Right to Secede

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    I use facebook discussions and things like that as a way to challenge what I think and develop my knowledge and argumentation skills.

    Yesterday (Saturday 4/6) Austin Petersen got on a soapbox on facebook that the south had no right to secede because they wanted to secede in order to perpetuate slavery. He used 1 or 2 of the states declarations of secession as the basis for the argument that the primary cause was slavery. I understand from these lectures that this was not entirely true. (feel free to comment on that part as well) but for the sake of argument, lets assume that it was.

    I took the side that secession, particularly from a government that was created by the states, is legitimate for any reason whatsoever. That the reason for secession does not invalidate the right to secede because secession in and of itself cannot be used to infringe on the rights of another.

    I was wondering what the professors here thought about this argument and how they would answer it.


    I think your answer is correct. If the people of the States in convention determine that their destiny is better served out of the Union for whatever reason, they have the right and the authority to make that decision. The State conventions that voted to secede from the Union in 1860 and 1861 did so in greater numbers (majorities) than those which essentially voted for independence in 1776 and those which ratified the Constitution in 1787 and 1788. It was the will of the people that Lincoln and the Republicans trampled upon.


    Three main points:

    1) Who cares what their motivation was? O.J. Simpson demanded trial by jury because he wanted to get away with murder; does that mean he should have been denied that right? A right is a right, and rarely is a right invoked by someone in the majority.

    2) Yes, the seven Deep South states seceded over slavery. The other four seceding states, however, seceded only after seeing Lincoln’s initial unconstitutional acts — not only attacking the Deep South states (which other southerners agreed had a right to secede), but also raising an army without convening Congress, suspending habeas corpus in Maryland, and otherwise launching his career of unconstitutional acts in opposition to secession. Virginia’s secession convention voted before Lincoln’s inauguration NOT to secede merely in defense of slavery, but reconvened after he’d been in office for a while and seceded because of what he had done. I’m guessing Austin doesn’t know this.

    3) Does Austin support the American Revolution? As Holton showed in FORCED FOUNDERS, many people in Virginia supported secession from the British Empire in order to protect slavery. If Austin is consistent, he must decry the American Revolution, at least in Virginia — home of Washington, Jefferson, et al.

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