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Author Topic: Question about Jefferson
Szymon
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I wonder if any of you know, I dont trust wikipedia on this one.

Was Jefferson correct about the fact that southern states had right to secede? Had the Confederacy not attacked, Union would have no right to attack the South? Or was it just rebellion?

Or is it still disputed:)?

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BlackBlade
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I assume you are talking about Jefferson Davis? It's unusual to talk about historical figures by their first name, unless they are royalty.
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Samprimary
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Jefferson was both incorrect and mostly irrelevant towards the issue of the 'constitutionality of secession.' He didn't play any part in creating the constitution, and sought to undermine it pretty heavily until the day he was in charge, at which point he (surprise!) changed his way. If he's supposed to be the central cause célèbre of an idea of the states having the constitutional right to secede, um.

Here's the long and short of it, though: the constitution presupposes the union of the United States. The Treaty of Paris was not between England and 13 separate states, it was between England and the whole of the United States. That, and the constitution overtly grants the federal government the right to put down rebellion, so the first order of the day for someone trying to assert a constitutional right to secede is to assert that the breakaway of the southern states from the laws of the constitution is in no credible sense rebellion.

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Launchywiggin
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Long quote, my emphasis bolded:

quote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — 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, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
From the Declaration of Independence (not the Constitution)
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I assume you are talking about Jefferson Davis? It's unusual to talk about historical figures by their first name, unless they are royalty.

Thomas Jefferson.
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Lisa
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It was assumed by everyone prior to Lincoln's War that secession was a right. New England came very close to seceding at one time, and the only objections to it were practical ones. Secession is not in any way "rebellion", and if Lincoln had considered it so, he would have used that as a stated reason for his war.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
It was assumed by everyone prior to Lincoln's War that secession was a right.
What a lovely, incredibly broad statement, with no qualifiers, that is totally untrue.

You know the question of secession changes from decade to decade depending on who you ask. New England didn't come THAT close to secession, but they threw a pretty major hissy fit. The Hartford Convention was formed in the 1810s to talk about government reforms necessary to protect New England's economy, as the War of 1812 had played havoc with northern shipping concerns, much in the same way that the South threw a hissy fit over slavery, though frankly I think they had far less reason to considering the north wasn't even close to banning southern slavery even after Lincoln was elected. Regardless though, secession in the north was shouted about during the most fever pitched moments of the Convention, but it never really went anywhere beyond shouting. Texas talks about secession all the time, how close do you really think they are to trying it?

Anyway, the same northern states that talked about secession in the 1810s were the most adamant that the south didn't have the right when the south tried 50 years later. Those same northern states also didn't think the south had the right during the Nullification Crisis, and frankly, I don't think most of the South really had the stomach for it then, not given how easily Jackson was able to mollify them.

As for whether or not there was a right to secede, well, that's tricky. SCOTUS has since agreed with Lincoln that the union is eternal. There's nothing in the Constitution that provides for secession. Plus I think you have to really evaluate the merits of the south's particular complaints regarding secession. They virtually controlled the Federal government for decades, and then they lose one election, take their ball, and go home? Even after the Crittendon Amendments were offered? Not exactly a good faith argument, especially considering the government had always been a majority rule apparatus with respect for protected minority rights. As soon as they were in the minority and decided they didn't like that, they cried foul. I don't have much sympathy.

BTW, Lincoln DID use rebellion as a MAJOR pretext for launching federal troops at the south. Slavery was downplayed, in part because it was such a hot-button issue with widely varying viewpoints in the north. "The union is eternal" was a drumbeat phrase. And the Confederates weren't called "Johnny Rebs" for nothing; they were considered rebels. The south was in rebellion, and it was the right of the president under the Constitution to put down insurrections and rebellions.

By the by, how do you reconcile the fact that the Declaration of Independence says you have the right to throw off an oppressive government with the fact that the Constitution gives the government the power to put down insurrections and rebellions?

Besides, if slavery really was the main issue, and let's face it, when you get to the heart of every complaint the south had, slavery was waiting in the wings somewhere, then the Declaration of Independence is the worst document you can use for proof to support the southern cause. It says right in there that men have natural rights, but the south's entire position rested on their right to REPRESS the natural rights of slaves. A lot of these things were new and fluid ideas, but it was still there. Read what Lysander Spooner wrote in the 1850s and 1860s.

When would Thomas Jefferson have even talked about southern succession? I'm not saying he didn't, but he died before both the Nullification Crisis and the Civil War. I'm guessing it was one of those flippant remarks he made while he was in France buying himself into bankruptcy on French furniture and books, cozying up to the horrors of the French Revolution while having little regard for the terrible consequences they wreaked. Jefferson was fond of saying a lot of crap without thinking at all about the human consequences.

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Black Fox
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Kind of a moot point, Lincoln basically created the precedent that secession is a no go by crushing the South. One of the excellent examples that "possesion is nine-tenths of the law."
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
Secession is not in any way "rebellion", and if Lincoln had considered it so, he would have used that as a stated reason for his war.

Very, very selective libertarian history and word definition there. Here, let's quote lincoln himself.

quote:
They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps, through all the incidents, to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is, that any state of the Union may, consistently with the national Constitution, and therefore lawfully, and peacefully, withdraw from the Union, without the consent of the Union, or of any other state. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.

With rebellion thus sugar-coated, they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years; and, until at length, they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretence of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.

This sophism derives much – perhaps the whole – of its currency, from the assumption, that there is some omnipotent, and sacred supremacy, pertaining to a State – to each State of our Federal Union.

Evidently, lincoln considered the southern secession an act of rebellion!
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AchillesHeel
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If the confederacy had truely believed in secession than Jones County Missippi would have never left the Union as they voted against it, and fought for the Union from within for much of the war. The men were forced to leave thier families and farms untended under the confederacy's draft while other soldiers never stopped taking what crops and livestock thier wives and children could still handle.

Drafted soldiers and poor dirt-farmer areas had no right to secede from the confederacy, and were treated as rebels by the rebels themselves when they tried.

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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
If the confederacy had truely believed in secession than Jones County Missippi would have never left the Union as they voted against it, and fought for the Union from within for much of the war. The men were forced to leave thier families and farms untended under the confederacy's draft while other soldiers never stopped taking what crops and livestock thier wives and children could still handle.

Drafted soldiers and poor dirt-farmer areas had no right to secede from the confederacy, and were treated as rebels by the rebels themselves when they tried.

was succession addressed in the constitution of the state of mississippi? also, to what extent can one take such an argument? could a city succeed from a county? a neighborhood from a city? a family from a neighborhood? what allows for such a right and which entity guarantees/enforces it?
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AchillesHeel
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The confederacy seceded on the basis that it felt that the Union was not doing what was best for thier citizens and refused to improve upon the lives of southerners. Statehood was not thier justification, so realisticly Jones County Missippi who were almost all dirt farmers (i.e. poor farmers with no slaves and inhospitable land) and no interest in a war over something they didnt do were maliciously hampered and violently effected when they were forced against thier will to join the confederacy and not allowed to leave.

Thier argument was indeed more valid in the same lines that the confederacy used to secede, but it was rebellion to secede from them.

The validity of secession vs. rebellion is something that only history can decide, if not for General Lafayette and the hessians switching to the American side Washington and Jefferson would have been remembered as selfish terrorists.

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BlackBlade
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When did the Hessians switch to the American side?
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AchillesHeel
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When we gave them free land that resembled Germany, some of the NE states were colonized by German-Americans.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
When we gave them free land that resembled Germany, some of the NE states were colonized by German-Americans.

News to me. Seriously!
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Lyrhawn
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I've never heard of that either. Now I'd like to look into it. Do you know where you read or heard that, Achilles?
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AchillesHeel
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One of those random memories from high school American history, the books may have been a bit funny considering how old they were but I know for a fact that a couple thousand stayed and moved up into that territory.
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kmbboots
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As I recall, the Hessians didn't really have a choice. The Duke of Brunswick basically sold them to the British army. After the surrender at Saratoga, he basically abandoned the soldiers here.
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BlackBlade
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It appears there's some substance to your talk of Hessians. Thanks for mentioning it. As somebody who prides himself on knowing a lot about our revolutionary history, learning some significant things about a major piece of that history was a real treat. [Smile]
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kmbboots
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Nothing about that article indicated that the Hessians, as a group switched sides or that any who deserted before the war was over made a difference.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Nothing about that article indicated that the Hessians, as a group switched sides or that any who deserted before the war was over made a difference.

Well yeah there's nothing to indicate that they suddenly switched sides and made a difference in the outcome, but it did discuss our trying to buy them, as well as a goodly number of them settling the NE United States.
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kmbboots
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It seemed to me that AchillesHeel was saying that the colonies would have lost without the Hessians switching sides. I don't think that is the case.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
It seemed to me that AchillesHeel was saying that the colonies would have lost without the Hessians switching sides. I don't think that is the case.

On that I agree, I'd forgotten his original assertion.
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AchillesHeel
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Yeah, I rescind that. Sorry.
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