Legal Justification of Secession
Arguing the Case for Southern Secession
Southern Secession and the US Constitution, What caused the South to Secede? Why did the Southern
States Secede? US United States Supreme Court Secession Decision, Debate, Decisions, Debates, Ruling, Rulings, What is Secession
Definition in History
A Study of Southern Secession
Secession of the South History
|Sectionalism and Secession
|Sectionalism and Southern Secession
Legal Justification of the South in Secession
BY HON. J. L. M. CURRY, LL. D.
Confederate Military History,
THE Southern States have shared the fate of all conquered peoples. The conquerors
write their history. Power in the ascendant not only makes laws, but controls public opinion. This precedent should make the
late Confederates the more anxious to keep before the public the facts of their history, that impartial writers may weigh
and properly estimate them in making up the verdict of an unbiased posterity. Besides, as they have been the objects of persistent
misrepresentation, and authentic records have been perverted to their prejudice, their descendants are liable to receive and
hold opinions hostile and derogatory to their fathers.
In this series of volumes,
pertaining to the history of the Confederate States, all concerned wish to disclaim in advance any wish or purpose to reverse
the arbitrament of war, to repeal the late amendments to the Constitution, to revive African slavery, or secession as a State right or remedy; or to organize any party, or cultivate an opinion, which,
directly or indirectly, shall inculcate disloyalty to the Union, or affect the allegiance of citizens to the Federal government.
Let it be stated, once for all, that this argument as to the right of the South to be protected in property in slaves and
the exclusive right of a State to be the final judge of the powers of the general government and to apply suitable remedies,
is based on the Constitution and the rights of the States as they existed in 1860. The amendments made, since that year, in
Federal and State constitutions, put an entirely new and different phase on the subjects discussed, for these changes have
expurgated slavery and secession from our institutions. Our sole object is to present the Southern side of the controversy
as it existed in 1860 and to vindicate it from accusations and aspersions which are based on ignorance and injustice. As the
South is habitually condemned and held criminal for seeking to perpetuate a great wrong, it is well to inquire and investigate
who was responsible for the state of things which precipitated and prolonged the crisis of 1860-1865. If the act of secession
cannot be justified the Southern people will be stigmatized as a brave and rash people deluded by bad men who attempted in
an illegal and wicked manner to overthrow the Union. Painfully are we conscious of the disadvantages in any effort to vindicate
the motives and principles and conduct of the Southern States and secure a rehearing and re-adjudication of a suit which seems
to have been settled adversely by the tribunal of public opinion. We have a right to ask of our fellow citizens and of the
world a patient and fair hearing while we present anew the grounds of our action. We challenge the closest scrutiny of facts
and arguments, and if they cannot be disproved and refuted, justice and honesty demand a modification or reversal of the adverse
judgment. Few writers seem to comprehend the underlying idea of secession, or the reasons for the establishment of the Southern
Confederacy. Swayed by passion or political and sectional animosity, they ignore the primary facts in our origin as a government,
the true principles of the Constitution, the flagrant nullifications of the Northern States; and, when they philosophize,
conclusions are drawn from false premises and hence injustice is done. Too often, in the endeavor to narrate the deeds of
and since the war, prejudiced and vicious statements as to character and motives have been accepted and acted on as verifiable
or undeniable facts.
In deciding upon the rightness or wrongness of secession,
in passing judgment upon the Confederate States, it is essential to proper conclusions that the condition of affairs in 1860
be understood and that clear and accurate notions be had of the nature and character of the Federal government and of the
rights of the States under the constitutional compact. And here, at the threshold, one is confronted by dogmas which are substituted
for principles, by preconceived opinions which are claimed to be historical verities, and by sentimentality which closes the
avenues to the mind against logic and demonstration. To a student of our political and constitutional history it is strange
how stubborn historical facts are quietly set aside and inferences and assumptions are used as postulates for huge governmental
theories. These errors are studiously perpetuated, for in prescribed courses of reading in civics and history are books full
of grossest misstatements teaching sectional opinions and latitudinous theories, while works which present opposite and sounder
views are vigorously excluded. State rights is perhaps the best term, although not precise or definite in its signification,
for suggesting the view of the Constitution and of Federal powers, as held by the Southern States. During the administration
of General Washington, those who were in favor of protecting the reserved rights of the States against threatened or possible
encroachment of the delegated powers assumed the name of the Republican party, but were often called the State Rights party.(*)
There is no ultimate nor authoritative appeal
(*) "In the great historic debate in the Senate in 1830, Robert Y. Hayne,
of South Carolina, said that they assumed the name of Democratic Republicans in 1812. True to their political faith they have
always been in favor of limitations of power, they have insisted that all powers. not delegated to the Federal government
are reserved, and have been constantly struggling to preserve the fights of the States and to prevent them from being drawn
into the vortex and swallowed up by one great consolidated government. As confirmatory of the statement that the South has
been misrepresented and villified through ignorance, it may be said that, while school boys are familiar with Webster's eloquent
periods, few writers and politicians have read the more logical and unanswerable argument of Hayne."
for determining the political differences between the North and South except
the Constitution, but some preliminary inquiries, answers to which will be suggestive and argumentative, may aid in understanding
and interpreting that instrument.
Our Constitution is not a mere temporary expedient.
It exists in full force until changed by an explicit and authentic act, as prescribed by the instrument, and in its essential
features is for all time, for it contains the fundamental principles of all good government, of all free representative institutions.
Among these requisites, unalterable by changing conditions of society, are individual liberty, freedom of labor, of human
development, rights of conscience, equality of the States, distribution of political powers into independent executive, legislative
and judicial departments, and a careful restriction of those powers to public uses only, the healthy action of concurrent
majorities, a careful safe-guarding that the power which makes the laws and the power which applies them shall not be in the
same hands, and local self-government. The people are ultimately the source of all political power, and the powers delegated
are in trust, alterable or terminable only in a legitimate and prescribed manner. Changes cannot be made to conform to a supposed
moral sense, or to new environments, neither by the "fierce democracy," nor by the action of a department, nor by a combination
of all departments.
To obtain a correct comprehension of the dignity and power
of the States it is well to consider them as they emerged from their colonial condition, having waged a tedious and successful
war against the mother country, having achieved separate independence and established a new form of government, a federal
union of concurrent majorities, under a written constitution. The American colonies have not had sufficient importance ascribed
to them for their agency in achieving civil and religious liberty; and, with their rights and powers as separate governments,
as the potential forerunners of our constitutional, representative, federal republic. The institutions founded in this western
world, in the essential elements o law and freedom, were far in advance of contemporary transatlantic institutions. The relations
they sustained to one another and to the controlling English government, their large measure of local administration, must
be clearly comprehended to do them justice for what they wrought out and to understand what character and power they preserved
as States in the government of their creation under the Federal constitution. Their precise political condition prior to the
Revolution cannot be obscured. The colonies were separate in the regulation of domestic concerns, in home affairs, but sustained
a common relation to the British empire. The colonists were fellow subjects, owed allegiance to the same crown, had all the
rights, privileges and liabilities of every other British subject.(*) The inhabitants of one colony owed no obedience to the
laws, were not under the jurisdiction of any other colony; were under no civil obligation to bear arms or pay taxes, or in
any wise to contribute to the support or defense of another, and were wholly distinct and separate from all others in political
functions, in political rights, and in political duties. In so far as all the colonists were one people and had common rights,
it was the result of their mutual relation to the same sovereign, of common dependence on the same head, and not any result
of a relation between themselves.
(*) Some of these principles are ably discussed by the Hon. Thomas F Bayard
in an address, 7th of November, 1895, before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution, the same paper which excited the partisan
ire of the House of Representatives in 1896.
There was neither alliance nor confederacy between the colonies.
hostilities between Great Britain and the colonies became imminent, because of adverse imperial legislation and the unlimited
claim of the right of taxation, and united effort was obvious and imperative, to relieve themselves from the burdens and injustice
of the laws and the claims of a distant government, the colonies, each acting for itself, and not conjointly with any other,
sent deputies to a general congress, and when the body assembled each colony had a single vote, and on all questions of general
concern they asserted and retained their equality. The Congresses of 1774, 1775 and 1776 were occasional and not permanent
bodies, claimed no sovereign authority, had no true governmental powers, and seldom assumed to go beyond deliberation, advice
and recommendation. When under stress of war and the danger of or impossibility of delay they acted as a de facto government,
their acts were valid, had the force and effect of law only by subsequent confirmation or tacit acquiescence. The common oppressions
and dangers were strong incentives to concert of action and to assent and submission to what was done for resistance to a
common enemy. There never was any pretense of authority to act on individuals, and in all acts reference was had to the colonies,
and never to the people, individually or as a nation.
Virginia made a declaration
on the 12th of June, 1776, renouncing her colonial dependence on Great Britain and separating herself forever from that kingdom.
On the 29th of June, in the same year, she performed the highest function of independent sovereignty by adopting and ordaining
a constitution, prescribing an oath of fealty and allegiance for all who might hold office under her authority, and that remained
as the organic law of the Old Dominion until 1829.
The Declaration of Independence, subsequently on the 4th of July, was an act of Congress declaring absolution of the colonies from allegiance to the crown
and government of Great Britain and that they were "free and independent States." The Congress which made this Declaration was appointed by the colonies in their separate and distinct capacity. They voted
on its adoption in their separate character, each giving one vote by all its own representatives who acted in strict obedience
to specific instructions from their respective colonies, and the members signed the Declaration in that way. The members had
authority to act in the name of their own colony and not of any other, and were representatives only of the colony which appointed
them. Judge Story, in his "Commentaries on the Constitution," reasons upon this instrument as having the effect of making
the colonies "one people," merging their existence as separate communities into one nation. The Declaration of Independence
is often quoted as an authoritative political document defining political rights and duties, as on a parity with the Constitution,
and as binding parties and people and courts and States by its utterances. The platform of the Republican party in 1856 and
1860 affirms the principles of this Declaration to be essential to the preservation of our republican institutions, the Constitution
and the rights of the States, when, in truth and in fact, its main and almost its sole object was to declare and justify the
separation from, and the independence of, the British crown. In no sense was the paper or the act intended as a bill of rights,
or to enunciate the fundamental principles of a republic, or to define the status of the colonies, except in their relation
to the mother country. No true American will underrate the significance or the importance of the act of separation from a
foreign empire, or hold otherwise than with the highest respect the reasons which our fathers gave in vindication of their
momentous and courageous action. Refusing to be subject to the authority of the crown and the parliament was a heroic undertaking
dictated by the loftiest patriotism and a genuine love of liberty. Putting into the minds and hearts of our ancestors more
far reaching and prescient purposes than they possessed will not magnify their virtues nor enhance their merit. They met the
issues presented with the sagacity of statesmen and were not guilty of the folly of propagandism of the French revolutionists,
a few years later. The colonies being distinct and separate communities, with sovereignty vested in the British crown, when
the tie which bound them to that sovereignty was severed, upon each colony respectively was devolved that sovereignty and
each emerged from provincial dependence into an independent and sovereign State. A conclusive proof of the relation of the
colonies to one another and to the revolutionary government is to be found in the recommendation in 1776 for the passing of
laws for the punishment of treason, and it was declared that the crime should be considered as committed against the colonies
individually and not against them all as united together. The joint expression of separate wills in reference to continued
union with England expressed no opinion and suggested no action on the subject of a common government, or of forming a closer
union. It completed the severance of the rapidly disuniting ties which bound to the government across the seas. Some of the
colonies, prior to the 4th of July, had declared their independence and established State constitutions, and now all, by a
more public and stronger and more effective affirmation, united in doing what had by some been separately resolved upon. Ceasing
to be dependent communities involved no change in relations with one another beyond what was necessarily incident to separation
from the parent country. The supremacy which had previously existed in Great Britain, separately over each colony and not
jointly over all, having ceased, each became a free and independent State, taking to herself what applied to and over herself.
The Declaration of Independence is not a form of government, not an enumeration of popular rights, not a compact between States,
but was recognized in its fullest demands, when, in 1782, Great Britain acknowledged New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York,
South Carolina, Georgia and the other colonies to be "free, sovereign and independent States."
is laid on the revolutionary government and on the Declaration of Independence by those who are anxious to establish the theory
of a national or consolidated government, reducing the States to mere dependencies upon central power. As has been shown,
the contention, derived from those sources, is without legal or historical foundation; but the temporary government, largely
for war purposes, was superseded by the Articles of Confederation, which, because of the reluctance of the States to delegate
their powers, did not become obligatory until 1781, as their ratification by all the States was a condition precedent to their
having any binding force. These articles, in explicit terms, incapable of misinterpretation, declare that "each State retains
its sovereignty, freedom and independence and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly
delegated to the United States in Congress assembled." There can be no mistake here as to the reservation of entire freedom,
entire independence, entire sovereignty. These were retained without qualification or limitation, and the use of the word
"retains" is the clearest assertion that these unsurrendered prerogatives were possessed under the previous government.
historical review was not necessary except argumentatively as throwing light on the real facts, and as raising the strong
presumption, to be rebutted only by irrefragable proof, that a state once sovereign has not voluntarily surrendered that ultimate
supreme power of self-government or self-existence. While in a colonial condition the people of the several States were in
no proper political sense a nation, or "one people;" by the declaration and the treaty of peace each State became a complete
sovereignty within its own limits; the revolutionary government was a government of the States as such through Congress as
the common agent, and by the Articles of Confederation each state expressly reserved its entire sovereignty and independence.
In all this succession of history there was no trend to consolidation and the most conspicuous; feature was the jealous retention
by the States of their separate sovereignty.
Recommended Reading: One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution. Description: Is secession legal under the United States Constitution? "One Nation,
Indivisible?" takes a fresh look at this old question by evaluating the key arguments of such anti-secession men as Daniel
Webster and Abraham Lincoln, in light of reason, historical fact, the language of the Constitution, and the words of America's
Founding Fathers. Modern anti-secession arguments are also examined, as are the questions of why Americans are becoming interested
in secession once again, whether secession can be avoided, and how an American state might peacefully secede from the Union. Continued below…
government's growth of power at the expense of individuals and natural human communities has been the trend so long now that
it has seemed inevitable. But thoughtful people of late have been rediscovering the true decentralist origins of the United
States. Robert Hawes states the case beautifully for the forgotten decentralist tradition
- which may be our only hope for the preservation of freedom."
Recommended Reading: When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern
Secession. Review: As a historian,
I have learned that the heart of any great work in history lies in the ample and accurate use of primary sources, and primary
sources are the great strength of this work. While countless tomes have debated the perceived moral sides of the Civil War
and the motivations of the various actors, this work investigates the motives of the primary players in the era and in their
own words and writings. This gives the work an excellent realism and accuracy. The author, Charles Adams, has earned a reputation
as one of the leading economic historians in the field, particularly in the area of taxes. He utilizes this background to
investigate the American Civil War, and comes to some very striking conclusions, many that defy the politically-correct history
of today. His thesis postulates that the Civil War had its primary cause not in slavery or state's rights, but rather in cold,
hard economic concerns. Continued below...
He shows that
the North used its supremacy in Congress to push through massive tariffs to fund the government, and that these tariffs fell
much harder on the export-dependent South than upon the insular north. In fact, the total revenue from the "Compromise" Tariffs
on the 1830s and 40s amounted to $107.5 million, of which $90 million came from the South. The majority of the revenue, moreover,
was spent on projects “far from the South.” According to Adams, this disparity finally pushed the South to seek its own independence. Supporting
this conclusion is the fact that the South enacted extremely low tariffs throughout the war, whereas the north enacted the
Morrill Tariff of 1861, which enacted tariffs as high as 50 percent on some goods. Adams
also chronicles the oft-overlooked excesses of the Lincoln Administration, and compares them to the actions of Julius Caesar.
Using the letters and reports of the times, he tells how Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, trod
roughshod over the Constitution, jailed thousands of U.S. citizens who
dared disagree with him and even wrote a warrant for the arrest of the Chief Justice of the United States. Adams also ably uses the viewpoints
of British and other Europeans to describe different contemporary views on the struggle. These provide excellent outside insight.
On the whole, readers will find the book a superb and scholarly analysis, providing fresh insights into the motivations and
causes of the defining war in American history. AWARDED 5
STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org
Recommended Reading: Lincoln President-Elect:
Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 (Hardcover) (Simon & Schuster) (October 21, 2008). Reviews:
"This detailed and gripping narrative of Lincoln's thoughts and actions during the four months
between his election and inauguration -- perhaps more important than any four months of his actual presidency -- is another
tour de force by one of our foremost Lincoln scholars. Bristling
with new information and key insights, it enriches our understanding of this most fateful time in American history."-- James
M. McPherson, author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. Continued below…
is Harold Holzer's best and most controversial book. Many historians, myself included, have depicted Lincoln
in the months between his election and inauguration as weak and indecisive. Holzer, carefully studying the record, argues
that Lincoln was a strong-minded, highly principled, and shrewd
president-elect."-- David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln
"This is a stunningly original
work that casts completely new light on the most turbulent and critical presidential transition in American history. Holzer's
superb narrative skill, along with his abundant use of colorful details, creates an atmosphere of such immediacy that the
reader feels transported back to "the Great Secession Winter" as an eye-witness to Lincoln's
gifted leadership during this dramatic period. This groundbreaking book will take its place with the most valuable and indispensable
works in the Lincoln canon."-- Doris Kearns Goodwin, author
of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
"No one has a finer intuitive
understanding of Abraham Lincoln than Harold Holzer. In this fascinating book, he throws a searchlight on a crucial and surprisingly
underexamined episode of Lincoln's life to show us the essential elements of Lincoln's political and moral greatness."-- Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage:
Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989
Recommended Reading: Secession
Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860.
Review: The critical northern antebellum debate matched
the rhetorical skills of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in an historic argument over the future of slavery in a westward-expanding
America. Two years later, an equally historic
oratorical showdown between secessionists and Unionists in Georgia generated
as much popular interest south of the Mason-Dixon line, and perhaps had an even more profound immediate effect on the future
of the United States. Continued below...
Lincoln's "Black Republican" triumph in the presidential election of 1860, the United
States witnessed ardent secessionist sentiment in the South. But Unionists were equally zealous
and while South Carolina--a bastion of Disunionism since
1832--seemed certain to secede; the other fourteen slave states were far from decided. In the deep South, the road to disunion
depended much on the actions of Georgia,
a veritable microcosm of the divided South and geographically in the middle of the Cotton South. If Georgia
went for the Union, secessionist South Carolina could be
isolated. So in November of 1860, all the eyes of Dixie turned to tiny Milledgeville, pre-war capital of Georgia, for a legislative confrontation that would help chart the course toward
civil war. In Secession Debated, William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson have for the first time collected the seven surviving
speeches and public letters of this greatest of southern debates over disunion, providing today's reader with a unique window
into a moment of American crisis. Introducing the debate and debaters in compelling fashion, the editors help bring to life
a sleepy Southern town suddenly alive with importance as a divided legislature met to decide the fate of Georgia, and by extension,
that of the nation. We hear myriad voices, among them the energetic and self-righteous Governor Joseph E. Brown who, while
a slaveholder and secessionist, was somewhat suspect as a native North Georgian; Alexander H. Stephens, the eloquent Unionist
whose "calm dispassionate approach" ultimately backfired; and fiery secessionist Robert Toombs who, impatient with Brown's
indecisiveness and the caution of the Unionists, shouted to legislators: "Give me the sword! but if you do not place it in
my hands, before God! I will take it." The secessionists' Henry Benning and Thomas R. R. Cobb as well as the Unionists Benjamin
Hill and Herschel Johnson also speak to us across the years, most with eloquence, all with the patriotic, passionate conviction
that defined an era. In the end, the legislature adopted a convention bill which decreed a popular vote on the issue in early
January 1861. The election results were close, mirroring the intense debate of two months before: 51% of Georgians favored
immediate secession, a slim margin which the propaganda-conscious Brown later inflated to 58%. On January 19th the Georgia
Convention sanctioned secession in a 166-130 vote, and the imminent Confederacy had its Southern hinge. Secession Debated
is a colorful and gripping tale told in the words of the actual participants, one which sheds new light on one of the great
and hitherto neglected verbal showdowns in American history. It is essential to a full understanding of the origins of the
War Between the States.
Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession,
and the President's War Powers, by James F. Simon (Simon & Schuster). Publishers Weekly: This surprisingly taut and gripping book by NYU law professor Simon
(What Kind of Nation) examines the limits of presidential prerogative during the Civil War. Lincoln and Supreme Court Chief
Justice Roger Taney saw eye to eye on certain matters; both, for example, disliked slavery. But beginning in 1857, when Lincoln criticized Taney's decision in the Dred Scott case, the pair
began to spar. They diverged further once Lincoln became president when Taney insisted that
secession was constitutional and preferable to bloodshed, and blamed the Civil War on Lincoln.
In 1861, Taney argued that Lincoln's suspension of habeas
corpus was illegal. This holding was, Simon argues, "a clarion call for the president to respect the civil liberties of American
citizens." Continued below...
In an 1862
group of cases, Taney joined a minority opinion that Lincoln lacked the authority to order the seizure of Southern
ships. Had Taney had the chance, suggests Simon, he would have declared the Emancipation Proclamation unconstitutional; he
and Lincoln agreed that the Constitution left slavery up to individual states, but Lincoln
argued that the president's war powers trumped states' rights. Simon's focus on Lincoln and Taney makes for a dramatic, charged
narrative—and the focus on presidential war powers makes this historical study extremely timely.
Recommended Reading: Lincoln and the Decision
for War: The Northern Response to Secession (Civil War America)
(Hardcover). Review: When Abraham Lincoln's election
in 1860 prompted several Southern states to secede, the North was sharply divided over how to respond. In this groundbreaking
book, the first major study in over 50 years of how the North handled the secession crisis, McClintock follows the decision-making
process from bitter partisan rancor to consensus. From small towns to big cities and from state capitals to Washington, D.C.,
McClintock highlights individuals both powerful and obscure to demonstrate the ways ordinary citizens, party activists, state
officials, and national leaders interacted to influence the Northern response to what was essentially a political crisis.
He argues that
although Northerners' reactions to Southern secession were understood and expressed through partisan newspapers and officials,
the decision fell into the hands of an ever-smaller handful of people until finally it was Abraham Lincoln alone who would
choose whether the future of the American republic was to be determined through peace or a sword.
Recommended Reading: A Constitutional History of Secession (Hardcover). Review: The Constitutional History of Secession is the history
of the legal practice of secession in the Anglo-American world. The learned jurist John Remington Graham is possessed of a
profound expertise on American, British and Canadian constitutional law. He has written a compelling defense of the right
of secession. Secession, the right of self-determination, and the principle of "rule by consent of the governed" were among
the foremost principles animating the American War for Independence of Seventeen-Seventy-Six. Yet the consolidationist sophists
malign and deny these tried and true principles of free government. Graham, however, traces British and American constitutional
history and developments with great clarity and buoys the case for secession. He offers an amazing exposition of seventeenth
century British constitutional developments, which culminated in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which the Crown peacefully
passed from James II to William and Mary without armed conflict. Continued below…
of William of Orange to the throne was met with popular support, as the usurpations of William II were not amenable to the
populace. This so called revolution set a standard for peaceful political separation, and it was exactly what the American
Continental Congress sought from Great Britain. Likewise, peaceful separation was what the
southern states that formed the Southern Confederacy wanted when those eleven states formally separated from the United States. Secession does not have to mean war and violence,
but war was thrust upon American colonials and southern confederates when their previous government refused to acknowledge
their right of self-determination. As the Declaration of Independence proclaims, "...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." As Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed, "All we ask is to be left alone." The Glorious
Revolution forms the foundation of Graham's treatise as he advances his thesis and makes the case for secession. As Donald
Livingston proclaims in the preface, "The central focus of this work will be revolution, not as an armed overthrow of an established
government, but as a rational and orderly process, specifically allowed by fundamental law."
In making the case for
secession, Graham substantiates the compact nature of the Union as well, which correspondingly
legitimizes interposition, nullification, and secession. Two early constitutional commentaries including St. George Tucker's
View of the Constitution of the United States
(1801) and Pennsylvania Federalist William Rawle's A View of the Constitution (1829) both affirm a right of secession.
Remington Graham further traces American constitutional developments, and in doing so he substantiates the compact nature
of the Union, and makes a profound case for the Constitution as a compact, which in effect
legitimizes the right of secession. He further explains all of these episodes in constitutional history with amazing detail
**The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions which were in continuity with the colonial-revolutionary tradition
of State remonstrance, protest, interposition and nullification of unconstitutional acts of central government authorities.
**The Hartford Convention and the anti-war, anti-embargo northern secessionist movement which emerged after the unwelcomed
War of 1812 with the British.
**The Webster-Hayne Debates on the nature of the Union
is explained in detail. Likewise, Daniel Webster's case of foot-in-mouth disease is made manifest as Hayne hearkens back to
his deeds at the Hartford Convention.
**The Missouri Compromise and constitutional question of slavery and the sectional
strife over the spread of slavery into the territories is explained.
**The secession of the eleven southern states
from the Union and the circumstances leading to their separation are explained in detail.
Likewise, the birth of the Southern Confederacy and the north's violent refusal to accept their separation is painstakingly
**The unlawful and violent conquest of the South, the unconstitutional political repression in north and
south, the illegal suspension of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the whole nation and the oppressive Reconstruction Acts
are explained with amazing clarity and detail.
**Graham fast forwards to the twentieth-century. In our time, Quebec
has asserted the legal right of secession as a viable political alternative if its relationship with the central government
of the Canadian Confederation does not prove to be more mutually-beneficial and less detrimental to the interests of Quebec's
citizenry in coming years. With a distinctive francophone culture and nearly half of the populace voting for secession in
the last popular referendum, we may well witness the peaceful separation of Quebec from Canada in our lifetime.
All things considered, John
Remington Graham has done a remarkable job at making the case for secession and has made a lasting contribution to constitutional
scholarship. His book is well-documented and awash in powerful quotations from British and American statesmen. There is a
preponderance of evidence in the Anglo-American constitutional heritage which makes secession a lawful exercise. Likewise,
he is very logical in tracing the deducible nature of State sovereignty. Graham in final application points out that self-determination
as expressed in an act of secession emanates from the right of people themselves to self-government. Essentially by presenting
the secession of the American colonies and the Southern Confederacy in its proper historical and legal context, Graham has
made a valuable contribution to understanding the Anglo-American political tradition. John Graham who presently served as
an expert advisor on British constitutional law to the amicus curiae (i.e. friend of the court) for Quebec in the secession state decided in 1998. As Jefferson
astutely opined, "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient
Causes..." Thus, secession is never to be approached lightly, and the act of secession negates the value, benefits and security
of the Union.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Whenever government becomes destructive
of these ends (i.e. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and
to institute a new government." -Declaration of Independence
of the American Colonies, July 4, 1776
"Sovereignty is the highest degree of political power, and the establishment
of a form of government, the highest proof which can be given of its existence. The states could have not reserved any rights
by articles of their union, if they had not been sovereign, because they could have no rights, unless they flowed from that
source. In the creation of the federal government, the states exercised the highest act of sovereignty, and they may, if they
please, repeat the proof of their sovereignty, by its annihilation. But the union possesses no innate sovereignty, like the
states; it was not self-constituted; it is conventional, and of course subordinate to the sovereignties by which it was formed."
-John Taylor of Caroline, New Views of the Constitution, Nov. 19, 1823
"I saw in State Rights the only availing check
upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption
of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence
which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution
was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the
races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I deemed
that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was
lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo." -Lord Acton in a letter to Robert E. Lee, Nov. 4, 1866.