Why Argue About the Constitutionality of Secession?

Greywolf

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 17, 2017
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).
The other shoe drops as well. No way would they ever sign up for an oppressive and overbearing government which they had just escaped from.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
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Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
The secessionists themselves weren’t claiming their actions were constitutional. That is an after the fact argument used by sympathizers to clothe secession in some sort of legal legitimacy. The secessionists weren’t saying “we are exercising a constitutional right to leave the Union and thus make the constitution void”, their argument was that the constitution, for various reasons, was already made void and that they had a natural right (not a legal or constitutional right) to leave the Union.

The rebels of 1776 weren’t saying that they had a right under British law to declare independence, they were saying they had a natural right to independence due to the failure of British law to protect them.

One can argue whether the secessionists had sound reason for their actions, one can even try to argue that they were morally correct in their actions. I’d disagree with these points but it can be argued. What can not be argued or taken seriously is the idea that their actions were legal or constitutional.
 

GwilymT

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Pittsburgh
As to the question itself, inasmuch that there is absolutely nothing in the constitution that prevents the exercise of the right, secession clearly was, and is, a constitutional right.

There is nothing in the constitution that prevents a heroin dealer from selling heroin. Does it follow that selling heroin is a constitutional right?
 

GwilymT

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JerseyBart

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Here is a good article from the Dubuque Herald, Nov. 11, 1860

https://www.historians.org/teaching...ue-herald/can-a-state-constitutionally-secede


Please note the author is saying that the southern states have a “natural right” to secession and is arguing that they are correct to do so. The author also very clearly states that this is not a constitutional right.
so, southern states got angry about "something," got together and decided to rebel, took that rebellion to war, made a good showing in that rebellion but eventually failed.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
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Pittsburgh
so, southern states got angry about "something," got together and decided to rebel, took that rebellion to war, made a good showing in that rebellion but eventually failed.

You got it. Here is a pro-secessionists arguing that the south is right to secede to protect their “rights” which were in danger of being curbed (so they thought) all the while being very clear that secession is not constitutional.
 

VA_Jim

Cadet
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
There is nothing in the constitution that prevents a heroin dealer from selling heroin. Does it follow that selling heroin is a constitutional right?
The Constitution doesn't address selling heroin. Federal and state laws do. The Constitution explains how a state can join the Union but is silent on how one can leave. The founders could have addressed it but did not (probably because no one plans to fail so to speak). In any event if the Constitution is silent then we should refer to Amendment 10. The question of secession is as real today as it was then. Edited.
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2016
'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.

"A grievous crime against humanity"? Really? I'd reserve those words to describe slavery.

Please notify me when someone offers the definitive answer to which all agree.
 

thomas aagaard

1st Lieutenant
Joined
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Location
Denmark
'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.
Keeping a state together is not a crime against humanity. (the methods used can be)
Slavery on the other hand is.

And it is a concept from 1945... making it rather irrelevant.
 

VA_Jim

Cadet
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Except for Texas v. White.
True. Although we know about it today it wasn't case law in 1860. What bothers me about that is that the political pressure to not undermine Union actions in the recent Civil War must have been strong. It would not have looked good for the gov't had they ruled the other way. And like Dred Scott it may need to be revisited.
 

unionblue

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Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
True. Although we know about it today it wasn't case law in 1860. What bothers me about that is that the political pressure to not undermine Union actions in the recent Civil War must have been strong. It would not have looked good for the gov't had they ruled the other way. And like Dred Scott it may need to be revisited.

Keep us posted when it comes up for review. :wink:
 
Joined
Jun 24, 2019
There is nothing in the constitution that prevents a heroin dealer from selling heroin. Does it follow that selling heroin is a constitutional right?

Exceptionally weak reply. There are criminal laws which were passed, pursuant to the constitutional legislative authority of Congress, which outlaw heroin. Please show me the law Congress passed which outlawed secession. I'll wait.
 
Joined
Jun 24, 2019
Keeping a state together is not a crime against humanity. (the methods used can be)
Slavery on the other hand is.

And it is a concept from 1945... making it rather irrelevant.


Slavery, before 1865, was perfectly lawful. And violently preventing a free people from exercising their natural right to political independence is indeed, a crime against humanity.
 

unionblue

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Exceptionally weak reply. There are criminal laws which were passed, pursuant to the constitutional legislative authority of Congress, which outlaw heroin. Please show me the law Congress passed which outlawed secession. I'll wait.

There is no mode or form in the Constitution for the exercise of a State to perform unilateral secession from it's sister States.

There is a form and mode for a State to join the Union, but none to leave it.

Why do you suppose that is?

Because no nation, no major State, ever plans for it's own destruction.

Look for and show me the law in the Confederate constitution that permits it's member states to secede.

I'll wait.
 
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WJC

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True. Although we know about it today it wasn't case law in 1860. What bothers me about that is that the political pressure to not undermine Union actions in the recent Civil War must have been strong. It would not have looked good for the gov't had they ruled the other way. And like Dred Scott it may need to be revisited.
Thanks for your response.
My remark, "Except for Texas v. White" was a response to your remark that "The question of secession is as real today as it was then."
It is not "as real today as it was then", largely because of that decision.
For what it's worth, Dred Scott v. Sandford was never "revisited": the decision was voided by the 13th and 14th Amendments.
 

VA_Jim

Cadet
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Thanks for your response.
My remark, "Except for Texas v. White" was a response to your remark that "The question of secession is as real today as it was then."
It is not "as real today as it was then", largely because of that decision.
For what it's worth, Dred Scott v. Sandford was never "revisited": the decision was voided by the 13th and 14th Amendments.
Texas v. White was a case about government bonds not about a state's right to secede. The chief justice's argument was not well thought out and leaves open a opportunities for a future challenge. At best it is limited to the specific circumstances under which it was argued. As far as I know there has never been a direct attempt by a state to leave the Union since the Civil War and any such attempt would require a more comprehensive ruling from the Supreme Court.
 

WJC

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Texas v. White was a case about government bonds not about a state's right to secede.
Thanks for your response.
Yes, Texas v. White was brought over the question of bonds owned by the State. however, in adjudicating the case, it was necessary to discuss certain events, including their legality. Secession was one of those events. That discussion is the lasting legacy of the case.
 
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