Southern States Secede: South and Secession

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Why did the Southern states secede?

Southern States Secession Map
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(Click to Enlarge)

Why did the Southern states secede?
 
The Thirteen Colonies established a Continental Congress that declared independence in 1776 from Great Britain and formed a new nation, the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence, as we know it, had been referred to as rebellion and treason by the parent power, Great Britain. Less than one century later, secession, also known as rebellion and treason, was attempted again by the Southern states.
 
When the Southern states seceded, they acted on the belief that the Union was merely a compact, or agreement, among sovereign states. The South, and many Northern states, also believed that the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limited "Federal powers with the independent States." (Bill of Rights and States' Rights and Secession of Southern States). Through the decades, Southerners had become increasingly disturbed by their lessening influence in the Federal government. The presidential election in 1860, furthermore, was the last straw.
 
The strength of Southern sentiment can easily be explained: the political balance favored the North. This topic is referred to as Sectionalism.

The Southern states were aligned strongly with the Democratic Party, but the election of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was perceived as the death blow to the South and its interests. The South, through the decades, had witnessed numerous tariff acts that favored Northern interests, and, with Lincoln in office, it believed that additional unfavorable tariffs would again be imposed.
 
President James Buchanan fails to take action

Southern Secession Map
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(Click to Enlarge)

The four months between Lincoln's election and his inauguration proved a trying period for the Union. Bewildered by the speed with which events had progressed, President Buchanan wavered in his course of action. In his annual message, he stated that the Southern states had no right to secede but that, on the other hand, Congress had no power to force them to stay in the Union. Until Lincoln was sworn into office, Buchanan simply wanted to stall the crisis.
 
Compromises are tried and fail
 
Northerners were by no means in agreement regarding how the South should be treated. Many favored a peaceful withdrawal of the South. Horace Greely's New York Tribune said "if the Southern states felt they would be better off outside of the Union, they should be permitted to go peacefully." But others claimed the South had no right to secede and were determined to hold the Union together. The number of those who believed this increased daily.
The outlook was so gloomy that statesmen resorted to the time-honored practice of compromise. The aged Senator Crittenden of Kentucky proposed several amendments to the Constitution, but the Republican opposition was strong and the Crittenden proposals failed in Congress (Crittenden Compromise). Another compromise was tried, this time by the border states, led by Virginia. A peace convention, representing 21 states, opened at Washington on February 4, 1861. But its proposals received little attention in the Senate.

Southern states secede

Southern States Secede Map
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(Click to Enlarge)

The Southern states never sought to overthrow the U.S. government and its institutions; they merely wanted independence from Washington. They did not seek war, but, to the contrary, they desired a peaceful withdrawal from the Union. (Civil War Causes: Southern Secession, South and States' Rights, Slavery.)
 
The news of Lincoln's election in 1860 was received in the South with intense alarm. South Carolina, which had threatened to secede in the 1830s because of unfair and High Tariffs (Nullification Crisis), took immediate action. The legislature of South Carolina, which had decided to remain in session until the results of the election were known, passed a bill calling for a convention to consider the relations of the state to the Union. This convention met on December 17, 1860. Attended and celebrated by booming cannon, pealing bells, and general rejoicing in the streets of Charleston, the South Carolina convention unanimously passed an Ordinance of Secession. (Secession.)
 
South Carolina declared that the Union "subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the 'United States of America,'" was at an end. Commissioners were sent to Washington "empowered to treat...for the delivery of the forts...and other real estate" held by the Federal government within the limits of South Carolina. Numerous other Southern states immediately addressed the question of secession. In Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens expressed doubt about the wisdom of seceding just because the Republicans had won an election. Stephens pleaded with his fellow citizens to "wait for some hostile action by the Federal government before taking this fateful step." In Mississippi, Jefferson Davis (future Confederate President) initially "advised delay," while in Texas, the renowned Sam Houston argued the cause of the Union. The action of South Carolina, however, had brought matters to a boiling point, and the feeling in favor of secession was now overwhelming. By February 1, 1861, numerous conventions were held in: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. (President Lincoln: Southern Secession, South Secessionists, and States' Rights to Secede.)

Southern Confederacy is formed

Confederate States of America (CSA): Secession Map
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Secession of Southern States Map

In February, also, a convention of delegates from all the seceded states, except Texas, met at Montgomery, Alabama, to organize a temporary Southern government. They chose Jefferson Davis for President. Davis had served as Secretary of War in Pierce's cabinet, was a Mexican War veteran, had represented Mississippi in the U.S. Senate, and had even married Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of former President Zachary Taylor. Davis also succeeded Calhoun as spokesman for the South. Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia became Vice-President. Soon afterwards a permanent Constitution for the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) was adopted. This Constitution was similar in many ways to the United States, but openly accepted the doctrine of state sovereignty. The foreign slave trade was prohibited, while slavery was accepted and approved. The Confederate Constitution also forbade its Congress to levy a protective tariff, but duties could be placed upon exports by two-thirds vote of both houses. A simple method for amending the Constitution was included, but no arrangement was made for secession.
By the time Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, a powerful government existed below the Mason-Dixon Line. It had taken steps to raise an army and to secure funds, and it also sent commissioners to Washington to work out a treaty and to arrange for the division of the common property of the states (similar to the present-day divorce with its division of marital property).

Southern Secession and Civil War

Seven states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas) declared their secession from the United States before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. After Lincoln's subsequent call for 75,000 troops on April 15 (Lincoln's Call For Troops), to subdue the seceded states, four more states (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) declared their secession.

 

On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina declared its secession, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson, without orders from Washington, and on his own initiative, abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, and secretly relocated companies E and H (127 men, 13 of them musicians) of the 1st U.S. Artillery to Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter, built following the War of 1812 and named in honor of Revolutionary War hero General Thomas Sumter (“The Carolina Gamecock”), was a vital and strategic coastal fortification.

Fort Sumter, South Carolina
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(Present-day)

Anderson thought that providing a stronger defense would delay an attack by South Carolina militia, but, to the contrary, South Carolina and Confederate officials viewed Anderson’s strategic move as a direct threat to its sovereignty and as a provocation to war.

Union Steamship Star of the West
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(Frank Leslie's Weekly)

(Right) Union Steamship Star of the West approaching Fort Sumter with military supplies and reinforcements to the garrison of Fort Sumter. Illustration from Frank Leslie's Weekly.

Over the next few months, repeated calls for the United States evacuation of Fort Sumter from the government of South Carolina and later Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard were ignored. United States attempts to resupply and reinforce the garrison were repulsed on January 9, 1861, when the first shots of the war prevented the steamer Star of the West, a ship hired by the Union to transport troops and supplies to Fort Sumter, from completing the task. (After the war, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens maintained that Lincoln's attempt to reinforce Sumter had provoked the war.)

 

On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops, following orders from Davis and his Secretary of War, fired upon the Federal troops occupying Fort Sumter, forcing their surrender. South Carolina had argued that Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, was not only within its state borders (and territorial waters), but posed a direct threat from what it perceived as an imminent Union invasion. The Civil War had begun. (Southern States Secede, States' Rights and Secession.)

United States refusal to allow secession causes the American Civil War

In the midst of the secession crisis that would lead to the Civil War, President James Buchanan, in his final State of the Union address on December 3, 1860, acknowledged the South would "after having first used all peaceful and constitutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union."

North, South, and Border States Map
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(Click to Enlarge)

President Lincoln calls for 75,000 troops to coerce and subdue the seceded states.
 
When Lincoln demanded that the states levy troops to force and compel the seceding states to remain in the Union, Governor Magoffin, Kentucky, responded quickly by telegram: "I will send not a man nor a dollar for the wicked purpose of subduing my sister Southern States."
 
On April 15, 1861, the Lincoln administration demanded that North Carolina furnish two regiments for this undertaking. 
On April 15, North Carolina Governor John Ellis promptly replied by telegram to President Lincoln and stated: "Your dispatch is received, and if genuine, which its extraordinary character leads me to doubt, I have to say in reply, that I regard the levy of troops made by the administration for the purpose of subjugating the states of the South, as a violation of the Constitution, and as a gross usurption of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina." (President Abraham Lincoln and War Powers.)

President Abraham Lincoln
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(In His Own Words)

(Above) President Lincoln on slavery and the Union: Lincoln stated that the emancipation of slaves was not his focus or goal. Why? Because his priority was the preservation of the Union; addressing Southern Secession, therefore, was his principal objective. (13th Amendment, U.S. Constitution, and President Abraham Lincoln, Let Us Secede! South, Secession, Slavery: What Caused the Civil War?, and President Lincoln, Southern Secession, States' Rights, Slaves, and  Emancipation.)

 

Lincoln's requisition for the 'Southern states to furnish troops and to use force to compel the South to remain in the Union' was also met with what Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, called "the wicked purpose of subduing sister Southern States," -- a requisition that, Governor Jackson, of Missouri, in a superflux of unlethargic adjectives, denounced as "illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical."  (President Abraham Lincoln: Abuse of Power and Why did the Cherokee Nation Secede from the Union?)

 

"What Caused the Civil War?" Refusal to allow any Southern state to secede led to more than 10,500 battles and skirmishes. The war produced an estimated 1,030,000 casualties (3% of the U.S. population, which today would equate to nearly 9,000,000 souls), including approximately 620,000 deaths—two-thirds by disease. Let's take a moment and think about it on today's terms. To put it into perspective, 3% of the U.S. population equates to the combined population of the present-day states of New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

The war accounted for more casualties than all previous U.S. wars combined. Presently, the causes of the war, the reasons for its outcome, and even the name of the war itself are subjects of lingering controversy. The main result of the war was the restoration of the Union. (President Abraham Lincoln in his own words from Civil Rights to States' Rights to Secession and President Lincoln Comments and Speeches: Southern States, Secession, and South Secedes.)

Secession, Constitution, and Civil War

Chief Justice Taney
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(In Office: 1836 - 1864)

The lawful and constitutional right for a state to secede (secession) from the Union (United States) has been debated from Civil War buffs to constitutional scholars. Regarding Southern Secession, however, it was not discussed before the United States Supreme Court, which was the nation's highest court and final lawful arbiter.
 
(Right) Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. He personally administered the oath of office to Lincoln, his most prominent critic, on March 4, 1861. When the Civil War commenced, he continued to trouble Lincoln during the three years he remained Chief Justice. After President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in parts of Maryland, Taney ruled as Circuit Judge in Ex parte Merryman (1861) that only Congress had the power to take this action. Lincoln allegedly made an aborted attempt to arrest Taney himself in response to his habeas corpus decision. Lincoln also ignored the court's order and continued to arrest prisoners without the privilege of the writ, though Merryman was eventually released without charges.
 
Why wasn't the lawful and constitutional right for any state to secede or withdrawal from the Union decided by the highest court? Because President Lincoln believed and opined that secession was illegal and therefore strongly opposed and obstructed the U.S. Supreme Court from convening and rendering a decision.
 
When U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney stated that the constitutionality of Southern Secession must be decided by the Supreme Court, President Lincoln simply rebuked Taney. Taney, himself, believed that "secession, not forbidden by the Constitution, was therefore legal." The Judicial Branch (also known as the Judiciary) was equal, separate, and not subject to the Executive Branch (known as Separation of Powers). When the Executive Branch oversteps its constitutional powers, then the nation becomes a despotism.

In the midst of the secession crisis that would lead to the Civil War, President James Buchanan, in his final State of the Union address on December 3, 1860, acknowledged the South would "after having first used all peaceful and constitutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union."
 
The Union (United States) had been compared to a compact or agreement between the states as referenced in the Declaration of Independence, and the Federal government had been stated as having limited powers with the states as referenced in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
 
Many analogies have also been used or applied to the Union and secession. Perhaps one of the best analogies regarding secession is divorce. When a couple divorces, there is dissolution of the union or agreement between two parties. The cause or causes which led to the divorce may vary, but the end result is that the two parties are no longer in union. When the parties are engaged in a contested divorce, consequently, it must then proceed to court. What led to the divorce is now irrelevant and moot; the principal fact is that the divorce itself is being contested. If the divorce is denied the fundamental right to a hearing, then the divorce itself is now the sole subject in question and it leads to the core and greatest question: Why do we have courts and laws and the Constitution? Regarding said subject, to resolve disputes between parties.
 

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, vests in the Congress the power to declare war, in the following wording:

"[Congress shall have Power...] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water."

Notice that the Executive branch, the President, is not reserved the power to declare war, period.

With the Mexican-American War looming in 1846, (then) Congressman Lincoln believed and stated that only Congress possessed absolute authority for war powers or war-making power. He referred to any president who declared any war without the consent of Congress as an oppressive king. Congressman Lincoln then moved for a Resolution issuing the President (Polk) interrogatories (questions) so the Congress could determine and declare war against Mexico. Years later as president, Lincoln, however, without the consent of Congress, declared war on the rebellion in the Southern states.

“The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.” ---1846 Congressman Abraham Lincoln addressing President James K. Polk

Furthermore, what are the roles and responsibilities of the three branches of government and what is the purpose of Separation of Powers? When the Executive Branch obstructs the Judiciary, or Judicial Branch, it also denies the Supreme Court's existence, essence, and purpose. We then become a lawless nation. Secession, like divorce, was denied the most basic and fundamental right to the nation's legal system and process. Secession was therefore the principal or main cause of the Civil War. (President Lincoln on Secessionists, Seceding States, and Secession of Southern States, and Secession South: Causes and Origins of the Civil War,)

Confederate President Jefferson Davis receives no trial for treason

Jefferson Davis
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Confederate President

Jefferson Davis's release from prison came after a finding by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Salmon P. Chase, that there was nothing in the U.S. Constitution that prohibited the secession of states. If secession was not illegal, neither Davis nor any other Confederate leaders could be guilty of treason. Davis, however, wanted a trial because he saw it as an opportunity to vindicate both himself and the actions of the Confederacy, i.e. the constitutional right to secede.
 
On May 19, 1865, Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Although he was indicted for treason a year later, he was never tried. The main reason that the United States dropped the charge was because it believed that if Davis was tried for treason, "he may very well prove that Southern Secession, or the secession of any state, was both constitutional and legal," therefore vindicating the South, justifying secession, pondering the needless loss of life (620,000 deaths), and condemning the Federal government and President Abraham Lincoln's actions for not only denying Southern Secession, but for their refusal to allow the U.S. Supreme Court its constitutional right and duty to make any decision regarding secession.
 
After two years of imprisonment, Davis was finally released on bail which was posted by prominent citizens of both Northern and Southern states, including Horace Greeley and Cornelius Vanderbilt. The nation, meanwhile, experienced the Reconstruction Era and Acts (1865-1877).
 
 
"No one has ever proven secession to be either constitutional or unconstitutional. The question never reached the United States Supreme Court, which would be the only lawful arbiter. The outcome of the Civil War did decide that secession was not lawful AT THAT TIME, in that it was tried and it failed to secede. If it is tried again and this time the attempt is successful, then it will be "lawful" for the time being. But in the end, only a court decision can decide the matter. It is pretty ambiguous." Excerpt from a letter that Historian William C. Davis wrote to me and the emphasis, caps and quotations, belong to him.
 
About William C. Davis, aka Jack Davis
Jack is the senior consultant for 52 episodes of the History Channel's "Civil War Journal" (A&E Television Networks). Davis has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in History and is the only three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Award given for book-length works on Confederate history.

(Sources and additional reading are listed below)

Recommended Reading: When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession. Review: As a historian, I have learned that the heart of any great work in history lies in the ample and accurate use of primary sources, and primary sources are the great strength of this work. While countless tomes have debated the perceived moral sides of the Civil War and the motivations of the various actors, this work investigates the motives of the primary players in the era and in their own words and writings. This gives the work an excellent realism and accuracy. The author, Charles Adams, has earned a reputation as one of the leading economic historians in the field, particularly in the area of taxes. He utilizes this background to investigate the American Civil War, and comes to some very striking conclusions, many that defy the politically-correct history of today. His thesis postulates that the Civil War had its primary cause not in slavery or states' rights, but rather in cold, hard economic concerns. Continued below...

He shows that the North used its supremacy in Congress to push through massive tariffs to fund the government, and that these tariffs fell much harder on the export-dependent South than upon the insular north. In fact, the total revenue from the "Compromise" Tariffs on the 1830s and 40s amounted to $107.5 million, of which $90 million came from the South. The majority of the revenue, moreover, was spent on projects “far from the South.” According to Adams, this disparity finally pushed the South to seek its own independence. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that the South enacted extremely low tariffs throughout the war, whereas the north enacted the Morrill Tariff of 1861, which enacted tariffs as high as 50 percent on some goods. Adams also chronicles the oft-overlooked excesses of the Lincoln Administration, and compares them to the actions of Julius Caesar. Using the letters and reports of the times, he tells how Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, trod roughshod over the Constitution, jailed thousands of U.S. citizens who dared disagree with him and even wrote a warrant for the arrest of the Chief Justice of the United States. Adams also ably uses the viewpoints of British and other Europeans to describe different contemporary views on the struggle. These provide excellent outside insight. On the whole, readers will find the book a superb and scholarly analysis, providing fresh insights into the motivations and causes of the defining war in American history. AWARDED 5 STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org

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Recommended Reading: One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution. Description: Is secession legal under the United States Constitution? "One Nation, Indivisible?" takes a fresh look at this old question by evaluating the key arguments of such anti-secession men as Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln, in light of reason, historical fact, the language of the Constitution, and the words of America's Founding Fathers. Modern anti-secession arguments are also examined, as are the questions of why Americans are becoming interested in secession once again, whether secession can be avoided, and how an American state might peacefully secede from the Union. Continued below…

"The federal government's growth of power at the expense of individuals and natural human communities has been the trend so long now that it has seemed inevitable. But thoughtful people of late have been rediscovering the true decentralist origins of the United States. Robert Hawes states the case beautifully for the forgotten decentralist tradition - which may be our only hope for the preservation of freedom."

 

Recommended Reading: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Description: It hardly seems possible that there is more to say about someone who has been subjected to such minute scrutiny in thousands of books and articles. Yet, Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln manages to raise fresh and morally probing questions, challenging the image of the martyred 16th president that has been fashioned carefully in marble and bronze, sentimentalism and myth. In doing so, DiLorenzo does not follow the lead of M. E. Bradford or other Southern agrarians. He writes primarily not as a defender of the Old South and its institutions, culture, and traditions, but as a libertarian enemy of the Leviathan state. Continued below...

DiLorenzo holds Lincoln and his war responsible for the triumph of "big government" and the birth of the ubiquitous, suffocating modern U.S. state. He seeks to replace the nation’s memory of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” with the record of Lincoln as the “Great Centralizer.”

 

Recommended Reading: Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860. Review: The critical northern antebellum debate matched the rhetorical skills of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in an historic argument over the future of slavery in a westward-expanding America. Two years later, an equally historic oratorical showdown between secessionists and Unionists in Georgia generated as much popular interest south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and perhaps had an even more profound immediate effect on the future of the United States. Continued below...

With Abraham Lincoln's "Black Republican" triumph in the presidential election of 1860, the United States witnessed ardent secessionist sentiment in the South. But Unionists were equally zealous and while South Carolina--a bastion of Disunionism since 1832--seemed certain to secede; the other fourteen slave states were far from decided. In the deep South, the road to disunion depended much on the actions of Georgia, a veritable microcosm of the divided South and geographically in the middle of the Cotton South. If Georgia went for the Union, secessionist South Carolina could be isolated. So in November of 1860, all the eyes of Dixie turned to tiny Milledgeville, pre-war capital of Georgia, for a legislative confrontation that would help chart the course toward civil war. In Secession Debated, William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson have for the first time collected the seven surviving speeches and public letters of this greatest of southern debates over disunion, providing today's reader with a unique window into a moment of American crisis. Introducing the debate and debaters in compelling fashion, the editors help bring to life a sleepy Southern town suddenly alive with importance as a divided legislature met to decide the fate of Georgia, and by extension, that of the nation. We hear myriad voices, among them the energetic and self-righteous Governor Joseph E. Brown who, while a slaveholder and secessionist, was somewhat suspect as a native North Georgian; Alexander H. Stephens, the eloquent Unionist whose "calm dispassionate approach" ultimately backfired; and fiery secessionist Robert Toombs who, impatient with Brown's indecisiveness and the caution of the Unionists, shouted to legislators: "Give me the sword! but if you do not place it in my hands, before God! I will take it." The secessionists' Henry Benning and Thomas R. R. Cobb as well as the Unionists Benjamin Hill and Herschel Johnson also speak to us across the years, most with eloquence, all with the patriotic, passionate conviction that defined an era. In the end, the legislature adopted a convention bill which decreed a popular vote on the issue in early January 1861. The election results were close, mirroring the intense debate of two months before: 51% of Georgians favored immediate secession, a slim margin which the propaganda-conscious Brown later inflated to 58%. On January 19th the Georgia Convention sanctioned secession in a 166-130 vote, and the imminent Confederacy had its Southern hinge. Secession Debated is a colorful and gripping tale told in the words of the actual participants, one which sheds new light on one of the great and hitherto neglected verbal showdowns in American history. It is essential to a full understanding of the origins of the War Between the States.

 
Recommended Reading: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe. Description: While many view our 16th president as the nation’s greatest president and hero, Tom Dilorenzo, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, through his scholarly research, exposes the many unconstitutional decisions of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln Unmasked, a best-seller, reveals that ‘other side’ – the inglorious character – of the nation’s greatest tyrant and totalitarian. Continued below...
A book that is hailed by many and harshly criticized by others, Lincoln Unmasked, nevertheless, is a thought-provoking study and view of Lincoln that was not taught in our public school system. (Also available in hardcover: Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe.)
 

Recommended Reading: A Constitutional History of Secession (Hardcover). Review: The Constitutional History of Secession is the history of the legal practice of secession in the Anglo-American world. The learned jurist John Remington Graham is possessed of a profound expertise on American, British and Canadian constitutional law. He has written a compelling defense of the right of secession. Secession, the right of self-determination, and the principle of "rule by consent of the governed" were among the foremost principles animating the American War for Independence of Seventeen-Seventy-Six. Yet the consolidationist sophists malign and deny these tried and true principles of free government. Graham, however, traces British and American constitutional history and developments with great clarity and buoys the case for secession. He offers an amazing exposition of seventeenth century British constitutional developments, which culminated in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which the Crown peacefully passed from James II to William and Mary without armed conflict. Continued below…

The accession of William of Orange to the throne was met with popular support, as the usurpations of William II were not amenable to the populace. This so called revolution set a standard for peaceful political separation, and it was exactly what the American Continental Congress sought from Great Britain. Likewise, peaceful separation was what the southern states that formed the Southern Confederacy wanted when those eleven states formally separated from the United States. Secession does not have to mean war and violence, but war was thrust upon American colonials and southern confederates when their previous government refused to acknowledge their right of self-determination. As the Declaration of Independence proclaims, "...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." As Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed, "All we ask is to be left alone." The Glorious Revolution forms the foundation of Graham's treatise as he advances his thesis and makes the case for secession. As Donald Livingston proclaims in the preface, "The central focus of this work will be revolution, not as an armed overthrow of an established government, but as a rational and orderly process, specifically allowed by fundamental law."

In making the case for secession, Graham substantiates the compact nature of the Union as well, which correspondingly legitimizes interposition, nullification, and secession. Two early constitutional commentaries including St. George Tucker's View of the Constitution of the United States (1801) and Pennsylvania Federalist William Rawle's A View of the Constitution (1829) both affirm a right of secession.

John Remington Graham further traces American constitutional developments, and in doing so he substantiates the compact nature of the Union, and makes a profound case for the Constitution as a compact, which in effect legitimizes the right of secession. He further explains all of these episodes in constitutional history with amazing detail and clarity:

**The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions which were in continuity with the colonial-revolutionary tradition of State remonstrance, protest, interposition and nullification of unconstitutional acts of central government authorities.

**The Hartford Convention and the anti-war, anti-embargo northern secessionist movement which emerged after the unwelcomed War of 1812 with the British.

**The Webster-Hayne Debates on the nature of the Union is explained in detail. Likewise, Daniel Webster's case of foot-in-mouth disease is made manifest as Hayne hearkens back to his deeds at the Hartford Convention.

**The Missouri Compromise and constitutional question of slavery and the sectional strife over the spread of slavery into the territories is explained.

**The secession of the eleven southern states from the Union and the circumstances leading to their separation are explained in detail. Likewise, the birth of the Southern Confederacy and the north's violent refusal to accept their separation is painstakingly documented.

**The unlawful and violent conquest of the South, the unconstitutional political repression in north and south, the illegal suspension of the writ of habeas corpus throughout the whole nation and the oppressive Reconstruction Acts are explained with amazing clarity and detail.

**Graham fast forwards to the twentieth-century. In our time, Quebec has asserted the legal right of secession as a viable political alternative if its relationship with the central government of the Canadian Confederation does not prove to be more mutually-beneficial and less detrimental to the interests of Quebec's citizenry in coming years. With a distinctive francophone culture and nearly half of the populace voting for secession in the last popular referendum, we may well witness the peaceful separation of Quebec from Canada in our lifetime.

All things considered, John Remington Graham has done a remarkable job at making the case for secession and has made a lasting contribution to constitutional scholarship. His book is well-documented and awash in powerful quotations from British and American statesmen. There is a preponderance of evidence in the Anglo-American constitutional heritage which makes secession a lawful exercise. Likewise, he is very logical in tracing the deducible nature of State sovereignty. Graham in final application points out that self-determination as expressed in an act of secession emanates from the right of people themselves to self-government. Essentially by presenting the secession of the American colonies and the Southern Confederacy in its proper historical and legal context, Graham has made a valuable contribution to understanding the Anglo-American political tradition. John Graham who presently served as an expert advisor on British constitutional law to the amicus curiae (i.e. friend of the court) for Quebec in the secession state decided in 1998. As Jefferson astutely opined, "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes..." Thus, secession is never to be approached lightly, and the act of secession negates the value, benefits and security of the Union.

* * * * * * * * * * *
"Whenever government becomes destructive of these ends (i.e. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government." -Declaration of Independence of the American Colonies, July 4, 1776

"Sovereignty is the highest degree of political power, and the establishment of a form of government, the highest proof which can be given of its existence. The states could have not reserved any rights by articles of their union, if they had not been sovereign, because they could have no rights, unless they flowed from that source. In the creation of the federal government, the states exercised the highest act of sovereignty, and they may, if they please, repeat the proof of their sovereignty, by its annihilation. But the union possesses no innate sovereignty, like the states; it was not self-constituted; it is conventional, and of course subordinate to the sovereignties by which it was formed." -John Taylor of Caroline, New Views of the Constitution, Nov. 19, 1823

"I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo." -Lord Acton in a letter to Robert E. Lee, Nov. 4, 1866.

 

Recommended Reading: The South Was Right! (Hardcover). Description: Kin Hubbard said "'Tain't what a man don't know that hurts him; it's what he does know that just ain't so." Much of what people "know" about the causes, conduct, and consequences of the Civil War "just ain't so." The Kennedy brothers make a strong case that the real reasons and results of the War Between the States have been buried under the myth of Father Abraham and his blue-clad saints marching south to save the Union and free the slaves. Sure, the tone is polemical. But the "enlightened" elements of American opinion have been engaging in a polemic against the South and its people for decades… Continued below...

This book adopts the "following the money approach" to analyzing who profited most from slavery – a convincing argument that reflects that much of the wealth went to the North. It also points out that slavery was not new to Africa, and was practiced by Africans against Africans without foreign intervention. A strong case is made that the North and Lincoln held strong racist views. Lincoln proposed shipping, or transporting, blacks back to Africa  The blacks residing in the Northern states were in a precarious predicament (e.g. draft riots and lynchings in NY City). The authors, however, do not make any argument supporting slavery - their consistent line is the practice is vile. The fact that many blacks served, assisted and provided material support to Union and Confederate Armies is beyond refute. Native Americans also served with distinction on both sides during the Civil War. “A controversial and thought-provoking book that challenges the status-quo of present teachings…”

 

Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, by David J. Coles (Editor), David Stephen Heidler (Editor), Jeanne T. Heidler Ph.D. (Editor, Introduction), Jeanne T. Heidler (Author), James M. McPherson (Author) (Hardcover) (2784 pages). Review From Booklist: After more than 100 years, the Civil War still attracts more public interest than any other event in U.S. history. This fact is reflected in the inordinate number of books, well over 50,000, written about the conflict. ABCCLIO has published the most comprehensive reference work, offering more than 1,600 signed entries, over 300 contributors, more than 500 illustrations and 75 maps, and over 250 primary source documents. Continued below...

The encyclopedia provides in A-Z format information on the war's strategic aims, diplomatic and political maneuvering, key military actions (with descriptions of more than 60 engagements), key participants (civilian and military), and impact on American society and history. Mary Ann Ball Bickerdyke, a Union Army nurse; Matthew Brady, a photographer who accompanied the Union Army in the first main battle; and military leaders such as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and James Longstreet are just a few of the individuals covered. The encyclopedia not only treats the military aspects of the war but presents full coverage of the politics, literature, art, music, and homefront events. Every conceivable subject--from Chickamauga, Battle of to Harper's Weekly to Gatling gun to Jews-- receives consideration. .Entries range from less than one-half page to more than eighteen pages for the Atlanta Campaign. Each essay is followed by see also references to related entries elsewhere in the set, as well as extensive suggested readings for deeper research on that particular subject. The final volume compiles more than 250 topically arranged documents, including Abraham Lincoln's famous "A house divided against itself cannot stand" speech, excerpts from Frederick Douglass' "My Escape from Slavery" speech, Jefferson Davis' "Proclamation of 1861," the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and more. These primary source materials are an invaluable enhancement to the set. Following the documents, one finds five appendixes. Appendix I lists the Confederate States of America's general officers, followed by its government in appendix II. Appendix III lists the officers of the United States of America, followed by its government in appendix IV. Appendix V is a directory of Civil War battlefield sites with addresses, phone numbers, and maps. Following the appendixes is a "Civil War Chronology" showing relationships between military actions and political, diplomatic, and social developments. A brief glossary provides definitions for the researcher unfamiliar with such terms as cashier ("dishonorably discharge an office") and retrograde ("an orderly retreat usually designed to move away from an enemy"). An extensive bibliography lists all the resources referenced throughout the volumes. The index indicates main entries in bold print, while illustrations are identified with italics. The index is detailed and comprehensive. For example, under African American sailors, there are references to individuals who relate to this category, such as Gideon Welles and Francis Shoup. Under Gettysburg, battle of one finds page references not only to information about the battle but also to related people, places, and events. The set is handsomely designed, with numerous period photographs complementing the text.. There are some minor criticisms regarding layout, which makes maneuvering the set a bit cumbersome. The index to all volumes can only be found in volume five, which means the researcher has to use two volumes most of the time; a cumulative index in each volume would have made access easier. The index cites only page numbers, leaving the user to guess which volume a page might be in. Neither the bibliographies nor the directory to battle sites makes reference to the copious information that is available through the World Wide Web. However, these are small shortcomings. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War is the most comprehensive reference work written about its topic, providing both the novice and the expert an opportunity to expand their knowledge of this vital aspect of U.S. history. Recommended for high-school, public, and academic libraries. Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved.

From the Inside Flap (Special features): 1,600+ signed, A-to-Z entries, each with references to further reading. 300+ contributors, including some of the leading Civil War scholars at work today. 500+ illustrations, including contemporary photographs, lithographs, and drawings. 75 maps created specially for this encyclopedia. 250+ primary source documents that provide "you-are-there" immediacy: the Dred Scott decision, Lee’s Farewell Address—speeches, legislation, military and civilian correspondence, editorials, and eyewitness reports. Chronology of major political, diplomatic, and military events. Glossary that defines military terms and explains usages peculiar to the period. In-depth coverage of the often-overlooked roles of African Americans, immigrants, and women, in battle and on the home front. Comprehensive treatment of subjects usually covered only in specialized monographs, from social conditions and public reactions to the war to press coverage and elections. Full accounts of the major battles, complete with detailed dispositions of forces, commanders, and orders of battle—as well as smaller engagements and their role in the larger military context. Coverage of subjects related to or affected by the war: slavery, states’ rights, secession, emancipation, Reconstruction, the involvement of foreign powers, literature, photography, art, conscription, conscientious objection, the role of immigrants. Biographies of military, political, diplomatic, and cultural figures, among them Horace Greeley, “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Fitzhugh Lee, George E. Pickett, Herman Melville, Eppa Hunton, Petroleum V. Nasby, Henry Wirz. Lists of the officers of the Union and Confederate armies and the members of the two governments. Special battlefield section for sites in sixteen states, with location maps and visitor information. Exhaustive subject index and cross-referencing.

Sources: Canfield, Leon H. & Wilder, Howard B. The Making of modern America, 1956; Adams, Charles. When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005; Hawes, Robert, One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution, 2006;  Nichols, Roy F. "United States vs. Jefferson Davis, 1865–1869." American Historical Review 31 (1926): 266–284; Watson, David K. "The Trial of Jefferson Davis: An Interesting Constitutional Question." Yale Law Journal 24 (1915): 669–676; Blackford, Charles M. "The Trials and Trial of Jefferson Davis." Southern Historical Society Papers 29 (1901): 45–81; Bradley, Chester. "Was Jefferson Davis Disguised As a Woman When Captured?" Journal of Mississippi History vol. 36 (Aug. 1974): 243–268; Fairman, Charles. Reconstruction and Reunion 1864–88. Part I. New York: Macmillan, 1971; Hagan, Horace Henry. "United States vs. Jefferson Davis." Sewanee Review 25 (1917): 220–225; William C. Davis, Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour, 1991; The Papers of Jefferson Davis at Rice University; Cooper, William J. Jefferson Davis, Jefferson Davis: The Essential Writings ed. by William J. Cooper, 2003; Dunbar Rowland, ed., Jefferson Davis: Constitutionalist; His Letters, Papers, and Speeches (10 vols., 1923); Jefferson Davis. The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881; numerous reprints); Library of Congress; National Archives; maine.edu; Official Record Series 1, Volume 1; Robert Anderson to Rev. R. B. Duane, December 30, 1860; Robert Anderson to Robert N. Gourdin, December 27, 1860; Haskin, William, Major, 1st U.S. Artillery (1896). "History of the 1st U.S. Artillery".

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