Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A few days ago I became involved in a discussion about the legality or constitutionality of secession. I have long believed that the secession one or more states from our federal union was and is lawful under the United States Constitution. I wrote about this issue a number of years back that article is here: The Constitution and Secession

The discussion I'm presently involved in is at the history section of Christian Forums.

Before the War Between the States (some folks call it the Civil War) New England, which was the section most hostile to Southern secession, had a long history of secessionist movements. This has been brought up in the discussion and here are some of the points made on that issue:

John Quincy Adams speaking before the Historical Society of New York in April (I think) 1839:
"With these qualifications we may admit the same right as vested in the people of every state in the Union, with reference to the General Government, which was exercised by the people of the United Colonies with reference to the Supreme head of the British Empire, of which the formed a part; and under these limitations have the people of each State in the Union a right to secede from the Confederated Union itself. Here stands the right! But the indissoluble union between the several States of the Confederated Nation is, after all, not in the right but in the heart. If the day should ever come (may Heaven avert it), when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other...far better will it be for the people of the dis-United States, to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint..."

In 1842 we find that John Quincy Adams presented a secession petition in the U.S. Congress for some of his fellow Massachusetts citizens:
Congressional Globe, volume XI, page 977
MONDAY, January 24th.--In the House. Mr. [John Q] Adams presented the petition of sundry citizens of Haverhill, in the State of Massachusetts, praying that Congress will immediately adopt measures favorably to dissolve the union of these States.
First. Because no union can be agreeable and permanent which does not present prospects for reciprocal benefit; second, because a vast proportion of the revenues of one section of the Union is annually drained to sustain the views and course of another section, without any adequate return; third, because, judging from the history of past nations, that union, if persisted in in the present state of things, will certainly overwhelm the whole nation in destruction.

Here are the resolutions of 1844 that were the approved by the Mass. Legislature and signed by the governor:
1. Resolved, That the power to unite an independent foreign State with the United States is not among the powers delegated to the General Government by the Constitution of the United States.
2. Resolved, That the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, faithful to the compact between the people of the United States, according to the plain meaning and intent in which it was understood and acceded to by them, is sincerely anxious for its preservation, but that it is determined, as it doubts not the other states are, to submit to undelegated powers in no body of men on earth; That the project of the annexation of Texas, unless arrested on the threshhold, may tend to drive these states into a dissolution of the union, and will furnish new calumnies against republican governments of exposing the gross contradiction of a people professing to be free, and yet seeking to extend and perpetuate the subjection of their slaves.
3. Resolved, That his Excellency, the Governor, be requested to transmit a copy of the foregoing resolves to each of the Senators and Members of the House of Representatives of this Commonwealth in the Congress of the United States.
4. Resolved, That his Excellency, the Governor, be requested to transmit a copy of the same resolves to the Executive of the United States and of the several States. Approved by the Governor, March 15, 1844

This is a fluid discussion and so in response to the other guy in the discussion, I next turn to the Articles of Confederation. The Articles formed the first version of the United States, but confederated government formed by the Articles weas soon replaced by the U.S. Constitution, which formed a wholly new form of government and created a wholly new version of the United States. The U.S. under the Articles was short lived though it claimed to be a perpetual union. I start by quoting the preamble to the Articles:

To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting.
Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

Notice that the Articles proclaimed a perpetual union, but in less than seven years this perpetual union was dissolved by those same states when nine of the thirteen ratified the new Constitution of the United States.Remember what Article VII of Constitution says? It says, "The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same." So according to the Constitution when nine states ratified the Constitution they would cease to be part of the "perpetual Union between the States" under the Articles of Confederation and would form a new Union under the Constitution. As I mention in the earlier posts, North Carolina and Rhode Island did not immediately ratify the Constitution and were not part of the Unites States when the New U.S. came into being under the new Constitution. All the other states had seceded from the U.S. under the Articles and formed a new U.S. under the Constitution.

Coram Deo,


Bill said...

That's an interesting series of quotes. And southern secession is an interesting idea. I'm from Baton Rouge myself, so I'm with you. If y'all go, I may just come home again! :)

Have you ever blogged about the economic barriers to actual secession? I'm just curious...

Cajun Huguenot said...

Hey Bill,

No, I've not blogged on that issue, but it is an idea worth looking at. Give me some time and I may just post on that subject in the future.

Deo Vindice,