Why Argue About the Constitutionality of Secession?

James N.

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The US had not even raised militias when the Confederates started shelling US troops.

The South could have seceded legally, but that would have required negotiation, and that negotiation would no doubt include assuming their portion of the national debt.

They wanted the best of both worlds, and they were willing to start a war, and they made that evident in their actions.

They were men completely without honor.
It depends what you mean by that gross generality - According to the militia system then universal throughout the States (remember the bit about "... a well-regulated militia") EACH state was supposed to provide for the common defense with their militia. Of course, by the time of the war a great deal of it lay in a moribund shambles with several notable exceptions. Kentucky for example had not only the Southern-leaning Kentucky State Guard led by future Confederate General Simon Buckner, but also a newer Unionist Kentucky Home Guard. But it was that decidedly non-Southern state New York that boasted the largest number of militia units and militiamen, termed the New York National Guard. Famous units with long pedigrees included the Seventh Regiment from NYC itself and included members like then-Private Robert Gould Shaw of later 54th Massachusetts fame. Recent Irish immigrants led by Michael Corcoran had already formed the 69th NYSM, upon which the Irish Brigade was later built. However, hands down, the most popular militia unit in the entire U.S. was what was known as (Elmer) Ellsworth's Chicago Zouave Cadets a militia drill team wearing fancy French-inspired uniforms that toured the country in months before the war. (Of course Ellsworth became posthumously famous as the first Northern officer killed in the war prior to Bull Run.) Likely these Northern militiamen far outnumbered their Southern counterparts when the war began, though both sides saw a rush to the colors once the shooting started.

Considering the facts, I assume you're willing then to extend to Shaw, Corcoran, and Ellsworth the same status of being without honor?
 
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jackt62

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Arguing about the constitutionality of secession can be an interesting academic discussion but as others have already noted, it does provide either a justification or a refutation of the southern states' rights to secede in 1861. I am not a constitutional scholar but I do not believe that secession was a legal act, and therefore, the act of doing so on the part of those states was rightly considered as a rebellious move by the national government.
 

Carronade

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It isn't as if the fire-eaters would have been deterred in their quest for securing southern independence by a finding that secession was unconstitutional.

That's it. If people sincerely believe they need to do something, they will not be deterred by questions of law.

The best example is our own independence. There was nothing in British constitutional law that provided for colonies to declare themselves independent; indeed, the Founding Fathers never claimed that there was.
 

Carronade

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The South could have seceded legally, but that would have required negotiation, and that negotiation would no doubt include assuming their portion of the national debt.

Could they?

For the record, I think it might have been a suitable solution.

Getting back to subject, of course they could have asked the United States government to negotiate, but there is no basis for stating as fact that the government would have agreed to negotiate, let alone that the negotiations would have led to southern independence.
 

Andersonh1

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Why do posters here feel compelled to argue again and again and again about whether secession was a constitutional right?

We Americans often discuss our history and system of government, or at least we used to. This debate is linked to one of the more fascinating events in our history, and both sides had Constitutional arguments to support their position. Why wouldn't we want to discuss it?
 

James N.

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Could they?

For the record, I think it might have been a suitable solution.

Getting back to subject, of course they could have asked the United States government to negotiate, but there is no basis for stating as fact that the government would have agreed to negotiate, let alone that the negotiations would have led to southern independence.
And of course the new president Abraham Lincoln steadfastly refused to negotiate on any basis, rendering that situation essentially moot.
 

unionblue

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If the legality of secession was settled law in 1860, would any state have even attempted it..? I'm of the opinion, they believed their actions were legal, & within their rights as sovereign states. Several states allude to such in their documents.

If they believed their actions were legal, why was only force employed by them? Why not attempt legal means through legislation, the Supreme Court, by a National referendum?

Edited.

The leaders of the Southern states in 1860/61 wouldn't have wasted the paper to lay out their cases for breach of contract, & detailing their rights to secede, if they didn't believe it was within their legal rights to do so.

There's that word, legal again. If they were so sure it was legal, why armed force? Why the preemptive strikes on federal installations and forts? Why a direct path to violence even before some slaveholding states had seceded?

They were proven wrong by force alone.

The path freely chosen by secessionists.

There was no legal case made (until much later).

No, rather Trial-by-Combat was initiated with the acts of theft, violence, and finally, the firing on Ft. Sumter.

Lincoln sold his opinion to the remainder of the country, & the subjugation of the South began.

The man didn't have to "sell" much to the North. Recruitment offices and volunteers were so numerous after Ft. Sumter, men could not be fully armed and had to be turned away in the early days of the war.

It was by force, & blood, that the matter of, the legality of secession was determined.

Exactly as the slaveholding South chose for themselves.

Exactly. The United States and its current civilization was forged by the sword, not by legislation, legal stuff, not by diplomacy but by naked force.

As chosen by those who first initiated naked force with the sword, our slaveholding neighbors to the Sout at the time.

Unionblue
 

OpnCoronet

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If the theory of unilateral secession had just been a matter of agreeing to disagree, there probably would have been no war. At least inn 1860 - 61. But, the Soutern secessionists did not let it stop there.

The argument over secession, and, its right, was a matter of law, not opinion. The states, like indiviiduals, cannot, of their own volition, choose which laws they will abide by and those they will not.
 
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We Americans often discuss our history and system of government, or at least we used to. This debate is linked to one of the more fascinating events in our history, and both sides had Constitutional arguments to support their position. Why wouldn't we want to discuss it?

Oh, I know some people want to conclude to their own satisfaction that secession was or was not a constitutional right, and whether the secession of 1860-61 was a constitutional one. But no one's been able to present a finding that's acceptable by people holding other views. Even if they did, that wouldn't change the historical fact that people disagreed about this in 1860-61 (and before), so a finding would be moot historically.
 

Virginia Dave

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I have an idea. Let each side of this debate vote and select the best proponents of each side. Set a date and let these two individuals debate the question. Let a vote be taken at the end of The debate, with each side agreeing to accept the outcome. Thus we might just settle this issue once and for all in our forum. Then prohibit any new debates or Arguments from being posted. What say you?
 

unionblue

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I have an idea. Let each side of this debate vote and select the best proponents of each side. Set a date and let these two individuals debate the question. Let a vote be taken at the end of The debate, with each side agreeing to accept the outcome. Thus we might just settle this issue once and for all in our forum. Then prohibit any new debates or Arguments from being posted. What say you?

On the one side would be historical fact, that which has already been recorded.

On the other side would be modern-day opinion and speculation.

The debate would hardly be fair, in my own opinion.
 

WJC

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I have an idea. Let each side of this debate vote and select the best proponents of each side. Set a date and let these two individuals debate the question. Let a vote be taken at the end of The debate, with each side agreeing to accept the outcome. Thus we might just settle this issue once and for all in our forum. Then prohibit any new debates or Arguments from being posted. What say you?
That debate has already been held, in a catastrophic four-year war, in Congress, and in the Supreme Court. The results are already in.
Nothing we can say here is going to convince others to change their minds.
As to 'prohibiting debates', that defeats the purpose of a forum. Let the debates continue for those who chose to participate. For others, there is no requirement to participate or even observe the debate; there are lots of other discussions underway here.
 

Virginia Dave

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On the one side would be historical fact, that which has already been recorded.

On the other side would be modern-day opinion and speculation.

The debate would hardly be fair, in my own opinion.
You were my first thought to represent against secession, still debating who to represent the other side. I still like the idea. There are enough new members that it would of interest in both sides. In this debate there would only be two contestants which would make it easier to follow, instead of fifty or sixty combatants making the logic difficult to follow. Just a thought. ANYONE ELSE THINK IT MIGHT BE INTERESTING?
 

Rebforever

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Discussions are what keeps a forum interesting. That is what this forum is.
All the new authors make new books about the Civil War. Every day some of these authors join in for a discussion.

There are new books that go on the market that keeps discussion going.
I like it the way it is.
 

Old_Glory

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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 some people want to say one side was right and one side was wrong. That is the number one reason why. I blame both sides equally, but it is always interesting to debate.
 

unionblue

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You were my first thought to represent against secession, still debating who to represent the other side. I still like the idea. There are enough new members that it would of interest in both sides. In this debate there would only be two contestants which would make it easier to follow, instead of fifty or sixty combatants making the logic difficult to follow. Just a thought. ANYONE ELSE THINK IT MIGHT BE INTERESTING?

"...The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
 
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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 every other issue turns on this question. If secession was a constitutional right, then Lincoln and the United States perpetrated a grievous crime against humanity. If secession was unconstitutional, then it cuts the other way.
 

jackt62

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Whether one makes a case or not for secession, it most certainly was not a constitutional "right." There is nothing in the Constitution that grants this so-called right. The framers of the Constitution would have been out of their minds to have included within their governing document establishing a new nation a method of self-destruction (aka secession).
 
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