Part 2–More About Secession the “History” Books Haven’t Told Us

by Al Benson Jr.

It has been accurately asserted by author Gene H. Kizer Jr. that: “The arguments for the right of secession are unequivocal. There is the constitutional right based on the Compact Theory, and the revolutionary right based on the idea that a free people have a right to change their government anytime they see fit. The Compact Theory views the Constitution as a legal agreement between the states–a compact–and if any one state violates the compact, then the entire agreement becomes null and void. Northern states unquestionably violated the Constitution on a number of grounds including Personal Liberty Laws on their books, as well as by deliberately harboring fugitives from justice by protecting the sons of John Brown who were wanted by Virginia for murder at Harpers Ferry. Northern states also made a mockery of the Constitution’s Preamble which states clearly that the Constitution was established to ‘insure domestic tranquility’ and ‘promote the general Welfare.’ Certain prominent Northern leaders with the acquiescence of states like Massachusetts were utterly at war with the South and doing everything they could to destroy the domestic tranquility of the Southern states by encouraging slaves to murder white people, poison wells, destroy property and commit other acts of rapine. John Brown himself had been encouraged and financed by the North.”

I have, in the past, written about a group called The Secret Six, which financed Brown’s terrorist activities in both Kansas and Virginia. Of this group all, save one, was from New England and that one was from New York. An excellent book to read regarding this dismal period in our history is Otto Scott’s The Secret Six–The Fool as Martyr which is a biography of John Brown, and therefore deals with those that financed him in some detail. Another good work in this area worth reading, if you can find it is The Road to Harpers Ferry by J. C. Furnas. A couple years ago in my little newsletter The Copperhead Chronicle I did a series of biographical sketches on the Secret Six. Quite an interesting little group. One of them, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Unitarian minister made the statement “I am always ready to invest money in treason…” I mention all this to demonstrate that the North had indeed broken the Constitutional Compact.

Walter Williams, a distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University has written on the secession question on a number of occasions. In his understanding secession is indeed legal. He noted at one point that before the War Between the States a constitutional amendment was proposed by some Northern congressman that would prohibit secession. He then points out that there would have been no point in offering such an amendment if secession had already been unconstitutional. You do have to admit that he has a point.

A few years ago the late Joe Sobran, (whom I assume that most people who read have heard of), wrote an article that appeared on http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org in which he noted that: “Our ultimate defense against the federal government is the right of secession. Yes, most people assume that the Civil War settled that. But superior force proves nothing. If there was a right of secession before that war, it should be just as valid now. It wasn’t negated become Northern munitions factories were more efficient than Southern ones.” And Sobran further observed, and I have to agree with him, that: “The original 13 states formed a ‘Confederation’ under which each state retained its ‘sovereignty, freedom and independence’.” The Constitution didn’t change this; each sovereign state was free to reject the Constitution. The new powers of the federal government were ‘granted’ and ‘delegated’ by the states, which implies that the states were prior and superior to the federal government. Even in The Federalist, the brilliant propaganda papers for ratification of the Constitution…the United States are constantly referred to as ‘the Confederacy’ and a ‘confederate republic,’ as opposed to a single ‘consolidated’ or monolithic state. Members of ‘a confederacy’ are by definition free to withdraw from it.”

Sobran noted that while Hamilton and Madison sincerely hoped secession would never happen, they didn’t deny that it was a possibility, and even if Madison didn’t like or agree with it, that doesn’t make it illegal.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816: “If any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation…to continuance in union…I have no hesitation in saying, ‘let us separate’.” Donald W. Livingston, a professor of philosophy at Emory University, and president of the Abbeville Institute, wrote in an article published in Chronicles magazine in October, 2010, that: “A state cannot retain sovereignty unless it has it, and in joining the Union no state renounced sovereignty. What motivates the nationalist theory is not an honest look at the historical founding of America, but political ambition legitimated by the philosophical theory of the modern unitary state. This ambition appears forcefully in Hamilton, who argued at the Philadelphia Convention for a president for life, a senate with members for life, appointed by the president, and state governors appointed by the president–in other words, monarchy by another name.” You have to wonder if any of those “you can’t get out of the Union no matter what” folks have something of this sort in mind. Those that seek to deny people their rights usually do have an agenda.

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