By 1861, Justice Daniel had died and Justice Curtis had resigned several years before in disgust, to be replaced by Justice Clifford.

Of Taney's 6, one died and one became a fervent opponent of succession. Justice Grier had apparently joined the decision due to pressure from President Buchanan. There is nothing in his Civil War jurisprudence to suggest Southern sympathies--indeed, he wrote the Court's opinion in the Prize Cases, which upheld the Union's blockade of the South.

Justice Nelson dissented in the Prize Cases, joined by Chief Justice Taney and Justices Catron and Clifford. The dissent's argument was that there was no Civil War until Congress declared such in April, 1861.
7.25.2008 3:07am
George Weiss (mail) (www):
Bill Poser:

the other reason many jim crow laws were constitutional is that most of them regulated private facilities (resturants, clubs, bars, pools, supermarkets etc.) In such a case it wouldn't matter at all if blacks were kept out completely or if there were just separate entrances. TO this day, the 14th amendment does not cover no state actors. If a bar tried putting up a "white only" sign now and not letting n blacks-you would only have state law and federal statutes as authority to force the to take it down The 14th amendment would be irrelevant.

indeed..for a while the constitution protected the rights of states to have jim crow...as courts were striking down federal legislation outlawing jim crow type stuff in private facilities (under the theory of states rights and no federal jurisdiction over the issues). only an expansive commerce clause interpretation could solve that and uphold the civil rights act of 1964 (which created restrictions on private racial discrimination at the federal level)from federal challenge.

to be sure, its probably true that there were some Jim crow laws out there that were about public facilities and didn't even meet the (now defunct) Plessy v Ferguson "separate but equal" standard. for example, buses were public, and the back of the bus was not "separate but equal" from wherever whites could sit, nor was requiring blacks to give up seats to whites equal in any way.

However, much of jim crow survived legal challenges by the NAACP until until brown v board and 1964.

Nor do I overlook the instance in which the military of the US needed to enforce the reintegration of schools over the objection of the governor even after brown. but thats a case of the military might being used to conquer the violators of the constitution..not the reverse.
7.25.2008 3:18am
Crafty Hunter (www):
To be perfectly blunt about it, I detest both sides of the leadership in the Civil War (or the War Between the States if you prefer). On one side were thugs who enslaved humans, on the other side ... thugs who murdered humans. As always, the common people got it in the necks.
7.25.2008 3:49am
David M. Nieporent (www):
By that logic the colonies had no right to leave the British Empire. Is that really what you want to say?
The colonies didn't have a legal right to leave the British Empire. The American Revolution was illegal (at least until it was retroactively legalized by the Treaty of Paris).
And yes, many states made their joining contingent on the US having a certain Constitution. If that is altered without their consent then basic contract law says that they should be able to withdraw from the compact.
Well, no, because it wasn't a contract, and states didn't make their joining contingent on anything. Other than the states I identified in my post above, states didn't choose whether to join the union; they didn't have any say in the matter. Congress decided whether something would become a state; if it didn't, it remained a U.S. territory, not an independent entity. (Congress may have waited to admit a state until the territory asked to be admitted, but that didn't make it a "contract" between them, any more than a father asking his kids what restaurant they'd like to eat at makes it a "contract" between them to go to that restaurant.)
7.25.2008 5:26am
David M. Nieporent (www):
the other reason many jim crow laws were constitutional is that most of them regulated private facilities (resturants, clubs, bars, pools, supermarkets etc.) In such a case it wouldn't matter at all if blacks were kept out completely or if there were just separate entrances. TO this day, the 14th amendment does not cover no state actors.
Uh, you seem to have missed a word in your own post which refutes your argument; I've highlighted it for you.

You're right that private racial discrimination was not reached by the 14th amendment, but Jim Crow was not primarily "private racial discrimination." It was legally-mandated racial discrimination.
7.25.2008 5:28am
George Weiss (mail) (www):
David M. Nieporent/Bill poser

thanks. duh. any such law would indeed be state action. good point.

and as such bill poser is right.

i would still point out that some of crow would end up still constitutional (and even legal) under Plessy v Ferguson and before the commerce clause was used to support civil rights, because
a)there was a lot of private voluntary white only signs not mandated by law and
b) some of the laws indeed required separate entrances/separate facilities/ that could have been defended under the separate but equal standard of Plessy v Ferguson .

in any case-i don't see how military might was used to enforce jim crow unconstitutionally, as Ilya argues in the post. when jim crow was enforced unconstitutionally for the time-like when the separate facilities did not even meet the (then constitutional) standard of separate but equal, it usually just was enforced by police or the klan. how is that "military" might? unless you considerer use of police on civilians to be military operations.
7.25.2008 6:43am
cac (mail):
"That said, when the Confederacy in its constitution explicitly denied the right of secession to its member states, it seriously tarnished the legitimacy of its own secession."

This is actually startingly common among would be (and successful)secessionists, seemingly unaware of the irony. Some examples: Ireland can secede from the UK but Ulster cannot from Ireland, Scotland can secede from the UK but the Orkneys cannot from Scotland and Quebec can secede from Canada but the Indian nations of Northern Quebec have no such right.

Personally, I think this should be something widely available (not least because the possibility of being an independent country with all that entails) seems to bring a dose of much needed reality to some would be secessionists absent if they have no chance of actually getting there, but you must allow sub units of your proposed new country the same rights.
7.25.2008 6:47am
Perseus (mail):
The Constitution is famously silent on the issue of secession. It doesn't explicitly guarantee states a right to secede, but also doesn't explicitly forbid secession. Interestingly, the Articles of Confederation explicitly stated that the union is "perpetual" (which seems to foreclose secession), but the Constitution which superseded the Articles does not include any such language.

It should noted that Jefferson and Madison (whom Lincoln agreed with) regarded "The Declaration of Independence, as the fundamental act of union of these States," NOT the Constitution or the Articles of Confederation.
7.25.2008 7:48am
djw38 (mail):
The most curious thing to me about question of succession in the US, is that, at least in practice, citizenship is a national perogative with little concensus about citizenship at the state level, beyond residency duration requirements related to voting, taxes, jury duty, in-state tuition and -- in the case of Alaska -- a share of local oil revenues. This means that US citizens have the right to move wherever they wish within the country and while the succession of an individual state has a fairly clear institutional meaning, the structure of citenship fr a population who may move in and out of the state at their will is unclear, and the examples of individuals moving North or South during the Civil War as well as West Virginia and certain counties in other parts of the South which did not secede, illustrate the problem.

Further, doesn't the possible disproportionate effect of succession on real estate owners (who cannot transport their real property in any other state as can citizens with more liquid assets) make the whole question more problematic? The negative effects of a state secession on property values could make takings, as under the federal Kelo decision, look like gifts.
7.25.2008 8:22am
Big E:

Rather, the Union was right in that instance because the southern states sought to secede for the indefensible purpose of protecting and extending the evil institution of slavery.


Isn't this just the kind of thinking that's regularly criticized here on the VC?
7.25.2008 8:45am
Pluribus (mail):
I don't know if it qualifies as ignorance or stupidity, but the frequency with which many posters here confuse "secession" with "succession" raises some troubling questions. This is, after all, a legal blog, and one would expect some level of sophistication, but if you can't spell the word correctly, how can you begin to understand its constitutional implications?
7.25.2008 9:16am
pluribus:
The point has been correctly made here--I think by Mark Field and David Nieporent and possibly others--that secession and revolution are not the same thing. The Declaration of Independence recognized a right of revolution, exercisable when the government becomes oppressive. The Declaration described a long list of grievances of the colonies against the British government. Secession is an attempt to assert a legal right to withdraw from an existing government without revolution. It assumes that there is a right under the existing laws to simply walk away. It does not depend for its validity on a long list of grievances. In fact, in 1861, the Confederate states had no long list of grievances. Merely that a president (Lincoln) had been elected without any Southern votes, and that president pledged not to permit slavery to spread into the territories. The Southern states disagreed with this position on policy grounds. They recognized that they could not prevail at the polls, and they claimed they had a legal right just to walk away. It was nullification carried to an extreme. They said that they would no longer be bound by any of the laws of the United States, as they were no longer a part of the United States. They were proven wrong, both in the Supreme Court (Texas v. White) and on the battlefield (Appomattox).
7.25.2008 9:34am
NaG (mail):
Those of you who are pointing to various laws as evidence of whether a state or territory can secede or not are missing the point. No country is agreeable to having a portion of itself split away and become autonomous. Thus, there will never be laws blessing secession. Secession is thus not a legal matter -- it is a matter of force. Either the breakaway country is strong enough to stand up to the mother country's efforts to reclaim it, or the mother country is simply too weak to stop it. It has nothing to do with votes, popular sentiment, appeals to natural rights, or anything else.
7.25.2008 9:47am
Farmer (mail):
It's interesting that the same administration which claimed states didn't have that right encouraged and allowed West Virginia to do so regards Virginia.
7.25.2008 9:59am
some dude:
I think it is interesting that southern states did, in fact, secede; as evidence in that they had to be readmitted to the Union.

I have no idea what that means to the legality of secession.
7.25.2008 10:14am
PersonFromPorlock:
The American Revolution wasn't a revolution since it didn't change the British government. It was a secession, pure and simple.

Given that a Right of secession therefore exists (or the US is illegitimate), and absent a specific Constitutional provision forbidding it, secession must be one of those Rights protected under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
7.25.2008 10:16am
corneille1640 (mail):

Thus, there will never be laws blessing secession. Secession is thus not a legal matter -- it is a matter of force. Either the breakaway country is strong enough to stand up to the mother country's efforts to reclaim it, or the mother country is simply too weak to stop it. It has nothing to do with votes, popular sentiment, appeals to natural rights, or anything else.

I have heard that the USSR's constitution allowed (at least on paper) the right of each Soviet Socialist Republic to secede. Does anyone know if I am right?
7.25.2008 10:26am
TruthInAdvertising:
"the other reason many jim crow laws were constitutional is that most of them regulated private facilities (resturants, clubs, bars, pools, supermarkets etc.)"

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was intended to outlaw such discrimination. But the Supreme Court rolled back those protections in the "Civil Rights Cases". Arguably, that decision set back the efforts against discrimination for almost 100 years.
7.25.2008 10:26am
FantasiaWHT:
(Caveat, I haven't read the comments)

The Declaration of Independence is essentially a recognition of the NATURAL right of people to self-govern and be free from tyranny. It is recognized by the constitution, then, unless the constitutition explicitly denies it. If the constitution explicitly denied it, that wouldn't strip people of their right, but arguably would give them an argument that the government is tyrannical.
7.25.2008 10:28am
corneille1640 (mail):

This is, after all, a legal blog, and one would expect some level of sophistication, but if you can't spell the word correctly, how can you begin to understand its constitutional implications?

I suppose the best way is just to acknowledge that being a poor speller, while embarrassing, doesn't say much about whether one understands the constitutional implications of secession.
7.25.2008 10:28am
jvarisco (mail) (www):
The Declaration of Independence has no legal standing whatsoever. If the stuff there was meant to be included in the Constitution, it would have been. But it wasn't.
7.25.2008 10:33am
corneille1640 (mail):

It's interesting that the same administration which claimed states didn't have that right encouraged and allowed West Virginia to do so regards Virginia.

My understanding is that Congress seated representatives from those parts of Virginia that did not recognize that state's decision to secede. The Congress then decided to divide up the state of Virginia and had the "consent" of Virginia, or at least those Virginians who stayed loyal to the union, in favor of the division. In other words, the Congress technically followed the letter (though maybe not the spirit?) of the constitutional provision that allowed a state to be divided into two or more states provided that that state gave its consent.

"Interesting"? Yes, but not particularly analogous to the decision of state to secede from the union full bore.
7.25.2008 10:35am
pluribus:
Farmer:

It's interesting that the same administration which claimed states didn't have that right encouraged and allowed West Virginia to do so regards Virginia.

This is wrong on several points. First, West Virginia did not secede from Virginia. It was formed within the jurisdiction of Virginia in accordance with Article IV, Section 3, clause 1. You cannot cite any section of the Constitution that authorizes secession. Maine was formed within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. Maine did not secede from Massachusetts. This was all done as provided in the Constitution. Second, the Lincoln "administration" didn't encourage this. As far as Lincoln was concerned, all of Virginia was still a part of the Union, as he never recognized the legality of the secession of any of the Confederate states. West Virginia was formed within Virginia by the loyal government of that state. Third, Lincoln had qualms about the admission of West Virginia as a state, but acquiesced in it because the people in West Virginia were loyal to the Union, they wanted to form a loyal state, the constitutional procedures had been followed, and he didn't feel like spurning them.
7.25.2008 10:52am
John Neff:
Until Vicksburg fell the Confederates controlled the lower Mississippi River. The Northern states drained by the Upper Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers would not tolerate that and there was a massive effort to regain control over the lower Mississippi. The South was forced to rejoin the Union at gunpoint for many reasons and one of them was to restore the river transportation system.
7.25.2008 10:53am
Seamus (mail):
Doesn't this render amendment by 3/4 of the States rather silly? That is, if 3/4 of the States may bind the other 1/4, but that quarter may freely secede (albeit to its own detriment or with great difficulty), wouldn't that undermine the purpose of amendment; that is, the ability to bind the union without unanimous consent?

No, because leaving the Union means losing whatever benefits the state enjoy as a member thereof, which presumably are not trivial.
7.25.2008 11:18am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I personally believe that it would be the detriment of the citizens of a US State and to the United States as a whole to allow a State to secede.

However, I think the United States has exhibited extreme hubris in how it has approached this issue with regards to the rest of the world.

From the breakup of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and East Timur, the US Government has consistently (and most rightly so) the position that it within the basic human rights of a people to form a new government and seperate themselves from a country that they no longer wish to be part of. In some cases, we have even sent in troops to support the changing governments and national borders (former Yugoslavia).

But if Southern California took a vote and decided to form a new country, the US Government would say, nope sorry, not constitutional and would bring troops in to prevent it.

Doesn't this strike anyone else as odd? Would we support an new and free independent Scotland, if they so chose?

We also support Canada's attempts to keep Quebec from breaking off into a separate country.

It is probably a case of "my house is okay, but the guy next door lives in a dump". International NIMBYism may be another way to describe it.
7.25.2008 11:22am
CM (mail):
Lumping all of the confederate states together does a disservice to any discussion about secession. Consider Virginia.

Virginia political leaders had long maintained that there was a right of secession. From the reservations when ratifying the Constitution, to having the Bill of Right include the 10th Amendment, to the Kentucky and Virginia resolution there had been a strong sense that states had such a right. Thomas Jefferson's writing included letters that discussed what would happen after a state seceded.

Having established that Virginians believed that a right to secede existed, examine the timing of Virginia's secession. Virginia chose to secede only after the Union attempted to deny other states their constitutional right to secede. This contradicts what was said in the original post in this topic: "Moreover, none of the southerners' constitutional rights had been infringed by the federal government. Things would look very different if a state sought to secede for the purpose of defending fundamental human or constitutional rights rather than continuing to violate them; if, for example, the feds were trying to force slavery on unwilling free states."


To return to the original premise about ignorance and stupidity, which group of people are the most ignorant and stupid? It has been clearly established that the original Constitution was silent on the right of secession. It has been clearly established that some of those who voted for ratification of the Constitution reserved the right to secede. It has also been established that some of those who passed the 10th Amendment to the Constitution were aware that the right to secede was a popular notion. Based on a reading of the Constitution, a reading of the 10th Amendment and the general acceptance of the notion of the right to secede at the time these were both ratified, the ignorant and stupid label seems best applied to the majority who thinks that states do not have the right to secede.
7.25.2008 11:29am
pluribus:
jvarisco:

The Declaration of Independence has no legal standing whatsoever. If the stuff there was meant to be included in the Constitution, it would have been. But it wasn't.

This is a gross overstatement. If the Declaration has "no legal standing," then we are not independent of Great Britain, but of course we are, and the date of our independence is reckoned from the date of the Declaration of Independence. This is a pretty important concept, and it is a legal concept. Further, the Declaration is printed in the United States Code under the heading of "Organic Laws of the United States." Of course, the Declaration is not a law in the same sense as the Constitution, but arguing that the Declaration has "no legal standing" is foolish.
7.25.2008 11:38am
MarkField (mail):
Don Miller, I think Ben Davis's post discusses the issues you raise from an international law perspective.
7.25.2008 11:41am
Samir Chopra (mail) (www):
I'd like to see New York City secede from New York state.
7.25.2008 11:47am
MarkField (mail):

It has been clearly established that the original Constitution was silent on the right of secession.


Directly yes. Indirectly no. The Articles of Confederation expressly stated that the Union was "perpetual". The Constitution states that its purpose is to form a "more perfect" union. Thus, the clear implication is that the Union -- which preceeded the Constitution -- remains perpetual.

In any case, an argument that something is legal when the only law which exists is silent on the matter is dubious, at best.


It has been clearly established that some of those who voted for ratification of the Constitution reserved the right to secede.


Did you read David Nieporent's posts?


It has also been established that some of those who passed the 10th Amendment to the Constitution were aware that the right to secede was a popular notion.


This is irrelevant and unconvincing. Who cares what "some" thought? Popular with whom?

The Founders created a republic. Fundamental to republican government is the principle of majority rule. Secession denies that principle -- it's a form of minority rule and utterly antithetical to republicanism.
7.25.2008 11:50am
pluribus:
CM:

It has been clearly established that the original Constitution was silent on the right of secession. It has been clearly established that some of those who voted for ratification of the Constitution reserved the right to secede.

This hasn't been clearly established at all. The most you can say is that the Constitution did not explicitly address this question one way or the other. However, there is abundant authority in the Constitution that secession is not authorized. The idea of secession itself is contradicted by the supremacy clause. If a state can unilaterally shake off all of the laws of the United States, including the Constitution itself, whenever it chooses to do so, the Constitution is not a "supreme law." It is an "option" or a "choice." One state cannot say "We choose not to be bound by this supreme law." A law is not a law (much less a supreme law) unless it is binding. Further, one state cannot "reserve" a right that does not belong to all, and that is not provided for in the supreme law of the Union. Virginia could not reserve a right that was not established throughout the United States. Where in the Constitution does it state that Virginia has reserved a right to secede? This has been thoroughly argued. The Supreme Court in Texas v. White rejected the legality of secession.
7.25.2008 11:54am
PersonFromPorlock:
MarkField:

In any case, an argument that something is legal when the only law which exists is silent on the matter is dubious, at best.

Au contraire, speaking Constitutionally it's at the heart of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Speaking more generally, the idea that what isn't permitted is forbidden is pretty much of a non-starter.
7.25.2008 12:02pm
zippypinhead:
"But if Southern California took a vote and decided to form a new country, the US Government would say, nope sorry, not constitutional and would bring troops in to prevent it."
Not necessarily. I daresay a majority of Congress would vote to let the People's Republic of South Kalifornia go its own way. Which would have quite a few benefits to the Union, including vastly simplifying Federal allocation of water from the Colorado basin, among other things. And I'm reasonably confident that the vast majority of the citizens of northern California would eagerly wish their southern brethern a hearty bon voyage...

But on a more serious note, I don't think one can just glibly assert that the United States would always oppose secession of some jurisdictions. We let the Phillipeans and a number of other Pacific territories go, and by all accounts Congress would likely honor the results of a popular referendum by the people of Puerto Rico in favor of independence. The practical test for consensual secession would probably be whether losing parts of the current territory would materially weaken what remains (meaning as a practical matter that given its huge resources, agricultural base, industrial production and military infrastructure, California won't be leaving anytime soon). Of course, applying that test we should immediately offer to return the entire District of Columbia to the British Empire...
7.25.2008 12:06pm
pluribus:
Mark Field:

You are correct. The "more perfect" clause of the Preamble is inconsistent with the claimed right of secession. How can it be seriously argued that a temporary Union is "more perfect" than a perpetual Union? Yet a temporary Union is just what the secessionists were arguing for. They claimed that they were part of the Union until they didn't want to be part of the Union any more. What would their response have been if the Northern states had sought to expel them from the Union? Would they then have argued that the Union was "perpetual" and they couldn't be denied their rights as part of the Union?

The secessionist states were picking and choosing what they wanted to abide by, and what they didn't. They were jealous of their rights under the Constitution, but chose to erase certain words from the document--like "more perfect" and "supreme law."
7.25.2008 12:08pm
Dave N (mail):
This is, after all, a legal blog, and one would expect some level of sophistication, but if you can't spell the word correctly, how can you begin to understand its constitutional implications?
I am one of those who misspelled "secession" (I used both it and "succession" in the same post). I also know that I was typing my post relatively late at night and was working for historical accuracy (refuting a comment about the makeup of the Supreme Court). When I am tired, my fingers end up on "auto-pilot" and the wrong word (or a misspelling) is then typed. I do preview on occassion and catch some errors. Unfortunately, there is no feature that allows posters to correct errors (I usually spot mine right after I hit "Post Comment").

And yes, I fully understand the distinction between "secession" and "succession."
7.25.2008 12:12pm
some dude:
Mark Field: The Articles of Confederation expressly stated that the Union was "perpetual".


The Articles of Confederation must still be in effect then. Hooray!
7.25.2008 12:24pm
pluribus:
zippypinhead:

I don't think one can just glibly assert that the United States would always oppose secession of some jurisdictions. We let the Phillipeans and a number of other Pacific territories go, and by all accounts Congress would likely honor the results of a popular referendum by the people of Puerto Rico in favor of independence.

This confuses several different concepts. First, the Phillipines and Puerto Rico were never states of the Union, and they did not "secede." The Phillipines were territory taken from Spain in war and never intended to be part of the Union. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth (a sui generis entity), and it has been clear all along that they can have their independence whenever they want it, simply by voting for it. In fact, this question has been submitted to the voters of Puero Rico, and it can be submitted again. Second, any part of the Union could be granted independence if the Constitution was duly amended to provide for that. In fact, the whole country could be broken up in this way. Just follow the procedures outlined in Article V. Lincoln acknowledged that possibility. If it were to be done, he thought it would be best accomplished by a convention, as provided for in Article V. That would be perfectly legal and perfectly democratic, and Lincoln would never have objected. He did, however, object to the unilateral secession of a particular state or states, without observing any of the procedures of Article V. That is what secession was. It was a rebellion by fewer than one-third of the states of the Union against the laws of the Union, unilaterally declared for the purpose of perpetuating slavery.
7.25.2008 12:27pm
Wow:
All very interesting, but Ann's entire critique of these results are so astoundingly off-mark I am disappointed in her.

The question the respondents were asked was not "do you believe the text or the construction of the constitution acknowledges a right for states to secede" or "do you believe a court of law would recognize such a right."

Rather, it was "I believe any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic"

The people who answered in the affirmative could very well for the most part have been answering based on some "natural right" theory (even if poorly defined in their own brain). This did not necessarily reveal any ignorance of the "actual law" at all. In fact, the way the question is worded would have led me to believe this wasn't a quiz on "Con Law 101" but about more abstract, fundamental beliefs not written in the formal constiution.
7.25.2008 12:28pm
Mikeyes (mail):
As usual, the Simpsons got it right.

When Apu was applying for citizenship, he was asked to state the reasons for the civil war in his interview. Apu, who has a Ph.D., began to discuss economic and legal factors going on and on until the interviewer told him to "just say slavery."
7.25.2008 12:29pm
CJColucci:
If there is a legal right to secede, as opposed to a natural right to rebel, there must be a procedure for secession. What is it?
7.25.2008 12:31pm
pluribus:
Dave N:

I am one of those who misspelled "secession" (I used both it and "succession" in the same post). I also know that I was typing my post relatively late at night and was working for historical accuracy. . . . And yes, I fully understand the distinction between "secession" and "succession."

Sure, we all make spelling errors from time to time, and it's not a capital offense. But some of the errors here have gone beyond spelling.
7.25.2008 12:33pm
CM (mail):
Mark Field:

In any case, an argument that something is legal when the only law which exists is silent on the matter is dubious, at best.


This is not a legal discussion, but rather a Constitutional discussion. The Constitution is a grant of powers. If the Constitution does specifically enumerate a power to the federal government, the federal government does not possess that power. If the Constitution does not deny a power or right to the states or people, the states and people retain that power or right. Since the Constitution does not grant the federal government the power to prevent secession and does not deny the states the right to secede, it is hard to argue from a Constitutional standpoint that the states do not have the right to secede.

You can argue from a might makes right standpoint that union took away the right of states to secede by armed combat. But I do not think such a method of taking away rights is good precedent.



This is irrelevant and unconvincing. Who cares what "some" thought? Popular with whom?



It is not irrelevant. Since those who wrote and ratified the 10th Amendment were aware of the right of states to secede, they would written a more limited 10th Amendment if they had wanted to exclude the right of states to secede from the Bill of Rights. As written (maybe not as interpreted by the courts), the 10th amendment is very expansive in preserving rights for both people and the states.




The Founders created a republic. Fundamental to republican government is the principle of majority rule. Secession denies that principle -- it's a form of minority rule and utterly antithetical to republicanism.



1: To secede is not a form of minority rule as those who chose to secede are not trying to rule over the rest of the states.
2: The founders created a government based on the principle of preventing total majority rule. That is why checks and balances exist and that Constitutional Amendments take super majorities to ratify. The founders did not want a federal government that could get a slim majority and decide to restrict the rights of the minority.
7.25.2008 12:55pm
MarkField (mail):

Au contraire, speaking Constitutionally it's at the heart of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Speaking more generally, the idea that what isn't permitted is forbidden is pretty much of a non-starter.


While I'm sympathetic to this argument in general, it doesn't really work in this particular case. In order for secession to be a reserved power, it must have existed before the Constitution. It didn't, though -- the Articles of Confederation expressly stated that the Union was perpetual.
7.25.2008 12:55pm
Hoosier:
John Neff: You discussion of the Mississippi River raises another important issue. Even if the Southern states could secede, they had no claim to control of the lower Mississippi, and certainly not to obstruct commerce along it. Control of the Miss. was secured by a series of federal actions, including treaties going back to Pinckney's.
7.25.2008 12:56pm
MarkField (mail):

Sure, we all make spelling errors from time to time, and it's not a capital offense. But some of the errors here have gone beyond spelling.


You mean it's wrong for anyone to wish the South had succeeded? :)
7.25.2008 12:56pm
Spitzer:
Two points: First, West Virginia was accepted into the Union in order to secure Lincoln more electoral votes in the 1864 election. To the extent that the state is constitutional at all, it is through a formalistic loophole of allowing a rump state government follow the appropriate constitutional procedure. Remember: the democratically-elected state government of Virginia continued to exist throughout the Civil War, and so allowing a rump - even a "loyal" one - to effect an act of constitutional significance was always debatable. After all, the voters of Virginia did not approve WV's secession, only the legislators of the one part of Virginia that remained loyal (albeit under military occupation) to the Union. An analogous circumstance today would be, say, NYC forming a "state government" and voting to secede from NY State. The whole issue is mooted, however, by the fact that one of the conditions for Virginia's readmission to the Union was acceptance of West Virginia's new status.

Second, I Ilya drastically oversimplifies the history of secession and the importance of slavery by pointing to a single speech by a confederate politician. In reality, there were a great many different motivations for secession, and slavery was chief among them for many politicians and voters in the south. However, slavery was clearly not the only motivation, nor was "state's rights" the only issue. The list of grievances between North and South was long and ancient (and continues today in interesting ways), and while slavery was an important one (if mostly for cultural reasons among northerners, and mostly an issue only among a vocal and influential subset of northern activists), perhaps the most longstanding North-South difference was on the matter of trade: southerners largely supported free trade as a way to sell their cotton at (higher) world prices, while northern leaders sought to restrict trade so as to protect their textile mills and to artificially lower the demand (and thus, cost) for the American cotton that supplied their textile mills. This split was far more important to many people than the issue of slavery for most northerners and many southerners (slavery offended only some northerners who did not interact with it directly, and there was little occasion for working class whites in the north to complain about the effect of slavery on labor wages because it was extremely rare for slaves or blacks to compete with whites for industrial labor).

Again, to suggest that the issue of slavery was the sole reason for secession is to adopt a deterministic and monocausal theory that it frankly ahistorical. Had the South's grievances been limited to slavery, it is doubtful that the mere election of Lincoln would have triggered secession - after all, Lincoln didn't have the power to emancipate on his own, and it is not certain that he would have tried in any substantive way. Secession arose from the deepseated alienation felt by southerners toward the North, and that alienation arose not simply because of the slavery issue, but also by economic issues (the trade issue noted above) and by the growing imperialistic and arrogant approach by northern politicians who were perceived as hijacking the Union and turning it to their own interests, at the expense of southerners.

Furthermore, while certain states in the deep south declared their independence in the winter of 1860/61, before Lincoln had even taken office, the border states did not. Virginia, for instance, was a latecomer to secession, and did so only in April 1861 AFTER Fort Sumter and AFTER Lincoln had ordered a federal army to march on South Carolina. Had Virginia been motivated purely by slavery, and had it believed that Lincoln would somehow effect emancipation, it would have left the Union sooner. Instead, Virginia's politicians - who, presumably, liked slavery as much as any set of southern politicians - resisted secession, and so the Commonwealth's secession was triggered not by Lincoln's election or by the prospect of danger to slavery, but by Lincoln's declaration of war.

The fact is that the Deep South already had one foot out of the door before Lincoln was elected. Not because of slavery, though its politicians liked the institution, but because of a whole range of grievances. The North's effective monopoly on southern cotton (which artificially reduced the price of southern cotton through the use of trade restrictions) may have been the most important factor in triggering secession, for while the Deep South seceded in the winter of 1860/61, non-cotton states like Virginia delayed secession until the spring of 1861, after Fort Sumter and after Lincoln declared war.
7.25.2008 1:04pm
MarkField (mail):

This is not a legal discussion, but rather a Constitutional discussion. The Constitution is a grant of powers. If the Constitution does specifically enumerate a power to the federal government, the federal government does not possess that power.


The Union is not a "power" granted (or not) to the federal government. It pre-dates the Constitution altogether.


Since those who wrote and ratified the 10th Amendment were aware of the right of states to secede, they would written a more limited 10th Amendment if they had wanted to exclude the right of states to secede from the Bill of Rights.


Only if a majority of those who wrote and ratified that Amendment wanted to do so. Your reference to "some" people was irrelevant because you need to show that the majority had that understanding.


To secede is not a form of minority rule as those who chose to secede are not trying to rule over the rest of the states.


Sure it is. Just for example, they claimed the right to take with them federal property such as Fort Sumter. Moreover, they were trying to undo the results of an election. They lost, so they tried to take their marbles and go home.


The founders created a government based on the principle of preventing total majority rule. That is why checks and balances exist and that Constitutional Amendments take super majorities to ratify. The founders did not want a federal government that could get a slim majority and decide to restrict the rights of the minority.


The fact that this may be true in a general way does not mean that the specific case of secession is legal. Every law "restricts the rights of the minority". That doesn't mean people get to ignore it. People who claim they do have to make a special showing in each case.
7.25.2008 1:11pm
pluribus:
Dave N:

Thus, the Taney Court, at the time of Lincoln's inauguration, had Chief Justice Taney and Justices Wayne and Campbell as being sympathetic to the Confederacy with Justices McLean, Catron, Nelson, Grier, and Clifford opposed.

I know it was late at night, Dave, but this analysis is inadequate. Taney was sympathetic to the South, but he explicitly stated his opinion that the Constitution did not authorize secession. Campbell was initially opposed to secession, but only on the ground that there was not sufficient provocation for it. He made it clear in his writings that he supported the legality of secession, and when his home state of Alabama seceded, he resigned his seat. Wayne was from Georgia, but he continued to sit on the Supreme Court even after Georgia seceded, in fact all through the war, thus implying (but never explicitly stating) that secession was illegal and Georgia was still part of the Union. Grier supported Lincoln in the Prize Cases, but he dissented from the Court's decision in Texas v. White, specifically refusing to state whether he believed there was a constitutional right to secede. He took the position that this question was not properly before the Court. It would be very difficult to determine how the Supreme Court would have ruled on secession if it had come before the Court in 1861. We do know, however, that the South made no effort to bring the question before the Court. When the Southern states seceded, they denied the effect of all US laws, including the authority of the Supreme Court. And it was their position that all federal judges in the seceding states had an obligation to resign. Campbell agreed, but Wayne and Catron disagreed.
7.25.2008 1:15pm
Doc W (mail):
This notion that we get a Constitutional prohibition on secession from the flowery rhetoric about a "perpetual" union in the Articles of Confederation, together with "more perfect union" in the Constitution, sounds like pretty weak stuff, legally. Nor does any prohibition come from the federal government's supremacy in with regard to the specific powers delegated to it--that's just part of the compact that a state leaves behind when it secedes, if states can in fact secede.

Perhaps someone can refresh my history on one point--when the Constitution was originally ratified by a sufficient number of states to put it in effect FOR THOSE STATES, were the other states thereby compelled to join on the same terms? For example, when Rhode Island dallied, was it threatened with invasion? Or with being treated as a foreign state?

Also, this notion that states admitted later, that began as territories, are mere creatures of the feds with no right to secede, actually has it exactly wrong. As it would be preposterous to imagine that the original 13 states lose their prerogatives just because other states are admitted, then if all states are on an equal footing it means that later admitted states have a right to secede if the original ones do. The whole point of the federal system is that states are not mere administrative regions of a nation, they are sovereign entities that retain all powers not vested by the Constitution in the federal government.

Several people have suggested that the issue was settled on the battlefield. So, it really just comes down to who has the biggest army that can shoot the most bullets and kill the most people and destroy the most property? If the South had won, would it have settled that slavery is ok for all time? Others say it was decided by the Supreme Court. So--it all comes down to the opinion of 9 political appointees in black robes? And if they change their mind--as in Brown--then the whole issue is again settled, but in the opposite direction?

What most strikes me about the many posts above is the exclusive focus on whether states had a right to secede. Let's look at it from the other direction. Where in the Constitution did it say that Lincoln had a right to stop them--indeed, to embark on a war that would kill fully 2% of the entire population of the country at that time? And how moral was that?
7.25.2008 1:15pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
Spitzer

If there were so many reasons for the South to seceded, why did all the efforts to find a compromise to preserve the Union center on the issue of slavery?
7.25.2008 1:22pm
MarkField (mail):

Virginia, for instance, was a latecomer to secession, and did so only in April 1861 AFTER Fort Sumter and AFTER Lincoln had ordered a federal army to march on South Carolina.


Lincoln issued no such order and had no such power, mostly because there was no federal army capable of "marching on South Carolina". He called for volunteers.


Virginia's politicians - who, presumably, liked slavery as much as any set of southern politicians - resisted secession, and so the Commonwealth's secession was triggered not by Lincoln's election or by the prospect of danger to slavery, but by Lincoln's declaration of war.


That's an odd view of the chronology. The South started the war. I don't think many people would say that the war in the Pacific was "triggered" by our declaration of war, but by the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Again, to suggest that the issue of slavery was the sole reason for secession is to adopt a deterministic and monocausal theory that it frankly ahistorical.


You have a more extended argument, but it's all along the same theme. Here is the SC Declaration of Secession. Perhaps you could point to the passages which mention any of those other issues you think were important.

Here's Mississippi's. Same request. Try Texas too.
7.25.2008 1:32pm
pluribus:
Doc W:

This notion that we get a Constitutional prohibition on secession from the flowery rhetoric about a "perpetual" union in the Articles of Confederation, together with "more perfect union" in the Constitution, sounds like pretty weak stuff, legally.

I get the feeling that you think something is "flowery" when it doesn't support your position. "Perpetual" and "supreme" sound like pretty definite adjectives to me, and "Union" and "law" are pretty definite nouns. Really, you should think of some other way of denigrating the founding documents. And who says the burden is on the Union to prove no right of secession. If a state chooses to secede, denying the effect of all the US laws in that state, demanding that federal property be promptly surrendered and bombarding it if it isn't, I say it has the burden of proving its right to do so. So cite me the constitutional language that does this (even "flowery" language).
7.25.2008 1:33pm
CM (mail):
Doc W

And who says the burden is on the Union to prove no right of secession. If a state chooses to secede, denying the effect of all the US laws in that state, demanding that federal property be promptly surrendered and bombarding it if it isn't, I say it has the burden of proving its right to do so. So cite me the constitutional language that does this (even "flowery" language).


The burden is on the federal government to prove that it does have the power to take away the right of states to secede. The 10th Amendment is pretty clear on that regard. Unless the federal government can show which clause in the Constitution says that states do not have the right to secede, the states maintain that right.
7.25.2008 1:41pm
some dude:
The Civil War was complicated. The South may or may not have faught for the primary purpose of keeping slavery. However, the North certainly did not fight for the primary purpose of ending slavery. Lincoln's said if he could keep the Union together without freeing a single slave he would.

I tend to think both sides were in the wrong and the whole thing was über-unfortunate.
7.25.2008 1:52pm
Doc W (mail):
Pluribus:

"I get the feeling..."

Wow-there's an argument.

"denigrating the founding documents"

One sure way of denigrating--and undermining--our founding documents is to make weak arguments for sweeping government powers where non have been granted.

"cite me the constitutional language..."

The Tenth Amendment reserves to the states and people respectively, all powers not delegated to the federal government. No power with respect to secession is apparently granted to the feds. Again, as I noted earlier, the whole point of the federal system is that states are not mere administrative regions of a nation, they are sovereign entities that retain all powers not vested by the Constitution in the federal government. If they had a right to enter a federal system, it is not clear to me that they did not have a right to leave. And it seems striking that virtually the entire discussion has been about whether the states had a Constitutional power to secede, and nothing about whether Lincoln had a right to plunge the continent into a disastrous war to stop them.

By the way, this notion that the South started the war because the feds were kicked out of Fort Sumter--in South Carolina--is truly pathetic. Were they just going to leave it there for Lincoln to use as a base of military operations? Gimme a break.
7.25.2008 1:57pm
MarkField (mail):

By the way, this notion that the South started the war because the feds were kicked out of Fort Sumter--in South Carolina--is truly pathetic. Were they just going to leave it there for Lincoln to use as a base of military operations? Gimme a break.


Yeah, and what's even more pathetic is the reaction to Pearl Harbor. What were the Japanese going to do, just leave it there for Roosevelt to use as a base for military operations? Geez.

Here's the odd thing about military bases -- they tend to get used as bases for military operations.
7.25.2008 2:18pm
libarbarian (mail):

perhaps the most longstanding North-South difference was on the matter of trade: southerners largely supported free trade as a way to sell their cotton at (higher) world prices, while northern leaders sought to restrict trade so as to protect their textile mills and to artificially lower the demand (and thus, cost) for the American cotton that supplied their textile mills. This split was far more important to many people than the issue of slavery for most northerners and many southerners (slavery offended only some northerners who did not interact with it directly, and there was little occasion for working class whites in the north to complain about the effect of slavery on labor wages because it was extremely rare for slaves or blacks to compete with whites for industrial labor).

-Spitzer






You have a more extended argument, but it's all along the same theme. Here is the SC Declaration of Secession. Perhaps you could point to the passages which mention any of those other issues you think were important.

Here's Mississippi's. Same request. Try Texas too.


-MarkField



Mentions of "Slave":
South Carolina: 18
Mississippi: 7
Texas: 22

Mentions of "Tariff":
SC: 0
Mississippi: 0
Texas: 0

Mentions of "Trade":
SC: 0
Mississippi: 0
Texas: 0


The closest I could find to ANYTHING close to a complaint about trade or tariffs was the vaguely worded part of the Texas declaration:


They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.


but looking at it in context


They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides.

They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose.

They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.

They have refused to vote appropriations for protecting Texas against ruthless savages, for the sole reason that she is a slave-holding State.



The "it wasn't really about slavery" lie would be pathetic if so many people were willing to ignore all the evidence and believe it.
7.25.2008 2:20pm
Layedback (mail):
Secession attempts are a direct result of the unabated growth of the Federal Government. The homogenization of the states has prohibited the cream of political thought and executive application of it from rising to the top. The variance from state to state was intended to provide autonomous choice to the individual as to what environment he/she prefers.

Instead the leviathan federal government has opted to illegally and unconstitutionally exact its agenda upon the states and enforce comprehensive laws it had no right to create or enforce in the first place. How else would they tax?

If this had been done, the question as to one's level of satisfaction with the "direction" of the U.S. would be rendered much less germane to everyday living. There would be panorama of choice from which each citizen could choose his/her own direction, while still enjoying the ancillary benefits of the protection and acceptable level of cohesion that the federal government was designed to provide.

However, such an environment would allow for choice and autonomy of the people and we can't have that. Given that, in this line of reasoning, the federal government is grossly guilty of breach of contract, secession does not seem all that extreme. Ask Montana. Have we reached another fatal impasse in this country in which either schism or further growth of government can only result? If so, perhaps that is what this poll reflects. The public’s ability to inherently sense there way through what academics like Althouse attempt to quantify.
7.25.2008 2:20pm
vassil petrov (mail):
The question whether there is a right to secession is meaningless. The proper question is a right under what system of law?
Under federal law, that body of law consisting of the Constitution, treaties made under it and laws enacted in pursuance thereof, there is no such right.
Under the law of Texas or the public international law - maybe there is.
By the same token, under English law the US is a independent sovereign Nation only because the King recognised it, not because it had proclaimed its "independence".
7.25.2008 2:27pm
PersonFromPorlock:

In order for secession to be a reserved power, it must have existed before the Constitution. It didn't, though -- the Articles of Confederation expressly stated that the Union was perpetual.

Sure it did, as a necessary condition for a just American Revolution (or secession, as I pointed out): The Articles of Confederation simply got it wrong.
7.25.2008 2:29pm
Doc W (mail):
From MarkField: "Yeah, and what's even more pathetic is the reaction to Pearl Harbor. What were the Japanese going to do, just leave it there for Roosevelt to use as a base for military operations? Geez. "

That yo would try to equate the two (Sumter and Pearl Harbor) speaks eloquently--and not to your case.
7.25.2008 2:32pm
pluribus:
Spitzer:

In reality, there were a great many different motivations for secession, and slavery was chief among them for many politicians and voters in the south.

Yes. It's wrong to oversimplify. If you found ten different Southerners, they might have given 15 different reasons for fighting. Defending the home turf. Resisting "Yankee tyranny." Fighting for state's rights. You wouldn't have found one who said he was fighting for slavery. That was implicit. That was what was made them so protective of all of the other reasons and rights.

The list of grievances between North and South was long and ancient (and continues today in interesting ways).

No, not so long and not so ancient. The North and South were alike in many more ways than they were different. They shared a common ethnic background (English and Scotch Irish), a common language (English), a common religion (Protestantism, with a small minority of Catholics in Maryland), a common history (both had fought in the revolution to establish independence), common heroes (all honored Washington, Paine, Jefferson, Henry) and common legal traditions (based primiarly on the parliamentary tradition and the English common law). What separated them was slavery, particularly after Northern states abolished the institution early in the 19th century, and the South resisted abolition. Slavery made the planters rich and idle, and they grew increasingly fond of it, while Northerners turned to business and trade and small farming to make their livings. This was the sole important difference between the two sections--but it was the difference that ultimately made the real difference.

[T]to suggest that the issue of slavery was the sole reason for secession is to adopt a deterministic and monocausal theory that it frankly ahistorical.

Yes, again it is dangerous to oversimplyfy. But it's also dangerous to avoid the obvious.

In 2005, Edward L. Ayers published a book entitled What Caused the Civil War? Ayers was born and bred in the South and is a distinguished professor of history at the University of Virginia, so he is not vulnerable to charges of "Yankeeism.” On page 142, he writes: “What caused the Civil War? If you have to offer a one-word answer, go ahead and just say slavery.”
7.25.2008 2:33pm
Dave N (mail):
Pluribus,

NI seemed to assume that because of the 6(or perhaps 7, depending on how you count it)-2 decision in Dred Scott, the South would have won some kind of declaratory judgment had they sought it in the Supreme Court. Given the makeup of the Court in March 1861, such an action would have been a fool's errand--even more so given your comment about Taney being opposed to secession.
7.25.2008 2:35pm
libarbarian (mail):


It's wrong to oversimplify. If you found ten different Southerners, they might have given 15 different reasons for fighting. Defending the home turf. Resisting "Yankee tyranny." Fighting for state's rights. You wouldn't have found one who said he was fighting for slavery. That was implicit. That was what was made them so protective of all of the other reasons and rights.



You're wrong. Many confederates boldly stated that slavery was their #1 reason. Many links to documents are already here and all the documents explicitly put defending slavery as the #1 reason they are fighting.

Southerners didn't start inventing other excuses until after they lost and saw the need to salvage their reputation for the future.
7.25.2008 2:43pm
pluribus:
Doc W:

By the way, this notion that the South started the war because the feds were kicked out of Fort Sumter--in South Carolina--is truly pathetic. Were they just going to leave it there for Lincoln to use as a base of military operations? Gimme a break.

The South didn't just lose the shooting war. They also lost the war for the hearts and minds of Americans. Lincoln outsmarted them at the start. He refrained from firing a shot, leaving it to Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard to start the firing at Sumter. They leveled the fort and then screamed bloody murder when Lincoln called for federal volunteers to protect Washington from a similar attack. He should just have sat back and let them take the capital, and then they would have won.
7.25.2008 2:46pm
Sarcastro (www):
pluribus, just to back you up, when I go to the south, they all talk about how Lincoln won their hearts and mind, and the South will never secede again!
7.25.2008 2:57pm
pluribus:
Dave N:
Agreed.
7.25.2008 2:59pm
pluribus:
libarbarian:

You're wrong. Many confederates boldly stated that slavery was their #1 reason. Many links to documents are already here and all the documents explicitly put defending slavery as the #1 reason they are fighting. Southerners didn't start inventing other excuses until after they lost and saw the need to salvage their reputation for the future.

Well, you managed to quote part of my post and misconstrue the rest. All of the above is correct, and I have never denied that slavery was the cause of secession, and that Confederate leaders invented other reasons afterward to rationalize the awful horrors of the war. 620,000 men dead, and all of this because of slavery? It was a pretty awful reality.

I have argued here that slavery was the root cause of the conflict. I stand by that. My point was that if you asked individual Confederates why they were fighting, they would have given different reasons. To resist Yankee tyranny. To defend the South against invasion. The protect "our people" from the Yankees. To protect my home and family. To stand up with my comrades. Historians now group all these reasons under the heading of "cause and comrades." You would not have found an individual Confederate soldier who said "I am fighting to preserve slavery." Yet of course, that is just what he was doing, even if he didn't fully understand it.
7.25.2008 3:10pm
a knight (mail) (www):
@ Pluribus - The Declaration described a long list of grievances of the colonies against the British government.

I, for one am greatly amused. A Mad George is A Mad George...

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has dissolved Representative Legislation repeatedly with Presidential findings, which opposed with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Judiciary Decisions.

He has erected a New Bureaucracy of Homeland Defence, paid for with promissary notes from the futures' revenues, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their pensions.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended legislation:

For depriving humans, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting humans beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring island's Naval Base, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into This Nation:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring and waging Unjustified War on foreign soil.

He has plundered seas, ravaged Coasts, burnt towns, and destroyed the lives of people, he was subsequently unable to prove had caused The Nation direct harm.

He is at this time transporting large armies of corporate mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Honourable Citizens, whose contract to serve in our Military had ended, forced them to become the executioners of an innocent people, or to fall themselves into a judiciary process, which may no longer adhere to due process of law.

He has excited sectarian insurrections in a foreign land, an endeavour likely to bring on the inhabitants of our Nation, the merciless Terrorists, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

A President, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.
7.25.2008 3:10pm
Gary McGath (www):
The poll as described doesn't specify the _Constitutional_ or _legal_ right to secede it just refers to the _right_ to secede. The right to secede is most clearly justified under an absolutist state, which is likely to forbid all separatist movements.
7.25.2008 3:17pm
pluribus:
Sarcastro:

pluribus, just to back you up, when I go to the south, they all talk about how Lincoln won their hearts and mind, and the South will never secede again!

He didn't win the hearts and minds of Davis, Stephens, or Lee. However, there is a statute of Lincoln in Richmond. There is a Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. There is a Lincoln Memorial in Washington, which used to be slave country, within plain view of Lee's slave plantation at Arlington. Yes, and you can be pretty damn sure the South will never try it again. As for hearts and minds, we are now in the midst of a massive Lincoln Bicentennial, spanning two years. And Lincoln is revered as a great man pretty well all around the world. I will stand by my comment about hearts and minds.
7.25.2008 3:17pm
H Bowman, MD:

Irrelevant. Under the "equal footing doctrine", either all of the States have the right to secede from the Union or none do.


Actually, your point makes it more relevant: If one state explicitly was given that right, then all states have it.
7.25.2008 3:30pm
Doc W (mail):
from Pluribus: "The South didn't just lose the shooting war. They also lost the war for the hearts and minds of Americans. Lincoln outsmarted them at the start. He refrained from firing a shot, leaving it to Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard to start the firing at Sumter. They leveled the fort and then screamed bloody murder when Lincoln called for federal volunteers to protect Washington from a similar attack. He should just have sat back and let them take the capital, and then they would have won."

Yes, well thanks for reinforcing my point. Fort Sumter gave Lincoln an excuse for war, and it has given Lincoln apologists ever since a talking point about how "the South started the war." Suppose Lincoln, recognizing that any attempt to coerce the southern states back into the union would lead to a bloody and destructive war, had foresworn the use of military force against the South. Does anybody seriously imagine that the South would have invaded the North?? To what end?
7.25.2008 3:42pm
libarbarian (mail):

I have argued here that slavery was the root cause of the conflict. I stand by that. My point was that if you asked individual Confederates why they were fighting, they would have given different reasons. To resist Yankee tyranny. To defend the South against invasion. The protect "our people" from the Yankees. To protect my home and family. To stand up with my comrades. Historians now group all these reasons under the heading of "cause and comrades." You would not have found an individual Confederate soldier who said "I am fighting to preserve slavery." Yet of course, that is just what he was doing, even if he didn't fully understand it.


Pluribus,

I understand that you weren't saying that slavery wasn't the reason. I just think you are somewhat wrong on slavery being only an implicit motive. I think the evidence is that it was pretty explicit and that most Southerners would have admitted that they were fighting to preserve slavery if you had asked them about it when they thought they still had a chance of winning.

Today, when even most racists abhor slavery, its hard to imagine someone being an enthusiastic proponent of slavery, but that is just what many southerners were. They didn't just "defend" slavery - they boldly cried that it was a just and holy institution which was ordained by God. They saw it as downright praiseworthy.

Its funny, but we normally think of abolitionists as the aggressive party and the slavers as just defensively trying to keep their institution, but its not accurate. The pro-slavery south was aggressive in trying to get slavery and the "rights" of slaveholders extended as far as they thought possible even if it meant getting the Feds to interfere with the "state's rights" of free-states to set their own laws.
7.25.2008 3:43pm
Jeff R.:
Well, they didn't necessarily have to do it militarily. I've always wondered what the alternate history in which South Carolina tried a lawsuit instead, and the Supreme Court actually wound up ruling on secession and, if they got there, the Fort's status...
7.25.2008 3:43pm
libarbarian (mail):

Yes, well thanks for reinforcing my point. Fort Sumter gave Lincoln an excuse for war, and it has given Lincoln apologists ever since a talking point about how "the South started the war." Suppose Lincoln, recognizing that any attempt to coerce the southern states back into the union would lead to a bloody and destructive war, had foresworn the use of military force against the South. Does anybody seriously imagine that the South would have invaded the North?? To what end?



Of course they would because they were freaking paranoids who wouldn't believe anything Lincoln did or said. In fact, Lincoln made it clear that he had no intention of destroying slavery as President and they STILL revolted because they were convinced he was lying.

Read the links provided and do some research and you will see how many Southerners were essentially conspiracy theorists who thought that there was a plot by Northerners to foster slave revolts with the aim of killing off all the white southerners (which, they congratulated themselves, the Yanks were too weak to do themselves on account of "superior" southern manly and martial virtue *gag*) and replacing them with blacks under Northern control - essentially the original version of the modern American-Nazi stereotype about how Jews use Blacks as muscle in their war against the Aryans.

The South convinced itself that the rest of the Nation was out to get it and then picked the very fight they accused others of wanting to start.
7.25.2008 3:52pm
Peter Wimsey:
[block]The Constitution is a grant of powers. If the Constitution does specifically enumerate a power to the federal government, the federal government does not possess that power. If the Constitution does not deny a power or right to the states or people, the states and people retain that power or right. Since the Constitution does not grant the federal government the power to prevent secession and does not deny the states the right to secede, it is hard to argue from a Constitutional standpoint that the states do not have the right to secede. [/block]

I think that this is a reasonable request. Let's look at some of the powers granted by the constitution.

Art. I, Sec. 1: All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States[...] I don't see any "unless a state secedes exception."

Art. I, Sec. 8: Sets forth congress's power, including to coin money, declare war, regulate commerce, raise armies and navies, etc. There is no secession exception.

Art. I, Sec. 10 prohibits states from taking certain actions, including entering into a "treaty, alliance, or confederation". Hmm - this might actually prohibit secession. In any event, there is certainly no secession exception here.

There are lots of other delegated powers with no secession exception; I won't go through all of them, but will again point out again that secession *does* abrogate delegated powers in the constitution. Which suggests that secession itself is not constituional.
7.25.2008 3:54pm
A.R Jones/TmjUtah (mail) (www):
The South's economy did not depend on slavery. The South's elite depended on slave labor. I believe that is an important distinction.

Lincoln based his actions against the Southern secession firstly and firmly on the premise that the seizure of Federal arsenals, forts, postal facilities, and all other Federal property/offices by the actions of secesh governments were criminal acts.

And my closing opinions on secession:

If you are going that way, make sure you have more than one Lee, Jackson, Forrest, foundry, powder mill, and many, many more men willing to bear arms than your opponent.

It was a close run thing. Much closer than by rights it should have been. Just goes to show how much a part of winning "will" really is.
7.25.2008 3:59pm
Lewis Wagner:
ck writes:

My understanding (and I ask for corrections by anyone better-read in the relevant history) is that the South's real concern was that Lincoln campaigned on an explicit promise to forbid the formation of any new slaveholding territories in the West, or the admission of any new slave states to the Union. So years down the line, a 3/4 state majority for an antislavery amendment might form. In other words, they were less concerned about an immediate abolition of slavery than about possible abolition years or decades in the future.



Not exactly. Many on both sides expected that disallowing new slave states would lead to the rapid decay of slavery as an instution. Slavery would become more clearly an economic liability long before enough new free states were added to the US to force an amendment by 3/4ths of the states outlawing slavery.

At the time, most abolitionists and most slavers believed that slavery needed to expand its territories to survive. Slave intensive cotton farming tended to trash the land over time. Some eastern slave states derived more profit from breeding slaves to trade to westerners than from cotton. Ironically, abolition of the foreign slave trade may well have had the perverse effect of prolonging slavery in states like Virginia.

Many of the founders thought that the 1808 clause (allowing the slave trade to be outlawed in 1808) put a time limit on slavery. In 1776 all 13 colonies allowed slavery. By the time of the constitutional convention 8 of the 13 states had either abolished it or were phasing it out.

The Confederacy expected to expand slavery by invading weaker nations to the south. Many Confederate leaders talked openly about invading Cuba and/or Mexico.
7.25.2008 4:07pm
Doc W (mail):
So, libarbarian, Lincoln fought the Civil War to defend the North from invasion, occupation, and subjugation by the South? Paranoia, indeed.
7.25.2008 4:09pm
libarbarian (mail):

So, libarbarian, Lincoln fought the Civil War to defend the North from invasion, occupation, and subjugation by the South? Paranoia, indeed.


Are you joking or stupid?

The South attacked the North because it was positive it would be attacked if it didn't attack first. They were wrong - the North was not planning on attacking them. Of course, once the south started it they had no choice but to fight back.
7.25.2008 4:12pm
pluribus:
libarbarian:

I understand that you weren't saying that slavery wasn't the reason. I just think you are somewhat wrong on slavery being only an implicit motive.

Gee, I didn't say that, and I don't believe that.

I think the evidence is that it was pretty explicit and that most Southerners would have admitted that they were fighting to preserve slavery if you had asked them about it when they thought they still had a chance of winning.

I think most Southerners would have said the South "seceded" to preserve slavery. I think most would have said they were "fighting" to resist "Yankee tyranny," etc. Make no mistake about it, I think the South was wrong then, and those who try to defend them now are even wronger. (After all, we now have the advantage of hindsight.) I do not think Southerners were devils, nor did Lincoln. I believe that they (or most of them) were a deeply troubled people caught up in a deeply troubled culture. Their troubles were rooted in their stubborn defense of a "relic of barbarism" and bore fruit in the bloodiest war in history up to that time.
7.25.2008 4:12pm
libarbarian (mail):

The attack on Fort Sumter was an attack on the North just as a Cuban attack on Guantanamo would be an attack on America.
7.25.2008 4:14pm
libarbarian (mail):
Pluribus,

I think we agree and are just using different language to express it.
7.25.2008 4:17pm
Grahame Curtis (mail):
MarkField said:

"You have a more extended argument, but it's all along the same theme. Here is the SC Declaration of Secession. Perhaps you could point to the passages which mention any of those other issues you think were important."

You may be right in criticising the extended argument you responded to,but it says nothing about the constitutionality of secession. I went off and read the SC declaration and it took an awful long time to get to why the thought they should secede. However, the first 13 paragraphs explain why they thought they had the right. It seems to me (I'm neither an American (ex-pat Brit) nor a lawyer) that they had the *right* to secede, if what they claimed in those paragraphs, together with their rationale for thinking that the northern non-slave holding states had violated the original compact was legal... Can someone explain why I'm wrong (without applying 21st Century morality or hindsight)?

Also, while the reasons for some States to secede was obviously to maintain the practice of slavery, it seems like a rewriting of history to claim that's the reason the USA went to war with the CSA. Consider that in 1860, about 8% of blacks in Delaware were still slaves and over 50% of those in Maryland were in the same position (not to mention that the population in most of the northern states was primarily white and thus could morally judge the institution of slavery without feeling the impact of their judgement).

Again, it seems to me as an outsider that people seem to use slavery as full justification for the American Civil War, yet it seems that it was simply the cause for secession - the war was to surely to prevent the secession, not as a means to remove the institution of slavery (for example, why didn't the emancipation proclamation free Union-held slaves?)

That seems like a "winner writes the history" situation where the unjustifiable (using force to prevent sovereign states to secede) is replaced by the justifiable and morally right (using force to abolish slavery)? A pertinent question here seems to be, when do people think that the USA would have abolished slavery had it not been for the Civil War?
7.25.2008 4:24pm
pluribus:
Doc W:

So, libarbarian, Lincoln fought the Civil War to defend the North from invasion, occupation, and subjugation by the South? Paranoia, indeed.

No. In his first inaugural, Lincoln clearly stated that his purpose was to uphold the federal laws throughout the country, including so-called secessionist states, to hold and maintain federal property, to collect federal taxes, and, where possible, to deliver the mails. Beyond that, he had no aggressive intentions in the South. In fact, he did absolutely nothing agressive before the South occupied and destroyed Sumter. Sumter wasn't the only fort they occupied. It happened to be the only one they bombarded. Once they levelled that fort, he felt justified in calling for volunteers. Why did they bombard Sumter? Because they wanted some action, not just words, and believed that without some shooting many Southerners would lose enthusiasm for the confederacy.
7.25.2008 4:24pm
Doc W (mail):
Ok, libarbarian, now you're down to simple, unadorned insults. 'Nuff said.
7.25.2008 4:24pm
CM (mail):
Pluribus

Make no mistake about it, I think the South was wrong then, and those who try to defend them now are even wronger. (After all, we now have the advantage of hindsight.)



Would you mind clarifying this. I do not see anyone defending slavery or even saying that the South should have seceded. Whenever a discussion of secession comes up, it is unfortunate that people tend to view as racist those who notice the Constitution does not deny state's the right to secede and that the 10th Amendment declares that rights not denied to the states or people are reserved with the states or people.
7.25.2008 4:33pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The American Revolution wasn't a revolution since it didn't change the British government. It was a secession, pure and simple.

Given that a Right of secession therefore exists (or the US is illegitimate),
The U.S. is illegitimate under British law. (Or, rather, it was, until the Treaty of Paris, when British law recognized it.) In short, your premise is wrong. A right of secession does not exist.
and absent a specific Constitutional provision forbidding it, secession must be one of those Rights protected under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
But there are specific Constitutional provisions forbidding it. The Supremacy Clause is Exhibit A. The power of the president to suppress rebellions is Exhibit B.
7.25.2008 4:46pm
Blue:
I haven't followed the entire thread, but I think two issues are being conflated in the original post.

1) What politicians said
2) Why poor white southerners who didn't own slaves chose to fight

Two very different topics.
7.25.2008 4:53pm
MarkP (mail):
I hate to digress from the fight over whether, from the South's perpective, the Civil War was over slavery, but I hope people look to at the Civil War from Lincoln's perspective too. From his perspective, regardless of what the Southerners thought, the Civil War was not primarily about ending slavery. In 1861, Lincoln certainly believed in ending slavery in the Territories, but he did NOT believe in ending slavery. For him, the Civil War was about something more important than ending slavery (I realize that this may be hard for us to believe; after all, aside from stopping genocide, what could be more important than ending slavery?). For Lincoln, the Civil War was about preserving democratic government on our planet. That's what his whole ". . . that government of the People, by the People, for the People should not perish from the face of the Earth" bit was about at Gettysburg. If a minority can lose a vote and then decide, unilaterally, to secede -- regardless of the the issue -- then democratic government cannot last.

One of things that I've always found fascinating about Lincoln was his ability, even though he was a rather pedestrian lawyer, to see fundamental principles at stake even while pretty nearly everyone else around failed to see them. He saw in the debate over slavery in the Territories a debate that was not just political or legal, but one that was FOUNDATIONAL. And yet, unlike many who are safely ensconced in their own ivory towers (and this is not a knock against the academy, but at anyone who contemplates the foundational ideas in the world without getting personally engaged), Lincoln entered the murky world of elective politics, suffered unbelievable opprobrium, stayed true to his beliefs even while the Union war effort fizzled, and, then, eventually, with success in all his efforts before him, paid the ultimate sacrifice. And, as a by-product, slavery in the United States (including the non-rebelling States) ended as well.

The statue in D.C. is too small.
7.25.2008 4:55pm
GatoRat:
Seems to me that a state could secede by an amendment to the constitution.
7.25.2008 4:56pm
pluribus:
Grahame Curtis:

You have lumped together a lot of arguments, which may not be easy to disentangle.

It seems to me (I'm neither an American (ex-pat Brit) nor a lawyer) that they had the *right* to secede, if what they claimed in those paragraphs, together with their rationale for thinking that the northern non-slave holding states had violated the original compact was legal... Can someone explain why I'm wrong (without applying 21st Century morality or hindsight)?

The Constitution was not a compact. It was a law, the "supreme law of the land." States that sought to unilaterlly abrogate that law in their territories were violating the "supreme law of the land." The Constitution included provisions for changing, even dissolving the Union, in Article V. The seceding states did not invoke any of those provisions. Indeed, they could not have, because they were a small minority of the country, and the rest of the country would not have agreed to amend the constitution on those terms. Whole books have been written on this subject, but these are some of the salient points.

Also, while the reasons for some States to secede was obviously to maintain the practice of slavery, it seems like a rewriting of history to claim that's the reason the USA went to war with the CSA.

The USA was resisting an illegal rebellion in a part of the country. Every nation ever conceived has a right to resist a rebellion. The USA needed no excuse to enforce its laws against the effort of a part of the country (representing about one-third of the states and one-third of the population) to resist them. The CSA attacked and destroyed federal property, and threatened to continue to do so.


Consider that in 1860, about 8% of blacks in Delaware were still slaves and over 50% of those in Maryland were in the same position (not to mention that the population in most of the northern states was primarily white and thus could morally judge the institution of slavery without feeling the impact of their judgement).

The moral question is separate from the legal question, though of course related. There was no legal right to abrogate the laws in the secessionist states. Even if the motive had been morally admirable, there would have been no leghal right to do so. The fact that it was morally deplorable only enforces this conclusion.

Again, it seems to me as an outsider that people seem to use slavery as full justification for the American Civil War.

What do you mean by "justification"? Most people at the time thought it tragically deplorable, yet as Lincoln stated in his second inaugural (just paraphrasing), the South would rather fight than give up slavery and the North would rather fight than acquiesce in the rebellion. And so the war came.

Yet it seems that it was simply the cause for secession - the war was to surely to prevent the secession, not as a means to remove the institution of slavery (for example, why didn't the emancipation proclamation free Union-held slaves?)

Lincoln's original war aim was to preserve the Union. As the war progressed, it became obvious to him that the Union could not be preserved and slavery saved. He gave the South the option of returning to the Union or facing emancipation. They chose emancipation. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a military measure and an act of justice. It coud not apply in areas of the country not in rebellion, because it could have no military application there. This is very well laid out in the history of that time.

That seems like a "winner writes the history" situation.

Much more than that. The moral of the war was not that might makes right but, as Lincoln stated, that right makes might. If the South could present a convincing case now why they were right, it would be listened to. In the history of the US, the Mexican War is generally condemned as a war of naked agression, despite the fact that the US was the winner. This is not a "winner writes the history" situation.


[T]the unjustifiable (using force to prevent sovereign states to secede) is replaced by the justifiable and morally right (using force to abolish slavery)?

Using force to resist an illegal rebellion that would, if successful, have destroyed the American Union and its promise of self-government, was not unjustifiable. The states gave up a part of their sovereignty to the Union when they ratified the "supreme law of the land." Have you read the Gettysburg Address lately? It sums it all up rather neatly.

A pertinent question here seems to be, when do people think that the USA would have abolished slavery had it not been for the Civil War?

This question is basically unanswerable, but still you ask. Most of the Northern states had abolished slavery by the 1830's. Great Britain abolished slavery in the colonies about the same time. France abolished it about the same time. Brazil abolished slavery in the 1880's. Without the Civil War, some have argued that slavery in the South would have continued into the 20th century. By 1861, slavery was actually getting stronger, not weaker, in the American South, and it was making a mockery of the American ideal of equality and liberty.
7.25.2008 5:03pm
MarkField (mail):

Sure it did, as a necessary condition for a just American Revolution (or secession, as I pointed out): The Articles of Confederation simply got it wrong.


This mistakes secession with revolution.


You may be right in criticising the extended argument you responded to,but it says nothing about the constitutionality of secession.


I agree, it didn't. I was addressing a different point in that post.


It seems to me (I'm neither an American (ex-pat Brit) nor a lawyer) that they had the *right* to secede, if what they claimed in those paragraphs, together with their rationale for thinking that the northern non-slave holding states had violated the original compact was legal... Can someone explain why I'm wrong (without applying 21st Century morality or hindsight)?


SC was simply wrong about the formation of the Constitution. In the first place, it was not a compact between the states. It was an organic government established by the people. That's fundamental to republican theory -- that the only right to found a government rests with the people because only they are sovereign.

Let me give you some background. The Articles of Confederation were seen by most Americans at the time as an agreement between the 13 new states. The Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the language. After making changes in the draft, Congress then approved the final version and sent it to the legislatures of the 13 states for ratification. The states each separately approved this version, and it went into effect on March 1, 1781.

Note that the People had no direct input into the Articles; to the extent they approved them at all, it was indirectly through their representatives in the various state legislatures. This was consistent with the way the Articles operated. The Confederation Congress could not directly affect any individual citizen except in the case of piracy. It could only make rules which the states were then supposed to carry out. In the words of George Mason at the Constitutional Convention, “Under the existing Confederacy, Congress represent[s] the States not the people of the States: their acts operate on the States, not on the individuals.” For example, if Congress needed money, it could not tax anyone. Instead, it made a “requisition” on the states for money. The states were then supposed to pay their share into a general fund. Because the Articles were adopted by state legislatures, which themselves appointed the delegates to Congress (except in Connecticut and Rhode Island), and because Congress could only operate through the states rather than directly on individuals, the Articles are often described as a “league” or agreement between states.

The Articles were widely considered a failure and the new Constitution was to change this system. Under Article XIII of the Articles, no “alteration [could] at any time hereafter be made … unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.” The Constitution, in contrast, announced its radically different doctrine in the Preamble: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Article VII of the Constitution submitted the new Constitution to conventions of the People, not to the state legislatures.

The anti-Federalists [those who opposed the new Constitution] challenged both the language of the Preamble and the theory behind it. At the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Patrick Henry demanded “what right had they to say, We, the People. My political curiosity … leads me to ask, who authorized them to speak the language of We, the People, instead of We, the States? States are the characteristics, and the soul of a confederation.” The debate at the Constitutional Convention (July 23, 1787) explains that they rejected Henry’s theory because the proper source of constitutional authority was the People:

“Mr. ELSEWORTH moved that [the Constitution] be referred to the Legislatures of the States for ratification. Mr. PATTERSON seconded the motion.

Col. MASON considered a reference of the plan to the authority of the people as one of the most important and essential of the Resolutions. The Legislatures have no power to ratify it. … Whither then must we resort? To the people with whom all power remains that has not been given up in the Constitutions derived from them. It was of great moment, he observed, that this doctrine should be cherished as the basis of free Government. … There was a remaining consideration of some weight. In some of the States the Governments were not derived from the clear and undisputed authority of the people. This was the case in Virginia. Some of the best and wisest citizens considered the Constitution as established by an assumed authority. A National Constitution derived from such a source would be exposed to the severest criticisms.


Mr. MADISON … considered the difference between a system founded on the Legislatures only, and one founded on the people, to be the true difference between a league or treaty, and a Constitution. … In point of political operation, there were two important distinctions in favor of the latter. 1. A law violating a treaty … might be respected by the Judges as a law, though an unwise or perfidious one. A law violating a constitution established by the people themselves, would be considered by the Judges as null and void. 2. The doctrine laid down by the law of Nations in the case of treaties is that a breach of any one article by any of the parties, frees the other parties from their engagements. In the case of a union of people under one Constitution, the nature of the pact has always been understood to exclude such an interpretation.”

Alexander Hamilton re-emphasized the importance of ratification by the People in Federalist 22:

“It has not a little contributed to the infirmities of the existing federal system [i.e., the Articles of Confederation], that it never had a ratification by the PEOPLE. Resting on no better foundation than the consent of the several legislatures, it has been exposed to frequent and intricate questions concerning the validity of its powers, and has, in some instances, given birth to the [outrageous] doctrine of a right of legislative repeal. Owing its ratification to the law of a State, it has been contended that the same authority might repeal the law by which it was ratified. However gross a heresy it may be to maintain that a PARTY to a COMPACT has a right to revoke that COMPACT, the doctrine itself has had respectable advocates. The possibility of a question of this nature proves the necessity of laying the foundations of our national government deeper than in the mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow immediately from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.”

I should note that what Hamilton called a “gross heresy” – that a state could revoke its ratification, i.e., secede from the Union – continued to be held by a substantial minority of Americans, including Thomas Jefferson, until the Civil War.


Also, while the reasons for some States to secede was obviously to maintain the practice of slavery, it seems like a rewriting of history to claim that's the reason the USA went to war with the CSA.


Agreed. Especially at the beginning, the Union placed its emphasis on restoring the Union. Ending slavery came later to be seen as an additional goal.

But this doesn't help the South. They tried to leave because of slavery, as I've shown.


A pertinent question here seems to be, when do people think that the USA would have abolished slavery had it not been for the Civil War?


As with all counter-factuals, you'll get different answers from different people. My personal guess, based on the behavior of the white South even after the war, is that slavery would have continued for a very long time indeed, probably until WWII.
7.25.2008 5:09pm
pluribus:
MarkP, your post about Lincoln is excellent, except I would argue that he was far from a pedestrian lawyer. There are several new books on the subject. He was actually a brilliant lawyer, one of the leading lawyers of his state, with a reputation that was growing in other states. He had an almost religious regard for the law as the governing philosophy of a self-governing nation. He knew how to analyze his case, assess his opponent's case, and plan his courtroom strategy. He did not try to achieve the impossible, but never shirked from essaying the possible. He was rigorously honest and disciplined. His Cooper Union speech was an absolutely marvelous legal treatise on slavery. He argued many cases in the Illinois Supreme Court, in federal courts, and had one argument before Taney in the Supreme Court. (He participated in other cases in the US Supreme Court, though he argued only one.) His lawyerly abilities did much to guide his presidency to the heights it achieved.
7.25.2008 5:13pm
Dave N (mail):
jeff r. wrote:
Well, they didn't necessarily have to do it militarily. I've always wondered what the alternate history in which South Carolina tried a lawsuit instead, and the Supreme Court actually wound up ruling on secession and, if they got there, the Fort's status...
As I noted several times (see my posts at 12:44 am, 2:07 am, and 1:35 pm) that the assumption that the South in general, or South Carolina in particular, would have won a lawsuit given the 1861 composition of the Supreme Court is, to put it charitably, extremely unlikely.
7.25.2008 5:22pm
trad and anon:
I don't get those who are citing the Articles of Confederation as precedent. The Articles of Confederation were extralegally abolished by the Constitution, which was ratified on its own terms, and not those of the Articles. In any case, it seems to me that a Union that is perpetual until the citizens of a particular region decide that it has become a liability for them, rather than a benefit, is more perfect than a Union that lives on, zombie-like, regardless of whether it is doing its citizens any good.

I still think this is a stupid debate and that it is of no import whether or not secession is "legal". If you secede and get away with it, it was legal and you are a true patriot, and if you secede don't get away with it, it was illegal and you're a traitor.

I don't care what the "correct" interpretation of the Constitution at the time of the Civil War was either. It seems to me that at the time the Constitution was an agreement with Death and a covenant with Hell, and the North was entitled to invade the South whether or not the Southern secession was legal. [1] But today, if a state or region were to purport to secede and the new government were a liberal democracy with no aims of invading the remaining states, I would oppose the use of force to prevent it.

[1] Though of course the North's ex ante reasons for the war were hardly noble, and their abandonment of the Southern blacks to a system of tyranny and oppression nearly as brutal as the one that preceded it a moral crime of the highest order.
7.25.2008 5:23pm
galeH (mail):
As NAL or scholar, I must say congratulations to all participants in this discussion. You, all of you, have argued your position with courtesy, historical references that I can access, logic, and clarity.

You have opened my formerly closed mind to ways of thinking about issues I thought were long ago settled.

The VC community is a treasure to this seventy year old geezer.

Best to all,
gnholb
7.25.2008 5:28pm
trad and anon:
As with all counter-factuals, you'll get different answers from different people. My personal guess, based on the behavior of the white South even after the war, is that slavery would have continued for a very long time indeed, probably until WWII.
De facto slavery actually did continue for at least 50 years (not sure how much longer, but at least until the early 20th century), what with sharecropping, government refusal to enforce the rights of black people, imposition of forced labor as punishment for the real or imagined crimes of black people (who the government would then sell), etc. So I see no particular reason to think it was on the way out.
7.25.2008 5:30pm
A.R Jones/TmjUtah (mail) (www):
Has it been mentioned yet that Mr. Lincoln was a land surveyor, as well as a lawyer? There's a data point supporting his exceptionalism, right there!

Seriously - Lincoln's commitment to foundational principles was tempered by his knowledge, and interest, in the mathematics of the surveying craft.

Surveyors and engineers are driven to make things work. IMO, a lot of lawyers (and a far larger number of just average citizens in general) seem content to merely win on points any argument of the moment they find themselves in.

I see no requirement that opprobrium automatically exists in the phrase "pedestrian lawyer"; would that there were more lawyers who stuck to principles and not nuancess (spoken as a non lawyer)..

Lincoln proved to be undoubtedly the right man in the right place in 1860. I wish we had anybody remotely close to his potential standing at the foot of the pedestal of power today.
7.25.2008 5:31pm
Jam:
So much material, so little time:

1) Lincoln was supporter of the Corwin Amendment. If slavery was THE issue why the Southern States did not go for it? And Lincoln's purpose for keeping slavery out of the territories was to preserve the land for free white labor only.

2) Jefferson Davis, upon hearing of Stephens speech, said that that may be what he [Stephens] is fighting for but that is not why we are fighting for. Or words to that effect.

3) "A more perfect union" is simply a reference to the [run away] COnsitutional Convention task of repairing the perceived weaknesses of the Articles. Never mind that the preamble has no legal bearing.

4) If the Articles were perpetual and the States were able to secede/dissolve the Articles of Confederation to join in Union under a new Constitution, what does that say about a document that purposely left that "perpetual" out of it?

5) If there is any doubt that the united States of America came into existence in 1789 (with 9 former Colonies as charter States) answer this question: Who was the first president of these united States of America?

6) If Texas has the retained authority to secede, so does Hawaii, Virginia (10th), New York(11th), North Carolina (12th) and Rhode Island (13th).

7) If the Federal government is a party to the Consitution, where are its agents mentioned and their signatures penned? The Constituion extablished the Federal government.

8) I have been an associate member of a social club that required the approval of certain number of members to be admitted. Approval for admittance into a voluntary association requires no approval for renunciation of membership.

9) Rawle's A View of the Consitution, yep the guy quoted in the Heller case, was the textbook used at west point when Rober E. Lee attended that institution. Rawle clearly taught that secession is legal and all a State had to do ws to make it clear an unambiguous. Any doubt that the Southern States were unambigous and clear about their secession?

10) Lincoln sent the Star of the West with one purpose in mind: to draw fire from South Carolina. He did not care about being successfull at resupplying Ft. Sumnter.

11) An independent country, whether a former State in these uS or not, is outside the Constitution and the Constituition is of no force. And this is contrary to what is going on these days where these uS are prosecuting people for violating uS laws without even being in these uS. Can we say we are Rome now?

12) And Lincol, when it suited his politics did espouse secession.

13) If the States never, legally, seceded then why they had to be readmitted?

14) If there is no right to secession why did the uS become secessionist and kicked the Southern delegations without the SOuthern States' approval? Remember the 14 "amendment?"

15) When the Federal government acts directly against the Constitution what is the remedy? Subserviance?

16) How come everybody brings up Jim Craw laws but not the Black Codes in the North?

17) Of the huge number of available letters of Confederate soldiers' letters, how many talk about fighting for slavery? Of the Union soldiers' letters, how many talk aout quiting if they were just fightingto free the negroes?

18) Lincol did not ask for volunteers, he demqanded quota numbers of vounteers. Since the government of the Southern States were operational and not under threat of private armies (insurrectionists) nor the Southern States were being invaded Lincoln had no authority to demand, nor ask, for volunteers.
7.25.2008 5:37pm
trad and anon:
A pertinent question here seems to be, when do people think that the USA would have abolished slavery had it not been for the Civil War?
Well, if there hadn't been a Civil War, it would have been because the Union decided it wasn't interested in invading the South notwithstanding Fort Sumpter and tried to negotiate an agreement on borders and trade. In that case, I give it a decade. If the South had never seceded, it beats me.
7.25.2008 5:39pm
Grahame Curtis (mail):
Thanks pluribus and MarkField for your lucid and informative responses.

Just a couple of follow-ups/requests:

Pluribus, you mention many books written regarding the para beginning, "The Constitution was not a compact. It was a law, the "supreme law of the land." Could you possibly recommend a couple suitable for a layman (I have an interest in American history, despite being a perfidious Brit :))

You say: "The USA was resisting an illegal rebellion in a part of the country. Every nation ever conceived has a right to resist a rebellion. The USA needed no excuse to enforce its laws against the effort of a part of the country (representing about one-third of the states and one-third of the population) to resist them. The CSA attacked and destroyed federal property, and threatened to continue to do so."

Indeed... I believe my country had a similar situation a few years earlier :) To be fair, both our countries ended up doing rather well because of the split...

My only point regarding slavery and victors writing the history was really in regard of many posts here in the comments that seem to assume that because the south had slavery, it was fine (irregardless of whether it was legal or not). I was trying to determine - though perhaps in a Devil's Advocate sort of way, whether the secession/federal response truly was illegal or not, without the application of modern morality on the issue.

"Lincoln's original war aim was to preserve the Union. As the war progressed, it became obvious to him that the Union could not be preserved and slavery saved. "

As a side note, in terms of war-fighting, the Emancipation Proclamation also served to highlight the issue for Britain, who was reluctant to side with a slave-owning nation, giving more ammunition for those advocating neutrality in the conflict. After all, in 1772, before the American Revolution, a judge in England declared that slavery was outside English Law, in 1807 the Slave Trade Act was passed (prohibiting the Slave Trade, enforced, on every nation - slave trading being declared as piracy in 1827, by the Royal Navy) and in 1833, slavery was abolished in the Empire... I do know my own nation's history ;)

"Have you read the Gettysburg Address lately?"

:) Actually I work in the Lincoln Building on 42nd St. in New York and I do read it every day. One of the best, and one of my favourite, speeches by a politician - as true today as it was then!

Thanks again to both of your for the info and clarifications.
7.25.2008 5:41pm
Jam:
As to why there are statues of Lincoln anywhere in the South. Because the victors have been good at their re-writing of the history. To the victors go the spoils and the history writing. Time has indeed reconstructed the Southron.

Yes, I do think that people, in general, are particularly deeply ignorant of history.

I am glad that there is still a little intution left in favor of self-determination.

You know, what rank hypocrisy. We demand tht other countries grant independence to subjugated peoples but not here. No siree. Do as we say and not as we do.
7.25.2008 5:45pm
Jam:
"Have you read the Gettysburg Address lately?"

Have you yourslef. Have you noticed those exceptioions listed? Hmmm.

Do you know wht the Union did to "freed" slaves? They became property of the Union and wer not freed ... until the 13th. Good help was so hard to find in those days, eh Grant?
7.25.2008 5:49pm
trad and anon:
13) If the States never, legally, seceded then why they had to be readmitted?

14) If there is no right to secession why did the uS become secessionist and kicked the Southern delegations without the SOuthern States' approval?
I think we can distinguish a right of secession from the power of secession. Notwithstanding Texas v. White, I think the refusal to recognize the Southern delegations, the division of Virginia without the consent of the Virginia legislature (which was still sitting in Richmond), and the amendment of the Constitution without actual ratification (as opposed to coerced "ratification") by the Southern states unequivocally establishes that the Southern states did secede. But that's different from saying they had the right to do so, and the Union's invasion was in the wrong (assuming, counterfactually, that the Union invaded for noble reasons)
7.25.2008 5:51pm
Jam:
Read this Mr. Curtis:

http://volokh.com/posts/1174231563.shtml#197801
7.25.2008 5:52pm
Jam:
trad and anon: Huuuh?

The Southern delegation voted for the 13th!

All that Lincoln's War did was to prove that might makes it stick.
7.25.2008 5:56pm
trad and anon:
Consider that in 1860, about 8% of blacks in Delaware were still slaves and over 50% of those in Maryland were in the same position (not to mention that the population in most of the northern states was primarily white and thus could morally judge the institution of slavery without feeling the impact of their judgement).
Maryland tells us nothing about the Union's motive for prosecuting the war. Maryland would have seceded if Lincoln hadn't stuck cannon in the hills above Baltimore and arrested a large portion of the legislature.
7.25.2008 5:56pm
MarkField (mail):

De facto slavery actually did continue for at least 50 years (not sure how much longer, but at least until the early 20th century), what with sharecropping, government refusal to enforce the rights of black people, imposition of forced labor as punishment for the real or imagined crimes of black people (who the government would then sell), etc. So I see no particular reason to think it was on the way out.


Agreed.

Grahame Curtis, I highly recommend reading all of Lincoln's speeches, but especially the Cooper Union Address.
7.25.2008 6:03pm
Ella (mail):
Quick note about slavery and the South (and apologies if someone else mentioned this and I missed it):

Of course slavery was the reason for secession. Just like tea and paper stamps were the reason for rebelling against England. The reason was that the South said the North didn't have any right to tell them what to do about slavery, and they wanted to extend it and perpetuate. The slavery was reprehensible. The desire to secede from a bullying government isn't, even if the bullying is itself moral. No one initiates a revolution because of a tea tax; they revolt because they believe that government doesn't have the right to tax them.
7.25.2008 6:04pm
CM (mail):
I do not understand why people are quoting the Gettysburg Address. It is soaring rhetoric that is completely nonsensical when evaluated based on the facts.

1. The Constitution, which does not deny states the right to secede, was passed democratically.

2. The 10th Amendment, which reserved all rights not denied to them by the Constitution to the people or states, was passed democratically.

3. The people of the various states voted to secede democratically.

How can anyone accept Lincoln's claim that he was fighting to preserve a government for the people and by the people? It is clearly false based on the facts. He was fighting to strip away Constitutionally guaranteed rights from the states and fighting to nullify the results of a democratic vote to secede.
7.25.2008 6:04pm
Grahame Curtis (mail):
Jam said:

"Read this Mr. Curtis:

http://volokh.com/posts/1174231563.shtml#197801"

Thanks Jam, they're interesting links... Don't the quotes regarding the position of blacks in the USA though show that he favoured manumission, just not emancipation - which (the Emancipation Proclamation specifically) as I think I suggested, was a way to curry favour abroad, specifically in Britain which, had it thrown its weight behind the CSA, would have turned the course of the war away from US eventual victory?

As a general point in that regard, I note that the 1862 speech also includes the following line:

"The treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade has been put into operation with a good prospect of complete success. It is an occasion of special pleasure to acknowledge that the execution of it, on the part of Her Majesty's government, has been marked with a jealous respect for the authority of the United States, and the rights of their moral and loyal citizens."

Learning a lot I didn't know today... (A good thing generally :))
7.25.2008 6:06pm
Seamus (mail):
Read the links provided and do some research and you will see how many Southerners were essentially conspiracy theorists who thought that there was a plot by Northerners to foster slave revolts with the aim of killing off all the white southerners

Well, after John Brown tried to foment a rebellion, and after his failure was widely lauded by the chattering classes in the North, the Southerners weren't entirely nuts to think so.
7.25.2008 6:08pm
Hoosier:
Because the victors have been good at their re-writing of the history. To the victors go the spoils and the history writing.

Except that that this is the one clear case where it didn't work that way. The Legend of the Lost Cause was a Southern creation, abetted by Southern historians. As was the myth of "Black Reconstruction." The losers wrote the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction for close to a century. Think of the Dunning School, which was the mainstream during its day.

Especially after the generation that fought the war began to get old, Northerners just didn't much care about the history of the South. That was left to racist Confederate partisans, who concoted a story of incompetent blacks and GOP "caperpetbaggers" ruining what had been a society where the races lived in peace, since everyone knew his place.

The change didn't really begin until C. Van Woodward and other "New-New South" liberals began to take another look at the war and Reconstruction. This heralded the coming of a set of Southerner whites who would support progress on postwar Civil Rights.

The idea that the winner writes the history is wrong if the loser cares much more about the history than does the winner.
7.25.2008 6:13pm
pluribus:
Grahame Curtis:

Pluribus, you mention many books written regarding the para beginning, "The Constitution was not a compact. It was a law, the "supreme law of the land." Could you possibly recommend a couple suitable for a layman (I have an interest in American history, despite being a perfidious Brit :))

I said "whole books" have been written about secession, the war, Lincoln's view of it, and related matters. Two that discuss the constitutionality that you may find accessible are:

Lincoln's Constitution by Daniel Farber (Chicago 2003).
Lincoln and the Court by Brian McGinty (Harvard 2008).
7.25.2008 6:33pm
Jam:
Hossier: And yet, here we are. With an overwhelming number of ignorance of history, to the point that if I support secession, in thoery and practice, is because I am ignorant.

The days of a Southron-centric history book have long been gone.

The victors have indeed re-writen the history and the reconstructed eaten it all up.

So many can recognized it for what it is when it is the British doing it to the Welsh, Irish and Scots. So many are blind to their own.
7.25.2008 6:42pm
pluribus:
CM:

I do not understand why people are quoting the Gettysburg Address. It is soaring rhetoric that is completely nonsensical when evaluated based on the facts.

No offense intended, CM. but until your words are carved in marble in Washington, I prefer to believe Lincoln. Again, no offenses intended, but if you don't know why people are quoting the Gettysburg Address, you don't know why America is a great country, and why it has been held up as an example by the rest of the world. Just my humble opinion, CM, though it happens to have been the general consensus ever since the speech was delivered. I really do feel sorry for people who don't get it, and, worse yet, for people who go on the internet to advertise that they don't get it.
7.25.2008 6:44pm
Jam:
The people chose to leave the voluntary Union. Lincoln and some of the other States opposed them. And Lincoln waged war.

From the start, Lincoln already begins to re-write history. These uS of A did not come into existence until 9 former Colonies and members of the Articles left the Articles to joinn under a new Constitution.

And who exactly defeated the South, Canada? The Union existed even without the Southern States.
7.25.2008 6:52pm
Jam:
I just want to plug the Avalon project at Yale U. It is a wonderful electronic repository of "Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy."

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/
7.25.2008 6:55pm
trad and anon:
3. The people of the various states voted to secede democratically.
Um, no. The white (male) people voted to secede democratically. The rest of the population got no vote.
7.25.2008 7:02pm
trad and anon:
CM:
I do not understand why people are quoting the Gettysburg Address. It is soaring rhetoric that is completely nonsensical when evaluated based on the facts.
No offense intended, CM. but until your words are carved in marble in Washington, I prefer to believe Lincoln.
I've got to agree with CM on this one, though perhaps for different reasons. It's nice to talk about "a new birth of freedom" and government of the people, by the people, for the people," but the failure of Reconstruction and the abandonment of southern blacks to southern tyranny, oppression, and de facto reenslavement made it all empty words until the civil rights movement started gaining some traction.
7.25.2008 7:10pm
Bob1:
Suppose the Federal government is captured by the far-left, and they proceed to change the US into a socialist state which reverses the relationship between the government and the people; that is, the government doles out rights and freedoms and how much of each the "citizens" may enjoy. Such would, as I see it, run against the spirit of the original Constitution. Would one or more states then be justified in seceding, in an attempt to revert back to a more original form of constitutional government? Or would revolution be the better choice? (IANAL, obviously)
7.25.2008 7:17pm
anomdebus (mail):
Clearly the southern states should have invoked their right to privacy to defend their right of secession </cheek>
7.25.2008 7:41pm
MarkField (mail):

The desire to secede from a bullying government isn't, even if the bullying is itself moral. No one initiates a revolution because of a tea tax; they revolt because they believe that government doesn't have the right to tax them.


It's hard to see what "bullying" the North was guilty of. The Southerners in Congress were notorious for bullying, but if anything the North was viewed as wimpy by the Southerners themselves. Moreover, Lincoln hadn't even been inaugurated when over half the Confederacy seceded. The South might have feared future "bullying", but that's not a reason to secede.
7.25.2008 8:21pm
galeH (mail):
The 3rd paragraph of Somin's original post contains links: American History, and constitutional law. I have read the articles in those links, and must say they reflect my thinking of my own ignorance, and regret at the loss of a national memory.

In the run-up to Heller, I read the briefs (and many of the cases cited by them) of both sides so I could evaluate the eventual SCOTUS decision without having to rely on talking heads to tell me what it all meant.

During that exercise, I concluded which side ought to prevail, but before going through the exercise, had no ability to argue, as a layman, how I came to hold the conclusion I believed was correct.

One site I stumbled into contained a syllabus of Clayton Cramer's course: United States Constitutional History.
A course reading list included links to on-line source documents. These, I downloaded and read with more enthusiasm than understanding. I am much too old to get me hence to law school to satisfy what has become a hobby. Cramer's course was offered in a state far from my own, and has been discontinued in any event. But there is a community college nearby, so I reviewed at their offerings. Sadly nothing remotely relevant to my new found interest in constitutional history.

Thrice, I have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, etc., knowing what the words said, but knowing not what they meant.

I'd like to correct my ignorance, but know not where or how to begin. Suggestions are appreciated.

Best to all,

gnholb
7.25.2008 8:27pm
Pierre Owner Bouncer Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill (www):
Surely with the rest of the country finding its way towards abolishing slavery we could have waited out the Southern States?
7.25.2008 8:42pm
pluribus:
Pierre Owner Bouncer Pink Flamingo Bar &Grill:

Surely with the rest of the country finding its way towards abolishing slavery we could have waited out the Southern States?

The Confederates were bombarding Fort Sumter. Assembling an army on the approach to Washington. What should we have waited for? Until they had taken over the White House and the Capitol? And then said, now won't you please abolish slavery?
7.25.2008 9:00pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
So much material, so little time:

1) Lincoln was supporter of the Corwin Amendment. If slavery was THE issue why the Southern States did not go for it?
Even if the Corwin Amendment could have passed, it was too late at that point.
2) Jefferson Davis, upon hearing of Stephens speech, said that that may be what he [Stephens] is fighting for but that is not why we are fighting for. Or words to that effect.
I note that you cite no source to this effect. In fact, you apparently don't even know what words he used. But if Jefferson Davis indeed said that, then he evidently didn't pay attention to the states that seceded and explained that in fact they were fighting for slavery.

5) If there is any doubt that the united States of America came into existence in 1789 (with 9 former Colonies as charter States) answer this question: Who was the first president of these united States of America?
I don't understand your question. Either you're playing a semantic game as to the word "president" or your question is nonsensical. Washington was the first president under the constitution, because it was a new post. John Hanson was the first "president" in a sense, but the position was very different than the presidency under the constitution.
6) If Texas has the retained authority to secede, so does Hawaii, Virginia (10th), New York(11th), North Carolina (12th) and Rhode Island (13th).
Texas doesn't have any authority to secede, but I don't understand your point here anyway.
7) If the Federal government is a party to the Consitution, where are its agents mentioned and their signatures penned? The Constituion extablished the Federal government.
The Federal government isn't a "party to" the Constitution; it's not a contract between the federal government and some other entity.
8) I have been an associate member of a social club that required the approval of certain number of members to be admitted. Approval for admittance into a voluntary association requires no approval for renunciation of membership.
That's wrong in a narrow sense -- I am on the board of directors of my congregation, and we require approval both to join and to resign one's membership -- and wrong in a broad sense. Any contract is a "voluntary association," but one is not free to unilaterally renounce the contract. A marriage is a "voluntary association," but one is not free to unilaterally divorce one's spouse.

10) Lincoln sent the Star of the West with one purpose in mind: to draw fire from South Carolina. He did not care about being successfull at resupplying Ft. Sumnter.
I don't know when you became a mindreader, or why you think it would be relevant if this was true.
11) An independent country, whether a former State in these uS or not, is outside the Constitution and the Constituition is of no force. And this is contrary to what is going on these days where these uS are prosecuting people for violating uS laws without even being in these uS. Can we say we are Rome now?
As I've pointed out to you before when you made this argument, you're begging the question. Obviously an independent country would be outside the Constitution. But the states weren't independent countries.

15) When the Federal government acts directly against the Constitution what is the remedy? Subserviance?
Elections. If those are fruitless, then revolution. But not secession.

18) Lincol did not ask for volunteers, he demqanded quota numbers of vounteers. Since the government of the Southern States were operational and not under threat of private armies (insurrectionists) nor the Southern States were being invaded Lincoln had no authority to demand, nor ask, for volunteers.
The federal government had -- and has -- the power of "calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." That's what Lincoln was doing. Suppressing insurrection and executing the laws of the Union.


I am glad that there is still a little intution left in favor of self-determination.

You know, what rank hypocrisy. We demand tht other countries grant independence to subjugated peoples but not here. No siree. Do as we say and not as we do.
It's hard to know what to do with the sort of idiocy that pretends that the "subjugated people" were the Southern oppressors rather than the 40% of the Confederate population given no say in whether to secede. Is there any doubt that were slaves allowed 'self-determination,' the votes for secession would have failed, big time?
7.25.2008 9:05pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
1. The Constitution, which does not deny states the right to secede, was passed democratically.
The Constitution does deny states the right to secede. The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. Therefore...
2. The 10th Amendment, which reserved all rights not denied to them by the Constitution to the people or states, was passed democratically.
...this point is irrelevant. (And the Tenth Amendment is about powers, not rights.)
3. The people of the various states voted to secede democratically.
False. 40% of the people in those states didn't get any say in the matter.
7.25.2008 9:10pm
pluribus:
trad and anon:

It's nice to talk about "a new birth of freedom" and government of the people, by the people, for the people," but the failure of Reconstruction and the abandonment of southern blacks to southern tyranny, oppression, and de facto reenslavement made it all empty words until the civil rights movement started gaining some traction.

If slavery hadn't first been abolished, there would have been no reconstruction, to either to succeed or fail. If the South had been successful in cutting itself off from the rest of the country to protect its slavery, there would have been no 13th, 14th, or 15th amendments in the South. Slavery in all its foul cruelty would have continued into the indefenite future. Men and women and children would have been bought and sold at slave auctions. They would have been subject to cruel punishments at the whims of their masters. Families would have been regularly broken up. They would have been subject to legally forced illiteracy. They would have been hunted down like felons under the fugitive slave law. They and their progency into the future as far as anyone could see would have had no hope for anything better than to be treated as human livestock. Blacks working endlessly without compensation while whites idly watched them, reeaping the profits of cotton sales. If reconstruction failed, it wasn't Lincoln's fault. He, of course, was dead. It was the fault of the whites in the South who sought to continue to exploit the blacks they could no longer hold in chattel slavery.
7.25.2008 9:11pm
pluribus:
The South was fighting to defend the God-given right of one man to own another man--or maybe 500 men. And when the North opposed them they claimed they were the victims of tyranny. Hubris. Arrogance. And ultimately self-inflicted disaster. All well deserved. The losers construct the myths. And the myths are paraded on the internet.
7.25.2008 9:22pm
Perseus (mail):
If there is any doubt that the united States of America came into existence in 1789 (with 9 former Colonies as charter States) answer this question: Who was the first president of these united States of America?

John Hancock was the first president of the Union as a sovereign entity independent of Great Britain, Samuel Huntington was the 4th president of the Union but the first president under the Articles of Confederation (when it became operative), and George Washington was the 14th president of the Union (or 15th if you count separately Huntington's terms as president of the 2nd Continental Congress and president under the Articles) but the first president under the Constitution. The myth perpetuated by the Southern rebels was that an entirely new Union was formed when the Constitution replaced the Articles. But, as I pointed out, it was the Declaration of Independence that established the Union and thus neither the Articles nor the Constitution was the sufficient basis of union.
7.25.2008 10:01pm
Jam:

John Hancock was the first president of the Union as a sovereign entity independent of Great Britain, Samuel Huntington was the 4th president of the Union but the first president under the Articles of Confederation (when it became operative), and George Washington was the 14th president of the Union (or 15th if you count separately Huntington's terms as president of the 2nd Continental Congress and president under the Articles) but the first president under the Constitution. The myth perpetuated by the Southern rebels was that an entirely new Union was formed when the Constitution replaced the Articles. But, as I pointed out, it was the Declaration of Independence that established the Union and thus neither the Articles nor the Constitution was the sufficient basis of union.


Oh, really. So what were the officers of this new "entity," what were the delegated authorities, etc?

A myth? Goerogge Washington was the 1st president of these unied States of America.
7.25.2008 10:28pm
Jam:
So much material, so little time:


Even if the Corwin Amendment could have passed, it was too late at that point.


Or, maybe there were other issues?


I note that you cite no source to this effect. In fact, you apparently don't even know what words he used.


I am going from memory. I will try to find a citation.

"But if Jefferson Davis indeed said that, then he evidently didn't pay attention to the states that seceded and explained that in fact they were fighting for slavery."

Obviously you do not much about Davis.


I don't understand your question. Either you're playing a semantic game as to the word "president" or your question is nonsensical. Washington was the first president under the constitution, because it was a new post.


I thought you said thatthe "birth" of these uS was the Unanimous Declaration? Who was president before the Articles? Several Colonies declared their independence before they joined together in their effort to become independent. Ask the Crown (Treaty of 1784) how many independent countries were there as a result of the treaty?


Texas doesn't have any authority to secede, but I don't understand your point here anyway.


All States do. Your conclusion ahead of the donkey.


The Constituion extablished the Federal government.
The Federal government isn't a "party to" the Constitution; it's not a contract between the federal government and some other entity.


BINGO, we have a winner. The Federal government is an agent. Wow. Tell that to whoever stated otherwise.


That's wrong in a narrow sense -- I am on the board of directors of my congregation, and we require approval both to join and to resign one's membership -- and wrong in a broad sense. Any contract is a "voluntary association," but one is not free to unilaterally renounce the contract. A marriage is a "voluntary association," but one is not free to unilaterally divorce one's spouse.


It is your examples that are wrong. Once assets and liabilities have been accounted there will be a net calculated. All that remain is how the proceeds will be tranferred. Hmm, sounds familiar. Oh, yes. There was a delegation from the South, while Lincoln's agents were negotiating, Lincoln himself was figuring how to cause an event to rally the North against the South.


I don't know when you became a mindreader, or why you think it would be relevant if this was true.


Because there is documentation to the effect.


As I've pointed out to you before when you made this argument, you're begging the question. Obviously an independent country would be outside the Constitution. But the states weren't independent countries.


The Colonies were inidependent countries after the Treaty of paris of 1784. Even Chief Marshall, a nationalist Federalist if there ever was one, admitted as such in gibbons v ogden.


Elections. If those are fruitless, then revolution. But not secession.


Yeah, right. Like no former Colony ratified having made it clear that they retained the authority to leave the union if they so chose.


The federal government had -- and has -- the power of "calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." That's what Lincoln was doing. Suppressing insurrection and executing the laws of the Union.


You do know that Article 1 deals with the delegated authorities of the Congress, don't you?


It's hard to know what to do with the sort of idiocy that pretends that the "subjugated people" were the Southern oppressors rather than the 40% of the Confederate population given no say in whether to secede. Is there any doubt that were slaves allowed 'self-determination,' the votes for secession would have failed, big time?


RFLMO. Like blacks had a say in the Revolution of 1774 and in the elections in the North!
7.25.2008 10:50pm
Perseus (mail):
Oh, really. So what were the officers of this new "entity," what were the delegated authorities, etc?

The first national government under the new Union was, of course, the 2nd Continental Congress.

A myth?

Yes, a myth. Odd how virtually none of the major Founders--not even Jefferson and Madison of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions--who were actually around during founding period subscribed to the view of the Southern rebels.
7.25.2008 10:52pm
Deo Vindice:
AHEM:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
____________________________________________

Secession is an unalienable pre-existing right. Government derives its powers consent of the governed. The Constitution cannot alter that basic fact. No edict or decree can remove the right of the people in this regard. The right stems from Natural Law and pre-exists the Constitution and any other bedrock documents.

Accordingly, when a long train of abuses rise to the level of intolerable then the right claimed by the Founders is equally available to others.

Thus, no matter how many Constitutional Law professors throw a fit and proclaim the "stupidity" of those who believe in such a pre-existing right, the right of Secession is still there.

Where the line is on "intolerable" varies, for me one example of "intolerable" might be the establishment of same-sex "marriage".
7.25.2008 11:13pm
Perseus (mail):
Thus, no matter how many Constitutional Law professors throw a fit and proclaim the "stupidity" of those who believe in such a pre-existing right, the right of Secession is still there.

As Mark Field rightly points out, legal or constitutional secession is a very different thing from altering or abolishing government derived from the Lockean natural right of revolution expressed in the Declaration.
7.25.2008 11:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't understand your question. Either you're playing a semantic game as to the word "president" or your question is nonsensical. Washington was the first president under the constitution, because it was a new post.

I thought you said that the "birth" of these uS was the Unanimous Declaration?
Well, I don't know where you thought I said that. But that aside...
Who was president before the Articles?
The question makes no sense. Nobody was president before the Articles; the position didn't exist.
Several Colonies declared their independence before they joined together in their effort to become independent. Ask the Crown (Treaty of 1784) how many independent countries were there as a result of the treaty?
(1) The Treaty of Paris was in 1783. (2) Why would I ask the King of England? He was relinquishing any say in the matter. (3) Why do you think the number of independent countries in existence before the Constitution is relevant to the question, anyway?

BINGO, we have a winner. The Federal government is an agent. Wow. Tell that to whoever stated otherwise.
No, the Federal government is not an "agent." The fact that A &B create C does not make C an "agent" of A &B. If you and I form a corporation -- an event which is very unlikely, given your expressed view that you can ignore contracts whenever you feel like it -- the corporation is not an "agent" of you and me. It is an independent legal entity.

It is your examples that are wrong. Once assets and liabilities have been accounted there will be a net calculated.
This is simply wrong. You don't know any more about law than you do about the founding of the U.S.

The Colonies were inidependent countries after the Treaty of paris of 1784. Even Chief Marshall, a nationalist Federalist if there ever was one, admitted as such in gibbons v ogden.
Assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, why do you think it's relevant? Assuming for the sake of argument that the thirteen original colonies were independent states after the Declaration and prior to the Articles, or prior to the Constitution, why do you think this has any significance? It does not follow from this alleged fact that they had the right to secede. And this alleged fact certainly can't have any bearing on the right of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, or Arkansas to secede, since none of them were ever independent. They didn't voluntarily join the union; the union created them.

Yeah, right. Like no former Colony ratified having made it clear that they retained the authority to leave the union if they so chose.
Correct. (Even if they had "made it clear" when they did so, that would have exactly the same effect as you crossing your fingers when signing a contract: none.)

You do know that Article 1 deals with the delegated authorities of the Congress, don't you?
I know that Article I deals with the powers of Congress. What's your point? And Article III defines treason as levying war against the U.S., which the southern traitors did. And Article VI defines the Constitution as the supreme Law of the Land, with the states being powerless to ignore it. And it requires all state officials to take an oath to support the Constitution. And Article II requires that the president take care that the laws be faithfully executed -- something that would be rather difficult if the states were free to ignore the laws, as you claim.
7.25.2008 11:38pm
ANDKEN (mail) (www):
Uruguay was formed as secession from Brazil. Several states of Mexico(Yucatan, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Taumalipas, Tejas) and Brazil tried to secede(In fact, most of the states in the Northeast tried the secession at least). In the Rio Grande do Sul State there is a holiday for the date of the Farroupilha Revolution, when the state tried to secede from the Brazilian Empire.

I don´t why this should be a problem in the US. ;-)
7.26.2008 12:00am
JimJD:
There's been a lot of commentary about the American Civil War, perhaps too much. If there is a right to seceed, is it still a right, and did the South just blow the mechanics of how to do it?
Secession would seemingly be analagous to a divorce, so either the two sides reach an agreement, sanctified in a legal method, or the dominant, non-seceeding part of the country, sets the terms and conditions. I do not desire to use the 1860 to 1865 period, but a contemporary hypothetical. If the six very blue states of New England wanted to seceed from the other 44, and they each passed legislation to form a new country by alliance, New England, and in Congress negotiated appropriate terms of division, such as how to handle their financial obligations, military posts, federal facilities, federal pensions (including who owes what and gets what insofar as Social Security and Medicare), and what they planned to do insofar as adopting, at least for the short-term, existing federal statutes, and the House and Senate passed enabling legislation for them to leave, i.e., a bill and just a bill and not a constitutional amendment, and the President signed it, they would be allowed to seceed, and if one or more citizens (of the six or of the 44) challenged it in the Supreme Court as an unlawful act, the undecided issue would finally be resolved and none of the justices, except Kennedy, would be visiting the grave of Taney to find out how he should rule.
If the seven original Confederate states had gotten some such legislation passed in late 1860 and gotten (lame duck)President James Buchanan to sign it, President Lincoln would have been powerless to stop it, absent a court ruling the legislation void as extra-constitutional.
7.26.2008 12:35am
ANDKEN (mail) (www):
"Many Confederate leaders talked openly about invading Cuba and/or Mexico."

William H. Seward, Lincoln´s Secretary of State had the same desire.
7.26.2008 12:40am
MarkField (mail):

Secession is an unalienable pre-existing right.


For the umpteenth time, revolution is the pre-existing right. Secession is a claim to do legally what revolution does extra-legally. There is no basis for secession for all the reasons stated in this thread.
7.26.2008 12:41am
Jam:
So where is/are the signatory on behalf of the 1st or 2nd Continental Congress in adopting the AofC or the uS Constitution? I can only find States' representatives and States ratifiying. No other entities present. Indeed the Federal government is an agent of the States.

I know history, I just don't buy your BS.

So the POTUS can excercise Article 1 authorities? Dang, who would have known? Is this a new one? And the Constitution is only applicable in States in union. Once a State leaves the Constitution no longer applies.

You are right about contracting with me. I would not contract with you either. You might try to sell my house when I contracted for you to sell my bicycle. And membership in a club is a more appropriate analogy.

Once new States join into Union, regardless on how they started, they have the same authorities as the any other. Not to get into whether the uS had the authority to acquire new territories which I contend the do not have.

Treason? As much as it was treason against the British crown.

I guess following your logicf, we really are the Estados Unidos de Mexico. Who would have thunk it?
7.26.2008 12:45am
Hoosier:
Treaty of Paris (1783): Britain recognized the 13 colonies as independent nations. But the treaty was then ratified by Congress, not by the state legislatures. This is rather relevant to understanding what the newly-independent Americans thought that independence meant.

The issues left unsettled were negotiated by Jay for the US of A. Not by delegations from the 13 states. It was the Jay Treaty that ended the period in US diplomatic history during which the US was negotiating the terms of her independence from Britain. And it was clearly a federal instrument.
7.26.2008 12:48am
Jam:
I am not aware of the Confederacy's desire to take over Cuba or Mexico. I am aware of the desire for Cuba to become part of the Confederacy (Davis was asked by Cubans to lead them in their independence against Spain) and of certain parts of Mexico to leave Mexico and become part of the Confederacy. But nothing of taking over by force.
7.26.2008 12:52am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Ilya, I haven't read any other comments, but your update is absolutely wrong.

Whereas it might be fair to say that the first states to secede did so because of slavery, the second round of seceding states did so for other reasons entirely.

And when I say "might be fair" I'm not conceding that it is clearly true. Stephens may have believed that, but no political issue can be so cleanly assigned universal agreement.

The tragedy of that war is that the slavery issue was politically merged with ecomonic and other issues. Northern states were trying to bully the southern states and were only happy enough to use the slavery issues to get their way.

The second round of secession occurred only after Lincoln needlessly provoked the war at Ft. Sumter. Virginia and the other fence sitting states recognized this as a terrible precedent, and seceded out of fear of Lincoln's penchant to start a war and not so much for slavery.

You can't put such a facile cause on that war, or any war for that matter.

The southern states were right that the Declaration of Independence recognized the right of self-determination. The north was right that slavery is wrong. It's good that slavery was ended, but it's bad that self-determination was tossed aside. Perhaps we wouldn't have a federal government reaching so far into our lives if the two issues weren't juxtaposed.
7.26.2008 1:10am
Hoosier:
The Confederates took a couple stabs at getting some parts of Mexico to declare independence from the whole, and, oddly, also tried to get Juarez to recognize the Confederacy. Juarez became so concerned about Confederate meddling that he actually pushed through a bill allowing the US to send troops into Mexico if necessary to fight the Southerners.

Strange stuff, and rather low-quality diplomacy.

Re: Cuba—Long story. But the American South, before the Civil War, was highly intertwined with the Caribbean, and viewed the islands as future possessions for the US. This was quite deeply ingrained in Southern thinking. The South essentially conducted its own foreign policy toward the region in the decades before the Civil War. As with Mexico, nothing came of the Cuban venture.

Fascinating stuff.
7.26.2008 1:10am
David M. Nieporent (www):
So the POTUS can excercise Article 1 authorities? Dang, who would have known? Is this a new one?
No, it's been there pretty much since the beginning. You didn't know that the president was in charge of executing the laws passed pursuant to Article 1?
And the Constitution is only applicable in States in union. Once a State leaves the Constitution no longer applies.
Yes, it does, because there's no way for the state to leave the union, because the Constitution is applicable. You still don't grasp this very simple concept: there is no legal way for the state to leave the union, except with permission of Congress. Any attempt to do so is automatically void, pursuant to the Supremacy Clause.

Once new States join into Union, regardless on how they started, they have the same authorities as the any other.
Sure. Which proves definitively that the existing states couldn't have had the power to secede. Obviously there's no basis whatsoever for suggesting that Louisiana had the power to secede -- no textual, historical, or structural basis -- and since Louisiana had the same powers as all the other states, none of them could have had such a power, either.
Not to get into whether the uS had the authority to acquire new territories which I contend the do not have.
You "contend" all sorts of odd things. But the Constitution provides for the admission of new states by Congress.

Treason? As much as it was treason against the British crown.
Certainly. The American Revolution was treason against the British Crown. If the British won the war, colonial leaders would have been executed as traitors and the U.S. would have remained part of the British empire. What's your point?
7.26.2008 2:02am
PersonFromPorlock:
David M. Nieporent:

Your point about the Supremacy Clause is interesting, but may I point out that nothing in the Constitution names the member states? In other words, if, say, Iowa declares "we are not part of the US," the Constitution says nothing to the contrary and the fact that it's 'the supreme law of the land' is no bar to Iowa's new status.
7.26.2008 9:47am
pluribus:
David M. Nieporent:

[T]here is no legal way for the state to leave the union, except with permission of Congress.

No. Not even Congress has power to permit a state to leave the Union. This would require an amendment pursuant to Article V.
7.26.2008 9:47am
pluribus:
Skyler:

I haven't read any other comments, but . . . . Whereas it might be fair to say that the first states to secede did so because of slavery, the second round of seceding states did so for other reasons entirely. . . . You can't put such a facile cause on that war, or any war for that matter

It's probably a good idea, Skyler, to read before you post. Your comment on the reasons for secession has been pretty thoroughly contradicted in many posts here. And nobody said the cause of the war was "facile." Your own imagination is at work there.
7.26.2008 9:56am
pluribus:
Deo Vindice:

[N]o matter how many Constitutional Law professors throw a fit and proclaim the "stupidity" of those who believe in such a pre-existing right, the right of Secession is still there. Where the line is on "intolerable" varies, for me one example of "intolerable" might be the establishment of same-sex "marriage".

So, there is a right of secession when same-sex couples are permitted to get married. I suppose you felt the same way when they permitted interracial couples to get married. Yes, that was really intolerable.

PS. I think your post completes the reductio ad absurdum of the pro-secession argument.
7.26.2008 10:08am
pluribus:
I wrote:

Make no mistake about it, I think the South was wrong then, and those who try to defend them now are even wronger. (After all, we now have the advantage of hindsight.)

CM wrote:

Would you mind clarifying this. I do not see anyone defending slavery or even saying that the South should have seceded.

Give me a break, CM. This thread is full of posts defending the legality and constitutionality of secession. My position is that the South was wrong about secession, and the posters defending secession here are wrong about secession.

Whenever a discussion of secession comes up, it is unfortunate that people tend to view as racist those who notice the Constitution does not deny state's the right to secede and that the 10th Amendment declares that rights not denied to the states or people are reserved with the states or people.

Cut the "racist" crap, OK? I never accused anybody here of racism, and I'm not aware that anybody else has done so, either. Those who defended secession in 1861-65 were racists. Period. And it's a piss-poor argument in favor of secession today to say, "But I'm not a racist." OK, you're not a racist, but you are wrong about secession.
7.26.2008 10:20am
Willi (mail):
This is very interesting. Certainly, the Constitution makes no provision for rejecting membership in the union. Nevertheless, it can be done legally. I explain exactly how in my manuscript I am currently preparing for publication, and will say no more.

The discussion has been very enlightening.
7.26.2008 3:47pm
Deo Vindice:
[i]So, there is a right of secession when same-sex couples are permitted to get married. I suppose you felt the same way when they permitted interracial couples to get married. Yes, that was really intolerable.[/i]

In commonsense and in a constitutional sense, there is a clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex.

Nice try.

[i]PS. I think your post completes the reductio ad absurdum of the pro-secession argument.[/i]

Does that apply to the Framers as well? You know, the ones who left the British Crown?
7.26.2008 4:27pm
Hoosier:

"Your point about the Supremacy Clause is interesting, but may I point out that nothing in the Constitution names the member states? In other words, if, say, Iowa declares "we are not part of the US," the Constitution says nothing to the contrary and the fact that it's 'the supreme law of the land' is no bar to Iowa's new status."


I think the Northwest Ordinance makes short work of this line of reasoning. It makes rather clear what the status of a newly-created state of the US is. This was operational under the Constitution, and thus Ohio is a state covered by the Constitution—every bit as much as is any state that ratified the Constitution.
7.26.2008 10:35pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
[i]PS. I think your post completes the reductio ad absurdum of the pro-secession argument.[/i]

Does that apply to the Framers as well? You know, the ones who left the British Crown?
Well, yes. I don't know why people keep thinking this is some kind of argument. The Framers knew they were committing treason. They did not claim that it was legal. They claimed that they had a natural law right to revolt, not a statutory right.
7.27.2008 3:50am
Hoosier:
"Well, yes. I don't know why people keep thinking this is some kind of argument. The Framers knew they were committing treason. They did not claim that it was legal."


David, THANK YOU. Sometimes one has a duty to speak for the obvious.
7.27.2008 6:52am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Here are some reasons why IMO slavery was not the sole or even the primary issue:

Secession hurt rather than helped the interests of the slaveowners.

The Confederates ignored the irrevocable Corwin amendment -- passed by a Northern-dominated Congress -- which would have forever barred the federal government from interfering with slavery in the states. The Confederates also ignored the Crittenden compromise.

Many abolitionists supported secession as a means of drastically reducing the power of the slave states in the federal government.

Lincoln said that he had neither the power nor the inclination to interfere with slavery in the states.

IMO the idea that John Brown was a factor in secession is hokum -- it was the US Marines that captured him.

IMO the Confederates emphasized slavery because:

(1) They could argue that the Republicans' and Northern Democrats' policies on slavery in the territories were violating the Constitution as interpreted by the Dred Scott decision. They could not make constitutional arguments against tariffs or unequal federal spending.

(2) The slavery issue had more appeal than the tariffs issue in the unseceded states of the upper South.

As for Alexander Stephens' speech about slavery being the "cornerstone" of the Confederacy:

(1) He could speak only for himself and he might have been lying about his own views.

(2) He was a leading Unionist of Georgia for many years and gave a speech against secession even after the election of Lincoln.

(3) He was well-liked by his slaves, who stayed with him through the Civil War and afterwards. He was in favor of the education of slaves and the recognition of slave marriages.

A lot of Confederates were just supporting states' rights or defending their homes and were certainly not trying to defend slavery, which didn't even need defending at the time.

Article V of the Constitution says that "no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate." That implies that a state may be removed from the Union by the other states if that state consents, and some abolitionists wanted the slave states to be removed from the Union.

IMO one of the bad things about secession is that the other states are stuck with laws and constitutional provisions that might not be there if the seceded state had not belonged to the Union. But this issue is certainly no justification for war. War is justified only in the most extreme circumstances, like for countering aggression.

The following big factors in the growth of federalism had nothing to do with the Civil War -- the federal income tax, Social Security, general growth in federal bureaucracies and federal programs, improvements in transportation and communications, more people moving from state to state, and industrialization of the South.

Anyway, we need to be objective in the study of history.

The US is one of few countries today that has "united" or "union" in its name -- the others are the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
7.27.2008 2:05pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):
As for the income tax, the first time one was imposed by the federal government was during the Civil War.

As for the Corwin Amendment, it didn't affect the slavery issue in the territories. The South was passionate about getting slavery into the territories and the Corwin Amendment was irrelevant to that goal. If it had guaranteed slavery in the territories, the South probably ratifies it quickly.
7.27.2008 3:49pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The US is one of few countries today that has "united" or "union" in its name -- the others are the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
Mexico begs to differ. As do Comoros and Tanzania.
7.27.2008 4:26pm
Deo Vindice:
Well, yes. I don't know why people keep thinking this is some kind of argument. The Framers knew they were committing treason. They did not claim that it was legal. They claimed that they had a natural law right to revolt, not a statutory right.

Isn't that the point that I made? The right of secession is a Natural pre-existing right. The Constitution can no more take that right away than could the British Crown.

The same law to which the Framer's appealed is equally available to anyone else when abuse rise to the level of intolerable.

Natural Law trumps all human law, including the United States Constitution.
7.27.2008 4:46pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Isn't that the point that I made? The right of secession is a Natural pre-existing right. The Constitution can no more take that right away than could the British Crown.
I don't know what point you were trying to make. If that's it, it doesn't make any sense to bring it up in this discussion. It's inapplicable here, because defenders of the Confederacy are not arguing that secession was their natural right; they're arguing that it was legal under the Constitution.

And defenders of the Confederacy are right not to argue that it was their natural right, because they were the abusers, not the abused, and as such, it was not available to them.
7.27.2008 5:30pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Repeal 16-17 said,
As for the income tax, the first time one was imposed by the federal government was during the Civil War.

The real income tax was not authorized until ratification of Amendment XVI in 1913, long after the Civil War.

The South was passionate about getting slavery into the territories and the Corwin Amendment was irrelevant to that goal.

Large parts of the West -- mountains, deserts, forests, etc. -- were unsuited for slave-based agriculture and the West was likely to be settled mainly by whites who wanted to exclude all blacks, like the state constitution of Illinois did. The federal government could not guarantee that any more slave states would be admitted to the Union. The Corwin amendment gave the slaveowners something positive -- a guarantee that the federal government could never interfere with slavery in the states.

If it had guaranteed slavery in the territories, the South probably ratifies it quickly.

The Crittenden Compromise extended the Missouri compromise line so as to open the southwest territories to slavery, but the Confederates ignored the Crittenden Compromise too.

The issues of states' rights and home defense cannot be separated from the Civil War. Southerners could not be expected to acquiesce in an invasion of their states just because slavery was an issue.

We must keep open minds when studying history and be prepared for all kinds of surprises. For example, who would guess that Pres. Zachary Taylor, who once owned 300 slaves, would anger slaveowners by taking a moderate position on the issue of the territorial expansion of slavery.

David M. Nieporent said,
The US is one of few countries today that has "united" or "union" in its name -- the others are the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

Mexico begs to differ. As do Comoros and Tanzania.

Nitpicking -- "United" or "Union" is not how they are identified on the map. "United" is always part of the names of the US, the UK, and the UAE.

Other countries, -- e.g., Italy and Germany -- were formed by the union of smaller states.
7.27.2008 9:22pm
Repeal 16-17 (mail):
"Real income tax"? What was the one during the Civil War?

The South wanted slavery in the Territories. I'm assuming they were talking about those areas in the Territories suitable to slavery.

Finally, the Crittenden Compromise was rejected by the Republican Party since it would have allowed slavery in the Southwest. The Crittenden Compromise was very pro-slavery.
7.27.2008 9:40pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
"Real income tax"? What was the one during the Civil War?

I am talking about big income taxes. Today, the federal income tax is a major factor in the concentration of power in the federal government.

The South wanted slavery in the Territories. I'm assuming they were talking about those areas in the Territories suitable to slavery.

What they wanted and what they were going to get were two different things. Kansas, which was better suited for slavery-based agriculture than most of the West, was admitted as a free state in 1861.

Finally, the Crittenden Compromise was rejected by the Republican Party since it would have allowed slavery in the Southwest.

The Southwest territory opened to slavery by the Crittenden Compromise, Arizona and New Mexico, was mostly desert and mountains unsuited for slavery-based agriculture. Oklahoma was Indian territory.

The Crittenden Compromise was very pro-slavery.

Then why didn't the Confederates put Lincoln on the spot by accepting the compromise? Then they could have blamed Lincoln for rejecting the compromise.

You see, history can be very complicated.
7.28.2008 12:26am
Big E:

Large parts of the West -- mountains, deserts, forests, etc. -- were unsuited for slave-based agriculture



But well suited for slave based mining.
7.28.2008 9:28am
CM (mail):
There have been a few posts saying that the democratic vote for secession by the Southern states was illegitimate because only US citizens could vote on the issue of secession.


Does that mean these posters think that Lincoln was not legitimately elected to be President because only US citizens could vote in the Presidential election? Does it also mean that these posters think that Lincoln was a hypocrite because he was defending a government that only let US citizens vote?
7.28.2008 12:05pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
There have been a few posts saying that the democratic vote for secession by the Southern states was illegitimate because only US citizens could vote on the issue of secession.
There were? Could you point to such posts?

I've seen posts -- hell, I've made them -- saying that the "democratic [sic] vote for secession" by the Southern states was illegitimate because 40% of southerners were prevented from voting on it. Very different.
7.28.2008 12:07pm
MarkField (mail):
CM's point is silly for other reasons as well -- the percentage of blacks in the North was trivial, at least some of them could vote, and there's little doubt that those who couldn't vote would simply have added to Lincoln's majority if they had been given the vote.
7.28.2008 2:14pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
But well suited for slave based mining.

Well, Northern industry was well suited for slavery, so why wasn't there slavery there? And why did the South "need" slavery at all?

The end of slavery didn't end labor abuses. There was a lot of labor unrest in the decades after the Civil War -- the Haymarket riot, the Pullman Strike, the Homestead Strike, etc.. And it would be many decades before the minimum wage, the 40-hour week, laws against child labor, etc..
7.28.2008 3:36pm
Jam:
Back from being out of town.

<blockquote>
No, it's been there pretty much since the beginning. You didn't know that the president was in charge of executing the laws passed pursuant to Article 1?
</blockquote>

The POTUS does not have legislative powers. Article 1 still refers to the Legislature and calling the militia (in case of invasion or insurrection) can only be done by the Congress not the POTUS.

<blockquote>
Yes, it does, because there's no way for the state to leave the union, because the Constitution is applicable. You still don't grasp this very simple concept: there is no legal way for the state to leave the union, except with permission of Congress. Any attempt to do so is automatically void, pursuant to the Supremacy Clause.
</blockquote>

No, it does not because the States did not give away their authority to leave the Union. The "Supremacy Clause" only applies to member States. Once the State secedes it is no longer under the "Supremacy Clause." There is no legal way to prevent a State from sedecing. You are still the one that does not grasp the concept that the central government was grantied only certain and limited powers. Stopping a State from leaving the Union is not one of them.

<blockquote>
Once new States join into Union, regardless on how they started, they have the same authorities as the any other.
Sure. Which proves definitively that the existing states couldn't have had the power to secede. Obviously there's no basis whatsoever for suggesting that Louisiana had the power to secede -- no textual, historical, or structural basis -- and since Louisiana had the same powers as all the other states, none of them could have had such a power, either.
</blockquote>

Louisiana does have the authority to leave the Union. And there was no authority granted to the central government to "acquire" territories.

<blockquote>
But the Constitution provides for the admission of new states by Congress.
</blockquote>

And how else could it have been done and the representation been figured out?

<blockquote>
Certainly. The American Revolution was treason against the British Crown. If the British won the war, colonial leaders would have been executed as traitors and the U.S. would have remained part of the British empire. What's your point?
</blockquote>

That it was well understood at the time of the ratification debates that the States were soverign and were only delegating some authorities to the central government. And they never gave up their authority to leave if they thought it necessary for their own reason.
7.28.2008 4:42pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Stephen Douglas's first speech in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate is a good example of Northern racism:

We are told by Lincoln that he is utterly opposed to the Dred Scott decision, and will not submit to it, for the reason that he says it deprives the negro of the rights and privileges of citizenship. (Laughter and applause.) . . . .Do you desire to strike out of our State Constitution that clause which keeps slaves and free negroes out of the State, and allow the free negroes to flow in, ("never,") and cover your prairies with black settlements? Do you desire to turn this beautiful State into a free negro colony, ("no, no,") in order that when Missouri abolishes slavery she can send one hundred thousand emancipated slaves into Illinois, to become citizens and voters, on an equality with yourselves? ("Never," "no.") . . . . For one, I am opposed to negro citizenship in any and every form. (Cheers.) I believe this Government was made on the white basis. ("Good.") I believe it was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity for ever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races. ("Good for you." "Douglas forever.")
7.28.2008 11:59pm