The American Revolution and the Right of Peaceful Separation: The American Principle of Secession

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Mike Griffith

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I have published a new article on the right of secession titled "The American Revolution and the Right of Peaceful Separation: The American Principle of Secession/Independence." After laying out the Patriots' views on peaceful separation from England and the unjust and unnatural nature of the British war effort, the article discusses the close resemblance between the British views on American independence and the Republican views on Southern independence. Here's the link to the article:

http://miketgriffith.com/files/peacefulseparation.htm

Here's an excerpt from the section on the British-Republican parallels (the section is titled "The Civil War Republicans Repeat the British Arguments Against the Natural Right of Peaceful Separation"):

Most Republican leaders in 1861 had the same attitude toward the South’s desire to be independent that the British had toward the Colonies’ desire to be independent. Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, a leading Radical Republican, said that the only right of separation was the right of revolution, that the Southern states could only be independent if they could defeat the North in a war. Abraham Lincoln claimed that no state could leave the Union without the consent of all the other states. When the Deep South states began to secede, most Republican leaders accused them of “treason,” “rebellion,” and “insurrection.”

Below is a segment from an address published by the Loyalist leadership of Oxford University to King George III in October 1775 that mirrors the arguments that most Republicans made against Southern independence. Indeed, if you changed a few of the nouns so that the parties were the South and Southerners vs. the federal government and the president, this address could easily pass for having been written by Republicans in early 1861:. . .

If anything, the British, sad to say, were not as bad as the Republicans were. At least King George III was willing to allow his representatives to talk directly with Patriot leaders, on the minor condition that his representatives would not address the Patriot leaders by their claimed titles and would not recognize them as delegates of any valid government. At the Staten Island Peace Conference in September 1776, Lord Howe made it a point to address Franklin, Adams, and Rutledge merely as private individuals. Adams replied that he did not care how Lord Howe addressed him. With that mere formality out of the way, Howe and the Patriot leaders talked for three hours. In contrast, when the Confederate government, shortly after Lincoln took office, sent a peace delegation to Washington to meet with him to establish peaceful relations and good trade relations between the U.S. and the Confederacy, he would not even meet with them and would not allow anyone in his administration to meet with them either.

Furthermore, the British were much slower to resort to force than were the Republicans. If the South had burned a U.S. Navy ship as the Patriots burned the HMS Gaspee in 1772, most Republican leaders would have been calling for war. If federal tax and custom officials in the South had been tarred and feathered by secessionists as numerous British tax and customs officials were by Patriots, most Republicans would have been calling for war. The British were very slow to resort to invasion, but Lincoln, in response to the bloodless attack on Fort Sumter (which he provoked), announced his intention to invade the seceded states and issued a call-up for 75,000 troops on his own presumed authority. (Calling up 75,000 troops in 1861 would be like calling up over 750,000 troops today. Can you imagine a modern American president assuming the authority to call up 750,000 soldiers and to announce an invasion without Congressional approval?)​
 
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