Why Argue About the Constitutionality of Secession?

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Potomac Pride

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No. It simply wasn’t. The American Revolution was just that, a Revolution. It was a rebellion in an attempt to set up an entirely new form of government based on entirely different principles. It was successful.

The rebellion of 1861 wasn’t about a new form of government. The only real difference between the stated purpose of the CSA rebels and the government they attempted to leave was the protection of and the expansion of the institution of slavery. In their effort to protect and extend the institution of slavery, they lost.

The American Revolution was not secession, it was rebellion and revolution to set up a new form of government. The slaveholder’s rebellion of 1861 wasn’t about a radical change in government or society- it was about the protection of and expansion of slavery. They didn’t try to set up a new form of government but basically copied the old form amongst themselves as slave holding states. They said so themselves. If you disagree, your argument is with the confederates. South Carolina, Mississippi, and other states told us exactly why they did what they did. Confederate political and military leaders told us exactly why they did what they did.

Why do you refuse to believe them?
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines secession as the act of becoming independent and no longer part of a country, area, organization, etc. In 1783, the 13 American colonies became independent and no longer part of the United Kingdom which is secession.
 

CSA Today

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Thanks for your response.
It must make a difference to those who continue to mischaracterize the actions of the secessionists with those of our Founders in order to justify their actions. It's an old propaganda ploy, meant to obfuscate and confuse.
The only difference I see is that in the first rebellion there were self- righteous Yankees involved which made it A-OK.
 

unionblue

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What difference does it make? First rebellious colonists and then decades later rebellious Southerners withdrew from what they regarded as repressive governments to form nations of their own. Neither people sought or got permission, neither group thought that those opposed had the right to decide for them.
Right.

Rebellions.
 
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John Hartwell

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The Cambridge English Dictionary defines secession as the act of becoming independent and no longer part of a country, area, organization, etc. In 1783, the 13 American colonies became independent and no longer part of the United Kingdom which is secession.
The colonies were never "part of the United Kingdom." They were separate entities entirely, though they were in association. Their rebellion was aimed at changing the nature of that association: from subservient (colonies) to equal (nations): succeeding, it was a true Revolution.

The southern states were always equal partners within the Union. Each one of them had exactly the same rights as any northern state. But they wanted additional rights and guarantees -- privileges, in fact, that none of the northern states was particularly interested in. They believed those privileges were necessary to protect their customary economy and "way of life" from the possibility of change.

Unwilling to rely on constitutional, democratic processes to address their concerns, they chose rebellion. Had their rebellion succeeded, it would have been a "Confederate Revolution." It did not succeed.
 

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The only difference I see is that in the first rebellion there were self- righteous Yankees involved which made it A-OK.
Thanks for your response.
I don't know how "self-righteous" anyone was during the Revolutionary War. I've never heard any of the patriots of that period characterized in that way.
Perhaps it will be instructive to review how the relationship of the American colonies differed from that of the States of the Union.
In 1776, all land controlled by the Crown was 'owned' by the Crown, just as it had been for centuries. A Lord in Essex held his title and lands 'of the King'. That is, they were awarded by the Crown and could be taken away by the Crown. Similarly, a Colonial Proprietor or Corporation held their land as a franchise awarded by the Crown.
Each colony, though governed by a Proprietor, Corporation or Royal Appointee, owed its allegiance only to the Crown.
For the subjects of the Crown residing in those colonies, any attempt to upset this relationship was a revolution. It was not simply a matter of withdrawing from the existing structure: that revolution was intended to completely change the governing structure.
Because of the Revolutionary War, the people formed States to govern what had been Colonies. Under both the Articles of Confederation and our Constitution, the people of these now independent States joined together to form a greater nation, a Union of States to which they delegated some of their States' individual powers. There had never been anything like it before.
By the attempts to secede in 1860-61, the people of certain States chose to attempt to void their State's partnership and commitments with fellow States as part of the Union. It was simply an attempt to separate and establish a competing version of the United States. They did not attempt to change the structure of their government: in fact, they largely copied that of the Union they were attempting to leave. Although clearly a rebellion, theirs was not a revolution.
 

Potomac Pride

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Edit by moderator: Deleted as a response to a now deleted post.

The colonies were never "part of the United Kingdom." They were separate entities entirely, though they were in association. Their rebellion was aimed at changing the nature of that association: from subservient (colonies) to equal (nations): succeeding, it was a true Revolution.

The southern states were always equal partners within the Union. Each one of them had exactly the same rights as any northern state. But they wanted additional rights and guarantees -- privileges, in fact, that none of the northern states was particularly interested in. They believed those privileges were necessary to protect their customary economy and "way of life" from the possibility of change.

Unwilling to rely on constitutional, democratic processes to address their concerns, they chose rebellion. Had their rebellion succeeded, it would have been a "Confederate Revolution." It did not succeed.
The U.K. had sovereignty over the original 13 colonies because they were possessions of the British Crown. In 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed, the 13 colonies were recognized as independent states. The British Crown also relinquished any claim to the territory of the 13 colonies at that time. The colonies became independent and were no longer part of the British Crown colonies.
 
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unionblue

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Thanks for your comments but the only reason I presented the definition of secession because some of the posters seemed to not understand what the term actually means.

Something even the definition in the dictionary does not explain, revolution.


The U.K. had sovereignty over the original 13 colonies because they were possessions of the British Crown.

I can agree with this.

In 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed, the 13 colonies were recognized as independent states.

Not true in the strictest sense, as has been repeatedly explained in other posts concerning the treaty. In the end, it is a treaty between two nations.

The British Crown also relinquished any claim to the territory of the 13 colonies at that time.

Of the 13 colonies, yes, of 13 independent nations, no.

The colonies became independent and were no longer part of the British Crown colonies.
The colonies, together, jointly, became independent and formed a new nation, called the United States of America.
 

CSA Today

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Thanks for your response.
I don't know how "self-righteous" anyone was during the Revolutionary War. I've never heard any of the patriots of that period characterized in that way.
Perhaps it will be instructive to review how the relationship of the American colonies differed from that of the States of the Union.
In 1776, all land controlled by the Crown was 'owned' by the Crown, just as it had been for centuries. A Lord in Essex held his title and lands 'of the King'. That is, they were awarded by the Crown and could be taken away by the Crown. Similarly, a Colonial Proprietor or Corporation held their land as a franchise awarded by the Crown.
Each colony, though governed by a Proprietor, Corporation or Royal Appointee, owed its allegiance only to the Crown.
For the subjects of the Crown residing in those colonies, any attempt to upset this relationship was a revolution. It was not simply a matter of withdrawing from the existing structure: that revolution was intended to completely change the governing structure.
Because of the Revolutionary War, the people formed States to govern what had been Colonies. Under both the Articles of Confederation and our Constitution, the people of these now independent States joined together to form a greater nation, a Union of States to which they delegated some of their States' individual powers. There had never been anything like it before.
By the attempts to secede in 1860-61, the people of certain States chose to attempt to void their State's partnership and commitments with fellow States as part of the Union. It was simply an attempt to separate and establish a competing version of the United States. They did not attempt to change the structure of their government: in fact, they largely copied that of the Union they were attempting to leave. Although clearly a rebellion, theirs was not a revolution.
Yes, a large minority of the colonists had grievances against the British Crown after the end of the French and Indian War and the Pontiac War in 1765. It isn't my intention to argue whether any or all of their grievances were justified or not, the disgruntled colonists thought that they were. Colonial flighty rhetoric had no more impact of King George III than did what Southerners chose to call their rebellion on Abraham Lincoln. In both wars for independence, both disaffected colonists and Southerners chose to determine for themselves the reality and justification of their grievances for themselves.
 

OpnCoronet

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From what can be gathered from the murky meanderings of Jefferson Davis, in his Inaugural Address, it seems he claims the mantle independence of the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution for the secession of the confederacy. When in fact they were separate events over differing principle of government.

Davisin his speech, seems to make no distiincion between the American Revolution and his confederate secession. Going, seemingly(it is had to tell sometimes)so far as to claim, or at least, assumes, that because the formation of the Union was the result of Revolution, that fact alone made revolution OK from a Constitutional perspective.

Clearly history was being perverted by secessionists, in their trying to claim that there was little or no diffference between their acts of secession and the American Revolution. For that reason, if no other, the Constitutionality of secession, is unacceptable because it is not historical and by that fact alone, unacceptable.
 
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WJC

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Yes, a large minority of the colonists had grievances against the British Crown after the end of the French and Indian War and the Pontiac War in 1765. It isn't my intention to argue whether any or all of their grievances were justified or not, the disgruntled colonists thought that they were. Colonial flighty rhetoric had no more impact of King George III than did what Southerners chose to call their rebellion on Abraham Lincoln. In both wars for independence, both disaffected colonists and Southerners chose to determine for themselves the reality and justification of their grievances for themselves.
Thanks for your response.
I think we can both agree on that.
 

WJC

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From what can be gathered from the murky meanderings of Jefferson Davis, in his Inaugural Address, it seems he claims the mantle independence of the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution for the secession of the confederacy. When in fact they were separate events over differing principle of government.
Remember, this was an important milestone in the 'founding' of Davis' 'new country'. He was obligated by circumstances to justify events through some historical context. It is always safe to claim one's faith is the 'true religion', or one's cause is that of our forefathers.
 

OpnCoronet

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Remember, this was an important milestone in the 'founding' of Davis' 'new country'. He was obligated by circumstances to justify events through some historical context. It is always safe to claim one's faith is the 'true religion', or one's cause is that of our forefathers.

Exactly right, and points up the reason the Constitutionality of secession is an important subject, to be discussed, not ignored as suggested by the OP.
 
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WJC

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Why do posters here feel compelled to argue again and again and again about whether secession was a constitutional right?
Because our members- on both sides of the issue- believe it necessary to justify the opinions of their genealogical or philosophical ancestors.
 

unionblue

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Yes, a large minority of the colonists had grievances against the British Crown after the end of the French and Indian War and the Pontiac War in 1765. It isn't my intention to argue whether any or all of their grievances were justified or not, the disgruntled colonists thought that they were. Colonial flighty rhetoric had no more impact of King George III than did what Southerners chose to call their rebellion on Abraham Lincoln. In both wars for independence, both disaffected colonists and Southerners chose to determine for themselves the reality and justification of their grievances for themselves.
But not in precisely the same way, did they? There were differences, weren't there?

To compare the two events as somehow the "same" is to ignore those historical differences and is not an honest, factual rendition of that history.

Calling these two separate events as the same by naming them with the same label is really just an attempt to throw a blanket over each so people can't see those differences.

It's not history then, it's just a diversion from history.
 

contestedground

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Exactly right, and points up the reason the Constitutionality of secession is an important subject, to be discussed, not ignored as suggested by the OP.
Except I never said it was to be ignored. Perhaps we would learn more about such debates if we explored why the discussion took place and why it seemed impossible to reach a conclusive and definitive answer than if we simply reenacted the same debates with the same sense of ultimate futility. I find that fruitless.

After all, white southerners could have embraced the rhetoric of revolution and self-determination (with careful qualifiers given their embrace of slavery). They did not. Both sides sought not only to state a position grounded in an understanding of the Constitution, but also to persuade the other side of the legitimacy of that position. Both failed in the latter objective. Yet the need to render political and policy issues in the form of constitutional debate fundamentally shaped that discussion. There were other options, especially for white southerners seeking separation.

Let's put it this way: what if, in 1859, a constitutional scholar unearthed incontrovertible evidence that secession was indeed unconstitutional, at least as presented by secessionist advocates. Would advocates of secession have given up their quest for independence? Would they have found the threat of a Republican victory in 1860 any less menacing? Would they have acted differently in any significant way?

And what if today, another constitutional scholar found incontrovertible evidence that secession was (or was not) constitutional as of 1859? What would that change? How would it reshape our understanding of the past? Not at all, I would say, because the people at the time did not have that knowledge or that evidence.
 
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Potomac Pride

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Not true in the strictest sense, as has been repeatedly explained in other posts concerning the treaty. In the end, it is a treaty between two nations.

Of the 13 colonies, yes, of 13 independent nations, no.

The colonies, together, jointly, became independent and formed a new nation, called the United States of America.
Thanks for your comments. The Treaty of Paris was a treaty between Great Britain and the USA. However, the treaty mentions each of the 13 colonies of the United States and acknowledges them to be free, sovereign, and independent states. I never stated that the colonies became 13 independent nations. I also stated that the colonies became independent and formed the United States in a previous post.
 

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How can it be claimed that it was the will of the people when the vast majority of seceding states didn’t put the question to the people for a vote?
Virginia did. Virginia's voters overwhelmingly approved the Ordinance of Secession, by a vote of 132,201 to 37,451.

How can it be the will of the people when a majority of the people living in the south didn’t have a right to vote even if secession was put to the people for a vote?
1/2 of the entire population (women) couldn't vote for another 50 years.

Can you point to a single election in our history where over half or, a majority of the people living in our country voted..? I believe the highest percentage of our (entire) population, to ever vote was 44% in 2008. I believe the highest voter turnout (% of eligible voters), was in 1876.

Here's a graph showing % of our population voting in Presidential elections. No secret, Presidential elections bring more people to the polls than any other type of election.

U.S._Vote_for_President_as_Population_Share.png
 

trice

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Thanks for your comments. The Treaty of Paris was a treaty between Great Britain and the USA. However, the treaty mentions each of the 13 colonies of the United States and acknowledges them to be free, sovereign, and independent states. I never stated that the colonies became 13 independent nations. I also stated that the colonies became independent and formed the United States in a previous post.
The Treaty of Paris says specifically that is a treaty between "two countries". The 13 former colonies are named as a list of the parts of one of those "two countries": the United States of America.
 
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WJC

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***Posted as Moderator***
The topic asks "Why argue about the Constitutionality of Secession?".
Recent posts, though interesting, are not addressing that question. Let's get back on topic before Moderator action becomes necessary.
 

Karl Robbins

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Although I agree with your general comments, let's be clear: our Constitution does not grant any rights. Our rights are bestowed upon us at conception by the "Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God".
Let's be clear. There are no rights bestowed upon us at conception by the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God". That is a fiction we drew to counter the divine right of Kings. It doesn't really exist. It sounds very lofty, but we made it up. The only real rights we have are those we agreed upon in that piece of paper called the Constitution.
 
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