by Al Benson Jr.
When the Southern states seceded they did so in a very orderly fashion. According to Clarence Carson's "A Basic History of the United States--Volume 3": "The procedure for secession was to have an election for delegates to a state convention, to meet in convention, and to adopt ordinances of secession. This was done in accord with the Southern understanding of what would be in keeping with the United States Constitution. It had, after all, been ratified by states acting through conventions. Could they not 'un-ratify' it--secede from the Union--in the same fashion?" Although Carson did not address the question, we know from sources previously mentioned that some Northern states had taken an identical position earlier in the 19th century.
In 1803, St. George Tucker, professor of law at the University of William and Mary had recorded some of the ratification statements for the state of Virginia in "Blackstone's Commentaries With Notes of Reference To The Constitution And Laws Of The Federal Government Of The United States and Of The Commonwealth of Virginia." Some of the ratification language for the state of Virginia is as follows: "We the delegates of the people of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression..." I submit if that is not a clear statement of the right of secession, then no one has ever heard one. And their ratification ordinances were accepted with that language included in them.
Based upon what we have seen to this point, the right of secession was never clearly in doubt in this country until the South seceded in 1860-61. At that point, what some Northern states had threatened to do three times prior suddenly became illegal and immoral in the eyes of many Northern politicians, particularly those that had a major interest in promoting and raising the tariffs.
According to columnist Joe Sobran: "...even many Northerners agreed that a sovereign state had the right to withdraw from the Union. A large body of people in the North were willing to accept a peaceful separation from the South. Lincoln had thousands arrested without trial for expressing such views, including several Maryland legislators who, while remaining in the Union, opposed using force to keep other states from seceding." So, many ordinary Northern folks did not have a major problem with the South leaving the Union, but certain creatures of a political nature did. The fact that earlier would-be secessionists had been Yankees was carefully swept under the historical rug. It's about time we lifted the rug up!
How about getting the double standard of one set of rules for the North and another set of rules for the South out in the open?
Whether you agree with the timing of the Southern states' secession or not is another matter. Even Alexander Stephens, vice-president of the Confederate States of America, didn't totally agree with the timing. He though the South should have waited until she had exhausted all possible legal remedies, yet in the final analysis, he remained loyal to his native state when she seceded. Timing wasn't, and isn't, the real point.
Serious consideration needs to be given, again, and again, to the fact that the states, any states, did have the right to secede, and that some states in both regions of the country had moved in that direction at one time or another.
In light of our history, the Southern position on secession is much more sound than current "historians" or should we call them "hysterians" would have us believe--and therein lies much food for thought.
And, as an afterthought, there is currently a group in Vermont that has met, and issued papers dealing with Vermont's possible secession from the Union, so the North is at it again. Let's stay tuned and find out what happens up there.