History of the Union

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    Did the Declaration or the Articles of Confederation create the Union?

    I had thought that Lincoln was wrong when he said that it was created by the Articles of Association, due to the fact that those documents referred to the status of the states as colonies and reaffirmed their allegiance to the crown. But in reading Jefferson’s autobiography, I came across this. He said that in Congress, about a month before the Declaration was issued, Livingstone, Rutledge, and others had this to say about the idea:

    “That if such a declaration should now be agreed to, these delegates must retire & possibly their colonies might secede from the Union: That such a secession would weaken us more than could be compensated by any foreign alliance.”

    How could someone secede from the Union if it didn’t officially exist yet by neither the Declaration or the Articles of Confederation? Was he just being loose with his terms? Am I correct in assuming that it was the Declaration that began the Union?

    Thank you


    The Declaration was issued in the name of the United States of America. Those states were united in the sense that they were fighting the British and undertaking related steps (e.g., entering into foreign alliances, taking foreign loans, etc.) jointly. This is as if you and I appointed someone with power of attorney to take out a loan for us. It is not a mystical relationship enforceable by a union executive with no restriction on means employed as Lincoln seems to have had in mind in his First Inaugural Address.

    My understanding is that the Articles of Confederation created a federal government from which any party was free to withdraw. The original understanding of the US Constitution was similar, at least in some of the states. Per: Vattel, even calling it a federal union entailed that members could withdraw. In short, I don’t think the people ever agreed to a union in the sense Lincoln meant.

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