An Unfortunate Fact for Secession Defenders?

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    So I know those sympathetic to liberty frequently defend the right of secession, specifically in the context of the South’s right to depart from the Union. In other words, since the Constitution established a compact among the several states, southern states retained the right to break from that compact on their own free choice.

    Now, has anyone heard of the Confederate army’s suppression of a mini-secession movement within the state of Tennessee? I recently saw an article arguing that the South was extraordinarily hypocritical for using the power of government and force to prevent those in eastern Tennessee from seceding.

    I realize that in principle this is not a fact that runs counter to considering secession constitutional or even disparages secession in and of itself. However, it definitely hurts the character and image of the Confederacy, which is already viewed in an extremely negatively light due to their desire to preserve slavery.

    Basically, is this the true story that the Confederate government used force and coercion to prevent the secession of the free and sovereign citizens of Tennessee?


    I don’t necessarily think its an unfortunate fact, more of an irrelevant one. When certain northern states considered secession in response to fugitive slave laws, they had a right in doing so even though later on they prevented the southern states from doing so. If the Confederate government really did try to prevent a certain group from seceding from Tennessee than they were wrong in preventing them but still were right in their legitimacy to secede. The south wanted to preserve slavery, and they were wrong in that regard, but the legitimacy of secession was still right.

    The idea of secession does not live and die with the Confederate government. They utilized the idea but did not create it. Whether they have a good image or not is irrelevant to justification of secession itself.


    I’ve heard this before as well. Of course, this doesn’t hurt the case against secession at all, it just means that Tennessee legislators were not principled on the issue of secession in and of itself. They probably saw secession as something a state could do but that a county could not do since counties are chartered by the State.

    However, I believe there are also cases where the opposite occurred. I’ve heard that when Tennessee voted to remain in the Union in the first vote, Franklin County seceded from Tennessee and joined Alabama for a few months until TN changed it’s mind (as a result of the call for invasion). Likewise I’ve heard there was a northeast Alabama county that stopped sending legislators to Montgomery when Alabama seceded and effectivy seceded from Alabama. The CSA also instituted an income tax and military conscription if I’m not mistaken. And of course their paper currency was a disaster as well.


    This would be nothing better than an ad hominem attack from the opposition.

    If true that the Confederacy did this, then they were wrong for it. We defend the principle secession, not every action taken by the south in those times.


    Thanks for the replies!


    “We defend the principle secession, not every action taken by the south in those times.”

    This is so important that I’m going to repeat it. MANY anti-secessionists attack the entire concept of secession by attacking specific actions taken by the Confederacy, which is such an obviously terrible argument that it shouldn’t even have to be refuted, and yet it’s so common, it does.

    The fact that someone supports the right of secession does not mean that said person agrees with every single action taken by the secessionist government under all circumstances. It doesn’t mean we like slavery, it doesn’t mean we approve of the tyrannical and socialist economic structure of the CSA, etc.


    Another anti-confederate argument I’ve heard is that the confederate constitution included the phrase: “permanent federal government” in its preamble. Doesn’t change my mind that secession is awesome!


    If we had more nullification there would be no need to even consider secession except where nullification was contested.
    It makes no sense the the federal government is the final arbiter of the extent of the powers granted to it by the states.


    RealMises – I know Tom Woods highlights this in his book Nullification. That nullification, rather than being “a tool to destroy the union” as folks seem to describe it these days, was rather a tool to help SAVE it. Nullification was the alternative to secession. Had the south been able to successfully nullify, we might have been spared the entire bloody and destructive civil war.


    SM Nationalist/Federalists have no patience for nullification, interposition or secession.
    The southern states could not nullify the Missouri Act, the Kansas Nebraska act, a hostile Republican Party, John Brown or an attack on Fort Sumter.
    Seems that Limcoln could have avoided the war of secession but unlike buchannan he had no tolerance for break away states


    The states’ right of secession was based on the states’ role in establishing the federal union. Whether a state would allow secession by more local groups — as of course had happened in the cases of Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina, etc. — was not a question of federal constitutionalism.

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