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An 80-DVD set
World History 101 and 102
Shot live at the
College of Charleston (SC)
Below are some DVDs on Europe
and the Atlantic World relevant to Southern history.
Click here www.WorldHistory101-102.com or any DVD picture for more information including video clips. DVDs feature distinguished military historian, author, scholar and history professor
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There are 80 OUTSTANDING DVDs in the
Please continue scrolling down
for the scholarly essay "The Right of Secession" and a shorter essay, "The Slavery Lie," both by Gene Kizer, Jr., plus primary source documents, the outstanding "A Detailed Chronology of Secession with Bibliography," and other valuable information.
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The Slavery Lie
Slavery was not the cause
of the war
Esteemed historian Eugene Genovese warned that today's politically correct interpretations of Southern history are a "cultural and political atrocity," mostly because of the falsehood that slavery was the cause of the War Between the States.
Unquestionably, slavery was not the cause of the war.
The South's economic independence from the North was.
The North could not allow its economic colony to secede and compete against it without total economic collapse.
The collapse of the Northern economy was well underway as the Southern states seceded. Northern states were facing bankruptcy and anarchy.
Early in the secession debate, there
was noble rhetoric from Northerners such as Horace Greeley who wrote that the North should
But when he started realizing that the North was totally dependent on the South, and the South was producing the wealth of the nation in King Cotton, he wanted war, as did the rest of the North.
You can not read a single Northern newspaper editor after January of 1861 who is not petrified of the impending Northern collapse.
The short reason is that the North did not sell its manufactured goods to the rest of the world.
It sold overwhelmingly to the South.
This was the era of the Pax Britannica and mighty Great Britain, not the North, ruled the oceans and global trade.
The South was the North's only significant market, and we were a captive market, because import tariffs benefiting Northern manufacturers made free trade impossible.
We could pay exorbitant Northern protectionist monopolistic prices because we were producing the wealth of the nation in Southern commodities, and cotton was king.
There is no question about this. It can not be denied. It is a proven fact of economics and history: The South was, by far, producing the wealth of the United States in 1860.
And - OUTRAGEOUSLY - the South was paying 3/4ths of the taxes of the United States through tariffs, yet 3/4ths of the tax money was being spent in the North.
Robert Toombs famously called it a "suction pump" sucking wealth out of the South and depositing it in the North.
The taxes in the Revolutionary War that prompted the Colonies to secede from Great Britain were MINISCULE compared to the theft going on in 1860.
That, alone, was reason enough to separate from the North, and, clearly, it was the future if the South remained in the Union.
It's what the Northern states demanded. It's what the presidential campaign of 1860 was all about: A sectional takeover of the federal government by the Northern States because of their larger population.
Southerners knew they would be outvoted in the U.S. House and Senate from then on, and there was nothing they could do about it in the Union. They had already endured years of utter hatred from the North, numerous violations of the Constitution and Northern sponsored terrorism in John Brown.
Southern concerns were legitimate.
All the North needed was a sectional president, and they got him in Lincoln, who did not receive a single vote south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and, indeed, was not even on the ballot.
All the Northern hate in the campaign of 1860 was about consolidating their vote around Lincoln so they could take over the government and rule the country for their benefit.
Think about the passions of politics today between liberals and conservatives, the hates and rivalries, the determination to come back to power or stay in power, then realize it was a million times more passionate in 1860 because the North realized for the first time in American history that it could take over the government completely and rule the country because of its larger population.
It was a lust for power and control as stated in 1860 in The Address of the People of South Carolina, Assembled in Convention, to the People of the Slaveholding States of the United States: ". . . when vast sectional interests are to be subserved, involving the appropriation of countless millions of money, it has not been the usual experience of mankind, that words on parchments can arrest power."
Alexis de Tocqueville had also given a dire warning that if one region got a majority vote in the government, that region would take over and remake the country in its own image and rule the country for its own benefit.
That was the conclusion of the greatest observer of American democracy to ever live.
Northerners consolidated their vote, but they were ignorant of the national economy.
Those Southerners they were hating so badly were producing the wealth of the nation and were the North's only manufacturing customers.
Without the South to sell to, and get raw materials from, Northern factories stood idle and the North faced massive unemployment, business and bank failures, loss of property values and wealth, and anarchy.
It was already happening as the Southern States seceded.
The North was rushing headlong into a panic that would make the Great Depression look like a walk in the park.
Unlike the 1930s, the North was about to lose ALL of its manufacturing customers and tax base at one fell swoop . . . then face those customers as strong competitors who had control of the most demanded raw materials on earth, and had lucrative free trade relationships with Great Britain and the rest of a world that was clamoring for Southern cotton.
Lincoln was under enormous pressure the entire time the Southern States were seceding. He faced the specter of going down in history as an abject failure who led the Northern economic collapse.
He was the first sectional president and he was about to let his section - the North - fall into bankruptcy and anarchy.
However, he had the trump card of all tyrants: WAR.
He knew war would solve everything and give him a "magnificent burst of patriotism" as one writer said. The Constitution be damned.
I'm sure Lincoln thought it would be short and quick and nothing
like what happened or even he might have had second thoughts before
sending a military mission to Fort Sumter in April, 1861 knowing, full well, it would start the war.
Lincoln's commander at Fort Sumter,
Major Robert Anderson, said clearly that Lincoln started the war.
Anderson wrote a letter in response to Lincoln and Secretary of War Cameron's letter that informed him of the Fort Sumter reinforcement plans as Northern warships approached Charleston. Anderson minced no words:
. . . a movement made now when the South has been erroneously informed that none such will be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout our country. . . . We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in the war which I see is to be thus commenced. . . .
The South Was Right
We were right in that conflict - not just morally, for wanting freedom and independence, but legally.
Secession was a sacred legal right won by our forefathers of 1776 for their progeny, and every single Southern State exercised that right in the correct manner using the same procedure the states had used to ratify the United States Constitution.
In each Southern State, we vigorously debated secession, then we elected Unionist and Secessionist delegates to conventions to decide the single issue of secession.
In each Southern State, on convention floors, delegates further debated the issue,
then they voted - and the decision was the same as
July 4, 1776 - for secession and independence.
It was the most pure expression of republican government and democracy that the world had ever seen for such a large number of people and such a huge landmass.
It was an affirmation of the South's commitment to constitutional government and the republic of the Founding Fathers.
Possessing the wealth of the nation in cotton, and anxious to industrialize and trade freely with the world, the South was a rising star and would be a formidable competitor for Lincoln and the subsidized North, and they all knew it.
The North grossly mismanaged
its own economy
Northern greed had driven an insatiable demand for government support from the end of the Revolution on. Unfair Northern monopolies and protectionism benefited Northern states and penalized the rest of the country, especially the South, which had always wanted free trade.
The Morrill Tariff of 1861, that passed the moment Southerners seceded and were not in Congress to vote against it, was the catalyst that brought Northern greed and mismanagement to a head. The Morrill Tariff immediately began destroying Northern trade and the Northern economy.
The entry of goods into the North after the Morrill Tariff was approximately 40% to 60% higher than in the South, so nobody on the planet wanted to do business with the North.
Southerners had wisely prohibited protective tariffs in their constitution so entry of goods into the South was a tiny fraction of the cost to ship to the North.
Southerners were brilliant, while greedy Northerners destroyed their own economy and made a blockade and war necessary from their standpoint.
Don't take my word
Read Northern newspaper editors anytime after January, 1861 when most Southern states followed South Carolina's lead and seceded.
Northern newspapers were all utterly petrified about the imminent Northern collapse and there were abundant signs that anarchy was fast approaching.
Even Northern ship captains were leaving Northern cities and transferring operations to Norfolk, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans and other Southern ports, while goods rotted on the docks of New York City.
When Lincoln sent an armed naval flotilla into South Carolina to reinforce Fort Sumter on sovereign South Carolina soil, he knew - beyond the shadow of a doubt - that he was starting a war.
All the Northern rhetoric since the end of the war has tried to justify the Northern destruction of the country and the 1,000,000 casualties that went along with it by saying that the good Northern States invaded the evil South to free the slaves.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as Lincoln himself said during the first two years of the war.
One only has to remember that five slave states fought for the North throughout the war and NONE of their slaves were "freed" by the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Northern invasion of the South was unconstitutional and immoral and it ranks Lincoln up there with the worst tyrants in world history.
The South was the heir of the original American Republic that declared its independence in 1776. That's why a triumphant George Washington is in the center of the Great Seal of the Confederacy.
It was about freedom and the rights of Southern States to govern themselves and protect themselves from a dominating, taxing, constantly encroaching federal government controlled by Northern bankers and business interests.
And today, it is about the exact same thing: The rights of our States verses the tyranny of the "one size fits all" federal government that was empowered by the despot Lincoln and the illegal, immoral Northern victory.
The facts are all there. Educate yourself and argue well because truth is on our side.
Charleston, South Carolina
A Detailed, Annotated CHRONOLOGY of Secession,
Click here for an excellent, lengthy, annotated, narrative chronology with profuse quotations from speeches, debates and documents that include not only the secession debate in the South, 1860-1861, but such detail as the calling of secession conventions in the different Southern states, the actual convention votes for/against secession, the dates of ratification by the people in their various states with the actual vote totals for/against, the events happening on the national level as the Confederate government is organized at the same time that Lincoln takes over as U.S. president, and all things pertaining to the beginning of the War Between the States. There is also a bibliography divided into primary and secondary sources.
Esteemed historian Dr. Eugene D. Genovese's UNCOMPLIMENTARY assessment of modern politically correct scholarship on the South and WBTS: "We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity..."
A review of Charles B. Dew's book,
Apostles of Disunion, Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War (sic)
A summary of the excellent book,
Black Bondage in the North
An article on the laws of the many Northern and Western states that had FORBID free blacks from living there including Lincoln's own Illinois
The causes of the WBTS in articles written by Southerners who were there
New England's secessionist convention:
The Hartford Convention
(Official Secession Documents, Gubernatorial Messages, Farewell Speeches, Letters and Addresses of Commissioners, General Speeches, Other Special Documents)
Official Secession Documents
(Declarations, Addresses, Resolutions and Reports that speak officially for a state or county)
Address of the People of South Carolina, Assembled in Convention, to the People of the Slaveholding States of the United States, adopted 24 December 1860 (includes background; author Robert Barnwell Rhett)
Address to the People of Texas, 30 March 1861 (includes background)
The Botetourt Resolutions of
Judge John J. Allen, adopted 10 December 1860 (includes background and brief biography of Judge John J. Allen, President of the Supreme Court of Virginia)
Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, adopted 24 December 1860 (includes background, author Christopher Gustavus Memminger)
Joint Resolution of the General Assembly of Alabama, adopted
24 February 1860 (includes background)
Ordinance to dissolve the union now existing between the State of Arkansas and the other states united with her under the compact entitled "The Constitution of the United States of America", adopted
6 May 1861
Ordinance to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution, adopted
17 April 1861
Report on the Causes of the Secession of Georgia, adopted
29 January 1861 (includes background, author Robert Toombs, delivered by E.A. Nisbet)
Address by Florida Governor
M. S. Perry to the Florida Senate and House of Representatives,
2 February 1861 (includes brief biography of Gov. Perry)
Extracts from the message of the governor of Louisiana to the State Legislature, January 22, 1861 (includes brief biography of Gov. Thomas Overton Moore)
Governor John Letcher's
Message on Federal Relations,
7 January 1861 (includes background, biography of Virginia Gov. Letcher)
Inaugural Message of South Carolina Governor Francis Wilkinson Pickens, published
18 December 1860 (includes brief biography of Gov. Pickens)
Message of Governor Isham Harris to the Tennessee Assembly,
7 January 1861 (includes biography of Gov. Harris)
Special Message of Governor Joseph E. Brown (of Georgia) on Federal Relations, 7 November 1860 (includes background, biography of Gov. Brown)
(delivered in the Senate, and
House of Representatives of the
United States Congress)
Farewell Address of Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, to
the United States Senate,
21 January 1861 (includes biography of President Jefferson Davis)
Farewell Address of Senator
Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana to the United States Senate,
5 February 1861 (includes brief biography)
Farewell Address of Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia to the United States Senate, 7 January 1861 (includes brief biography)
Letters and Addresses
(from one Southern state to another)
Letter of Commissioner Ambrose R. Wright of Georgia to Governor Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland,
25 February 1861 (includes biography of Ambrose Ransom "Rans" Wright)
Henry L. Benning's Secessionist speech in Milledgeville, Georgia
19 November 1860 (includes biography of "Rock" Benning, for whom the U.S. Army Base in Columbus, Georgia, Fort Benning, is named)
Honorable Williamson R. W. Cobb of Alabama, speech delivered in the United States House of Representatives 7 January 1861 (includes brief biography of Rep. Cobb)
Letter from Honorable John H. Reagan, member of the United States House of Representatives from Texas, 19 October 1860 (includes biography of Rep. Reagan)
Opening Speech by then
temporary president of the South Carolina Secession Convention, General David F. Jamison,
17 December 1860 (includes background, biography of Gen. Jamison)
Speech of C. Q. Lemmonds, Esq., of Union (North Carolina) on the Convention Bill, 17 January 1861 (includes brief biography)
Speech of Edmund S. Dargan in the Secession Convention of Alabama,
11 January 1861 (includes brief biography)
Speech of William Lowndes Yancy, "The Constitution and the Union",
10 November 1860 (includes biography of William Lowndes Yancy)
Thomas R. R. Cobb's Secessionist Speech, Milledgeville, Georgia, 12 November 1860 (includes biography of Thomas R. R. Cobb)
Other Special Documents
Various documents from among the Papers of Honorable John A. Campbell, 1861-1865 (includes background, biography)
The Right of Secession
There is no evidence that
secession was illegal or prohibited by the Constitution, and in fact there
is almost overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that secession was a legal,
constitutionally sanctioned act. Historian Kenneth M. Stampp, in his book The Imperiled Union, maintains that it is
impossible to say that secession was illegal because of the ambiguity of the
original Constitution as to state sovereignty and the right of secession. He
points out that "the case for state sovereignty and the constitutional right
of secession had flourished for forty years before a comparable case for a
perpetual Union had been devised," and even then its logic was "far from
perfect because the Constitution and the debates over ratification were
fraught with ambiguity."1 It appears that the original
of an unquestioned right of secession was established by the Founders, took
root and "flourished for forty years," then
later a "perpetual Union" counter-argument developed out of political necessity when Northern states began realizing their
wealth and power was dependent on the Union and its exploitation of the
There had to be a specific constitutional prohibition on secession for it to be illegal. Conversely, there did not have to be a specific constitutional affirmation of the right of secession for it to be legal. Why? Because the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
There was no constitution prohibition on secession, nor was there a constitutional sanctioning of any kind of federal coercion to force a state to obey a federal law because to do so was to perpetrate an act of war on the offending state by the other states, for whom the federal government was their agent.
The arguments for the right of
secession are unequivocal. There is the constitutional right based on the
Compact Theory, and the revolutionary right based on the idea that a free
people have the right to change their government anytime they see fit. The
Compact Theory views the Constitution as a legal agreement between the
states - a compact - and if any one state violates the compact, then the
entire agreement becomes null and void. Northern states unquestionably
violated the Constitution on a number of grounds including unconstitutional
Personal Liberty Laws on their books, as well as by deliberately harboring
fugitives from justice by protecting the sons of John Brown who were wanted
by Virginia for murder at Harpers Ferry. Northern states also made a mockery
of the Constitution's Preamble, which states clearly that the Constitution
was established to "insure domestic Tranquility" and "promote the general
Welfare." Certain prominent Northern leaders with the acquiescence of states
like Massachusetts were utterly at war with the South and doing everything
they could to destroy the domestic tranquility of Southern states by
encouraging slaves to murder white people, poison wells, destroy property
and commit other acts of rapine. John Brown himself had been encouraged and
financed in the North.
The revolutionary right of secession is based on the Declaration of Independence and the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and John Locke, that
whenever any form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, . . .
These words come directly from the Declaration of Independence. This passage was also used, verbatim, in South Carolina's Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. A similar sentiment was expressed by Abraham Lincoln in 1847 on the floor of the United States House of Representatives:
Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.2
Horace Greeley's New York Daily Tribune published a long, emotional editorial on December 17, 1860, the day South Carolina's Secession Convention began, strongly supporting the right of secession on the revolutionary basis. The Tribune used the exact same passage used in South Carolina's Declaration of Immediate Causes, which comes from the Declaration of Independence, reiterating that the "just powers" of government come from the "consent of the governed" and "'whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute a new government,' &c., &c.", adding that
We do heartily accept this doctrine, believing it intrinsically sound, beneficent, and one that, universally accepted, is calculated to prevent the shedding of seas of human blood. And, if it justified the secession from the British Empire of Three Millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.3
The Tribune goes on to say it "could not stand up for coercion,
for subjugation," because "We hold the right of self-government sacred," and
if the Southern States want out, "we shall feel constrained by our devotion
to Human Liberty to say, Let Them Go!", because self-government is one of
the "Rights of Man."4
The States' Rights Hartford Convention of New England, aggrieved by the financial losses of New Englanders in shipping during the War of 1812, met in 1815 and seriously discussed seceding from the Union. The Convention selected representatives to go to Washington to present its grievances to the government. It even chose a military leader should its grievances be ignored, and made arrangements for a second convention, if necessary, to make specific plans to secede. Commissioners were sent to Washington but upon arriving found that the War of 1812 had ended, therefore it was not necessary to air their grievances. The Journal of the Hartford Convention bristles with references to state sovereignty, and uses States' Rights language such as the right of a state to decide for itself when a violation of the Constitution occurred. One quote from the Hartford Convention Journal, justifying secession, sums it up:
Whenever it shall appear that these causes are radical and permanent, a separation by equitable arrangement, will be preferable to an alliance by constraint, among nominal friends, but real enemies, inflamed by mutual hatred and jealousy, and inviting by intestine division, contempt and aggression from abroad.5
Some excellent constitutional arguments are summarized in an article entitled "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," by Mr. H. Newcomb Morse, in the Stetson Law Review, a publication of the Stetson University College of Law.6 Morse writes that the War Between the States did not prove that secession was illegal because
many incidents both preceding and following the War support the proposition that the Southern States did have the right to secede from the Union. Instances of nullification prior to the War Between the States, contingencies under which certain states acceded to the Union, and the fact that the Southern States were made to surrender the right to secession all affirm the existence of a right to secede . . .7
He adds that the Constitution's "failure to forbid secession" and
amendments dealing with secession that were proposed in Congress as Southern
states were seceding strengthened his argument that "the Southern States had
an absolute right to secede from the Union prior to the War Between the
Morse argues that because the Constitution did not forbid secession, then every state acceding to the Constitution had the implied right to secede from it. He says that if men of the caliber of Madison, Hamilton, Wilson and the others meant to forbid secession they definitely would have said so, and the omission of a prohibition on secession in the Constitution is strong proof that the right of secession existed and was assumed. He quotes James Madison from The Madison Papers who wrote "a breach of any one article by any one party, leaves all other parties at liberty to consider the whole convention as dissolved."9 Vermont and Massachusetts, he points out, nullified with statutes, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, and those two breaches of the compact alone were enough for the South to consider the compact dissolved.
There were many other violations of the Constitution discussed throughout the secession debate including Northern Personal Liberty Laws that, in effect, nullified the Fugitive Slave Law of the Compromise of 1850 as well as Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution, which dealt with fugitive slaves. At least ten Northern states had statutes that nullified the two aforementioned laws. Other breaches of the Constitution included, as stated earlier, the harboring of fugitives from justice in the North, specifically two of John Brown's sons who were with Brown at Harpers Ferry and were wanted in Virginia for murder, but were being harbored in Ohio and Iowa. Brown himself had been encouraged by Northerners and financed by Northern money. Certain Northern leaders, again, with the acquiescence of states like Massachusetts, tried desperately to destroy "domestic Tranquility" in the South by sending incendiary abolitionist material in the mail encouraging slaves to revolt and murder. Lincoln's own Republican Party published 100,000 copies of Hinton Helper's The Impending Crisis, which called for slave revolt, and Republicans in Congress endorsed the book and used it as a campaign tool.
To prove the right of a state to determine for itself when the Constitution has been violated, Morse quotes Jefferson's Kentucky Resolutions which point out that if the government had the right to determine when the Constitution was violated, then the government would be the arbiter of its own power and not the Constitution. The Kentucky Resolutions also reaffirm state sovereignty and independence.10
Morse demonstrates that congressional discussions and proposed legislation during the secession of Southern states indicated that Congress believed the right of secession to exist. One piece of legislation was introduced to deal with the disposition of federal property within a seceding state, as well as a seceding state's assumption of its share of the national debt. Another scrambled to forbid secession unless approved by two-thirds of the members of both Houses of Congress, the president, as well as all the states. Morse then points out that thirty-six years earlier, Chief Justice John Marshall, in Gibbons v. Ogden wrote that "limitations of a power furnish a strong argument in favor of the existence of that power. . . .11 He concludes:
What would have been the point of the foregoing proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting or limiting the right of secession if under the Constitution the unfettered right of secession did not already exist? Why would Congress have even considered proposed amendments to the Constitution forbidding or restricting the right of secession if any such right was already prohibited, limited or non-existent under the Constitution?12
Morse goes on to discuss the conditional ratification of the Constitution
by three of the original thirteen states, which carefully reserved the right
of secession. They were Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island. Virginia used
the exact wording of her conditional ratification of the U.S. Constitution,
in her Ordinance of Secession. Morse points out that since the other states,
which had unconditionally ratified the Constitution, consented to Virginia's
conditional ratification, then they "ostensibly assented to the principle
that Virginia permissibly retained the right to secede." He adds that with
the additional acceptance of "New York's and Rhode Island's right to secede,
the existing states of the Union must have tacitly accepted the doctrine of
secession." Further, Morse states that according to the Constitution, all
the new states that joined the Union after the first thirteen also had the
right of secession since new states entered on an equal footing with the
exact same rights as the existing states.13
Southerners during the secession debate knew and understood this argument. Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana, a brilliant legal mind who was later Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State of the Confederacy, in his farewell speech to the United States Senate on February 5, 1861, said:
The rights of Louisiana as a sovereign state are those of Virginia; no more, no less. Let those who deny her right to resume delegated powers, successfully refute the claim of Virginia to the same right, in spite of her expressed reservation made and notified to her sister states when she consented to enter the Union.14
Morse skips forward to Reconstruction, and points out that "the Northern occupational armies were removed from Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia only after those former Confederate States had incorporated in their constitutions a clause surrendering the right to secede." Morse then argues brilliantly that
by insisting that the former Confederate States surrender their right to secede, the United States government had implicitly admitted that those states originally had the right. How could they surrender a right, unless they had it in the first place?15
To summarize, Morse points out that before the war, under Virginia's conditional ratification of the Constitution, when the people decided that government power had been "perverted to their injury or oppression," they had the right to secede. When Northern states passed Personal Liberty Bills and other statutes nullifying the fugitive slave laws of the Constitution (Article IV, Section 3), a "perversion" occurred which gave the Southern states the right to secede. Reinforcing that "perversion" even further was the Federal government's not forcing those Northern states to abide by the Constitution, therefore
the Northern States conceivably "perverted" national law to the "injury or oppression" of the people of the Southern States. Thus, the reassumption of the powers of government by the people of the Southern States was a natural consequence of the Northern States' conduct and the federal government's failure to prohibit that conduct.16
The only other issue, according to Morse, was whether the Southern states conducted their act of secession legally. Morse points out that the people are the sovereign, having supreme, absolute and perpetual power, therefore secession would have to be accomplished by the people of each state rather than even the legislatures. He says "convention delegates elected by the people of the state to decide one question constitute authority closer to the seat of the sovereign -- the people themselves," therefore a convention in each Southern state would be necessary as a "special agent of the people of the state." Did the Southern states conduct themselves legally and therefore perfect their acts of secession and independence? Morse says:
When the Southern States seceded from the Union in 1860 and 1861, not one state was remiss in discharging this legal obligation. Every seceding state properly utilized the convention process, rather than a legislative means, to secede. Therefore, not only did the Southern States possess the right to secede from the Union, they exercised that right in the correct manner.17
Morse's conclusion is that "conceivably, it was the Northern States that
acted illegally in precipitating the War Between the States. The Southern
States, in all likelihood, were exercising a perfectly legitimate right in
seceding from the Union."18
Other evidence of the right of secession abounds. Albert Taylor Bledsoe wrote in 1866 what is thought to be the best book ever written on the right of secession: Is Davis a Traitor; or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861? Dr. Richard M. Weaver, who was, during his lifetime, a professor and author of several noted books on the South, called Is Davis a Traitor? "the masterpiece of the Southern apologias." Weaver described it as a "brilliant specimen of the polemic" out of the entire "extensive body of Southern political writing."19
Dr. Clyde N. Wilson, long time professor of history at the University of South Carolina, goes even further. In the Introduction to a 1995 reprint of Is Davis a Traitor?, Dr. Wilson lists the top seven books defending the South and the right of secession and says "Bledsoe did it first and best," his argument for the right of secession being "absolutely irrefutable to any honest mind."20 The other six works that best defend the South and right of secession according to Dr. Wilson are the two-volume work A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States by Alexander H. Stephens, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis, A Defence of Virginia and Through Her of the South by Robert L. Dabney, The Creed of the Old South by Basil L. Gildersleeve, The Southern States of the American Union Considered in their Relations to the Constitution of the United States and the Resulting Union by Jabez L. M. Curry, and The Lost Cause by Edward A. Pollard.
According to Dr. Wilson in the Introduction, pages i-viii, Bledsoe was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1809. He graduated from West Point in 1830 and had been there part of the time with Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Leonidas Polk and Albert Sydney Johnston. He loved mathematics and theology, but practiced law for nine years in Springfield, Illinois, as part of a bar that included Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Dr. Wilson writes that "it was said that Bledsoe won six out of eleven cases tried against Lincoln," and that he had given Lincoln lessons, at one point, on using a broadsword because Lincoln had been challenged to a duel. After his legal career, Bledsoe taught astronomy and mathematics at the University of Mississippi, acquiring a "legendary" genius for mathematics. In 1854, he began teaching mathematics at the University of Virginia. During the war, Bledsoe served briefly as the colonel of a regiment of infantry from Virginia, then later in the Confederate War Department, and finally he was sent to Europe by President Davis on what is thought to have been a secret diplomatic mission to influence public opinion in Britain. After the war, until his death in 1877, Bledsoe published The Southern Review, in which he continued to argue the justice and truth of the Southern cause.
Bledsoe began working on Is Davis a Traitor? while in England and published it just after the war "as a part of the campaign of Davis's defense." The Confederate President was in a Yankee prison, Fortress Monroe, where he spent a miserable two years waiting to be tried for treason. He was in irons with a light shining brightly in his cell twenty-four hours a day and with Union guards marching back and forth. The bright light was an additional measure of Yankee viciousness since it was known that Davis had never been able to sleep except in total darkness.
Davis wanted to be tried for treason because he was confident he could prove the right of secession. However, he never got his chance, and that denial of Jefferson Davis' trial on the charge of treason by the Northern government is additional evidence of the right of secession.
In talking about the effectiveness of Is Davis a Traitor?, Richard Weaver writes that
Bledsoe witnessed some practical result of his labor when Robert Oulds and Charles O'Conor, attorneys for Jefferson Davis, made use of the book in preparing their defense; but the Federal government, apparently feeling the weakness of its legal position, allowed the case to be dismissed.21
Here was the North's big chance to prove the South wrong once and for
all in a solemn, dignified court of law in the eyes of the entire world
and for all of posterity, but they refused to take it. Why? They certainly
had not suddenly had a change of heart toward the South. It was
Reconstruction, the body of the assassinated Lincoln was barely cold in the
ground while the hateful Charles Sumner, no doubt still smarting from his
caning by Preston Brooks, along with Thaddeas Stephens and other South
hating radical Republicans were ascending in Congress. Northern troops were
in control of every Southern government while large numbers of former
Confederates were disfranchised. This was exactly the time the federal
government would have wanted to convict the Southern president if it had a
case. The federal government was willing to kill hundreds of thousands of
Southerners on the battle field, so there can be no doubt it would have
relished humiliating Jefferson Davis in a courtroom. It is a virtual
certainty that if the North's case had been strong they would have taken it
to trial and vindicated their war against the hated South once and for all.
That the Federal government did not go to court against the Confederate
president after keeping him in jail for two years charged with treason, is strong evidence that there was indeed a legal right of
secession and the South had exercised it properly. There were no other
treason trials against former Confederates because any one trial would
likely prove the legal right of secession, and imminently practical
Northerners were not about to lose in a court of law what they had won on
Bledsoe's "irrefutable" argument in Is Davis a Traitor?" begins with the Constitution as a compact, or legal agreement among the members to the compact. The reason Bledsoe starts here is because any member that has acceded to (agreed to) the terms of a compact, can secede from that compact if the terms are broken by one of the other members. Bledsoe produces the writings and statements of the strongest opponents of the Constitution as compact - Daniel Webster and others - who have admitted that if the Constitution is a compact, then states can secede from it; but who deny that the Constitution is a compact.22 Webster was the great spokesman for the North with the credibility and reputation to go along with it. Bledsoe writes:
Thus, the great controversy is narrowed down to the single question -- Is the Constitution a compact between the States? If so, then the right of secession is conceded, even by its most powerful and determined opponents; by the great jurist, as well as by 'the great expounder' (Webster) of the North.23
The evidence that the North had broken the specific terms and spirit of
the compact if it was a "compact," was substantial. As stated
earlier, Northern states had
statutes on their books nullifying the Constitutional and Congressional law
with regard to fugitive slaves. Many other specific breaches of the
Constitution by the North existed in areas besides slavery. Many in the
North for over two decades believed, as Seward had clearly stated, that they
were operating according to a "higher law" than the Constitution. The more
radical had long called the Constitution a "covenant with death and
agreement with hell."24 So, the North's having broken the compact,
virtually guaranteed that secession was legal if, indeed, the Constitution
was a compact that was "acceded to" by the original makers. Did the original
states "accede" to a compact?
Bledsoe attacks the arguments of Webster and the others one at a time taking on the strongest, most salient parts of their arguments. For example, Webster had said "words are things, and things of mighty influence."25 At one point, in the Senate, Webster had railed against the Constitution as compact. Webster had said that saying "the States acceded to the Constitution" was "unconstitutional language."26 Of course the reason he felt that way, as Bledsoe had said, was because if states had acceded to the Constitution, then it was only logical that they could secede from it. Discrediting the single word, "accede," was very important to Webster, so Bledsoe researched in great detail the words of the founders and finds that in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, "Mr. James Wilson . . . preferred 'a partial union' of the States, 'with a door open for the accession of the rest.'" However, "Mr. Gerry, a delegate from Massachusetts, was opposed to 'a partial confederacy, leaving other States to accede or not to accede, as had been intimated.'" Father of the Constitution, James Madison, "used the expression 'to accede' in the Convention of 1787, in order to denote the act of adopting 'the new form of government by the States.'" Virginia Governor Randolph, also at the Convention of 1787, had said "That the accession of eight States reduced our deliberations to the single question of Union or no Union." Patrick Henry had said that if the Constitution "be amended, every State will accede to it." Mr. Grayson asks if Virginia will gain anything from her prominent position "by acceding to that paper." Benjamin Franklin, whom Bledsoe says was next in importance at the Constitutional Convention to Washington, later said "Our new Constitution is now established with eleven States, and the accession of a twelfth is soon expected." George Washington, as he watched states join the Constitution, said "If these, with the States eastward and northward of us, should accede to the Federal government . . .". Chief Justice John Marshall used the word "accede" in reference to joining the Constitution, and even Mr. Justice Story, a staunch opponent of the belief in Constitution as compact, in agreement with Webster, said "The Constitution has been ratified by all the States; . . . Rhode Island did not accede to it, until more than a year after it had been in operation;".27
Webster had attacked the word "accede" as something invented by proponents of the Constitution as compact. His intention was to discredit his opponents by discrediting the language they were using, but his plan backfired. Bledsoe points out that Webster's attack on the word "accede" by calling it a "new word," was ill founded and incorrect because "accede" had precisely been "the word of the fathers of the Constitution" with Washington "at their head." They had all used the word "accede" in reference to states joining the Constitution, and of course, the converse of the word "accede," is "secede."28
Over and over Bledsoe demolishes each and every argument that maintains secession was not legal or a right. To those like Webster, who tried to say the Constitution was not a compact, Bledsoe offers the words of the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, in the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, "That this assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact, to which the States are parties." Bledsoe further mentions a letter from Madison to a Mr. Everett in 1830 in which Madison says that the Constitution is "'a compact among the States in their highest sovereign capacity.'" Bledsoe then uses Webster's own words against him, quoting Webster admitting that the Constitution was a compact in a debate three years earlier, on "Foote's resolutions."29 Bledsoe says:
that Mr. Webster himself, had, like everyone else, spoken of the Constitution as a compact, as a bargain which was obligatory on the parties to it. "it is the original bargain," says he, in that debate; "the compact -- let it stand; let the advantage of it be fully enjoyed. The Union itself is too full of benefits to be hazarded in propositions for changing its original basis. I go for the Constitution as it is, and for the Union as it is."30
Perhaps the strongest argument against the right of secession, is based on the wording in the Constitution's Preamble: "We the people." Those who argue that the Constitution is not a compact, but is a national document, believe that "We the People" means all of the American people in one body, and not in their sovereign states. This, says Bledsoe on page 61, "is the great stronghold, if it has one, of the Northern theory of the Constitution. The argument from these words appears in every speech, book, pamphlet, and discussion by every advocate of the North. It was wielded by Mr. Webster in his great debate with Mr. Calhoun, in 1833, . . .". If the Constitution was written as a document for all of the American people in one body, then individual states had no right to withdraw from it. The committee on style of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was headed by Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania. Notwithstanding the Northern nationalist rhetoric, this is what Gouverneur Morris said was the meaning of the Constitution and those words, "We the people," that he had authored:
The Constitution was a compact not between individuals, but between political societies, the people, not of America, but of the United States, each enjoying sovereign power and of course equal rights.31
The "United States" means just that: states that are
Morris himself believed in the right of secession and supported New
England's move to secede during the War of 1812, which culminated in the
Hartford Convention.32 Bledsoe quotes The Madison Papers
and refers to some 900 pages of the proceedings of the Constitutional
Convention of 1787 in which are recorded the debate over method of
ratification. He points out that nowhere in that vast record is there a
discussion of the "people" as meaning the entire American people outside of
their states. The big debate was over whether the legislatures of each state
would ratify the Constitution, or the "people" of each state in special
convention. It was clearly "legislature vs people in convention" of each
state. It was decided by the Constitutional Convention that since a later
legislature might rescind the ratification of an earlier legislature, it
would be a more sound foundation to have the people of each state ratify the
Constitution in special conventions called for the purpose of ratification.33
This is exactly how the South seceded, by secession conventions called
for the single purpose of deciding the issue of secession. And, as Mr. H.
Newcomb Morse said in the Stetson Law Review, "not one state was
remiss in discharging this legal obligation."
There was another problem in that nobody knew how many states, or which ones, would ratify the Constitution, therefore listing the specific states in the Preamble could not be done as it had been done in the body of the Articles of Confederation. If all the states had been listed and one refused to ratify, then the document would be invalid. The number "nine" was decided on, as the number of states necessary to put the Constitution into effect, but in debating the issue it was brought up that the Constitution could only apply to those states ratifying it, therefore no references could be made to "all" of the American people. Bledsoe writes that Rufus King suggested adding "between the said states, so as to confine the operation of the government to the States ratifying the same."34 The words were cleaned up and found their way into the Constitution in Article VII which starts out:
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
Bledsoe further clarifies by writing that "when it was determined that
the Constitution should be ratified by 'the Conventions of the States,' and
not by the legislatures, this was exactly equivalent, in the uniform
language of the Convention of 1787, to saying that it shall be ratified by
'the people of the States.' Hence, the most ardent friend of State rights,
or State sovereignty, saw no reason why he should object to the words, 'We,
the people of the United States,' because he knew they were only intended to
express the mode of ratification by the States . . . in their sovereign
capacity, as so many political societies or peoples, as distinguished from
Bledsoe goes on by pointing out that the Federal government had no legal right whatsoever to coerce a state into following its laws therefore it had no right to force a seceding state back into the Union. President Buchanan had stated in his lame duck period between Lincoln's election of November 6, 1860, and March 4, 1861, when Lincoln would be inaugurated, while state after state was seceding, that as president of the United States he had no power to coerce a state even though he denied that secession was legal. Bledsoe notes the contradiction in Buchanan's position and writes "if we say, that coercion is a constitutional wrong, or usurpation, is not this saying that the Constitution permits secession, or, in other words, that it is a Constitutional right?" He says "Coercion is unconstitutional . . . wrong . . .strikes down and demolishes the great fundamental principle of the Declaration of Independence, -- the sacred right of self-government itself." About secession, he says "Secession, on the other hand, asserts the right of self-government for every free, sovereign, and independent State in existence."36
Bledsoe discussed the views of credible foreigner observers and writes that Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, said:
The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the States choose to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.37
To Tocqueville, Bledsoe adds "Mackay, and Spence, and Brougham, and
Cantu, and Heeren," then he goes on "as well as other philosophers, jurists
and historians among the most enlightened portions of Europe, (who) so
readily adopt the Southern view of the Constitution, and pronounce the
American Union as a confederation of States."38
Bledsoe continues with more persuasive argument, the words of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, who assert, beyond doubt, that the Constitution is a compact and the states, sovereign. He discusses William Rawl of Philadelphia and his book, A View of the Constitution of the United States, which stresses the right of secession and was used at West Point during most of the antebellum era, and the State's Rights Hartford Convention of New England states, which strongly supported the right of secession. These are but a few of the arguments found in Bledsoe's persuasive book.
The Southern states did not rush headlong into secession. They had enormous grievances against the North that were much greater than even Northern violations of the Constitution. The unfairness of taxation, which had been the huge issue of the Revolution, was worse for the antebellum South because three-fourths of the taxes were paid by the South, while three-fourths of the tax money was spent in the North. It had held down the development of Southern industry for a half-century and Southerners were tired of it. Southerners felt the North was already at war with them in many ways. They saw Northern emissaries sent South to encourage slave uprisings, murder and rapine, then being applauded in the North for their grisly successes, especially John Brown. Southerners saw Hinton Helper's book, The Impending Crisis, which was full of errors on its economics, call for bloody slave revolt yet be enthusiastically adopted by the Republicans in Congress as a campaign document. With the election of Republican Lincoln, Southerners believed those same Republicans would now put into effect the principles of Helper's book, and there was nothing they could do about it. For their own safety, Southern states began debating secession. They did so peacefully and with great intellectual vigor and in the end, the people of the South struck for independence and self-government, just as their fathers in the Revolution had.
The North, however, had become wealthy manufacturing, shipping, and financing for the captive Southern market, which was rich itself because of King Cotton. The North could not let the South go without a complete economic collapse that was well underway during the secession winter and spring of 1860-1861. All the noble rhetoric of the Horace Greeleys in 1860 about the "just powers" of the government coming from the "consent of the governed" was cast aside due to the specter of economic collapse and financial ruin, thus the war came.
1Kenneth M. Stampp, The Imperiled Union,
Essays on the Background of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1980), 35-36.
2Abraham Lincoln, 1847 Congressional debate in the United States House of Representatives in John Shipley Tilley, Lincoln Takes Command (Nashville: Bill Coats, Ltd., 1991), xv. Tilley's source, as stated in footnote #4 on page xv, was Goldwyn Smith, The United States: an Outline of Political History, 1492-1871 (New York and London, 1893), 248.
3"The Right of Secession," The New-York Daily Tribune, December 17, 1860, in Howard Cecil Perkins, ed., Northern Editorials on Secession (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1964), 199-201.
4"The Right of Secession," The New-York Daily Tribune, December 17, 1860, in Howard Cecil Perkins, ed., Northern Editorials on Secession, 199-201. Here is the entire editorial:
We have repeatedly asked those who dissent from our view of this matter to tell us frankly whether they do or do not assent to Mr. Jefferson's statement in the Declaration of Independence that governments "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; and that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government," &c., &c. We do heartily accept this doctrine, believing it intrinsically sound, beneficent, and one that, universally accepted, is calculated to prevent the shedding of seas of human blood. And, if it justified the secession from the British Empire of Three Millions of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861. If we are mistaken on this point, why does not some one attempt to show wherein and why? . . . --we could not stand up for coercion, for subjugation, for we do not think it would be just. We hold the right of Self-government sacred, even when invoked in behalf of those who deny it to others . . . if ever 'seven or eight States' send agents to Washington to say 'We want to get out of the Union,' we shall feel constrained by our devotion to Human Liberty to say, Let Them Go! And we do not see how we could take the other side without coming in direct conflict with those Rights of Man which we hold paramount to all political arrangements, however convenient and advantageous.
5Journal of the Hartford Convention, as
quoted in George M. Curtis, III, and James J. Thompson, Jr., eds., The
Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1987),
6Stetson University, in DeLand, Florida, was founded in 1883, and is Florida's first university. Stetson's College of Law, founded in 1900, is Florida's oldest law school.
7H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 420.
8Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986, 420.
9James Madison, 2 The Madison Papers (Philadelphia: 1840), 895, in H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 426.
10H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 422-427.
11Chief Justice John Marshall, Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824), 200, in H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 428.
12H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 428.
13H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 428-432.
14Judah P. Benjamin, "Farewell Address to the U. S. Senate," delivered February 5, 1861, in Edwin Anderson Alderman, and Joel Chandler Harris, eds., Library of Southern Literature (Atlanta: The Martin and Hoyt Company, 1907), Volume I, 318.
15H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 433.
16H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 433-434.
17H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 434-436.
18H. Newcomb Morse, "The Foundations and Meaning of Secession," Stetson University College of Law, Stetson Law Review, Vol. XV, No. 2, 1986), 436.
19George M. Curtis, III, and James J. Thompson, Jr., eds., The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1987), 152. Richard M. Weaver graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1932, earned an M.A. degree at Vanderbilt University, and a doctorate in English from Louisiana State University in 1943. He taught at the University of Chicago until his death in 1963. He wrote scores of essays and published several books. He is best known for his books Ideas Have Consequences, and The Ethics of Rhetoric.
20Albert Taylor Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor; or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861? (Baltimore: Innes & Company, 1866; reprint, North Charleston: Fletcher and Fletcher Publishing, 1995), i-ii. Dr. Clyde N. Wilson is a world renowned scholar of John C. Calhoun, having edited most of Calhoun's voluminous papers. He has written several books, and numerous articles and essays on Southern history.
21Curtis and Thompson, eds., The Southern Essays of Richard Weaver, 153-154.
22Taking on Webster also challenges most of the others who did not believe the Constitution was a compact, because most of the others quoted Webster and used his argument.
23Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 6.
24Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 151-153.
25Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 16.
26Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 12.
27Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 12-17.
28Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 17.
29Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 25.
30Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 25.
31Gouverneur Morris, Life and Writings, vol. iii., p. 193, as quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 65.
32Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 64-65; Yanak and Cornelison, The Great American History Fact-Finder, 278.
33Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 66-73.
34Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 72.
35Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 73.
36Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 154.
37Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, as quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 155. The reference to Democracy in America footnoted by Bledsoe is Vol. i, Chap. xviii., p 413.
38Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor?, 157.