More About Secession the “History” Books Haven’t Told Us

by Al Benson Jr.

There are some that continue to claim the Southern states had no right to secede just before the War of Northern Aggression. And it seems that as more truth continues to surface about the right of secession the more loud and strident their denials become.

I recently read an article on the Internet by Gene H. Kizer Jr., author of the book Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States. Mr. Kizer noted some interesting facts. He wrote about the Hartford Convention that I have written about previously. He observed: “The States’ Rights Hartford Convention of New England, aggrieved by the financial losses of New Englanders in shipping during the War of 1812, met in 1815 and seriously discussed seceding from the Union. The Convention selected representatives to go to Washington to present its grievances to the government. It even chose a military leader should its grievances be ignored, and made arrangements for a second convention, if necessary, to make specific plans to secede. Commissioners were sent to Washington but upon arriving found that the War of 1812 had ended, therefore it was not necessary to air their grievances. The Journal of the Hartford Convention bristles with references to state sovereignty, and uses States’ Rights language such as the right of a state to decide for itself when a violation of the Constitution occurred.” As little as our “history” books deal with all of this, you’ve got to admit these folks were serious.

Mr. Kizer also mentioned an article written by Mr. H. Newcomb Morse, which appeared in the Stetson Law Review. Mr. Morse’s article was entitled The Foundations and Meaning of Secession. Mr. Morse wrote that the War of Northern Aggression didn’t prove that secession was illegal, and the reason was that: “…many instances both preceding and following the War support the proposition that the Southern states did have the right to secede from the Union. Instances of nullification prior to the War Between the States, contingencies under which certain states acceded to the Union, and the fact that the Southern states were made to surrender the right to secession all affirm the existence of a right to secede.” You have to ask yourself the question–if there had been no right to secession then how could they surrender it?

And Kizer noted that: “Morse argues that because the Constitution did not forbid secession, then every state acceding to the Constitution had the implied right to secede from it. He says that if men of the caliber of Madison, Hamilton, Wilson and the others meant to forbid secession they definitely would have said so, and the omission of a prohibition on secession in the Constitution is strong proof that the right of secession existed and was presumed.”

And, again, you have to ask yourself, how, only 13 years after the end of the War for Independence, would the founders again lock themselves into a political situation identical to the one they had just fought a war with Great Britain to extricate themselves from? If you think about that, it doesn’t make much sense.

Then there is something I have written about in the past–the reason the North did not put Jefferson Davis on trial after his two years of unnecessary imprisonment. They wanted to try him for treason, but the best legal minds in the North realized, after looking at the evidence, that secession was not treason and that David would probably be found not guilty and they’d all end up with political egg on their faces and so they backed off.

Albert Taylor Bledsoe wrote a ground-breaking book called Is Davis A Traitor? In that, he dealt with the Constitution as a compact which he said the states had acceded to, or agree to. Bledsoe made this point to show that if the states acceded to the terms of a compact, they could secede from that compact if the terms of it were broken by one of the other members. That word “accede” is one lots of folks of the “perpetual Union” theory really dislike. Basically the word accede means to agree with, not to surrender to. Bledsoe stated that at one point, Daniel Webster had said that “the states acceded to the Constitution was’unconstitutional language’.” And Bledsoe said that was Webster’s position because if states had acceded to the Constitution then it was only logical they could secede from it. So he noted that discrediting the one word “accede” became very important to Webster. However, the word “accede” was not unconstitutional language.

Mr. Kizer, in his article, stated that: “Webster had attacked the word ‘accede’ as something invented by proponents of the Constitution as compact. His intention was to discredit his opponents by discrediting the language they were using, but his plan backfired. Bledsoe points out that Webster’s attack on the word ‘accede’ by calling it a ‘new word’ was ill-founded and incorrect because’accede’ had precisely been ‘the word of the fathers of the Constitution’ with Washington ‘at their head.’ They had all used the word ‘accede’ in reference to states joining the Constitution, and of course, the converse of the word ‘accede’ is secede’.” I can remember when I did the research for my booklet The Theological and Political Implications of the Doctrine of Secession several years ago I came across several quotes by Washington where he mentioned this or that state acceding to the Constitution.

To be continued as the Lord allows.

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