Civil War Secession Questions

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    1. Can anyone point out where in the official secession documents, associated legislative proceedings, or otherwise associated contexts that the southerners proclaimed that trade policies were the reason for their secession? I can find very little.

    2. Can anyone find other examples of federal overreaches/unconstitutional actions taken by the federal government that the southerners expressly said were their reasons for disunion? Obviously, federal power did expand pretty drastically in the antebellum period as the teacher of this course has done such a great job showing us, but I want to know if specifics were given as justification for secession, other than northern opposition to the extension of slavery. In Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he asked them to do so. Did they?

    3. What was the southern rebuttal to Lincoln’s Cooper Union Speech where he justified the prohibition of slavery in the territories based on precedents set by the founders?

    4. Where can proof of the right to unilateral secession be found in the founding era? Ie, where can it be proven that states can just leave on their own discretion, without the consent of the rest of the union?

    Is there a southern/historically correct rebuttal to this, taken from a NYT article on the subject:

    “My opinion is that a reservation of a right to withdraw… is a conditional ratification… Compacts must be reciprocal… The Constitution requires an adoption in toto, and for ever. It has been so adopted by the other States.”

    — James Madison, letter to Alexander Hamilton (July 20, 1788), emphasis added.[8][9]
    Hamilton and John Jay agreed with Madison’s view, reserving “a right to withdraw [was] inconsistent with the Constitution, and was no ratification.”[10]

    At the outset of the Poughkeepsie convention, anti-Federalists held a strong majority. The tide turned when word arrived that New Hampshire and Virginia had said yes to the Constitution, at which point anti-Federalists proposed a compromise: they would vote to ratify, but if the new federal government failed to embrace various reforms that they favored, “there should be reserved to the state of New York a right to withdraw herself from the union after a certain number of years.”] Federalists emphatically opposed the compromise. In doing so, they made clear to everyone — in New York and in the 12 other states where people were following the New York contest with interest — that the Constitution did not permit unilateral state secession. Alexander Hamilton read aloud a letter at the Poughkeepsie convention that he had received from James Madison stating that “the Constitution requires an adoption in toto, and for ever.” Hamilton and John Jay then added their own words, which the New York press promptly reprinted: “a reservation of a right to withdraw” was “inconsistent with the Constitution, and was no ratification. The New York convention ultimately ratified the Constitution without including the “right to withdraw” language proposed by the anti-federalists.”

    What should we make of the claim that since not all ratification ordinances contain secession provisions, that unilateral secession is impermissible since, as in the Madison quote, the contracts are not reciprocal?

    6. Where can proof be found that there was a mutual agreement that a breach of the compact gave rise to a right of rescission?

    7. Is there a northern equivalent to Albert Bledsoe’s “Was Davis a Traitor?”

    8.What should we make of these distinctions made by Madison, Story, Lincoln, etc, between secession and revolution?

    9. What’s wrong with this argument:

    a. the founders prohibited slavery in the territories, creating a legal precedent.

    b. since Dredd Scott was constitutionally unsound, it follows that Congress still had the authority to repeal the Kansas-Nebraska Acts and prohibit the extension of slavery in the territories again, should the majority vote that way in an election.

    c. Since the southerners seem to have justified their secession almost solely on a belief that popular sovereignty wasn’t constitutional, at least in their secession ordinances, if Dredd Scott were unconstitutional, this grounds for secession was mute.

    d. Therefore, in light of that and a recent election in 61, southerners were refusing to submit to the rule of law and majority rule in a legitimate political contest, which made them guilty of an illegal rebellion.

    I know there’s A LOT here, but as always, I’m very grateful to the professors for all their time and informative answers. I’m curious to hear from other forum participants, too.

    John Winters
    Ithaca, NY

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