Was Secession Constitutional?

One of the questions sure to spark a sharp debate is the question of whether secession was constitutional at the time of the secession crisis of 1860-61.  Yes, I know there’s an argument on whether secession’s constitutional today, but, frankly, that’s a different argument, given a few events such as Texas v. White (1869).  To this day, however, people flatly declare that secession is or is not constitutional, followed by comments that suggest that they question the sanity if not the intelligence of anyone who holds a contrary view.

As a historian, what’s important to me is that Americans in 1860-61 disagreed over whether secession was constitutional.  Some people said yes, some people said no.  There had been much discussion of this issue ever since the framing of the Constitution itself, and no one emerged with an argument that was satisfactory to all.  Continue reading

Some Advice for Modern Day Secession Advocates

Over the last several years there’s been quite a revival in the use of the concept of secession as one way to address various problems.  While some people claim (with a great deal of support) that the claim for a constitutional right of secession was rejected by the Supreme Court in 1869, and others say the issue was resolved through force of arms (an argument that to me asserts that might makes right), still others endorse the concept.  Moreover, the concept is not restricted to white southerners, although it does seem to attract them in disproportionate numbers, including those who would like to create a separate southern nation.

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