Antebellum quotes rejecting a right to secession

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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.
So what do you make of the founders that claimed the union was "indissoluble," whatever they meant by that, within just 4 years simply abandoning the terms of the existing union, the AoC, and leaving the states that didn't want to accept the new constitution out of the union, a union that was supposed to be "indissoluble" and which had an established system for changing the rules that wasn't followed but simply trashed? Are you saying it's okay to say: accept our new terms of union on terms we've simply invented from scratch or be left out of the union?
 
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WJC

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***Posted as Moderator***
A reminder: although some limited discussion is expected, this is not a debate thread; it is intended to provide quotes made during the antebellum period rejecting a right of secession.
Please limit your post to that topic.
 

trice

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Robert E. Lee, letter to his son, January 1861:


Fort Mason, San Antonio P.O.
Son 29 Jany 1861​
My dear Son​
...​
The South in my opinion has been aggrieved by the acts of the North as you say. I feel the aggression, & am willing to take every proper step for redress. It is the principle I contend for, not individual or private benefit. As an American citizen I take great pride in my country, her prosperity & institutions & would defend any State if her rights were invaded. But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, & I am willing to sacrifice every thing but honour for its preservation. I hope therefore that all Constitutional means will be exhausted, before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labour, wisdom & forbearance in its formation & surrounded it with so many guards & securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the confederacy at will. It was intended for pepetual [sic] union, so expressed in the preamble, & for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession. Anarchy would have been established & not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison & the other patriots of the Revolution. In 1808 when the New England States resisted Mr Jeffersons Imbargo law & the Hartford Convention assembled secession was termed treason by Virga statesmen. What can it be now? Still a union that can only be maintained by swords & bayonets, & in which strife & civil war are to take the place of brotherly love & kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country, & for the welfare & progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved & the government disrupted, I shall return to my native State & share the miseries of my people & save in her defence will draw my sword on none. Give much love to Charlotte to my dear little son & believe me always your devoted father​
R E Lee​
P.S. As usual I have been obliged to write mid many interruptions.​
 
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Robert E. Lee, letter to his son, January 1861
Quotes from after 1856 are much more off-topic than an answer to my questions would be. Is your lack of an answer to my questions an admission that the "indissoluble" quotes can't reasonably or consistently be considered any more of a rejection of the South's secession than of the dissolution of the Articles of Confederation?
 
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trice

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Quotes from after 1856 are much more off-topic than an answer to my questions would be.
Well, as noted, the quote is from January 1861, so I have no idea what you are talking about with this 1856 reference. I was simply posting another quote example to the thread.

The topic of the thread is "Antebellum quotes rejecting a right to secession". The idea is to post a collection of such quotes to act as a reference for others. It is not actually a thread where long discussions and tangents are encouraged; in fact, they are positively discouraged.

Is your lack of an answer to my questions an admission that the "indissoluble" quotes can't reasonably or consistently be considered any more of a rejection of the South's secession than of the dissolution of the Articles of Confederation?
Your question appears to be completely at odds with the topic and purpose of the thread. If you have a problem with that, or think I am wrong about it, it is probably something to discuss with a moderator on the forum.
 

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President James Buchanan, annual address to Congress, December 3, 1860:

It is alleged as one cause for immediate secession that the Southern States are denied equal rights with the other States in the common Territories. But by what authority are these denied? Not by Congress, which has never passed, and I believe never will pass, any act to exclude slavery from these Territories; and certainly not by the Supreme Court, which has solemnly decided that slaves are property, and, like all other property, their owners have a right to take them into the common Territories and hold them there under the protection of the Constitution.
So far then, as Congress is concerned, the objection is not to anything they have already done, but to what they may do hereafter. It will surely be admitted that this apprehension of future danger is no good reason for an immediate dissolution of the Union. It is true that the Territorial legislature of Kansas, on the 23d February, 1860, passed in great haste an act over the veto of the governor declaring that slavery "is and shall be forever prohibited in this Territory." Such an act, however, plainly violating the rights of property secured by the Constitution, will surely be declared void by the judiciary whenever it shall be presented in a legal form.
 
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I have no idea what you are talking about with this 1856 reference
The time frame in the opening post of this discussion was loosely defined as pre-1856. The idea from the other thread from which this thread spun off was to discuss the idea of secession apart from and prior to the context of 1860-61 secession

Your question appears to be completely at odds with the topic and purpose of the thread.
Apart from an answer to my questions, the "indissoluble" quotes are completely at odds with the topic and purpose of the thread, as is your earlier nonsense, indefensible claim that all 13 states remained in the Union and never left it through the period of ratifying the Constitution.
 
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trice

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President Zachary Taylor, February, 1850

When a group of Southern congressmen came to the White House for a meeting and threatened secession, Taylor reportedly responded by saying "if it becomes necessary I'll take command of the army myself and if you are taken in rebellion against the Union I will hang you with less reluctance than I hanged deserters and spies in Mexico."
 

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President James Madison, writing in 1833:

The case of a claim in a State to secede from its union with the others, resolves itself into question among the States themselves as parties to a Compact.
...
Much use has been made of the term "respective" in the 3d. Resolution of Virga. which asserts the right of the States in cases of sufficient magnitude to interpose for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities &c appertaining to them; the term "respective" being construed to mean a constitutional right in each State separately to decide on & to resist by force encroachments within its limits. But, to say nothing of the distinction between ordinary & extreme cases, it is observable in this as in other instances throughout the Resolutions, the plural number "States", is used in referring to them; that a concurrence & co-operation of all might well be contemplated, in interpositions for effecting the objects within each; and that the language of the closing Resolution corresponds with this view of the 3d. The course of reasoning in the Report on the Resolutions required the distinction between a State & States It surely does not follow from the fact, of the States or rather people embodied in them, having as parties to the compact, no tribunal above them, that in controverted meanings of the Compact, a minority of the parties can rightfully decide against the majority; still less that a single party can decide against the rest, and as little that it can at will withdraw itself altogether, from a compact with the rest
The characteristic distinction between free Govts. and Govts. not free is that the former are founded on compact, not between the Govt & those for whom it acts, but among the parties creating the Govt. Each of these being equal, neither can have more right to say that the compact has been violated and dissolved, than every other has to deny the fact, and to insist on the execution of the bargain. An inference from the doctrine that a single State has a right to secede, at its will from the rest is that the rest wd. have an equal right to secede from it, in other words to turn it, against its will out of its Union with them. Such a doctrine would not, till of late, have been palatable any where, and no where less so than where it is now most contended for.
A careless view of the subject might find an analogy between State secession, and personal individual expatriation. But the distinction is obvious and essential. Even in the latter case, whether regarded as a right impliedly reserved in the original Social compact, or as a reasonable indulgence, it is not exempt from certain condition It must be used without injustice or injury to the Community from which the expatriating party separates himself. Assuredly he could not withdraw his portion of territory from the common domain. In the case of a State seceding from the Union its domain would be dismembered, & other consequences brought on not less obvious than pernicious.
 

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Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, February, 1850:

"But, I must take occasion to say that, in my opinion, there is no right on the part of one or more of the States to secede from the Union. War and the dissolution of the Union are identical and inseparable. There can be no dissolution of the Union except by consent or by war. No one can expect, in the existing state of things, that that consent would be given, and war is the only alternative by which a dissolution could be accomplished. And, Mr. President, if consent were given—if possibly we were to separate by mutual agreement and by a given line, in less than sixty days after such an agreement had been executed, war would break out between the free and slave-holding portions of this Union—between the two independent portions into which it would be erected in virtue of the act of separation."​
 
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trice

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Sam Houston, Senator from Texas, February 8, 1850:

"I deny the power of all the ultraists in the world to rend the Union in twain. If the contending parties would only approach these questions in the spirit of the precept laid down by the Divine Mediator, 'As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them likewise,' it would be better for the country in all its sections, and for the people of all classes."​
 

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President Andrew Jackson, memo to Secretary of War Lewis Cass, December 17, 1832

TO SECRETARY CASS.
Washington, December 17, 1832.
confidential
My D'r sir, If I can judge from the signs of the times Nullification, and secession, or in the language of truth, disunion, is gaining strength, we must be prepared to act with promptness, and crush the monster in its cradle before it matures to manhood. We must be prepared for the crisis. The moment that we are informed that the Legislature of So Carolina has passed laws to carry her rebellious ordinance into effect, which I expect tomorrow we must be prepared to act. Tenders of service is coming to me daily and from Newyork, we can send to the bay of charleston with steamers such number of troops as we may please to order, in four days.
We will want three divisions of artillery, each composed of nines, twelves, and Eighteen pounders, one for the East, one for the west, and one for the center divisions. How many of these calibers, are ready for field service How many musketts with their compleat equipments are ready for service. How many swords and pistols and what quantity of fixed ammunition for dragoons, Brass pieces for the field, how many, and what caliber. At as early a day as possible, I wish a report from the ordinance Department, on this subject, stating with precision, how many peaces of artillery of the caliber, are ready for the field, how many good musketts etc. etc., and at what place in deposit.
yrs. respectfully
 

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Although he is commonly thought of as a supporter of the right of secession, Jefferson also said this.

Thomas Jefferson, future President, in response to DéMeunier’s first queries, January 24, 1786:

It has been often said that the decisions of Congress are impotent, because the Confederation provides no compulsory power. But when two or more nations enter into a compact, it is not usual for them to say what shall be done to the party who infringes it. Decency forbids this. And it is as unnecessary as indecent, because the right of compulsion naturally results to the party injured by the breach. When any one state in the American Union refuses obedience to the Confederation by which they have bound themselves, the rest have a natural right to compel them to obedience. Congress would probably exercise long patience before they would recur to force; but if the case ultimately required it, they would use that recurrence. Should this case ever arise, they will probably coerce by a naval force, as being more easy, less dangerous to liberty, and less likely to produce much bloodshed.
Jefferson is in France when this was written, IIRR, and he is obviously talking about the government under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union since the Constitution had not been written yet.
 
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President Andrew Jackson, message to Congress, January 16, 1833.

"That the right of the people of a single State, to absolve themselves at will, and without the consent of the other States, from their most solemn obligations, and hazard the liberties and happiness of the millions composing this Union, cannot be acknowledged; and that such authority is utterly repugnant, both to the principles upon which the general government is constituted, and the objects which it was expressly formed to attain."
 

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James Buchanan, US President, in his state of the union address, December 4, 1860.
"Secession is neither more nor less than revolution."
Special thanks to @unionblue -- I found 2 or 3 of these quotes because my Google search turned up an old thread here on the Forum that he had posted them to, back in 2013.
 
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Chief Justice Marshall:

"It is very true that whenever hostility to the existing system shall become universal, it will be also irresistible. The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their will, and lives only by their will. But this supreme and irresistible power to make or to unmake resides only in the whole body of the people, not in any subdivision of them. The attempt of any of the parts to exercise it is usurpation and ought to be repelled by those to whom the people have delegated their power of repelling it.

The acknowledged inability of the government, then, to sustain itself against the public will and, by force or otherwise, to control the whole nation is no sound argument in support of its constitutional inability to preserve itself against a section of the Nation acting in opposition to the general will."

Cohen V Virginia

Emphasis mine

Seems a pretty clear statement against unilateral secession.
 
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