Confederates advocating secession via the US Constitution

unionblue

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#1
To All,

I admit that this thread is being begun by me because I am tired of all the short, one-line comments by some who repeat over and over the US Constitution does not forbid secession, but who provide no evidence, other than opinion or a random comment about the 10th Amendment.

My whole personal contention is this is a modern-day excuse, not a historical fact.

Why? Because I have yet to be informed, or shown historical documentation, which a Confederate of any political stature or fame, ever claimed or uttered a statement that unilateral secession was "legal" or in some way approved by the US Constitution.

I ask anyone on this forum to provide historical evidence that any Confederate person or State referenced the US Constitution as justification for unilateral secession.

I await your replies.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

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#3
To All,

I admit that this thread is being begun by me because I am tired of all the short, one-line comments by some who repeat over and over the US Constitution does not forbid secession, but who provide no evidence, other than opinion or a random comment about the 10th Amendment.

My whole personal contention is this is a modern-day excuse, not a historical fact.

Why? Because I have yet to be informed, or shown historical documentation, which a Confederate of any political stature or fame, ever claimed or uttered a statement that unilateral secession was "legal" or in some way approved by the US Constitution.

I ask anyone on this forum to provide historical evidence that any Confederate person or State referenced the US Constitution as justification for unilateral secession.

I await your replies.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
<reaching for the popcorn>
 

Joshism

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#6
Was Calhoun the first major proponent of secession, and if so were Southern secessionists just following in his footsteps without considering the merits of his argument?
 

JerseyBart

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#8
With this thread's purpose being historical evidence of constitutional legalities/confederates citing the constitution as a right to secede, that is all that will be posted here, or nothing at all.

No opinion-based debates only debates about cited information, no flame wars etc., etc. Posts that cannot follow the topic will disappear quickly and if needed, so will the poster.

Posted as moderator.
 
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#9
Why? Because I have yet to be informed, or shown historical documentation, which a Confederate of any political stature or fame, ever claimed or uttered a statement that unilateral secession was "legal" or in some way approved by the US Constitution.

I ask anyone on this forum to provide historical evidence that any Confederate person or State referenced the US Constitution as justification for unilateral secession.
A good place to start is by reading chapter 2 of "Memoirs of Service Afloat, During the War Between the States" by Raphael Semmes, in which he goes into great detail about the Constitution and the nature of the Union. It's a long chapter, and I'm not going to post it all here, but it's worth your time to read, in light of your OP.

You may disagree with his argument, and I expect posts to follow which will argue his points. But as to your point, asking if Confederates claimed unilateral secession was legal according to the Constitution, it's clear that Semmes makes that very argument.

A few samples:

State sovereignty guarded by the 10th amendment:
Pennsylvania guarded her sovereignty by insisting upon the following amendment: "All the rights of sovereignty which are not, by the said Constitution, expressly and plainly vested in the Congress, shall be deemed to remain with, and shall be exercised by the several States in the Union." The result of this jealousy on the part of the States was the adoption of the 10th amendment to the Constitution of the United States as follows: "The powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, or to the people."

It is thus clear beyond doubt, that the States not only had no intention of merging their sovereignty in the new government they were forming, but that they took special pains to notify each other, as well as their common
agent, of the fact. The language which I have quoted, as used by the States, in urging the amendments to the Constitution proposed by them, was the common language of that day. The new government was a federal or
confederate government--in the "Federalist," it is frequently called a "Confederation"--which had been created by the States for their common use and benefit; each State taking special pains, as we have seen, to declare that it retained all the sovereignty which it had not expressly granted away. And yet, in face of these facts, the doctrine has been boldly
declared, in our day, that the Constitution was formed by the people of the United States in the aggregate, as one nation, and that it has a force and vitality independent of the States, which the States are incompetent to destroy! The perversion is one not so much of doctrine as of history. It is an issue of fact which we are to try.

------


In view of the great importance of the question, whether it was the people
of the United States in the aggregate who "ordained and established" the
Constitution, or the States,--for this, indeed, is the whole _gist_ of the
controversy between the North and South,--I have dwelt somewhat at length
on the subject, and had recourse to contemporaneous history; but this was
scarcely necessary. The Constitution itself settles the whole controversy.
The 7th article of that instrument reads as follows: "The ratification of
the Conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the establishment
of the Constitution between the States so ratifying the same." How is it
possible to reconcile this short, explicit, and unambiguous provision with
the theory I am combating? The Preamble, as explained by the Northern
consolidationists, and this article, cannot possibly stand together. It is
not possible that the people of the United States in the aggregate, as one
nation, "ordained and established" the Constitution, and that the States
ordained and established it at the same time; for there was but one set of
Conventions called, and these Conventions were called by the States, and
acted in the names of the States.


Mr. Madison did, indeed, endeavor to have the ratification made in both
modes, but his motion in the Convention to this effect failed, as we have
seen. Further, how could the Constitution be binding only between the
States that ratified it, if it was not ratified--that is, not "ordained
and established"--by them at all, but by the people of the United States
in the aggregate? As remarked by Mr. Madison, in the Virginia Convention,
a ratification by the people, in the sense in which this term is used by
the Northern consolidationists, would have bound all the people, and there
would have been no option left the dissenting States. But the 7th article
says that they shall have an option, and that the instrument is to be
binding only _between such of them as ratify it_.

With all due deference, then, to others who have written upon this vexed
question, and who have differed from me in opinion, I must insist that the
proof is conclusive that the Constitution is a compact between the States;
and this being so, we have the admission of both Mr. Webster and Justice
Story that any one of the States may withdraw from it at pleasure
.
 

Joshism

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#10
Did Calhoun ever claim that unilateral secession was Constitutional?
I don't know; that's why I used a question mark. :smile:

Maybe not...

http://www.nytimes.com/1861/07/23/news/john-c-calhoun-a-secessionist.html

"Time and time again have I heard him [Calhoun], and with ever increased surprise at his wonderful acuteness, defend it [nullification] on constitutional grounds, and distinguish it in that respect from the doctrine of secession. This last he never, with me, placed on any other ground than that of revolution."
 

Joshism

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#11
A good place to start is by reading chapter 2 of "Memoirs of Service Afloat, During the War Between the States" by Raphael Semmes, in which he goes into great detail about the Constitution and the nature of the Union. It's a long chapter, and I'm not going to post it all here, but it's worth your time to read, in light of your OP.

You may disagree with his argument, and I expect posts to follow which will argue his points. But as to your point, asking if Confederates claimed unilateral secession was legal according to the Constitution, it's clear that Semmes makes that very argument.
I'm not sure about the OP's intent in regards to his question on this qualification, but I will point out there is a difference claiming the justification and constitutionality of secession 1861 or earlier vs claiming it in a postwar memoir. Arguments in hindsight are not necessarily those made at the time of the act. The entire Lost Cause is an attempt to retroactively justify the Confederacy.
 

thomas aagaard

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#12
A good place to start is by reading chapter 2 of "Memoirs of Service Afloat, During the War Between the States" by Raphael Semmes, in which he goes into great detail about the Constitution and the nature of the Union. It's a long chapter, and I'm not going to post it all here, but it's worth your time to read, in light of your OP.
A few samples:
If one was to look your quotes up, a page number would be usefull.
And when was Pennsylvania suppose to have said/written that? Not that clear from the part you quote.

And Iam not trying to attack you or what you are writing. Just pointing out that page numbers are a good thing to add and that I would like a bit more info about the PA quote. :smile:
 

cash

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#13
If one was to look your quotes up, a page number would be usefull.
And when was Pennsylvania suppose to have said/written that? Not that clear from the part you quote.

And Iam not trying to attack you or what you are writing. Just pointing out that page numbers are a good thing to add and that I would like a bit more info about the PA quote. :smile:
The Pennsylvania snippet comes from Elliot's Debates, Volume 2. It's from a list of proposed amendments to the Constitution. Pennsylvania did not insist on it, as the quoted section falsely claims. Some of her proposals were accepted and others weren't.

Semmes simply didn't tell the truth about what Pennsylvania was doing.

Here's the full context:
https://books.google.com/books?id=i...ed by the several States in the Union&f=false
 

brass napoleon

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#14
I don't know; that's why I used a question mark. :smile:

Maybe not...

http://www.nytimes.com/1861/07/23/news/john-c-calhoun-a-secessionist.html

"Time and time again have I heard him [Calhoun], and with ever increased surprise at his wonderful acuteness, defend it [nullification] on constitutional grounds, and distinguish it in that respect from the doctrine of secession. This last he never, with me, placed on any other ground than that of revolution."
Yes, as far as I've seen all of Calhoun's arguments were in favor of nullification, not secession, and those weren't based on anything written in the Constitution itself. But perhaps someone can dig up something.
 
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#15
If one was to look your quotes up, a page number would be usefull.
And when was Pennsylvania suppose to have said/written that? Not that clear from the part you quote.

And Iam not trying to attack you or what you are writing. Just pointing out that page numbers are a good thing to add and that I would like a bit more info about the PA quote. :smile:
The chapter is the best I can do, I'm reading an electronic copy of the book. I would suggest reading the entirety of chapter two for the full argument. Semmes goes into a lot of detail about the nature of the Constitution and what the language means, and how the states guarded their sovereignty and right to exit the Union, among other things.

I'm not sure about the OP's intent in regards to his question on this qualification, but I will point out there is a difference claiming the justification and constitutionality of secession 1861 or earlier vs claiming it in a postwar memoir. Arguments in hindsight are not necessarily those made at the time of the act. The entire Lost Cause is an attempt to retroactively justify the Confederacy.
If it's strictly pre-war he's looking for, I think the place to look would have to be at everyone's letters and speeches in the aggregate, and I haven't done much research in that area. I don't think anyone was writing books expounding on Constitutional theory during the secession crisis! :smile:

As far as post-war justification, Jefferson Davis is very consistent in his views. If he said it post-war, odds are he was saying the same thing before and during the war. I suspect the same is true of Semmes, though I can't say for sure. I don't know as much about his life. Not everyone who wrote down post-war explanations changed their tune or went into denial, so I wouldn't just assume nothing written afterwards is trustworthy.
 

brass napoleon

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#16
Well, the hope here is that someone can post something pre-war, from Davis, Semmes, or any secession advocate, claiming a constitutional basis for secession. Myself and many others here have done a LOT of research on this subject, and I don't recall ever seeing it. But that's what this thread is here for.
 
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unionblue

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#18
You want someone to point out where the Constitution justifies secession. As I pointed out earlier, the Constitution does not forbid it either. It was a war and a weak SCOTUS ruling after the war that forbids secession...
Wrong.

I want someone to do exactly what I asked.

I want someone, anyone, to provide historical evidence that any Confederate person or State referenced the US Constitution as justification of unilateral secession.
 
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#19
Union Blue, you said -

"Why? Because I have yet to be informed, or shown historical documentation, which a Confederateof any political stature or fame, ever claimed or uttered a statement that unilateral secession was "legal" or in some way approved by the US Constitution."

Legal OR approved by Constitution.
Davis said it was legal.
 
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#20
After doing some reading this morning, I'm tempted to ask if the OP is asking a serious question. As a starting point to try and learn the answer to his question, I've spent some time looking through the farewell Senate speeches of men like Jefferson Davis, Robert Toombs, Judah Benjamin, John Slidell, and other Southern senators who left the Senate when their states seceded. And every single one of them, some at great length, dwell on the Constitution, and the nature of the Union, and the obligations it confers on the states. Constitutional justification for secession is probably the main topic of almost every speech. Toombs even invokes the Tenth Amendment at one point, so there's that amendment recognized and used by a soon-to-be-Confederate.
 



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