Antebellum quotes rejecting a right to secession

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GwilymT

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If you can quote any American at all that unambiguously rejected the right of peaceful, unilateral secession (especially as distinct from nullification) prior to, say, 1856, I'd like to see it.
Moved from another thread. We’ve seen a clean, unambiguous quote from Andrew Jackson rejecting the right to secession. Any other antebellum quotes from “any American” that reject the right to secession?
 

GwilymT

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The Jackson quote from the previous thread:

Enter Andrew Jackson, President of the United States:

“On such expositions and reasonings, the ordinance grounds not only an assertion of the right to annul the laws of which it complains, but to enforce it by a threat of seceding from the Union if any attempt is made to execute them.

This right to secede is deduced from the nature of the Constitution, which they say is a compact between sovereign States who have preserved their whole sovereignty, and therefore are subject to no superior; that because they made the compact, they can break it when in their opinion it has been departed from by the other States. Fallacious as this course of reasoning is, it enlists State pride, and finds advocates in the honest prejudices of those who have not studied the nature of our government sufficiently to see the radical error on which it rests.

The people of the United States formed the Constitution, acting through the State legislatures, in making the compact, to meet and discuss its provisions, and acting in separate conventions when they ratified those provisions; but the terms used in its construction show it to be a government in which the people of all the States collectively are represented. We are ONE PEOPLE in the choice of the President and Vice President. Here the States have no other agency than to direct the mode in which the vote shall be given. The candidates having the majority of all the votes are chosen. The electors of a majority of States may have given their votes for one candidate, and yet another may be chosen. The people, then, and not the States, are represented in the executive branch.

In the House of Representatives there is this difference, that the people of one State do not, as in the case of President and Vice President, all vote for all the members, each State electing only its own representatives. But this creates no material distinction. When chosen, they are all representatives of the United States, not representatives of the particular State from which they come. They are paid by the United States, not by the State; nor are they accountable to it for any act done in performance of their legislative functions; and however they may in practice, as it is their duty to do, consult and prefer the interests of their particular constituents when they come in conflict with any other partial or local interest, yet it is their first and highest duty, as representatives of the United States, to promote the general good.

The Constitution of the United States, then, forms a government, not a league, and whether it be formed by compact between the States, or in any other manner, its character is the same. It is a government in which ale the people are represented, which operates directly on the people individually, not upon the States; they retained all the power they did not grant. But each State having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute jointly with the other States a single nation, cannot from that period possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation, and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation.”

Emphasis mine

 

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James Madison to Alexander Hamilton:


Highlights:

“ My opinion is that a reservation of a right to withdraw if amendments be not decided on under the form of the Constitution within a certain time, is a conditional ratification, that it does not make N. York a member of the New Union, and consequently that3 she could not be received on that plan. Compacts must be reciprocal, this principle would not in such a case be preserved. The Constitution requires an adoption in toto, and for ever.”

-Madison plainly states that the constitution must be adopted in toto and forever, clearly arguing that a state does not have the right to withdraw once they adopt it and join. In this particular case, New York was trying to make their ratification conditional on the adoption of certain amendments. It is clear that Madison believes no state can “maintain a right to withdraw” which will later become known as a right to secession.
 
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GwilymT

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Alexander Hamilton:

“Let the thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble Union, concur in erecting one great American system” Federalist 11


Hamilton argues in Federalist 11 that the nature of the new Union be “strict and indissoluble”. An act stating that the “Union is dissolved” is secession. Add Hamilton to the list of Americans who said there isn’t a right to secession. According to him, the new Union is “indissoluble”.
 

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George Washington:

“There are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an Independent Power:

1st. An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head.”

“That there must be a faithfull and pointed compliance on the part of every State, with the late proposals and demands of Congress, or the most fatal consequences will ensue, That whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the Union, or contribute to violate or lessen the Sovereign Authority, ought to be considered as hostile to the Liberty and Independency of America, and the Authors of them treated accordingly”

Both quotes from Washington’s Circular Farewell Letter to the Army 1783

 
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I've got to say the "like" I gave your post of the Jackson quote definitely wasn't a like for what Jackson said but a like for you sharing it, as despicable and contrary to America's founding principles as it is. My knowledge of American history between about the War of 1812 or the Missouri Compromise and the lead up to secession is very minimal (and I can't say I've found any reason to particularly want to learn much more about that period), but the quote you shared does seem very relevant to our discussion. I would note, however, that in the next couple sentences following the end of the part you quoted, Jackson makes clear that he's speaking specifically about constitutional rights (misguided or deceitful as he is about those constitutional rights) and not about inalienable rights.

The other quotes you shared are far from unambiguous, though.

Washington's quote is from 1783, so in reference to an "indissoluble Union of States" that he 4 years later strongly supported the dissolution of by 9 of the 13 states and then sought election as president of only 11 of the 13 states. Either he meant something else by "indissoluble Union of States" to start with or he changed his mind or he never really believed what he was saying to start with. And in any case, his comments weren't in reference to the union established under the terms of the Constitution.

The same applies to the Hamilton quote, was was written before the Union under the Constitution was even established and while the federalists were seeking to dissolve the existing union apart from the unanimous consent required by the terms of that union. And the context of that one line from Hamilton provides no evidence for your interpretation. So that line is again far from unambiguous.

As to the Madison quote, New York did, in fact, ratify the Constitution on certain declared conditional terms (although not the specific terms discussed in that quote). Does that mean, according to Madison, New York never really became a member of the (reestablished) union?

And that Madison quote certainly can't be considered unambiguous in light of the other things he said in 1788 and at other times, for example, in Federalist #39: “That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms are understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation, is obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither from the decision of a majority of the people of the Union, nor from that of a majority of the States. It must result from the unanimous assent of the several States that are parties to it, differing no otherwise from their ordinary assent than in its being expressed, not by the legislative authority, but by that of the people themselves. Were the people regarded in this transaction as forming one nation, the will of the majority of the whole people of the United States would bind the minority, in the same manner as the majority in each State must bind the minority; and the will of the majority must be determined either by a comparison of the individual votes, or by considering the will of the majority of the States as evidence of the will of a majority of the people of the United States. Neither of these rules have been adopted. Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a federal, and not a national constitution.”

So that leaves 1832 (56 years post-independence) as the first unambiguous claim anyone made (at least that you've presented or that I've seen anywhere else) denying the right of peaceful secession, and of course, that claim was only made in 1832 precisely because other leading politicians very much disagreed at that time.
 
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WJC

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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney at the South Carolina Ratifying Convention, 1788. On the indivisibility of the United States, Pinckney said:
Let us, then, consider all attempts to weaken this Union, by maintaining that each state is separately and individually independent, as a species of political heresy, which can never benefit us, but may bring on us the most serious distresses.​
 

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Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, January 1861:
The South contends that a state has a constitutional right to secede from the Union formed with her sister states. In this I submit the South errs. No power or right is constitutional but what can be exercised in a form or mode provided in the constitution for its exercise. Secession is therefore not constitutional, but revolutionary; and is only morally competent, like war, upon failure of justice.​
 

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This is from Daniel Webster (1782–1852) in the Speech on the Aspect of the Slavery Question. U. S. Senate, 7 March, 1850.

MR. PRESIDENT, I should much prefer to have heard from every member on this floor declarations of opinion that this Union could never be dissolved, than the declaration of opinion by anybody, that, in any case, under the pressure of any circumstances, such a dissolution was possible. I hear with distress and anguish the word “secession,” especially when it falls from the lips of those who are patriotic, and known to the country, and known all over the world, for their political services. Secession! Peaceable secession! Sir, your eyes and mine are never destined to see that miracle. The dismemberment of this vast country without convulsion! The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep without ruffling the surface! Who is so foolish, I beg everybody’s pardon, as to expect to see any such thing? Sir, he who sees these States, now revolving in harmony around a common centre, and expects to see them quit their places and fly off without convulsion, may look the next hour to see the heavenly bodies rush from their spheres, and jostle against each other in the realms of space, without causing the wreck of the universe. There can be no such thing as a peaceable secession. Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility. Is the great Constitution under which we live, covering this whole country, is it to be thawed and melted away by secession, as the snows on the mountain melt under the influence of a vernal sun, disappear almost unobserved, and run off? No, sir! No, sir! I will not state what might produce the disruption of the Union; but, sir, I see as plainly as I see the sun in heaven what that disruption itself must produce; I see that it must produce war, and such a war as I will not describe, in its twofold character.
Peaceable secession! Peaceable secession! The concurrent agreement of all the members of this great republic to separate! A voluntary separation, with alimony on one side and on the other. Why, what would be the result? Where is the line to be drawn? What States are to secede? What is to remain American? What am I to be? An American no longer? Am I to become a sectional man, a local man, a separatist, with no country in common with the gentlemen who sit around me here, or who fill the other house of Congress? Heaven forbid! Where is the flag of the republic to remain? Where is the eagle still to tower? or is he to cower, and shrink, and fall to the ground? Why, sir, our ancestors, our fathers and our grandfathers, those of them that are yet living amongst us with prolonged lives, would rebuke and reproach us; and our children and our grandchildren would cry out shame upon us, if we of this generation should dishonor these ensigns of the power of the government and the harmony of that Union which is every day felt among us with so much joy and gratitude. What is to become of the army? What is to become of the navy? What is to become of the public lands? How is each of the thirty States to defend itself? I know, although the idea has not been stated distinctly, there is to be, or it is supposed possible that there will be, a Southern Confederacy. I do not mean, when I allude to this statement, that any one seriously contemplates such a state of things. I do not mean to say that it is true, but I have heard it suggested elsewhere, that the idea has been entertained, that, after the dissolution of this Union, a Southern Confederacy might be formed. I am sorry, sir, that it has ever been thought of, talked of, or dreamed of, in the wildest flights of human imagination. But the idea, so far as it exists, must be of a separation, assigning the slave States to one side and the free States to the other. Sir, I may express myself too strongly, perhaps, but there are impossibilities in the natural as well as in the physical world, and I hold the idea of a separation of these States, those that are free to form one government, and those that are slave-holding to form another, as such an impossibility. We could not separate the States by any such line, if we were to draw it. We could not sit down here to-day and draw a line of separation that would satisfy any five men in the country. There are natural causes that would keep and tie us together, and there are social and domestic relations which we could not break if we would, and which we should not if we could.
Sir, nobody can look over the face of this country at the present moment, nobody can see where its population is the most dense and growing, without being ready to admit, and compelled to admit, that ere long the strength of America will be in the Valley of the Mississippi. Well, now, sir, I beg to inquire what the wildest enthusiast has to say on the possibility of cutting that river in two, and leaving free States at its source and on its branches, and slave States down near its mouth, each forming a separate government? Pray, sir, let me say to the people of this country, that these things are worthy of their pondering and of their consideration. Here, sir, are five millions of freemen in the free States north of the river Ohio. Can anybody suppose that this population can be severed, by a line that divides them from the territory of a foreign and an alien government, down somewhere, the Lord knows where, upon the lower banks of the Mississippi? What would become of Missouri? Will she join the arrondissement of the slave States? Shall the man from the Yellowstone and the Platte be connected, in the new republic, with the man who lives on the southern extremity of the Cape of Florida? Sir, I am ashamed to pursue this line of remark. I dislike it, I have an utter disgust for it. I would rather hear of natural blasts and mildews, war, pestilence, and famine, than to hear gentlemen talk of secession. To break up this great government! to dismember this glorious country! to astonish Europe with an act of folly such as Europe for two centuries has never beheld in any government or any people! No, sir! no, sir! There will be no secession! Gentlemen are not serious when they talk of secession.
 
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trice

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From Daniel Webster again, in a debate with John C. Calhoun in 1833:

“Therefore, since any State before she can prove her right to dissolve the Union, must show her authority to undo what has been done, no State is at liberty to secede on the ground that the other States have done nothing but accede. She must show that she has a right to reverse what has been ordained, to unsettle and overthrow what has been established, to reject what the people have adopted, and to break up what they have ratified, because these are the terms which express the transactions which have actually taken place. In other words, she must show her right to make a revolution.”​
 

trice

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From Daniel Webster again, in "The Second Reply to Hayne", January 26, 1830 -- regarded as the greatest speech ever given in the history of the United States Senate:

I must now beg to ask, Sir, Whence is this supposed right of the States derived? Where do they find the power to interfere with the laws of the Union? Sir the opinion which the honorable gentleman maintains is a notion founded in a total misapprehension, in my judgment, of the origin of this governemnt, and of the foundation on which it stands. I hold it to be a popular government, erected by the people; those who administer it, responsibile to the people; and itself capable of being ammended and modified, just as the people may choose it should be. It is as popular, just as truly emanating from the people, as the State governments. It is created for one purpuse; the State governments for another. It has its own powers; they have theirs. There is no more authority with them to arrest the operation of a law of Congress, than with Congress to arrest the operation of their laws. We are here to administer a Constitution emanating immediately from the people, and trusted by them to our administration. It is not the creature of the State governments. It is of no moment to the argument, that certain acts of the State legislatures are necessary to fill our seats in this body. That is not one of their original State powers, a part of the sovereignty of the State. It is a duty which the people, by the Constitution itself, have imposed on the State legislatures; and which they might have left to be performed elsewhere, if they had seen fit. So they have left the choice of President with electors; but all this does not affect the proposition that this whole government, President, Senate, and House of Representatives, is a popular government. It leaves it still all its popular character. The governor of a State (in some of the States) is chosen, not directly by the people, but by those who are chosen by the people, for the purpose of performing, among other duties, that of electing a governor. Is the government of the State, on that account, not a popular government? This government, Sir, is the independent offspring of the popular will. It is not the creature of State legislatures; nay, more, if the whole truth must be told, the people brought it into existence, established it, and have hitherto supported it, for the very purpose, amongst others, of imposing certain salutary restraints on State sovereignties. The States cannot now make war; they cannot contract alliances; they cannot make, each for itself, separate regulations of commerce; they cannot lay imposts; they cannot coin money. If this Constitution, Sir, be the creature of State legislatures, it must be admitted that it has obtained a strange control over the volitions of its creators.​
The people, then, Sir, erected this government. They gave it a Constitution, and in that Constitution they have enumerated the powers which they bestow on it.. They have made it a limited government. They have defined its authority. They have restrained it to the exercise of such powers as are granted; and all others, they declare, are reserved to the States or the people. But, Sir, they have not stopped here. If they had, they would have accomplished but half their work. No definition can be so clear, as to avoid possibility of doubt; no limitation so precise, as to exclude all uncertainty. Who, then, shall construe this grant of the people? Who shall interpret their will, where it may be supposed they have left it doubtful? With whom do they repose this ultimate right of deciding on the powers of government? Sir, they have settled all this in the fullest manner. They have left it with the government itself, in its appropriate branches. Sir, the very chief end, the main design, for which the whole Constitution was framed and adopted, was to establish a government that should not be obliged to act through State agency, or depend on State opinion and State discretion. The people had had quite enough of that kind of government under the Confederation. Under that system, the legal action, the application of law to individuals, belonged exclusively to the States. Congress could only recommend; their acts were not of binding force, till the States had adopted and sanctioned them. Are we in that condition still? Are we yet at the mercy of State discretion and State construction? Sir, if we are, then vain will be our attempt to maintain the Constitution under which we sit.​
But, Sir, the people have wisely provided, in the Constitution itself, a proper, suitable mode and tribunal for settling questions of Constitutional law. There are in the Constitution grants of powers to Congress, and restrictions on these powers. There are, also, prohibitions on the States. Some authority must, therefore, necessarily exist, having the ultimate jurisdiction to fix and ascertain the interpretation of these grants, restrictions, and prohibitions. The Constitution has itself pointed out, ordained, and established that authority. How has it accomplished this great and essential end? By declaring, Sir, that "the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land, any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."
This, Sir, was the first great step. By this the supremacy of the Constitution and laws of the United States is declared. The people so will it. No State law is to be valid which comes in conflict with the Constitution, or any law of the United States passed in pursuance of it. But who shall decide this question of intereference? To whom lies the last appeal? This, Sir, the Constitution itself decides also, by declaring, "That the judicial power shall extend to all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States." These two provisions cover the whole ground. They are, in truth, the keystone of the arch! With these it is a government; without them it is a confederation. In pursuance of these clear and express provisions, Congress established, at its very first session, in the judicial act, a mode for carrying them into full effect, and for bringing all questions of constitutional power to the final decision of the Supreme Court. It then, Sir, became a government. It then had the means of self-protection; and but for this, it would, in all probability, have been now among things which are past. Having constituted the government, and declared its powers, the people have further said, that, since somebody must decide on the extent of these powers, the government shall itself decide; subject always, like other popular governments, to its responsibility to the people...​
I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union, to see what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not cooly weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether, with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below; nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor in the affaairs of this government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifiying prospects spread out before us and our children. Beyond that I seek not to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that curtain may not rise! God grant that on my visioon never may be opened what lies behind! When my eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shing on the broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe erased or polluteddd, not a single star obscured, bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as "What is all this worth?" nor those other words of delusion and folly, "Liberty first and Union afterwards"; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, plazing on all it sample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart, - Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseperable!
 

trice

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From Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861 (concurrent with an ongoing attempt at secession, but before the start of the American Civil War):

I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.
Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it--break it, so to speak--but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?
Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778 . And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."
But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.
It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.
...
Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.
I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

 
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To continue with @trice's point, from the same speech by Webster on the absurdity of the compact theory (emphasis mine):

For the purpose of erecting the Constitution on the basis of a compact, the gentleman considers the States as parties to that compact; but as soon as his compact is made, then he chooses to consider the general government, which is the offspring of that compact, not its offspring, but one of its parties; and so, being a party, without the power of judging on the terms of compact. Pray, Sir, in what school is such reasoning as this taught?

And here he predicts what happens when a state refuses to comply with its obligations to the Union (emphasis mine):

And now, Mr. President, let me run the honorable gentleman's doctrine a little into its practical application. Let us look at his probable modus operandi. If a thing can be done, an ingenious man can tell how it is to be done and I wish to be informed how this State interference is to be put in practice, without violence, bloodshed, and rebellion. We will take the existing case of the tariff law. South Carolina is said to have made up her opinion upon it. If we do not repeal it, (as we probably shall not,) she will then apply to the case the remedy of her doctrine. She will, we must suppose, pass a law of her legislature, declaring the several acts of Congress usually called the tariff laws null and void, so far as they respect South Carolina, or the citizens thereof. So far, all is a paper transaction, and easy enough. But the collector at Charleston is collecting the duties imposed by these tariff laws. He, therefore, must be stopped. The collector will seize the goods if the tariff duties are not paid. The State authorities will undertake their rescue, the marshal, with his posse, will come to the collector's aid, and here the contest begins. The militia of the State will be called out to sustain the nullifying act. They will march, Sir, under a very gallant leader; for I believe the honorable member himself commands the militia of that part of the State. He will raise the NULLIFYING ACT on his standard, and spread it out as his banner! It will have a preamble, setting forth that the tariff laws are palpable, deliberate, and dangerous violations of the Constitution! He will proceed, with this banner flying, to the customhouse in Charleston, "All the while Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds." Arrived at the custom-house, he will tell the collector that he must collect no more duties under any of the tariff laws. This he will be somewhat puzzled to say, by the way, with a grave countenance, considering what hand South Carolina herself had in that of 1816. But, Sir, the collector would not, probably, desist, at his bidding. He would show him the law of Congress, the treasury instruction, and his own oath of office. He would say, he should perform his duty, come what come might. {o} {開 Here would ensue a pause; for they say that a certain stillness precedes the tempest. The trumpeter would hold his breath awhile, and before all this military array should fall on the customhouse, collector, clerks, and all, it is very probable some of those composing it would request of their gallant commander-in-chief to be informed a little upon the point of law; for they have, doubtless, a just respect for his opinions as a lawyer, as well as for his bravery as a soldier. They know he has read Blackstone and the Constitution, as well as Turenne and Vauban. They would ask him, therefore, something concerning their rights in this matter. They would inquire, whether it was not somewhat dangerous to resist a law of the United States. What would be the nature of their offence, they would wish to learn, if they, by military force and array, resisted the execution in Carolina of a law of the United States, and it should turn out, after all, that the law was constitutional ? He would answer, of course, Treason. No lawyer could give any other answer. John Fries, he would tell them, had learned that, some years ago. How, then, they would ask, do you propose to defend us? We are not afraid of bullets, but treason has a way of taking people off that we do not much relish. How do you propose to defend us?" Look at my floating banner," he would reply; "see there the nullifying law! "Is it your opinion, gallant commander, they would then say, that, if we should be indicted for treason, that same floating banner of yours would make a good plea in bar? "South Carolina is a sovereign State," he would reply. That is true; but would the judge admit our plea? "These tariff laws," he would repeat, 'are unconstitutional, palpably, deliberately, dangerously." That may all be so; but if the tribunal should not happen to be of that opinion, shall we swing for it? We are ready to die for our country, but it is rather an awkward business, this dying without touching the ground! After all, that is a sort of hemp tax worse than any part of the tariff. Mr. President, the honorable gentleman would be in a dilemma, like that of another great general. He would have a knot before him which he could not untie. He must cut it with his sword. He must say to his followers, "Defend yourselves with your bayonets"; and this is war,-- civil war.
 
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So maybe I should give people more time to share other quotes, but what the quotes that have been shared so far seem to be suggesting is that no one really openly denied the right of secession until a couple generations after the founding, a generation and a half after the Constitution. I think it's very plausible that Alexander Hamilton or George Washington, for example, might have believed the federal government should have no accountability except to itself (i.e. that they didn't believe in the right of secession), but what's notable is that whoever did believe such things apparently wasn't able to come out and say it in the way that Webster and Jackson seem to have done later (and, of course, Lincoln and others around 1860.) There were, however, definitely anti-federalists that accused federalists of pushing a system that would let the denial of the right of secession slide in the back door with time, and I don't doubt that some of the federalists were secretly in favor of it, but public opinion at the time obviously didn't allow them to admit it if they did, certainly not in straightforward ways like Jackon and Webster did later.

I'll to re-locate some of the other quotes I've seen, but here's one such quote from Luther Martin, Maryland delegate to the constitutional convention in Philadelpia: "I most sacredly believe [that the authors' of the Constitution] object is the total abolition and destruction of all state governments, and the erection on their ruins of one great and extensive empire, calculated to aggrandize and elevate its rulers and chief officers far above the common herd of mankind, to enrich them with wealth, and to encircle them with honours and glory..."
 
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trice

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So maybe I should give people more time to share other quotes, but what the quotes that have been shared so far seem to be suggesting is that no one really openly denied the right of secession until a couple generations after the founding, a generation and a half after the Constitution. I think it's very plausible that Alexander Hamilton or George Washington, for example, might have believed the federal government should have no accountability except to itself (i.e. that they didn't believe in the right of secession), but what's notable is that whoever did believe such things apparently wasn't able to come out and say it in the way that Webster and Jackson seem to have done later (and, of course, Lincoln and others around 1860.) There were, however, definitely anti-federalists that accused federalists of pushing a system that would let the denial of the right of secession slide in the back door with time, and I don't doubt that some of the federalists were secretly in favor of it, but public opinion at the time obviously didn't allow them to admit it if they did, certainly not in straightforward ways like Jackon and Webster did later.

I'll to re-locate some of the other quotes I've seen, but here's one such quote from Luther Martin, Maryland delegate to the constitutional convention in Philadelpia: "I most sacredly believe [that the authors' of the Constitution] object is the total abolition and destruction of all state governments, and the erection on their ruins of one great and extensive empire, calculated to aggrandize and elevate its rulers and chief officers far above the common herd of mankind, to enrich them with wealth, and to encircle them with honours and glory..."
No one ever mentioned the "right of secession" before that time either. Possibly the only reason people are speaking out against it is because a strange new theory about a supposed "right of secession" was being mentioned for the first time.
 
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Gouverneur Morris, Pennsylvania delegate to the constitutional convention, July 5, 1787: “This Country must be united. If persuasion does not unite it, the sword will. … The scenes of horror attending civil commotion cannot be described, and the conclusion of them will be worse than the term of their continuance. The stronger party will then make the traytors of the weaker; and the Gallows & Halter will finish the work of the sword.”
 
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I've read this Alexander Hamilton quote before, but coming from a centralizing, nationalist stooge like Hamilton it surprised me again: But it will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the larger society [Federal] which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies [States], will become the supreme law of the land. These will be merely acts of usurpation and will deserve to be treated as such."
 
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GwilymT

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I've got to say the "like" I gave your post of the Jackson quote definitely wasn't a like for what Jackson said but a like for you sharing it, as despicable and contrary to America's founding principles as it is. My knowledge of American history between about the War of 1812 or the Missouri Compromise and the lead up to secession is very minimal (and I can't say I've found any reason to particularly want to learn much more about that period), but the quote you shared does seem very relevant to our discussion. I would note, however, that in the next couple sentences following the end of the part you quoted, Jackson makes clear that he's speaking specifically about constitutional rights (misguided or deceitful as he is about those constitutional rights) and not about inalienable rights.

The other quotes you shared are far from unambiguous, though.

Washington's quote is from 1783, so in reference to an "indissoluble Union of States" that he 4 years later strongly supported the dissolution of by 9 of the 13 states and then sought election as president of only 11 of the 13 states. Either he meant something else by "indissoluble Union of States" to start with or he changed his mind or he never really believed what he was saying to start with. And in any case, his comments weren't in reference to the union established under the terms of the Constitution.

The same applies to the Hamilton quote, was was written before the Union under the Constitution was even established and while the federalists were seeking to dissolve the existing union apart from the unanimous consent required by the terms of that union. And the context of that one line from Hamilton provides no evidence for your interpretation. So that line is again far from unambiguous.

As to the Madison quote, New York did, in fact, ratify the Constitution on certain declared conditional terms (although not the specific terms discussed in that quote). Does that mean, according to Madison, New York never really became a member of the (reestablished) union?

And that Madison quote certainly can't be considered unambiguous in light of the other things he said in 1788 and at other times, for example, in Federalist #39: “That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms are understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation, is obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither from the decision of a majority of the people of the Union, nor from that of a majority of the States. It must result from the unanimous assent of the several States that are parties to it, differing no otherwise from their ordinary assent than in its being expressed, not by the legislative authority, but by that of the people themselves. Were the people regarded in this transaction as forming one nation, the will of the majority of the whole people of the United States would bind the minority, in the same manner as the majority in each State must bind the minority; and the will of the majority must be determined either by a comparison of the individual votes, or by considering the will of the majority of the States as evidence of the will of a majority of the people of the United States. Neither of these rules have been adopted. Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a federal, and not a national constitution.”

So that leaves 1832 (56 years post-independence) as the first unambiguous claim anyone made (at least that you've presented or that I've seen anywhere else) denying the right of peaceful secession, and of course, that claim was only made in 1832 precisely because other leading politicians very much disagreed at that time.
I feel the quotes and the intent of the authors in describing how they viewed the nature of the Union speaks for themselves and itself. Have you have any antebellum quotes that argue against secession or the right to it?
 

GwilymT

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So maybe I should give people more time to share other quotes, but what the quotes that have been shared so far seem to be suggesting is that no one really openly denied the right of secession until a couple generations after the founding, a generation and a half after the Constitution. I think it's very plausible that Alexander Hamilton or George Washington, for example, might have believed the federal government should have no accountability except to itself (i.e. that they didn't believe in the right of secession), but what's notable is that whoever did believe such things apparently wasn't able to come out and say it in the way that Webster and Jackson seem to have done later (and, of course, Lincoln and others around 1860.) There were, however, definitely anti-federalists that accused federalists of pushing a system that would let the denial of the right of secession slide in the back door with time, and I don't doubt that some of the federalists were secretly in favor of it, but public opinion at the time obviously didn't allow them to admit it if they did, certainly not in straightforward ways like Jackon and Webster did later.

I'll to re-locate some of the other quotes I've seen, but here's one such quote from Luther Martin, Maryland delegate to the constitutional convention in Philadelpia: "I most sacredly believe [that the authors' of the Constitution] object is the total abolition and destruction of all state governments, and the erection on their ruins of one great and extensive empire, calculated to aggrandize and elevate its rulers and chief officers far above the common herd of mankind, to enrich them with wealth, and to encircle them with honours and glory..."
Contrarily, there are quotes from Madison & Hamilton that clearly state ratification is in toto and forever and that the Union is indissoluble respectively. Also, a quote from THE FOUNDER from before the constitution stating that he views and wishes the Union to be indissoluble. We may debate the meaning of indissoluble, or argue that they couldn’t foresee that a cabal of slaveholders would attempt rebellion when it seemed slavery would be restricted. We can wax on about what we think they would do or support in 1860... what we cannot do is claim that the quotes posted above are anything but a vision for and support of an indissoluble Union which is the exact opposite of a Union where unilateral secession is protected.
 
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