Was Secession Legal?
From: "btzoumas@bellsouth.net"


I continue to be impressed by the logic of our Confederate forebears in their defence of their noble cause. And, I continue to be delighted at finding jewels like this one. Kathy Clark-Tilson, {God bless her} of the West Palm Beach UDC, has placed in my trust another book of the compiled Confederate Veterans magazines, published by Broadfoot Publishing for the National Historical Society. This particular book is of the year 1896, Volume IV.

Beginning on page 222, a General Clement A. Evans, of Georgia, begins writing a long essay called OUR CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL DAY. On page 227 is where this comes from and is it good! Especially important here is the logic in the second paragraph. So square, so startling, so simple, so persuasive.

Please copy and paste this to y’alls hard drive for future use.

At Your Service,
I Remain Respectfully,
Jimmy L. Shirley Jr.

"But let us pass over the whole of that melancholy controversy of a half century and take up that record which we made in our choice at last of the mode and measure of redress. That mode was separate secession by the ordinance of each State, passed in regular convention of delegates elected by the people after full and fair discussion, and upon the advice of jurists who were among the profoundest lawyers of America. Was the act lawful? Did the Southern States rashly act on this momentous question in passionate defiance of known law? The answer is supremely important, because Southern patriots cannot afford to let a biased history praise them for their courage, while it denounces them as outlaws. The answer will not affect our present loyalty to the Union, because the States are now in the fraternal bonds of a compact which makes <>secession no longer legal; but, considering the Union as it was in 1860, the question is put: Was the State ordinance of secession plainly unlawful then? Had the Southern States no color or right to secede? Was armed coercion unquestionably legal? Replying as a student of my country’s glorious history, I can say that, without the understanding that States could withdraw in peace, it is not probable that the Union, under our wise constitution, would have been formed at all. Viewing the question as a patriot, I can see how our forefathers regarded this privilege as a conservative, beneficial provision adapted to restrain the general government from acts of sectional injustice, and why it was so long expressly avowed by States and statesmen not of the South alone, but also of the East and North, as a just defense of the States against the accumulation of Federal power. Answering as a lawyer, I present the first records of the States that formed the Union; and, reading the debates of that period, to interpret the various terms by which one State after another had entered into the great confederation, I must say that if this privilege was not strongly implied, then the States were betrayed into ratifying a constitution which they did not understand. But we see further that some States expressly provided for the exercise of this privilege as a condition of their accession to the Union, and by a just principle it is made clear that a right reserved by one State became at once the right of all States. President Buchanan and other statesmen who were embarrassed by the political situation in 1860 tried to argue that secession and coercion were both equally illegal; but if the constitution conferred no power to use the army and navy of the Union and the militia of the States to coerce a seceded State coercion was illegal, being unconferred and without sanction of a penalty or the power to enforce it. Doubtless our government always had the constitutional power to command a State to obey the law or go out of the Union; but if the armed coercion of a seceded State was unlawful, then secession must have been the lawful procedure which the original States contemplated as their rightful resort. So clear to the minds of many jurists in 1865, so doubtful in others was this doctrine of secession, that our government was compelled, in view of the great interests at stake, to concede to the States the color or right to secede in every measure adopted by Congress, State convention, and constitutional amendment, adopted to re-establish the relations of the seceded States with the other States after the Confederate armies were destroyed ; and, in fact, the whole question was yielded by the final decision not to try Jefferson Davis on the charge of treason.

The South did not attempt nullification or rebellion or any form of unlawful resistance to our government. It did not dissolve the Union, nor even attempt its dissolution; for how may our Union have been lawfully dissolved? By one method alone, and that is by agreement of all the States. Our Union could not have been dissolved by one State or by a majority of States, but only by all States; but the South made no call for such a measure, preferring to leave each State to act for itself according to its pleasure, and accordingly each seceding State dissolved only its own connection with the Union, and left the government of the Union undissolved. The President, the Congress, the courts, the army and navy, the constitution and the flag, together with every function of government, were left in power and place. Suppose the State had resolved to remain in the Union, and had marched its army toward Washington to resist the inauguration of President Lincoln. That would have been rebellion; the overt act would have been treasonable; the failure of the act would have made it a felonous crime, and its success would have imperiled free government on this continent; but no State rebelled, no statesman plotted a conspiracy, no soldier committed treason. In lawful and dignified measures the South sought an honorable separation, and, with equally honorable acquiescence in its failure, reentered the Union to defend its honor and maintain its glory forever.

Such is the record of the lawful course of the South in separating from the United States, and this procedure was followed by a record of the civil administration of the Confederate States Government, which will bear the severest criticism, and has won the rare encomium from a noble soul beyond the seas, who said: <>
No nation ever rose so fair.
<> None fell so free from crime.

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