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American Civil war- The Upper South Left the Union Over State Sovereignty

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/9/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,570 times Debate No: 93529
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My position is that the upper south states of VA, NC, ARK, TENN, and pro South KY and MO left the union over state sovereignty.


I accept this debate. I will be arguing that the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and the Confederate sympathizers in Kentucky and Missouri were NOT acting on the basis of increasing state sovereignty.

My opponent has not stated the format so I will assume that, as is typical, the first round is for acceptance. I await my opponent's arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you Tokamak for accepting this my first debate on this forum, I am very excited. I believe the upper south left the union for many reasons, but will argue the main reason was state sovereignty.

Sovereign states

"Upper south, which had cried equally against coercion as succession" -E merton Coulter the Confederate States of America Louisiana State University Press

In the antebellum civil war states were sovereign and self governing was a vital aspect of American government. When secession came each state left the union for its own reasons. The original deep south cotton states left the union and formed a confederacy. The upper south states chose to stay in the union instead of joining this new confederacy.

Lincolns call for volunteers

"The majority sentiment in the upper south had been unionist until Lincolns call for troops"
-E Merton Coulter

The single most important event that caused the upper south to join the confederacy was Lincolns call for volunteers to “suppress” the seven cotton states of the confederacy. Lincoln spoke loud when he called for volunteers to invade the confederacy of the deep south. His opinion was not that America was a collection of sovereign self governing States bound by a constitution as the upper south believed, but a centralized nation or empire. He made it very clear the deep south could not self govern themselves but were subject to their master the federal government. Lincoln in his inaugural address stated the union created the states, not the states ratifying the union thus the power and authority lay with the federal government.The upper south, and many in the north, saw Lincolns call for volunteers against the Cotton states as a major violation of the constitution, a violation of those states sovereignty and the main cause for secession.


This convention pledging the State of Arkansas to resist to the last extremity any attempt on the part of such power to coerce any State that had seceded from the old Union, proclaimed to the world that war should be waged against such States until they should be compelled to submit to their rule, and large forces to accomplish this have by this same power been called out, and are now being marshaled to carry out this inhuman design; and to longer submit to such rule, or remain in the old Union of the United States, would be disgraceful and ruinous to the State of Arkansas”
-Arkansas Declaration for Causes of Seccsion

Before Lincolns call for volunteers the people of Arkansas voted to stay in the union by a vote of 23,600 to 17,900. Later on March 4 1861 the Arkansas convention voted 40-35 to stay in the union with the president of the convention a unionist. On May 6
th 1861 After Fort Sumtner and Lincolns call for men, Arkansas regathered this time only 5 votes went against secession, 4 of them would relent and join in secession in a short time. The before and after votes, as well as the Arkansas declaration for secession give the clear reasons for joining the confederacy.

"The people of this commonwealth are free men not slaves, and will defend to the last extremity, their honor, lives, and property, against northern mendacity and usurpation"
-Arkansas Govonor Henry Rector's response to Lincolns call for volunteers


Tennessee will not Furnish a man for purposes of coercion, but 50,000 if necessary for the defense of our rights, and those of our southern brothers” -Tennessee Governor Isham Harris Response to Lincoln Calling to Suppress the Rebellion in the Cotton States

On February the 9th the same day that Mississippi left the union, Tennessee voters turned down secession by a 4-1 margin. However after Lincolns call to volunteers Governor Isham Harris wrote President Lincoln saying if the federal government was going to “coerce” the states into returning, Tennessee had no choice but to join its Southern neighbors. Harris recalled the Tennessee legislature for another vote on May 6 this time to join the confederacy. Than on June 8 voters approved the measure by a 2-1 margin.


Before Lincolns call for volunteers with slavery equally safe in the north or south, the slave state of Virginia on April 4th1861 voted by a 2-1 margin to stay in the union. After Lincolns call for volunteers Virginia gathered again and by a vote of 126,000 to 20,400 Virginia left the union. In the minds of Virginians, Lincolns call to volunteers and the violation of state sovereignty. Virginia did not give a lengthy declaration of why it left the union just a short ordinance of secession.

Declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slav holding States”
-Virginia Ordinance of Seccesion

North Carolina

"North Carolina will “Be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people”

-North Carolina Governor John Ellis

Having previously turned down even voting on secession, North Carolina responded to Lincolns call for volunteers by than unanimously adopted a secession ordinance, showing the impact it had on the state.


The official state government of Kentucky was pro north by about about a 3-1 margin but chose to keep its neutrality. However there was gaining support for the south when Lincoln called for volunteers. The Kentucky Governor wrote "President Lincoln, I will send not a man nor a dollar for the wicked purpose of subduing my sister southern states.” Later neutrality would be violated by southern troops and the state would join the union, however a pro south Kentucky government was set up and was accepted by Jeff Davis into the confederacy. States rights was the main cause for the pro south Kentucky government reason for secession.

Kentucky Declaration For Leaving The Union

Whereas, the Federal Constitution, which created the Government of the United States, was declared by the framers thereof to be the supreme law of the land, and was intended to limit and did expressly limit the powers of said Government to certain general specified purposes, and did expressly reserve to the States and people all other powers whatever, and the President and Congress have treated this supreme law of the Union with contempt and usurped to themselves the power to interfere with the rights and liberties of the States and the people against the expressed provisions of the Constitution, and have thus substituted for the highest forms of national liberty and constitutional government a central despotism founded upon the ignorant prejudices of the masses of Northern society, and instead of giving protection with the Constitution to the people of fifteen States of this Union have turned loose upon them the unrestrained and raging passions of mobs and fanatics, and because we now seek to hold our liberties, our property, our homes, and our families under the protection of the reserved powers of the States, have blockaded our ports, invaded our soil, and waged war upon our people for the purpose of subjugating us to their will; and Whereas, our honor and our duty to posterity demand that we shall not relinquish our own liberty and shall not abandon the right of our descendants and the world to the inestimable blessings of constitutional government: Therefore, .... because we may choose to take part in a cause for civil liberty and constitutional government against a sectional majority waging war against the people and institutions of fifteen independent States of the old Federal Union, and have done all these things deliberately against the warnings and vetoes of the Governor and the solemn remonstrance of the minority in the Senate and House of Representatives: Therefore, .....have a right to establish any government which to them may seem best adapted to the preservation of their rights and liberties.” -Kentucky Declaration for Causes of Seccesion


“Your requisition is illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical, and cannot be complied with”

-Missouri Governors Response to Lincolns call for Volunteers

The slave state of Missouri was almost universally pro union. When the south sent delegates to try and convince the state to join the south, they were booed and jeered so that the CSA delegate could not even be heard. On March 21 1861 the Missouri convention voted 98-1 against secession, but kept its neutrality. Many in the state became angry and felt their state sovereignty was violated during the “Camp Jackson Affair” with General Lyon capturing the arsenal in St Louis and when union soldiers opened fire on civilians and pro confederates killing dozens. Many felt the federal government was violating the states neutral position and support for secession grew rapid in the state. This led to a end to neutrality and both a pro confederate and pro union government in the state. Pro south Missouri reasons for secession, centered around constitutional violations of the Lincoln administration.

"All that the South has ever desired was the Union as established by our forefathers should be preserved and that the government as originally organized should be administered in purity and truth."

-Gen. Robert E. Lee Quoted in The enduring Relevance of Robert E Lee


-Secession Acts of the Thirteen Confederate States; -Abraham -Lincoln First Inaugural Address Monday, March 4, 1861 -The Confederate States of America, 1861--1865: A History of the South by E.Merton Coulter



The generally attributed cause of the secession of the Confederate States of America is the issue of slavery and its place in the Union. The issue of state sovereignty is often cited as an alternative cause of secession. Why this is the case is beyond the scope of this debate, however I will be attempting to demonstrate that rather than seceding over state sovereignty, it was indeed the issue of slavery that incited the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Confederate sympathizers in Kentucky and Missouri to attempt to leave the Union.

State sovereignty was certainly in the conscious of the South in general in the decades leading up to the Civil War. However, the issues in question for the secession was the sovereignty necessary to preserve the institution of slavery. This fact can be demonstrated by illustrating points in time in which southern states valued the preservation of slavery over, and even to the detriment of, preserving state sovereignty.

Example One: Resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law

In 1850, the aging politician Henry Clay passed a compromise that he hoped would resolve the issue of slavery within the Union. The most important tenet was a fugitive slave law which required federal officials to work with citizens in recapturing and reappropriating any escaped slaves who had fled to the North. This law was highly regarded by most Southerners, as it gave value to the institution of slavery. Shortly after the passage of the act, Southern Democrats (in all parts of the South, not just the Deep South) adopted the Georgia Platform, which essentially contained a thinly veiled threat of secession occurring should the fugitive slave law not be enacted with full force.

"it is the deliberate opinion of this Convention, that upon the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Bill by the proper authorities depends the preservation of our much loved Union." [1]

Large amounts of Northerners would enact the process of Jury Nullification in an effort to enforce an abolitionist spirit, and many state legislatures in Northern states passed laws disabling the fugitive slave law as a form of defiance. This was a very clear example of state sovereignty being used as an agent against slavery. Therefore, if any of the states of the South had truly desired to increase state sovereignty more than they wanted to preserve slavery, there would have been no objections to these measures. However, what we instead saw was the opposite: Southerners threatened to secede because Northern states exercised their state sovereignties. For instance, in Senator Jefferson Davis' 1860 resolution, he stated that:

"the acts of State Legislatures to defeat the purpose, or nullify the requirements of that provision, and the laws made in pursuance of it, are hostile in character, subversive of the Constitution, revolutionary in their effect, and if persisted in, must sooner or later lead the States injured by such breach of the compact to exercise their judgment as to the proper mode and measure of redress." [2]

Or this newspaper from Richmond, Virginia:

"When it becomes apparent that [the Fugitive Slave Law's] operation is practically nullified by the people of one or more States, differences of opinion may arise as to the proper remedy, but one thing is certain that some ample mode of redress will be chosen, in which the South with entire unanimity will concur." [3]

Therefore it is clear that in all Southern states, not just the Deep South, the preservation of slavery was obviously prioritized over state sovereignty.

Example Two: The Confederate Constitution

The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is nearly identical to the Consitution of the United States of America, changed only in a few key areas. However, those key areas are very telling about what was valued over what. Specifically, there are numerous instances of the Confederate Constitution not only protecting the instution of slavery, but doing so at the detriment of state sovereignty.

For instance, in Article I, Sec. 9(4):

"No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed." [4]

Or in Article 4, Sec. 2(1):

"The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired." [4]

And in Article 4, Sec. 3(3):

"The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several Sates [sic]; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States." [4]

There are three separate examples of the Confederate Constitution blatantly denying the right of the individual state legislatures to pass any legislation against the institution of slavery. This constitution was ratified in all of the Southern states, not just the Deep South.

Therefore, again, it is clear that in all Southern states, not just the Deep South, the preservation of slavery was obviously prioritized over state sovereignty.

Rebuttal of my opponent's argument

My opponent's argument is, in essence, that the Upper South did not secede until a call for troops which they saw as a violation of state sovereignty. There are several problems with this.

1) Although it is certainly true that in his conscription efforts Lincoln violated the War Powers clause of the Constitution, this is not a violation of state sovereignty, it is a violation of federal Separation of Powers. The power of conscription is explicitly granted to the Legislative Branch, i.e. congress, rather than the Executive Branch, i.e. the president. Lincoln acted in a way that sapped power from congress, not from the individual states.

2) This idea leans on the false idea that before the Civil War, individual states were effectively self-governing. This is an oft-cited but incorrect view. The Founding Fathers made it quite clear in the establishment of the United States that the individual states were not separate entities under a loose union. This is why a "perpetual union" is spoken of, and why for instance Alexander Hamilton states in the New York Ratification Convention that:

"a reservation of the right to withdraw [...] was inconsistent with the Constitution, and was no ratification." [5]

3) What the conscription and attack at Fort Sumter truly represented was a commitment of Lincoln to reinforce federal law within the seceding states. Since Lincoln had stated that he intented to leave slavery as it was where it existed, the Upper South states were perhaps skeptical that he would militarily intervene in the affairs of the seceding states for this reason. Afterwards, it was clear that he was intervening. The remaining states therefore believed him capable of intervening in not just secession, but the institution of slavery, as that is what the original seceding states and the Republican Party itself originally devoted their platforms and declarations to.


The actions taken by Southerners in all states before and after the secession clearly indicate that the preservation of slavery was a higher priority to them than any form of state sovereignty.






Debate Round No. 2


Thank you con for a great post and arguments. I must say I am very happy to have found this forum.

Fugitive Slave Law

Con argues that the south's objection to northern states nullifying [showing state sovereignty] federal and constitutional law regarding the fugitive slave law proves that slavery was the issue and not state sovereignty. However from reading the upper south's secession documents and reaction to Lincoln. It is clear the nullification of the fugitive slave laws was not a issue to cause the upper south to leave the union. They chose to stay in the union even after northern states had done so.

I believe con is correct in that it was an issue for the cotton states. By northern states rejecting southerns state and constitutional rights to property by nullifying federal law, this in no way says the deep south rejects state sovereignty. It simply is a result of a republic and self government states, where states can disagree. That is why secession is vital to self government and states rights. That is also why every single secession document talks of the states retaining and acting on their sovereignty. They did not reject state sovereignty, they enabled it because of the fugitive slave law among other issues. Saying they would self govern, not northern states govern them. They did not object to northern states using sovereignty, but northern states defying federal constitutional law and their rights to property. Northern federalist Daniel Webster said in 1851 that if the north would not comply with the fugitive slave law, “The south would no longer be bound to observe the compact. A bargain can not be broken on one side, and still bind the other side.” This is why abolitionist said the constitution was a

Covenant with death and an agreement with hell”

-William Lloyd Garrison

It also brings up an interesting point. A new confederacy would have no protection for runaways slaves north. Had those upper south states stayed in the union, they would have had federal law behind them protecting their property, unlike when they joined the new confederacy.

The Confederate Constitution

The CSA framers placed the government firmly under the heads of the states”

-Marshall L. Derosa Redeeming American Democracy Lessons from the Confederate Constitution

Con argues the confederate constitution is generally the same as the USA constitution but that it protects slavery over state sovereignty. I would come to this misunderstanding if I only had his source to go by as well. I cant help but notice your source does not give the actual document.

Some of the changes in the CSA include in the CSA constitution from the United states version of “we the people of the US in order to form a more perfect union.... CSA version reads “we the people of the confederate states, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character ...” The confederacy formed a decentralized government. The states had the right to recall powers delegated [not granted] to congress. In the CSA 10th amendment In uncertainties in ruling between states and CSA government, the states would override the federal government. All power to amend the Constitution was taken out of congress and given to the states. The states of the CSA had the right to coin money. Confederate officials working only in a state are subject to impeachment by that state. The Confederate states also gain the power to make river-related treaties with each other.

The CSA congress can have no such power over states officers. The state governments are an essential part of the political system, upon the separate and independent sovereignty of the states the foundation of the confederacy”
-1864 Virginia supreme Court Case

But to your objection freeing slaves was a state issue in the CSA constitution [as it was in the US constitution but Lincoln threatened to deny that state right] article 1 section 9 clause 4 applies to congress not to the sovereign states. This was in fact anticipating non slave states to join the confederacy. Article 4 section 2 clause 1 and article 4 section 3 clause 1 predicted future free states within the confederacy. As many in the confederacy including VP Stevens thought, that the non slave holding upper Midwest would join the confederacy because of the free trade laws that would compel states connected to the Mississippi river to join the confederacy as non slave states. The CSA constitution did protect slave owners property within the entire CSA regardless if the state was free or slave. During the constitutional convention Cobb of Georgia proposed that all states be required to be slave owning, yet this was rejected. The south wanted boarder states and the free Midwest states to join. Senator Albert Brown of Mississippi stated in the CSA constitution “Each state is sovereign within its own limits, and that each for itself can abolish or establish slavery for itself.” So while slavery was a state option, states rights was applied in the CSA slave or free.

Cons Rebuttal

1] I believe my opponent has set up a clever straw man. The violation of states sovereignty was not in Lincoln calling volunteers as a president, but the use of the volunteers to suppress the cotton states was the major violation of state sovereignty.

2] To coerce the states is one of the maddest projects that was ever devised... a complying state at war with a non complying state. Congress marching the troops of one state into the bosom of another? Here is a nation at war with itself. Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself- a government that can exists only by the sword”.

-Alexander Hamilton Northern federalist

Con claims the founding fathers were clear the states were not sovereign. To support this he quotes the one of two founders that held this view. Hamilton also wanted to rid America of elections and have a king. Since this is not the topic of the thread I shall be brief.

Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself...each party has equal right to judge for itself”

-Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison [The Father of the Constitution]

"The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the states; and these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the states chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disapprove its right of doing so, and
the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.

-Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America

3] I disagree strongly. I would ask you to support your claims. Slavery was in both the northern and southerner states for the entire civil war. It was constitutionally protected, Lincoln and the north supported the Corwin amendment that would have protected slavery forever in the the U.S constitution. The 1860 republican platform plank 4 said slavery was a state issue and they would not interfere with slavery. Lincoln also said the states had the right to chose on slavery and he would not interfere with slavery.

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere Untitled with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so”

-Abraham Lincoln Inaugural address

After the deep south left the union the federal government decided it would not end slavery in the house on Feb 1861 and senate march 2 1861. On July 22 1861 congress declared “This war is not waged , nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions [slavery] of those states.” October 8th 1861 the newspaper Washington D.C National Intelligence said “The existing war had no direct relation to slavery.”

Secessionists were well aware that slavery was under no immediate threat within the Union. Indeed, some anti-secessionists, especially those with the largest investment in slave property, argued that slavery was safer under the Union than in a new experiment in government.”

-Clyde Wilson Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina

-The Confederate Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry Into American Constitutionalism By Marshall L. DeRosa University of Missouri Press
-Redeeming American Democracy Lessons from the confederate constitution Marshall L. Derosa Pelican press 2007
-The Constitution Of The Confederate States Of America Explained A Clause By Clause Study Of The Souths Magna Carta Lochlainn Seabrook Sea Raven Press 2012

-The Real Lincoln Thomas J Dilorenzo Three Rivers press NY NY 2002
- Lincoln Unmasked what your not suppose to know about Dishonest Abe Thomas J Dilorenzo Three rivers Press Crown Forum 2006



Firstly, I will respond to my opponent's rebuttal of my own contentions.

Fugitive Slaw Law

My opponent states that:

"It is clear the nullification of the fugitive slave laws was not a issue to cause the upper south to leave the union. They chose to stay in the union even after northern states had done so."

However, neither upper nor deep South states left the union merely because of the nullification of the fugitive slave law. That's not why I mentioned it. My point was that this was an instance in which state sovereignty clashed with the preservation of slavery - and that in this instance, people from both the deep South and the upper South resisted in a way that showed they prioritized slavery over state sovereignty.

My opponent also states that:

"every single secession document talks of the states retaining and acting on their sovereignty."

However, examination of the specific times these terms are mentioned, such as in the Viriginia declaration of secession:

"that the Union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid, is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State." [6]

Demonstrates that these terms are used to show the rights of sovereignty Viriginia gains upon becoming an independent nation, not as the natural rights a state within the Union has.

My opponent also says:

"They did not object to northern states using sovereignty, but northern states defying federal constitutional law and their rights to property."

It was not constitutional law, since it was not in the Constitution. The fugitive slave law being violated was part of the Compromise of 1850. Later in their argument, my opponent cites the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves as valid and legal. These resolves support the right of a state to Nullification. If one belives this, one has to believe that the nullification of the fugitive slave law is perfectly legal. My opponent has shot themselves in the foot with this inconsistency.

Confederate Constitution

My opponent accuses me of not including important parts of the CSA Constitution that reinforce state sovereignty. It is important to note that most Southern states did value a certain degree of autonomy, and I would not deny that. However, citing non-slavery related articles to support the contention that the Confederate Constitution valued state sovereignty above slavery is meaningless. My contention was that in the Confederate Constitution, several times the institution of slavery is granted priority over state sovereignty.

To point out that:

"The states of the CSA had the right to coin money."

Is a non sequitur.

Also, I should mention that the 10th Amendment as described is the same as in the United States Constitution.

My opponent states certain desires of Southern states and the implications of the certain cited bills, but with neither context nor citations to support this. The quote of the Virginia supreme court case has no citation and lacks context. Given that it does not state the word slavery or anything related, it could be about nearly anything.

My opponent states that the CSA Constitution copied the USA Constitution's clause on slaveholding being a state issue. This is not true, and was even decided in the US Supreme Court in the famous Dred Scott decision:

"The body which gives the supreme law of the land, has just acceded to their demands, and dared to declare that under the charter of the Nation, men of African descent are not citizens of the United States and can not be" [7]

That decision demonstrated that under the US Constitution (and by extension the CSA Constitution which kept the related clauses) the only way slavery could be abolished at all was by constitutional amendment. Which is, of course, how it eventually was ended.


1)My opponent states that:

"the use of the volunteers to suppress the cotton states was the major violation of state sovereignty."

How so? Secession was not a legal right of a state government, and therefore the territories of the South were in rebellion. As Commander in Chief, Lincoln had a responsiblity to bring the rebellious states back in the Union. An objection to this would be to state that before the Civil War, states were sovereign to the degree that they could declare a secession legally, but that brings us to the second point:

2)In order to prove that the states were separate sovereign entities, my opponent cites two things - the Viriginia and Kentucky Resolves and Democracy in America. My opponent acts as though these have equal authority to the source I have cited, the New York Ratification Convention.

However, it is important to note that firstly, the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves were written as an objection to the Alien and Sedition Acts, and argued that states had the right to declare pieces of legislation unconstitutional. They were later cited during the 1830 Nullification Crisis as an argument against the Tariff of Abominations. But in neither of these cases was the application of the resolves successful or legally binding. The Alien and Sedition Acts were repealed under the Jefferson administration upon his election in 1800, and the Tariff of Abominations was removed through a federal compromise. To imply that the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves had any legal power is ludicrous.

Further, citing Jefferson as an authority on the Constitution is dubious considering he was not present at the Constitutional Convention.

As for James Madison, note that in a letter to Hamilton he wrote:

"the Constitution requires an adoption in toto, and for ever" [8]

Secondly, while Democracy in America was a politically significant work, it is also not legally binding.

On the contrary, the New York Ratification Convention was an event that actually set the constitution in place, and therefore is very legally binding.

Lastly, George Washington, president of the Constitutional convention, had this to say about it:

"In all our deliberations on this subject [the perpetuity of the government] we kept constantly in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence" [9]

States could not slip out of the Union at will at any point in history. Plain and simple.

3) My opponent cites here the positions of the Republican Party on slavery. To be clear: it is completely true that before and at the beginning of the Civil War, the Republicans had no intentions of imposing abolition. However, it is not true that Southerners believed them. After all, the Deep South certainly seceded over slavery, and why would they if they believed the Republican's promise not to end slavery.

The reason is context. In 1856 the Republican Party put forward the radical John C. Fremont as their candidate, and he did intend to abolish slavery (this was before the Dred Scott decision). This alienated most moderates, including the smaller American Party which would have been more sympathetic to the Republican cause otherwise. In order to attract more voters in the next election, the Republicans chose a the comparatively moderate Lincoln as their candidate.[10]

Of course, Southerners remembered Fremont and knew this was just a ploy to gain moderate votes. If they'd believed Lincoln's promises not to end slavery, why would they have refused to put him on the ballots? Why would they have then seceded when he won? The answer is that even if Lincoln himself did not want to immediately end slavery, he did want to prevent its expansion. And every new free state was another two senators and member of the house who were against slavery to them, which only signalled that at some point, an amendment would be passed. That is why they saw Lincoln as the beginning of the end.





[10]Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson
Debate Round No. 3


I would first like to thank Tokamak for presenting the con in this argument and doing it so well. Your attitude, debating skills and arguments are a vast improvement over the forums I have been on. If this is the norm, I look forward to future debates on this thread. I also want to apologize for my struggle with the font and spacing. This is my first debate and I believe I have it down know. I also regret not going last so I must base this post and conclusion on what has already been said.

Fugitive Slaw Law

con stated

"My point was that this was an instance in which state sovereignty clashed with the preservation of slavery - and that in this instance, people from both the deep South and the upper South resisted in a way that showed they prioritized slavery over state sovereignty."

However as I pointed out the south's priority was
their own states [not northern states] sovereignty. If their is any doubt please read every single secession document, deep south and upper south. They never objected to the north using state sovereignty to than do the same. But the violation of their own states and constitutional laws by the northern states is what was objected to. Slavery forced a divide in the nation among sovereign states. Both the north and south acted on their sovereignty. But as mentioned, the upper south did not leave the union over this. The debate is what caused the upper south to leave the union, the fugitive slave law is not it.

Con argues states only are sovereign when they leave the union. That they gave up their sovereignty only somehow as non sovereign states to than retain that sovereignty. I would say if one were to read the secession documents and relent historical documents, you will find states never gave up their sovereignty, they
delegated certain powers to the government yet as sovereign always could take those delegated powers back. So when the federal government violated the states, they retained their delegated powers and full sovereignty.

"they constituted a general government for special purposes —
delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force:"
-Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison [The Father of the Constitution]

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.”
-James Madison Federalist Papers #45

"The powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be
resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States."
Virginia seccsion document

I would also suggest reading South Carolina secession document for more.

Con than argues

It was not constitutional law, since it was
not in the Constitution. my opponent cites the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves as valid and legal. These resolves support the right of a state to Nullification. If one believes this, one has to believe that the nullification of the fugitive slave law is perfectly legal. My opponent has shot themselves in the foot with this inconsistency.

To the first I respond

"No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due"

4 clause 3 U.S Constitution

Also the fugitive slave law passed congress and was backed by the U.S supreme court. To the second I say amen. of course the south supported both nullification and secession, the two vital aspects of state sovereignty just the thing you claim is illgal below. What needs to be understood what he sees as me "shooting myself in the foot" in reality is that each state in support of their sovereignty [north or south] as protection from those outside of their state. This should be self explanatory.

Confederate Constitution

My reasoning for showing changes made in the csa constitution was to show how state sovereign focused it was, showing that was a , main issue, even for the cotton states. As for abolishing slavery by amendment, I cannot agree more. However you have missed the point and I am not sure he grasps states rights and sovereignty as well as I would like. To abolish or allow slavery in both the CSA and US constitution, was to be decided by the
states, not the federal government.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”
-10th amendment U.S Constitution

As I showed in my previous response, the CSA constitution in no way undermines state sovereignty at the exspence of slavery.


1] Con argues that Lincoln calling on volunteers was not a violation of state sovereignty as secession was not legal. Two points. One lets assume it is not legal. The upper south clearly thought it was as did the cotton states and majority in the north. Since we are debating what caused the upper south to leave, we must look to them not our understanding or disagreement on a legal matter. They made it clear as I showed in my opening, that Lincoln violated the rights of those cotton states and that was the major cause of secession for the upper south.

2] Con than wants to divert the attention away from why the upper south left, to the legality of secession that he upjects to, and yet mentions northern states use of nullification, an act of a sovereighn state. I will not waste anymore space on a separate topic. I will mention I would disagree as would many in the north in 1860. That is a debate down the line I would enjoy perhaps.

3] We agree, kind of. First we are debating the upper south not the deep south. The upper south stayed in the union even after Lincoln won and even after all those pro slavery deep south senators left the union. However as my first post made clear one thing did drive them out of the union. The reason Lincoln was not on the ballet is because he was a republican.

I agree that the republicans running against the expansion of slavery was a cause for the deep south to leave the union. I would disagree that slavery was the only cause for the deep south to or even the major cause. Perhaps you would like to debate that issue in time.


I can only respond to arguments already made so I must [to my regret] conclude here.

Your requisition is illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical, and cannot be complied with”

-Missouri Governor Jackson Response to Lincolns call for Volunteers

The above quote sums up what caused the upper south to leave the union. Con has tried to divert our attention to anything other than what the upper south said and acted on leaving the union for. My original post and arguments have gone completely untouched. The fact is the upper south state declarations, the before and after effect of lincolns violation of the cotton states clearly show what the upper south left the union over. Con has done a great job redirecting this debate to any other topic possible. He knows a discussion dealing with the event and documents that surround upper south secession will point to Lincoln violation of the cotton states liberty as the sole cause. Of his two objections over the fugitive slave laws and the CSA constitution I think my responses dealt with those objections. Showing even for deep south, state sovereignty was an issue more important than slavery.

What was lost

“State sovereignty died at Appomattox”
-Supreme Court Justice Salmon P Chase 1864-73

“States rights, which prior to 1860 had been an important northern belief as southern. Were overturned by Lincolns war"
-Dean Sprague Freedom under Lincoln

I think with the little space remaining I should comment on what was lost when the south lost the war. Our form of government in the usa, is drastically changed from that of the founders. That major change came during the civil war with the loss of state sovereignty. Before the war states were self governing and the federal government was not the all powerful authoritative body it is today. States north and south acted on that sovereignty either by nullification or threat of secession. This check on the federal government in check and within its constitutional bounds. However with the loss of that check on the federal government after the war it has grown to be a tyrannical body.

“Today's federal government is considerably at odds with that envisioned by the framers of the constitution”
-John Olin George Mason University

“The US government has grown into a monstrous tyrannical body that would not even by reorganized by its founders”
-Lochlainn Seabrook The Constitution Of The Confederate States Of America Explained A Clause By Clause Study Of The Souths Magna Carta

“The civil war was that the right to govern is paramount over the right to live, that man is made for government, rather than that government is made for man, and that for men to claim the right of self government is to deserve and incure the death penalty”
-Charles L.C minor The real Lincoln 1928



Thank you as well, you have made a professional and challenging debate.

Fugitive Slave Law

First let me point out a few things.

"The debate is what caused the upper south to leave the union, the fugitive slave law is not it."

I'm not saying that it is, I'm trying to point out what the Southern states prioritized. Also, as mentioned before, people from the upper South did threaten to secede if Northern states continued to nullify the fugitive slave law. See the Richmond newspaper for an example.

"the south's priority was their own states [not northern states] sovereignty. "

The problem with this is that it's inconsistent. You state that Southern states did care about sovereignty for other states when Lincoln made his troop call, but that they don't care about having state sovereignty when Northern states nullify the fugitive slave law. Obviously there must be some reason for this divide. And in the end, it's obvious - slavery. Southern states were in favor of state sovereignty when it wasn't opposed to the institution of slavery but against it when it interfered. My opponent is merely revealing this discrepency more, and therefore again revealing that slavery was prioritized over anything else. As James McPherson puts it:

"On all issues but one, antebellum southerners stood for state's rights and a weak federal government. The exception was the fugitive slave law of 1850, which gave the national government more power than any other law yet passed by Congress." [11]

My opponent argues that the states delegate power to the federal government. While this is true in a sense, it is only true in that the Constitutional Convention had representatives from individual states, as those were the governmental powers under the previous system, the Articles of Confederation. The power is truly delegated to a government by its people, without a middleman. Further, as I showed before with my quotes from Hamilton, Madison, and Washington, the founding fathers were under no delusions that this government could be reversed on a whim by the states.

My opponent supports the state delegation assertion with three quotes. The first is again from the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves, which, as I discussed before, do not have any legal sway and were firmly rejected both times they were used. The second quote states that the powers are delegated by the Constitution, not the states. The third states that the power comes from the people, and not the states themselves.

As for the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law, my opponent is confusing two separate legal entities. Perhaps it's a bit disingenuous to say "the fugitive slave law" when there are two - one established in the Constitution, and a far stricter one established in the Compromise of 1850. It is the latter to which I have been referring, not the former.

And lastly, on the topic of the "shooting yourself in the foot." I do not buy into the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves, and have stated why already. What I was saying was that if you believe them - which you seem to - then you must believe that what Northern states was doing was perfectly legal. However, Southerners did not think this, as I have shown before. Therefore, you cannot use the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves. Also, it is again evidence that Southerners only supported state sovereignty when it did not interfere with slavery.

Confederate Constitution

My opponent states that

"To abolish or allow slavery in both the CSA and US constitution, was to be decided by the states, not the federal government. "

No, not at all. As I stated before, the Dred Scott decision explicitly proved that slavery could only be abolished by constitutional amendment, i.e. it required federal governmental action as well. Had the CSA truly valued state sovereignty over slavery they would have rewritten this clause. They did not.


1) As I stated earlier, there is an inconsistency in saying that the upper South did care about other state's rights when Lincoln called for troops against the Deep south but that they didn't care about state's rights when the North nullified the fugitive slave law. And that this inconsistency vanishes if the upper South only cared about state's rights when it didn't interfere with slavery. Regardless of whether the secession was legal.

2) I also do not think Northerners were legal in their nullification of the fugitive slave law. I'm just using it as an example.

3) No, the deep South definitely seceded over slavery. Of that there is no question. Just look at their own words:

Mississippi declaration of secession:

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth." [12]

Texas declaration of secession:

"Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time." [12]

South Carolina declaration of secession:

"an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution." [12]

But I digress. As you said, this is about the upper South. As for them, they had an economic livelihood coming not directly through crops harvested from slavery (though that was still a large industry), but rather through the selling of existing slaves to plantations in the Deep South, where slavery was growing more and being relocated to.

Before Fort Sumter and the following declaration of war, it seemed possible that Lincoln might leave the seceding states either by letting them go or allowing slavery to exist through plans like the Crittenden Compromise. If this was the case, then Upper South states need not worry, as their economic livelihood through slave selling wouldn't be threatened. However, following the declaration of war, slavery seemed to be under attack - and thus the upper South had to secede.

What Was Lost

My opponent then insinuates again the popular, but wrong, view that the federal government was somehow strengthened in a way unheard of before the Civil War by Lincoln. Firstyl, the state sovereignty ideal hoisted immediately before the Civil War was not an extension of the Constitution, it was a move away from it.

"Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."
-Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1861

Southern states had rallied against national consolidation of power over the decades leading up to the Civil War, beginning with the Nullification Crisis of 1830. To wit:

"The strengthening of national power in the 1860s reflected, in part, the restoration of the political situation that had existed before the South began to impose its deadening hand on the Union in the thirty years before the war." [13]

Nullification was not a common tool used by states. It was asserted few times, and when it was it was always highly contested, and rarely successful.

As for the first two quotes that follow, while it is impossible to know without context, I would venture to guess that those quotes are not referring to a post-Civil War increase in national power, but rather the increase in federal influence through programs like the Progressive Era, New Deal, and Great Society.

As for the last quote, it's individual points have been addressed, but I would like to point out that it is confederate apologia.


I believe that it is certainly true that the South valued state sovereignty. However, there are times when they did not - those times were when it was in conflict with the institution of slavery. I have expressed multiple examples in this debate of when this occurred.

My opponent has presented a distorted view of national government's power through early US history, and one which is mainly touted by confederate apologia. I have done my best to point out why it is not true.

Please vote Con.



Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
The debate on "The secession of the confederate states was legal as they were sovereign states at the time"
has started.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
Tokamak. I have offered a debate on the subject on the legality of secession and state sovereignty. I have taken the position secession is legal and states were sovereign before the civil war. I think it would be another great debate between us.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
Tokamak I would like to thank you again for the great debate. I was wondering if you would like to debate the legality of secession as well as were states sovereign before the civil war. They really go together as one debate. Than I was also wondering if you would like to defend if i am understanding you correct. That the deep south left the union over only slavery.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
Debaters cannot vote on their own debates.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
I am new so want to ask. Can those who were in the debate vote? if so they should not be allowed to. I think bias may interfere.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
>Reported vote: migmag// Mod action: Removed<

7 points to Con. Reasons for voting decision: well done

[*Reason for removal*] Not an RFD.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
Hi Migmag. Thanks for the post. I would love to hear the reasoning behind your decisions if you have some time.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
Brendan. Thanks for the comments. Also thanks for helping me understand how the forum works and proper conduct. This was my first debate so I am learning and thank you for that. I as well thought after I posted my final round, why the hell did i not support or add to my original arguments? Why not quote other sources in support? The reason is i think what i saw my major blunder as. I allowed the discussion [Great job by con] to avoid the question and divert from the topic. What I should have done is keep going back to the topic at hand and if anything add more support to my original post.

I also want to mention boy it is hard going first. As the opponent gets the last say in and you cant respond. Hard to deal with but i love the debate format on this site. Thanks for your comments that should very much help me improve.
Posted by BrendanD19 2 years ago
Note that I am leaving a nonvoting RFD, as I currently lack voting rights.

Conduct: This point goes to con. The conduct in this debate was quite good by both sides until the final round. Following his conclusion, the Pro added another section titled "What was lost." This segment was not an argument in the debate nor was it a rebuttal to anything said by the Con. This was effectively an editorial comment by the Pro on his view the post civil war federal government. This is a clear violation of debate etiquette. It is inappropriate to post any thing after the conclusion other than technical notes, your sources or thanking your opponent. Making an editorial comment unrelated in anyway to the debate.
This is not to say that the con was without fault,max the con did make snide and snarky comments in the debate.

Spelling and Grammar: Both sides had several spelling and grammar errors, however none were very significant and Spelling and grammar was fairly good on both sides.

Arguments: Con wins on arguments. The con showed how sovereignty was a major issue to the upper southern states defined in the resolution. He backed up his claims using primary sources from each of the states in question. The con's argument that slavery was the cause of secession may be valid for the cotton states (as the Pro acknowledged), however the Con never responds to the arguments made by the Pro on the individual states which chose to secede. While Slavery may have been the overall catalyst which led to the civil war, the upper southern states did not secede because of that issue, as demonstrated by the Pro.

Sources: This point goes to the pro as the Pro used much better sources, and relied heavily on primary sources, such as the declarations of secession by these states. The Cons sources were comparatively lacking in context and relevance.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
Thanks for the advice. Also thanks for welcoming me to the forum. great debate.
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