George Bassett's hypothetical

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Principles? What "principles"
Mainly the right of secession (the title of Bassett's pamphlet) but interwoven with that the principle that just government derives its powers from and rests on the consent of the governed. See here:


I don't agree with the author's conclusions about the history, by the way, but he nonetheless presents some interesting history.
 

unionblue

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Mainly the right of secession (the title of Bassett's pamphlet) but interwoven with that the principle that just government derives its powers from and rests on the consent of the governed.

Therein lies my problem. Secession, unilateral secession, has nothing to do with the consent of the governed. It was all about the demands of the few.

See here:


I don't agree with the author's conclusions about the history, by the way, but he nonetheless presents some interesting history.
It presents one man's opinion.
 
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Secession, unilateral secession, has nothing to do with the consent of the governed.
You know, the vast majority of ante-bellum abolitionists would have disagreed with you up until very near the start of the war. 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. Of course, there's abundant evidence affirming the right of peaceful, unilateral secession, based on the principle of the consent of the governed, but if there's any historical evidence to support your side, please share the quotes. If you have any such quotes, please start a new thread to share them, though.
 
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GwilymT

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You know, the vast majority of ante-bellum abolitionists would have disagreed with you up until very near the start of the war. 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. Of course, there's abundant evidence affirming the right of peaceful, unilateral secession, based on the principle of the consent of the governed, but if there's any historical evidence to support your side, please share the quotes. If you have any such quotes, please start a new thread to share them, though.
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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unionblue

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You know, the vast majority of ante-bellum abolitionists would have disagreed with you up until very near the start of the war. 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. Of course, there's abundant evidence affirming the right of peaceful, unilateral secession, based on the principle of the consent of the governed, but if there's any historical evidence to support your side, please share the quotes. If you have any such quotes, please start a new thread to share them, though.
So, how many attempts, actual attempts, at peaceful secession did abolitionists make prior to 1856?

As for those abundant quotes in support of your above post, again, prior to Southern slaveholding UNILATERAL secession of 1861, how many of those abundant quote makers for peaceful secession, attempted actual secession from the United States?

I'll wait.

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Enter Andrew Jackson, President of the United States:
If that's worth reading, it's worth starting another thread so as not to derail this one, where I'm still waiting for a direct answer to Bassett's question from anyone that denies the inalienable right (not legal right, although they had that, too) the Deep South (and of course subsequently the rest of the Confederacy) had to secede, explaining the reasons why Massachusetts would or would not (according to whatever you believe) have had a right to secede as in Bassett's hypothetical.

how many of those abundant quote makers for peaceful secession, attempted actual secession from the United States?
I'll let George Bassett answer that question:

"It is the belligerent doctrines and attitude of the dominant politicians of the North, which have precipitated this movement of secession. If the right of secession had been conceded at the first, the movement would have been deprived of its essential vigor and intenseness. The people, feeling that they had a conceded right to secede at will, would naturally have delayed an act so fearfully pregnant with possible evils. They would have given themselves time to fully consider the subject in all its bearings and possible consequences. Nor could so many States have been induced to follow the momentous experiment in such hasty succession. It is very doubtful in the movement could have been effected at all, if the right to make it had not been denied. But the right was denied with threats of coercion, and the people of the slave States saw impending over them a political domination which, if its doctrines were carried out, would destroy their legitimate sovereignty, and reduce them to the condition of conquered provinces of political slaves. They were, therefore, driven to the fearful experiment of secession by the necessities of their contested and endangered rights."
 

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If that's worth reading, it's worth starting another thread so as not to derail this one, where I'm still waiting for a direct answer to Bassett's question from anyone that denies the inalienable right (not legal right, although they had that, too) the Deep South (and of course subsequently the rest of the Confederacy) had to secede, explaining the reasons why Massachusetts would or would not (according to whatever you believe) have had a right to secede as in Bassett's hypothetical.



I'll let George Bassett answer that question:

"It is the belligerent doctrines and attitude of the dominant politicians of the North, which have precipitated this movement of secession. If the right of secession had been conceded at the first, the movement would have been deprived of its essential vigor and intenseness. The people, feeling that they had a conceded right to secede at will, would naturally have delayed an act so fearfully pregnant with possible evils. They would have given themselves time to fully consider the subject in all its bearings and possible consequences. Nor could so many States have been induced to follow the momentous experiment in such hasty succession. It is very doubtful in the movement could have been effected at all, if the right to make it had not been denied. But the right was denied with threats of coercion, and the people of the slave States saw impending over them a political domination which, if its doctrines were carried out, would destroy their legitimate sovereignty, and reduce them to the condition of conquered provinces of political slaves. They were, therefore, driven to the fearful experiment of secession by the necessities of their contested and endangered rights."
I believe I’ve already stated that there is a natural right to revolution. As Lee himself rightly said, secession is nothing but revolution.

I’m not sure anyone has denied a natural right of revolution, which secession is a type of, anywhere on this thread. However, it does not follow that the attempted exercise of such a natural right is justified or even morally sound. Herein lay Bassett’s folly. Further, the attempted exercise of a claimed natural right (natural rights are claimed, not codified in any law nor protected by any court) can only be realized through success. Thus they only really exist if they can be exercised successfully. The revolutionaries of 1776 forced their natural right through force of arms and thus attained it. They knew it was either success or death. The secessionists of 1860-61 not only had a dubious justification for their secession but were, more importantly, unable to realize the exercise of the claimed right. If a right cannot be exercised and in fact is actively denied, does it exist?
 
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If a right cannot be exercised and in fact is actively denied, does it exist?
So by that logic should we say that slaves that died in slavery didn't have a right to freedom because they didn't attain it, and whatever powers kept them in slavery can't be said to have done anything wrong?

Or if Sam kills Bob, should we not prosecute Sam for murder, because Bob obviously didn't have a right to life in the first place (or Sam wouldn't have been able to kill him)?

I'm assuming you would deny the logic of those statements, but I don't see how the logic you're employing isn't fully equivalent.

Here's some more from Bassett on that idea:

“If the people of any territory have the natural right of revolution, it can not be the right of any power to put that revolution down... The right of revolution, and the right of the suppression of the same, cannot co-exist. Senator Wade, in sounding the bugle-blast of that civil war which now threatens to convulse and desolate the land, concedes the right of revolution, and says, if successful, the revolutionists are heroes. But he maintains the co-existing right of the general government to put them down by force, and, if successful, to constitute the revolutionists traitors instead of heroes; and a vast number of Northern politicians have followed his lead. But what is this sentiment but that old atheistic monster, that 'might makes right.' The sentiment is altogether unworthy of civilization...”
 

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So by that logic should we say that slaves that died in slavery didn't have a right to freedom because they didn't attain it, and whatever powers kept them in slavery can't be said to have done anything wrong?

Or if Sam kills Bob, should we not prosecute Sam for murder, because Bob obviously didn't have a right to life in the first place (or Sam wouldn't have been able to kill him)?

I'm assuming you would deny the logic of those statements, but I don't see how the logic you're employing isn't fully equivalent.

Here's some more from Bassett on that idea:

“If the people of any territory have the natural right of revolution, it can not be the right of any power to put that revolution down... The right of revolution, and the right of the suppression of the same, cannot co-exist. Senator Wade, in sounding the bugle-blast of that civil war which now threatens to convulse and desolate the land, concedes the right of revolution, and says, if successful, the revolutionists are heroes. But he maintains the co-existing right of the general government to put them down by force, and, if successful, to constitute the revolutionists traitors instead of heroes; and a vast number of Northern politicians have followed his lead. But what is this sentiment but that old atheistic monster, that 'might makes right.' The sentiment is altogether unworthy of civilization...”
I would say that certainly slaves had a moral justification to rebel and a moral claim to freedom. Sadly, because of the “powers of suppression” they did not have that right. It’s all well and good to say they had a right to freedom but the fact of the matter was that they did not. It doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have been free or that slaveholders were justified, it’s just recognizing the fact of the situation. I’m certainly of the opinion that slaves were more justified in their uprisings and attempts to attain freedom than any secessionist was in their attempt to realize their slave republic. The bottom line is, just because a right is claimed doesn’t mean it exists- regardless of if it is or if it isn’t morally justifiable. I can claim that I have a right to not pay taxes but when I land in jail for tax evasion, how real is that right?

Basset is certainly correct when he states that the right of revolution and the right to suppress that revolution can’t exist at the same time. This is another way of saying that unless one can successfully exercise a claimed “natural right” in the face of opposition, it doesn’t in fact exist.

Edit to add: the Sam and Bob example you mentioned actually adds to the argument. Sam may think he has a “natural right” to kill Bob and does so. As a society, we’ve codified that not only does Sam not have that right and that Bob does indeed have a codified or implied right to life, that we arrest Sam and lock him up or execute him. Thus we prove that Sam indeed did not, nor did he ever, have a right, natural or otherwise, to kill Bob. It awful that Bob was killed, but this was a criminal action by Sam and not Sam’s exercise of some supposed “right”.
 
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unionblue

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If that's worth reading, it's worth starting another thread so as not to derail this one, where I'm still waiting for a direct answer to Bassett's question from anyone that denies the inalienable right (not legal right, although they had that, too) the Deep South (and of course subsequently the rest of the Confederacy) had to secede, explaining the reasons why Massachusetts would or would not (according to whatever you believe) have had a right to secede as in Bassett's hypothetical.



I'll let George Bassett answer that question:

"It is the belligerent doctrines and attitude of the dominant politicians of the North, which have precipitated this movement of secession. If the right of secession had been conceded at the first, the movement would have been deprived of its essential vigor and intenseness. The people, feeling that they had a conceded right to secede at will, would naturally have delayed an act so fearfully pregnant with possible evils. They would have given themselves time to fully consider the subject in all its bearings and possible consequences. Nor could so many States have been induced to follow the momentous experiment in such hasty succession. It is very doubtful in the movement could have been effected at all, if the right to make it had not been denied. But the right was denied with threats of coercion, and the people of the slave States saw impending over them a political domination which, if its doctrines were carried out, would destroy their legitimate sovereignty, and reduce them to the condition of conquered provinces of political slaves. They were, therefore, driven to the fearful experiment of secession by the necessities of their contested and endangered rights."
So, ol' George couldn't name anyone specific either.
 

GwilymT

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So are you rejecting the whole notion of inalienable rights?
I’m saying if they can’t be exercised or are not recognized, they don’t in fact exist. That’s why the Founders fought the revolution, to realize the inalienable rights they claimed. They won, those rights became fact. They were then recognized and codified. Had they lost, they would have likely been denied “life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness”.
 
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I’m saying if they can’t be exercised or are not recognized, they don’t in fact exist. That’s why the Founders fought the revolution, to realize the inalienable rights they claimed. They won, those rights became fact. They were then recognized and codified. Had they lost, they would have likely been denied “life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness”.
If rights are inalienable, by definition they can't be taken away. That's what inalienable means. So if someone has an inalienable right to life, then that right can't be taken away. Obviously, a person's life can be taken away (i.e. he can be killed), but if he has an inalienable right to life then he can't be killed without doing wrong, without violating his right.

If you say inalienable rights don't exist unless they can be exercised, then those rights are dependent on whether they can be exercised, and if they're dependent on anything, then they're not inalienable. So I think you must be confused about the use of these words.
 

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If rights are inalienable, by definition they can't be taken away. That's what inalienable means. So if someone has an inalienable right to life, then that right can't be taken away. Obviously, a person's life can be taken away (i.e. he can be killed), but if he has an inalienable right to life then he can't be killed without doing wrong, without violating his right.

If you say inalienable rights don't exist unless they can be exercised, then those rights are dependent on whether they can be exercised, and if they're dependent on anything, then they're not inalienable. So I think you must be confused about the use of these words.
No confusion but thank you for the concern.

You are correct, if they cannot be exercised, they aren’t in fact “inalienable”. The Founders held that they had certain rights and they went out and fought to prove it. Prior to that, they didn’t have them. If a right cannot be realized or exercised, it doesn’t exist as anything other than a philosophical musing or empty platitude (sort of like the entirety of Bassett here 🤣)

We can say one should have a certain right, but if they don’t have it, they don’t have it. Again, this isn’t a moral argument but rather a logical certainty. It is fallacious to say one has a right they in fact do not have. I believe everyone should have an inalienable right to freedom but certainly slaves didn’t have that... until it was realized.
 
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You are correct, if they cannot be exercised, they aren’t in fact “inalienable”.
So you are, in fact, rejecting the whole notion of inalienable rights?

It is fallacious to say one has a right they in fact do not have.
Obviously it's true that someone doesn't have a right if they don't have a right, but you seem to be confusing the right to a thing with the thing itself. It's not fallacious to say a slave has a right to his liberty even if the slave is a slave. The slave may not have his freedom, but the right to liberty isn't dependent on actually being free. We can argue that the right to liberty is inalienable while recognizing the liberty itself is very much alienable.

That's true of all rights. I can't think of any political right that anyone has ever rightly or wrongly asserted that can't be violated and taken away. Obviously rights can be violated. The fact that a right can be or is violated is no proof that there was no right to start with.

We can say one should have a certain right, but if they don’t have it, they don’t have it.
If, as the Founders asserted, most prominently in the Declaration of Independence, people have inalienable rights, then it's a confusion of the terms to talk about whether "one should have a certain right." One may ask whether one's rights are respected or not, but if they're inalienable rights in the sense the Founders talked about, we can't say "if they don't have it, they don't have it." A person can have a right without having the thing to which the right entitles him. If you steal something that properly belongs to me, you may have the thing, but I can still have the right to that thing. So you can't properly say "if they don't have it [the thing], they don't have it [the right to the thing.]"
 
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If rights are inalienable, by definition they can't be taken away. That's what inalienable means. So if someone has an inalienable right to life, then that right can't be taken away. Obviously, a person's life can be taken away (i.e. he can be killed), but if he has an inalienable right to life then he can't be killed without doing wrong, without violating his right.

If you say inalienable rights don't exist unless they can be exercised, then those rights are dependent on whether they can be exercised, and if they're dependent on anything, then they're not inalienable. So I think you must be confused about the use of these words.
General comment: All rights are limited by the rights of others.
 
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