Why did the Confederates not explicitly write secession into their Constitution?

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
I have wondered about this myself: why did the Confederates not put the right to secede explicitly into their Constitution? Were they hypocrites who wanted the right to leave the US themselves, but did not wish further secession once they were in power? Or did they simply believe that such a right was understood and did not need to be spelled out? Marshall DeRosa has the answer:
The Question naturally comes to mind, if the CSA was committed to a states’ rights doctrine, especially in light of the historical developments of the antebellum period, why did the states not expressly constitutionally mandate a state’s right of secession? The answer to this question is threefold.​
First, the framers of the CSA Constitution contended that they were seceding on behalf of the US Constitution, and not because they were opposed to its principles…Their affinity for the US Constitution included the understanding that it did not deny the right of secession but implicitly protected that right as a prerogative of state sovereignty. They claimed it was fallacious construction that had cast doubts on the right of secession. To draft their Confederate Constitution with the expressed right of secession would, it was claimed, be yielding to the Northern interpretation of the US Constitution that if such a right is not expressly granted, it does not constitutionally exist. This they were not about to do.​
Second, the seven Southern states that had initially seceded from the Union had the practical problem of attracting the variable border states into the Confederacy. Virginia was especially reluctant to join a confederacy lacking a viable central government. To mandate constitutionally the right of secession would give the appearance of a loose league of disparate states held together by a feeble central government, not destined to endure…Consequently, the CSA framers decided to make the right of secession constitutionally implicit by explicitly recognizing the “sovereign and independent character of the States,” thereby providing the central government with the appearance of viability that otherwise might be lacking.​
And third, and most importantly, the CSA Constitution has a covenant component, establishing a central government held together by the consent of good faith of its members, not by coercion. In other words, it is a voluntary association grounded in a transcendental order. In this context, “a covenant differs from a compact in that its moral dimensions take precedence over its legal dimensions. In its heart of hearts, a covenant is an agreement in which a higher moral force, traditionally God, is either a direct party to or guarantor of a particular relationship. Whereas, when the term compact is used, moral force is only indirectly involved.” "The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry Into American Constitutionalism" - Marshall L. DeRosa​

https://books.google.com/books?id=z...98KHVBXAVAQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false
 

JD Mayo

Retired User
Joined
Jun 12, 2020
Location
Greensboro NC
It's all about who had full control of the Constitution from the government. Lincoln couldn't have won his election with out freeing the enslaves etc. So many President's before Lincoln owned slaves. But the south wanted to be their own country and have independence. Free the slaves on their own terms when they wanted to. But I don't think that would have ever happen even, if you tried to buy them from their masters. If England came on the south's side they would have wanted full control of the country under their king. Any american back then wouldn't want that. Some states Kentucky Missouri and Oregon had their own governments. Like in that one post the Union had to come and take Kentucky they wheren't just going to give it up.
 

BuckeyeWarrior

Sergeant
Joined
Jan 1, 2020
Location
Ohio
I have wondered about this myself: why did the Confederates not put the right to secede explicitly into their Constitution? Were they hypocrites who wanted the right to leave the US themselves, but did not wish further secession once they were in power? Or did they simply believe that such a right was understood and did not need to be spelled out? Marshall DeRosa has the answer:
The Question naturally comes to mind, if the CSA was committed to a states’ rights doctrine, especially in light of the historical developments of the antebellum period, why did the states not expressly constitutionally mandate a state’s right of secession? The answer to this question is threefold.​
First, the framers of the CSA Constitution contended that they were seceding on behalf of the US Constitution, and not because they were opposed to its principles…Their affinity for the US Constitution included the understanding that it did not deny the right of secession but implicitly protected that right as a prerogative of state sovereignty. They claimed it was fallacious construction that had cast doubts on the right of secession. To draft their Confederate Constitution with the expressed right of secession would, it was claimed, be yielding to the Northern interpretation of the US Constitution that if such a right is not expressly granted, it does not constitutionally exist. This they were not about to do.​
Second, the seven Southern states that had initially seceded from the Union had the practical problem of attracting the variable border states into the Confederacy. Virginia was especially reluctant to join a confederacy lacking a viable central government. To mandate constitutionally the right of secession would give the appearance of a loose league of disparate states held together by a feeble central government, not destined to endure…Consequently, the CSA framers decided to make the right of secession constitutionally implicit by explicitly recognizing the “sovereign and independent character of the States,” thereby providing the central government with the appearance of viability that otherwise might be lacking.​
And third, and most importantly, the CSA Constitution has a covenant component, establishing a central government held together by the consent of good faith of its members, not by coercion. In other words, it is a voluntary association grounded in a transcendental order. In this context, “a covenant differs from a compact in that its moral dimensions take precedence over its legal dimensions. In its heart of hearts, a covenant is an agreement in which a higher moral force, traditionally God, is either a direct party to or guarantor of a particular relationship. Whereas, when the term compact is used, moral force is only indirectly involved.” "The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry Into American Constitutionalism" - Marshall L. DeRosa​

https://books.google.com/books?id=z...98KHVBXAVAQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false
And the covenant belief that held these states together was that God had ordained blacks to be slaves and whites to rule over them.
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
And the covenant belief that held these states together was that God had ordained blacks to be slaves and whites to rule over them.

A lot of people believe sadly it was good to have slaves because it's in the holy bible. (Don't mean to get religious).

This is not a slavery discussion thread. Please stay on topic.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
I have wondered about this myself: why did the Confederates not put the right to secede explicitly into their Constitution? Were they hypocrites who wanted the right to leave the US themselves, but did not wish further secession once they were in power? Or did they simply believe that such a right was understood and did not need to be spelled out? Marshall DeRosa has the answer:
The Question naturally comes to mind, if the CSA was committed to a states’ rights doctrine, especially in light of the historical developments of the antebellum period, why did the states not expressly constitutionally mandate a state’s right of secession? The answer to this question is threefold.​
First, the framers of the CSA Constitution contended that they were seceding on behalf of the US Constitution, and not because they were opposed to its principles…Their affinity for the US Constitution included the understanding that it did not deny the right of secession but implicitly protected that right as a prerogative of state sovereignty. They claimed it was fallacious construction that had cast doubts on the right of secession. To draft their Confederate Constitution with the expressed right of secession would, it was claimed, be yielding to the Northern interpretation of the US Constitution that if such a right is not expressly granted, it does not constitutionally exist. This they were not about to do.​
Second, the seven Southern states that had initially seceded from the Union had the practical problem of attracting the variable border states into the Confederacy. Virginia was especially reluctant to join a confederacy lacking a viable central government. To mandate constitutionally the right of secession would give the appearance of a loose league of disparate states held together by a feeble central government, not destined to endure…Consequently, the CSA framers decided to make the right of secession constitutionally implicit by explicitly recognizing the “sovereign and independent character of the States,” thereby providing the central government with the appearance of viability that otherwise might be lacking.​
And third, and most importantly, the CSA Constitution has a covenant component, establishing a central government held together by the consent of good faith of its members, not by coercion. In other words, it is a voluntary association grounded in a transcendental order. In this context, “a covenant differs from a compact in that its moral dimensions take precedence over its legal dimensions. In its heart of hearts, a covenant is an agreement in which a higher moral force, traditionally God, is either a direct party to or guarantor of a particular relationship. Whereas, when the term compact is used, moral force is only indirectly involved.” "The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry Into American Constitutionalism" - Marshall L. DeRosa​

https://books.google.com/books?id=z...98KHVBXAVAQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

As to the first reason, we have little to no reason to think that the confederates thought secession a constitutional act. They were explicitly stating that the constitution was a compact broken by the northern states at their expense and thus the constitution was void. That was their argument, not that secession was somehow constitutional. Their constitution did explicitly defend the “rights” they thought were being violated by the northern states, so why even think that secession should be included. They knew it was an extra constitutional natural right they claimed for themselves. No need to include secession in their new constitution- by seceding they removed the cause of their secession from legal or politics consideration- they made sure to enshrine the “rights” that prompted their extra constitutional secession in their new constitution iron clad and unambiguous.

As to the second, is there any evidence anywhere that such was discussed and if so, that such concerns were critical?

Third, could someone illustrate in the CSA constitution this “covenant component”, I must have missed it.

So far DeRosa’s argument seems 1 of 5, would not recommend.
 
Last edited:

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Thanks, UB. I will do some searching on the boards and see what I can turn up.

@Andersonh1 ,

It was really a long time ago and I really do have some memory issues since first coming onto this forum way back in 1992 or there about.

Lot of ground covered, but I'll keep trying to find it.

As I recall now, members of the Confederate Congress proposed an amendment to the Confederate Constitution that would permit a state to secede from the Confederacy. The amendment was supposedly bottled up in committee or "laid on the table," effectively killing it at the time.

Be interesting to find the source for such a thing.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
I must admit being a recent immigrant from Ohio, but I believe I have met all the entry requirements and had my passport stamped.:biggrin:

Ocala is a nice place. It even has hills! (little ones) Used to be a big time horse country and as of recently has become a haven for southern Floridians who are tired of fighting traffic. Hope you enjoy your new home city.
 

Andersonh1

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Jan 12, 2016
Location
South Carolina
Thanks Mango Hill. From the linked page:


WEDNESDAY, March 6, 1861.
Congress resolved itself in Convention.​
Page 873​
Mr. Boyce moved to amend the amendment of Mr. Memminger by striking out the same and inserting in lieu thereof the following words, viz:​
That the right of secession of any State from this Confederacy is expressly admitted, to be exercised by any State according to its pleasure. That while a State remains in the Confederacy, the decisions of the Supreme Court of the Confederate States on constitutional questions shall be conclusive in all cases capable of decision by legal process. That in such cases as do not admit of decision by legal process, a convention of all the States shall be assembled, in which convention the decision of the majority of the States shall be conclusive, subject only to the right of secession of the State or States dissatisfied.​
Mr. Kenner moved to lay the amendment offered by Mr. Memminger and the amendment to the same offered by Mr. Boyce on the table, and called for the question.
The question was seconded, and the motion to lay on the table prevailed, the States voting as follows:​
Yea: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
Nay: South Carolina.
….​
Page 876​
THURSDAY, March 7, 1861.
The Congress having resolved itself in Convention, proceeded to the
consideration of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.
….
Mr. Hill moved to amend the report of the committee by striking out Article VII; which is as follows:​
The ratification of the conventions of five States shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same,​
And inserting in lieu thereof the following, viz:​
Section 1
1. No state, while remaining a member of this Confederation, shall nullify or refuse to obey this Constitution, or any law passed by the Congress of the Confederate States.​
Page 877​
2. Any State, by a convention of the people of such State, shall have the right to demand an issue to try the constitutionality of any law of the Congress of the Confederate States. Such issue shall be tried in a manner to be prescribed by Congress, by a court to be composed of the judges of the Supreme Court of the Confederate States, and of the chief justice of the State demanding the issue.
3. On complaint made by any citizen, body politic or corporate aggrieved, the President of the Confederate States may, and it is hereby made his duty, in a manner to be prescribed by Congress, to order an issue to try the constitutionality of any law, order or regulation of any one of the States of this Confederation, annulling, violating or impairing this Constitution or any law of the Congress of the Confederate States. Such issue shall be tried in a manner to be provided by Congress, and, after proper notice to the offending State, by the Supreme Court of the Confederate States.
4. If any State shall fail or refuse to conform to a decision of the court on any issue tried under this section, the Congress of the Confederate States may withdraw from such States all or any portion of the privileges and benefits of this Confederation, without releasing such State from the duties and obligations thereof.
Section 2
1. When any State shall desire to withdraw from this Confederation, such desire shall be communicated to the Congress of the Confederate States, through a convention of the people of such State, specifically setting forth the causes of such desire to withdraw.

2. Congress shalt consider of such alleged grievances, and, on failure to redress or accommodate the same, to the satisfaction of the complaining State and of the Confederate States, shall arrange with such State an equitable division of the public property, and a peaceable withdrawal from the Confederation.
3. But no State by withdrawing from this Confederation in the manner herein provided, nor in any other manner, shall be discharged or released from the obligation to pay a due proportion of the public debt existing at the time of such withdrawal; and such withdrawal shall, moreover, oblige the State withdrawing to account with the Confederate States for all expenditures made, or liabilities incurred by the Confederate States, in acquiring, securing, fortifying or defending the territory or jurisdiction of such
State.​
Mr. Chesnut moved to amend the amendment of Mr. Hill by striking out the same and inserting in lieu thereof the following, to wit:​
The right of a State to secede from the Confederacy shall not be denied. And whenever any State, through a convention of its people, shall dissolve the connection between it and its confederates, it shall be the duty of the President to withdraw all forces from within the territorial limits of such State, and permit it peacefully to withdraw.​
According to previous order of the Congress, the consideration of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment was postponed and they were ordered to be printed.​
Confederate States of America. Congress. The Journals of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, Washington: G.P.O., 1904-05. Volume 1, Sen. Doc. 234, 58th Congress, 1903-1905.​
 

Mango Hill

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
So, Mr. Memminger's amendment was amended by Mr. Boyce. Then Mr. Hill proposed an amendment to the previous day's amendment voted on by the states. Mr. Chesnut (husband of the more famous Mary Boykin Chesnut; author of Diary From Dixie) then proposed another amendment to replace that proposed by Mr. Hill. Then Congress postponed (tabled?) further consideration of the proposed amendments. My question is; what was printed?
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
So, Mr. Memminger's amendment was amended by Mr. Boyce. Then Mr. Hill proposed an amendment to the previous day's amendment voted on by the states. Mr. Chesnut (husband of the more famous Mary Boykin Chesnut; author of Diary From Dixie) then proposed another amendment to replace that proposed by Mr. Hill. Then Congress postponed (tabled?) further consideration of the proposed amendments. My question is; what was printed?

Don't know what was printed, but it is pretty clear the Confederate Congress did not like the idea of secession for any of it's states.
 
Top