Confederates advocating secession via the US Constitution

Viper21

Brigadier General
Moderator
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 4, 2016
Location
Rockbridge County, Virginia
@Quaama ,

I like your avatar, and the story behind it. Sorry if I came a bit rough in my replies to your posts.

Anyone using the 'Eureka Flag' is OK in my book, even if we don't always see eye-to-eye.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
Still drinking that Army Coffee ...? :wink:

I bought a Keurig a few years ago. Worked for me (most days). :D
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
The issue of secession was settled by the Civil War with brutal force by the North and not by the Texas vs. White case. The Civil War demonstrated that might makes right. Before the war, secession was an unsettled issue that was not addressed in the Constitution. At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made to grant the federal government the specific power to suppress a delinquent state. James Madison rejected this proposal stating, “A Union of states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.” The Confederacy believed that state sovereignty is guaranteed in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which reserves to the states all rights which have not been specifically delegated to the federal government. Therefore, secession was considered a legal right which could be exercised because the federal government was never delegated the right to coerce the states into submission.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
The issue of secession was settled by the Civil War with brutal force by the North and not by the Texas vs. White case. The Civil War demonstrated that might makes right.

Correct. But who insisted that the issue of secession be settled by force? Not the North, but the slaveholding South. I would also like to add that it wasn't "might" that made the "right." It was the "right" that applied "might" to the arena freely chosen by the South to decide this "unsettled issue."

Before the war, secession was an unsettled issue that was not addressed in the Constitution. At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made to grant the federal government the specific power to suppress a delinquent state. James Madison rejected this proposal stating, “A Union of states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”

James had this opinion, but did he ever come out publicly in favor of unilateral secession during the ratification of the Constitution?

The Confederacy believed that state sovereignty is guaranteed in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which reserves to the states all rights which have not been specifically delegated to the federal government. Therefore, secession was considered a legal right which could be exercised because the federal government was never delegated the right to coerce the states into submission.

What the Confederacy believed differs greatly from the means it took to implement these beliefs, especially in the face of prior debates, discussions, and US Supreme Court rulings to the contrary of those beliefs.

We live with the results of those means from Appomattox to the present.

Unionblue
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
James had this opinion, but did he ever come out publicly in favor of unilateral secession during the ratification of the Constitution?

What the Confederacy believed differs greatly from the means it took to implement these beliefs, especially in the face of prior debates, discussions, and US Supreme Court rulings to the contrary of those beliefs.

We live with the results of those means from Appomattox to the present.

Unionblue
James Madison stated that the Constitution was a compact between sovereign states by which they delegated certain powers to the federal government. The legitimate powers of the federal government were limited to those which the states had delegated in the Constitution. If the federal government ever violates the limits on its power, the states can invoke their sovereignty and unite against infringement. Madison’s native state of Virginia even explained in their ratification ordinance of the Constitution that if the federal government ever became oppressive then the states would be entitled to resume their original powers.

Before the Civil War, the issue of secession was really a gray area. The late Professor Forrest McDonald was one of the foremost constitutional scholars of his time. In his book Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (1985), he argued that after adopting the Constitution "there were no guidelines, either in theory or in history, as to whether the compact could be dissolved and, if so, on what conditions". However, during "the founding era, many a public figure . . . declared that the states could interpose their powers between their citizens and the power of the federal government, and talk of secession was not unknown".
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
"My opinion," Madison said, "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," and so it would not make New York "a member of the New Union." The Constitution, he explained, had to be adopted "in toto, and for ever," as it had been by the other states, and "any condition whatsoever must viciate the ratification."

Source: Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, by Pauline Maier, chapter 13, The New York Convention II, pg. 395.

James Madison made the above statement in reference to the idea that New York was thinking about reserving a right to "recede and withdraw" it's ratification of the Constitution if certain terms were not met after a certain number of years. In other words, it was trying to reserve the right to secede.

From what I read in Madison's above is that while he wished no forceful means would be used to enforce a federal government's laws, he in no way recognized the idea of a "Get Out of the Union" free card.

Unionblue
 
Last edited:

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
"My opinion," Madison said, "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," and so it would not make New York "a member of the New Union." The Constitution, he explained, had to be adopted "in toto, and for ever," as it had been by the other states, and "any condition whatsoever must viciate the ratification."

Source: Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788, by Pauline Maier, chapter 13, The New York Convention II, pg. 395.

James Madison made the above statement in reference to the idea that New York was thinking about reserving a right to "recede and withdraw" it's ratification of the Constitution if certain terms were not met after a certain number of years. In other words, it was trying to reserve the right to secede.

From what I read in Madison's above is that while he wished no forceful means would be used to enforce a federal government's laws, he in no way recognized the idea of a "Get Out of the Union" free card.

Unionblue

Madison's opinion is not law. He may have held the preference that the Constitution had to be "adopted in toto and forever", but he was just one American among many, with no more power to enforce his ideas than anyone else had to enforce theirs.

It's just an opinion, nothing more. Others held different opinions, just as valid as Madison's.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
Madison's opinion is not law. He may have held the preference that the Constitution had to be "adopted in toto and forever", but he was just one American among many, with no more power to enforce his ideas than anyone else had to enforce theirs.

It's just an opinion, nothing more. Others held different opinions, just as valid as Madison's.
Not exactly. If we look at the debate that took place at the constitutional convention on who should ratify the constitution, the people or the states, we see why they chose the people.

Mr. ELSEWORTH moved that it be referred to the Legislatures of the States for ratification. Mr. PATTERSON 2ded. the motion.

Mr. MADISON thought it clear that the Legislatures were incompetent to the proposed changes. These changes would make essential inroads on the State Constitutions, and it would be a novel & dangerous doctrine that a Legislature could change the constitution under which it held its existence. There might indeed be some Constitutions within the Union, which had given a power to the Legislature to concur in alterations of the federal Compact. But there were certainly some which had not; and in the case of these, a ratification must of necessity be obtained from the people. He considered the difference between a system founded on the Legislatures only, and one founded on the people, to be the true difference between a league or treaty, and a Constitution. The former in point of moral obligation might be as inviolable as the latter. In point of political operation, there were two important distinctions in favor of the latter. 1. A law violating a treaty ratified by a pre-existing law, might be respected by the Judges as a law, though an unwise or perfidious one. A law violating a constitution established by the people themselves, would be considered by the Judges as null & void. 2. The doctrine laid down by the law of Nations in the case of treaties is that a breach of any one article by any of the parties, frees the other parties from their engagements. In the case of a union of people under one Constitution, the nature of the pact has always been understood to exclude such an interpretation. Comparing the two modes in point of expediency he thought all the considerations which recommended this Convention in preference to Congress for proposing the reform were in favor of State Conventions in preference to the Legislatures for examining and adopting it.

The convention that day voted aye on Madison's motion over Ellsworth's. With no protest, in approving Madison's motion, the delegates endorsed the statement that "The doctrine laid down by the law of Nations in the case of treaties is that a breach of any one article by any of the parties, frees the other parties from their engagements. In the case of a union of people under one Constitution, the nature of the pact has always been understood to exclude such an interpretation."

In fact the supreme court upheld this view, that the people, not the states ratified the constitution in several early supreme court decisions. Chisholm v Georgia 1793 and Cohens v Virginia 1821.

I also think it is disingenuous to call Madison just one man. He is considered the father of the constitution and his views should be viewed much differently than just any man.
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
The terms the States agreed to are the terms spelled out in the text of the Constitution, regardless of what Madison said. I'm not dismissing his knowledge or influence on the creation of the document, I'm just saying that quoting his "in toto and forever" statement as if that sealed the deal or as if because Madison said it it was a legal reality is a fallacy.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Madison's opinion is not law. He may have held the preference that the Constitution had to be "adopted in toto and forever", but he was just one American among many, with no more power to enforce his ideas than anyone else had to enforce theirs.

It's just an opinion, nothing more. Others held different opinions, just as valid as Madison's.

I disagree, as Madison was, and still is, held in much higher esteem concerning the Constitution than any others.

In other words, his opinion matters.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
The terms the States agreed to are the terms spelled out in the text of the Constitution, regardless of what Madison said. I'm not dismissing his knowledge or influence on the creation of the document, I'm just saying that quoting his "in toto and forever" statement as if that sealed the deal or as if because Madison said it it was a legal reality is a fallacy.

Fallacy?

How can one claim such when his interpretation is the one that ultimately succeeded, whereas the idea States could nullify the federal government is now a current 'lost cause?'
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
Wrong.

It's called, "Right makes might."

I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. My statement is in reference to the fact that Lincoln's nationalist point of view won the day not through public debate or politics, but because the Union military won the war, largely due to the greater manpower and resources they had compared to the South. To claim after the fact that someone's "interpretation" succeeded without also giving the important context that it succeeded through military conquest is to leave out a rather essential detail.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. My statement is in reference to the fact that Lincoln's nationalist point of view won the day not through public debate or politics, but because the Union military won the war, largely due to the greater manpower and resources they had compared to the South. To claim after the fact that someone's "interpretation" succeeded without also giving the important context that it succeeded through military conquest is to leave out a rather essential detail.

Let me explain why I think the phrase "Right makes might" has meaning.

In spite of all it's faults and missteps, the Union, the United States of America, held the moral high ground.

The Confederacy to me holds nothing of worth and deserved not to be saved because of it's holding to the institution of slavery above all else.

The South was wrong to secede and it was wrong to do so over the issue of slavery. It deserved to die.

The United States was right and because it was right, it was easy to acquire the might to ensure that the right won the Civil War.

I could try to dress up the above a bit more, but "Right makes Might" makes it easier.
 

huskerblitz

Major
Joined
Jun 8, 2013
Location
Nebraska
I disagree, as Madison was, and still is, held in much higher esteem concerning the Constitution than any others.

In other words, his opinion matters.
I disagree. His opinion is just that, otherwise there would be absolutely no Senate equality whatsoever. There would be no checks and balance based on his opinion that state legislatures should appoint them. There are other examples, but Madison was entitled to his opinion and to draw up a plan. But at the end of the day, he was just one of several who had opinions on what the Constitution should look like. His opinion, then, is equal to all who placed input and voted to put the Constitution to ratification.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
I disagree. His opinion is just that, otherwise there would be absolutely no Senate equality whatsoever. There would be no checks and balance based on his opinion that state legislatures should appoint them. There are other examples, but Madison was entitled to his opinion and to draw up a plan. But at the end of the day, he was just one of several who had opinions on what the Constitution should look like. His opinion, then, is equal to all who placed input and voted to put the Constitution to ratification.

@huskerblitz ,

I note your disagreement, but feel compelled to disagree with it.

In my own view, when reading of Madison and his input into the document under discussion, his word carried weight, then and now.

In my opinion.

Unionblue
 
Top