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Why is it important to you whether secession was legal or not?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by 1NCCAV, Jun 15, 2017.

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  1. 1NCCAV

    1NCCAV Private

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    As you might guess from my avatar, I am a bit of a Confederate sympathizer. Oh, I'm a proper Galvanized Yankee now, a loyal American, and in no way a neo-confederate, but I mean sympathizer in the sense of that time in history. But I can't quite get on board with my fellow Confederate sympathizers endlessly and enthusiastically arguing that secession was legal and constitutional at that time. If it was, that's fine. But if it wasn't isn't that fine too?

    I see secession as a rebellion, or revolution if you prefer that term. And rebellions and revolutions are illegal. They may or may not be needed, justified, ethical, important, necessary, etc., but they are illegal. The one a century earlier against King George was about as illegal as illegal can get according to the law at that time, and in a couple weeks we are going to celebrate the illegal actions we took.

    I think it's a little bit revisionist and Lost Causeresque to hang your Confederate sympathies hat on the legal/constitutional peg. When you think you have a point worth dying for you put your gonads on the line and go for it. You wake up and say, "I'm going to go out and rebel today, it's going to be illegal, and if you don't like it you're going to have to stop me. Now bring it."

    Well, they did. If you are going to secede, you better succeed.

    I have a hard time getting my mind wrapped around why some with Confederate sympathies think it's important to argue that secession was legal or constitutional. Again, if it was that's fine. But if it wasn't isn't that fine too?

    And speaking of "bring it" I expect quite a bit will be coming because of this post. :smile:
     

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  3. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Secession itself is an exercise of nonexistent Constitutional power. Any actions undertaken to implement or secure secession is subject to legal liability. That did not stop folks from thinking it was legal in such a manner that appeals to legal or political authorities were ignored and the matter was appealed to the violence of war.
     
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  4. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year Honored Fallen Comrade

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    Because many of them want to do it again.
     
  5. huskerblitz

    huskerblitz Captain

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    Personally speaking...I don't care.
     
  6. Jackson'sArm

    Jackson'sArm Corporal

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    Not care? Fine either way?? That is the "Benign Whatever" of the 21st century. In the 19th century, I don't think anyone of either side would even be able to conceive of the Benign Whatever mindset. It mattered! Because the only thing that stands between man and barbarism is law.

    Even though the revolutionaries trespassed the law of the England, they went to great pains to demonstrate how they were obedient to a greater law, the natural law. In the case of the Confederacy, I must certainly say that it trespassed the natural law in holding, trading and profiting from slaves, and was thereby doomed. The natural law. as it is a description of reality, is impossible to defeat in the long run.

    But the legitimacy of secession, either as an exercise or a violation of manmade law, admits of honest differences of opinion. It was hugely important in the 1850s, and I think it is equally significant today.
     
  7. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    To me, it is just part and parcel of understanding the war. "The South" claimed the existence of a theoretical concept, a unilateral "right of secession" and acted; "the North" (as in "the rest of the country") resisted. If you want to understand what was happening in 1860-61, you need to know what they thought, what the arguments for and against this theory were, what happened when, how it ended up.
     
  8. DaveGberg

    DaveGberg Corporal

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    The right of unilateral secession was hotly debated going back to the Constitutional Convention. It's important because it speaks to the legality of the confederate states to break off as well as Lincoln's actions to force those states back into the union.

    Strictly speaking secession and revolution are two different things, secession being a legal process for separation and revolution being an extra-constitutional action to forcibly break away. I like to refer to Madison's letter to Webster from 1833 concerning the Nullification Crisis where he makes that distinction:

    "I return my thanks for the copy of your late very powerful Speech in the Senate of the United S. It crushes "nullification" and must hasten the abandonment of "Secession." But thisdodges the blow by confounding the claim to secede at will, with the right of seceding from intolerable oppression. The former answers itself, being a violation, without cause, of a faith solemnly pledged. The latter is another name only for revolution, about which there is no theoretic controversy. "​

    Here Madison makes clear (as the Father of the Constitution) that states had no reserved power to unilaterally secede, but they retained the right to revolt in the face of intolerable oppression.

    I would argue that the confederates did not meet that criteria and did not have either the right to secede, nor met the terms for the natural right of revolution. :grant:

    Obviously there are people who see it diffferently...:lee:
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
  9. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    One of the comments I have read recently is that after Appomattox Confederates in the violence of the Lost Cause and Jim Crow eras were willing to kill for the cause but no longer willing to die for it.
     
  10. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    I care, I put a lot of money into books, time and effort into studying it.
     
  11. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Yes, secession was more of a thing of mind, heart and passion than of the law.
     
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  12. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    The secessionists appealed to Mars, the god of war for a judgement rather than the halls of justice or debate. They got an answer, just not the one they wanted. If the judgement had gone the other way, our discussion would be much different.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2017
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  13. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    It does not matter to me, because it was not the principle issue.
    There was a group of wealthy and powerful people who wanted to establish a new nation in North America. That nation would have had a economic system not respected by the other major countries of North America, or the 4 major powers existing or coming into being in Europe.
    The consequences of that attempt, if successful, were so vast, that the people of the nation from which this new nation was going to be subtracted went to war to stop it.
    The constitutional legality of secession is an interesting legal dispute. However if the people opposed to secession had assented to the attempt, the arguments would not have mattered. It would have become legal through acquiescence.
     
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  14. AshleyMel

    AshleyMel Sergeant

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    The question is why is it important to me, right? One way or the other. Hmmmmmm. Well, I do have an opinion but we know what those are worth, right? :sneaky:
    I think what is important is that so many felt like it was paramount, felt it was legal and others absolutely did not so that is why we are here today debating and discussing history.
    Whenever grumblings with family or friends come up in polite conversation of the current state of affairs I usually offer to(sarcastically) rally the troops and call for secession and then remind everyone how well that worked out and the cost that was paid. They usually quiet down after that.
     
  15. uaskme

    uaskme Sergeant

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    The particular Southern States Succeeded but they were not the only ones to envision it. The Yankee
    States debated it prior to the war of 1812, MA was about as Disunionist as MS thru the CW Crisis. CA as well As TX have pounded the table currently. Sanctuary Cities are vowing not to abide by Federal Authority. Most of all of that ain't Southern.

    The Legality of succession is still debated. In the John
    Brown thread it was argued if Brown had of been tried in New England he would of been acquitted. Maybe the answer is it is according to who had control of the Courts whether it was legal or not.

    I don't think the legality of Succession had as much to do with the Crisis as Race and Politics did. My favorite aspects of the War.
     
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  16. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    I mention increased taxes and the loss of Medicare and Social Security.
     
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  17. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    The reason is that, it establishes the Union as the "bad guy." If unilateral secession was legal/constitutional, then the Union acted illegally and unconstitutionally, and is subject to condemnation on those grounds.

    - Alan
     
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  18. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    It's not important to me whether it was legal or not. The South's attempt to form their own country wasn't beaten by the law but by bullets.
     
  19. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Starting with Jefferson Davis, none of the CSA leaders that killed off or maimed hundreds of thousands of white men following them wanted to accept responsibility.
     
  20. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Yes, but that is the method chosen by the secessionists. Justice by bullet.
     
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  21. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    Your point?
    Really the shooting started over property, the forts and such, and Lincoln demanding that the upper south prove their loyalty by sending 75,000 troops to make war on the lower south.
     

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