The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

"The secession of the confederate states was legal as they were sovereign states at the time"

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Started: 7/27/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 645 times Debate No: 94149
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I will take the pro position that The secession of the confederate states was legal as they were sovereign states at the time.


I accept this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you Tokamak I look forward to this debate. I think it can be as good as our last.

The right to secession in American History

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable - a most sacred right - a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.”
-Abraham Lincoln 1848

“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

The right to self govern is the most fundamental American right there is. It is what led to the revolution. America prior to 1860 maintained a confederation of sovereign states. These states were self governing and independent. The right to secession has been a fundamental right of sovereign states in American history. It has been more common of northern states in America prior to 1860, to discuss or threatened secession. Lincoln turned history on its head and declared the nation created the states and states had no right to leave the union. He also declared the entire people [not the states simple democracy] created the union.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”

-Declaration of Independence

The declaration of Independence says “These colonies are, and ought to be free and independent States.” The deceleration is itself a succession document. When the revolution ended the king of England made a peace treaty with each and every state, not with one American nation. Under the articles of confederation article 1 section 2. “Each state retains its sovereignty freedom and Independence.” This is at odds with Lincolns view, but even so, some will say the peoples of the states gave up sovereignty when they ratified the Constitution. However nowhere in the constitution does it say anything about seccsion. The tenth amendment says "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." Therefore secession is a states jurisdiction.

"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

The first draft of the preamble to the constitution read “we the people of the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode island etc.. when they realized not all states might adopt it, they left out the states to ratify as they chose to. The constitution was than ratified by the states, not the American people. The self governing sovereign people of the individual states appointed representative from each state to ratify the constitution. The states existed prior to and created the constitution out of their own free will. In federalist #39 James Madison “The father of the constitution” said the constitution was ratified by the people “Not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent states to which they respectively belong” “states were considered a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only bound by its own voluntary act.” Virginia,New York and Rhode Island reserved the right to secede from the union before ratifying the constitution. They also declared the right for other states, the others assumed this was the case.

In the constitution “united states” is always in plural, not the way we use it today as to refer to one nation.

“Before the war a union a collection of states... after the war we began to speak of a nation”

-Ken Burns

Thomas Jefferson

“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

In 1801 Thomas Jefferson as president said “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed.” Madison said alittel rebellion is “a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.” When as president the New England federalist were considering secession Jefferson said “If any state in the union will declare that it prefers separation...let us separate”

Other Founders

“But the indissoluble link of union between the people of the several states of this confederated nation, is after all, not in the right, but in the heart. If the day should ever come, (may Heaven avert it,) when the affections of the people of these states shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give away to cold indifference, or collisions of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political association will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited states, to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect union, by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the centre”

-John Quincy Adams Northern federalist 1839

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”

The Embargo of 1807-1809

Thomas Jefferson as president declared an embargo on all American ports. Massachusetts replied “While this State maintains its sovereignty and independence, all the citizens can find protection against outrage and injustice in the strong arm of the State government..not legally binding on the citizens of this State.”

The war of 1812

When Connecticut was called to bring out its militia to guard the cost they replied

"It must not be forgotten, that the state of Connecticut is a FREE SOVEREIGN and INDEPENDENT state; that the United States are a
confederacy of states; that we are a confederated and not a consolidated republic. The governor of this state is under a high and solemn obligation, “to maintain the lawful rights and privileges thereof, as a sovereign, free and independent state,” as he is “to support the constitution of the United States,” and the obligation to support the latter, imposes an additional obligation to support the former."

1813 Embargo

In response to the embargo Massachusetts General Court approved

"A power to regulate commerce is abused, when employed to destroy it; and a manifest and voluntary abuse of power sanctions the right of resistance, as much as a direct and palpable usurpation. The sovereignty reserved to the states, was reserved to protect the citizens from acts of violence by the United States, as well as for purposes of domestic regulation. We spurn the idea that the free, sovereign and independent State of Massachusetts is reduced to a mere municipal corporation, without power to protect its people, and to defend them from oppression, from whatever quarter it comes. Whenever the national compact is violated, and the citizens of this State are oppressed by cruel and unauthorized laws, this Legislature is bound to interpose its power, and wrest from the oppressor its victim."

Hartford convention

At the convention the New England states debated whether they should leave the union. None questioned the legality, simply if it should be done.


Where did so many states, presidents,court, founders etc get the idea of state seccsion and sovighnty, if it was not legal? if it was declared illegal at the formation of the constitution, how did those like the father of the constitution Madison get it so wrong?


The real Lincoln Thomas Dilorenzo Three rivers press NY 2003
The States Right tradition nobody knows about Tom Woods
The South was Right Pelican Press 1994 Walter Kennedy

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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by 1stvermont 2 years ago
I am sorry i thought you saw/accepted the 24 hours. Would you like to host one? I would also enjoy one on the causes of the deep south.
Posted by Tokamak 2 years ago
Unfortunately, as I have told you before most people simply don't have time to fully respond in a single day. I was actually quite busy today and assumed you had set the time to 72 hours.

While I am very interested in debating this topic, I simply am not able to do it if you set the time limit on response to one day.
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