Home Page Forums U.S. Constitutional History Lee and Lincoln: Secession Bedfellows?

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    John Winters
    Participant

    Which other prominent southerners shared Lee’s view that unilateral secession was illegal and revolutionary, rather than constitutionally sanctioned? See below

    “I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. Ihope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for “perpetual union,” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle talk of secession.”

    Shortly thereafter he told his close friend that “If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”

    To me, when he says that,”Anarchy would have been established, and not a government,by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and the other patriots of the Revolution.”, he seems to say exactly what Lincoln here:

    First Inaugural Address March 4, 1861

    “Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.”

    Message to Congress in Special Session July 4, 1861

    “The principle [secession] itself is one of disintegration, and upon which no government can possibly endure.”

    It also seems to jive with what Mosby said in his memoirs that nobody was really thinking secession was a constitutional remedy.

    Thoughts? Reading suggestions?

    #13712

    KevinGutzman
    Participant

    Perhaps Sam Houston?

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