Peter, before I address your positions defending a strong central government and your position that slavery alone is the cause of the war, allow me this analogy:

The issue at hand is similar to a walnut. The shell, surrounding the ‘meat’, is very strong and must be cracked in order to examine what’s inside. In our little debate the ‘shell’ is slavery and the ‘meat’ are those ideas that swirled about the body politic during the slave period (1787-1860): the compact theory of American government, the right of secession, the right of revolution, federal tariffs/taxes, state interposition/nullification, and states’ rights.
Of course, the idea that slavery is singularly important in the discussion goes without saying. But, the question is, is it the only reason, or even the most important reason, as a cause of the ‘late unpleasantness?’
My answer to that inquiry is simply, NO.
I reached that conclusion by stripping ‘African chattel slavery’ out of the problem. What if there had never been slaves, from Africa or anywhere else, imported into the United States? What if white South Carolinians, Georgians, Alabamians, et al had picked their own cotton and rice and cut their own tobacco?

So now we have a condition where there are no enslaved Africans.
Would that fact have settled the question of the compact theory? NO.
Would that have changed or altered or, indeed, had any effect on the question of the right of revolution and secession in the public square? NO!
Would that have stopped Yankee legislators from enacting punitive tariffs/taxes against the South? NO.
Would that have stopped Yankee legislators from transferring wealth from the South to pay for Northern ‘improvements?’ No.
Would that have changed Jefferson’s interpretation of state interposition/nullification? NO.
Consequently, federal imposition of unfair tariffs/taxes, the federal effort to limit the reserve rights of the state or to inhibit the states’ right to interpose itself between an unconstitutional federal law and the people were all, potentially, grounds for secession.

Furthermore, let us consider that the United States of America was itself founded upon secession. You know that as well as I. We might then consider that ‘secession’ is the first of American principles, for without secession from Great Britain we do not exist as a political entity, we would not enjoy our cherished freedoms, we would have no knowledge of liberty had we not seceded. Consequently, Jefferson’s ‘principles of ‘98’ ’ act to reinforce the obligation of the state to correct or to challenge a federal usurpation or misinterpretation of the Constitution, with the final corrective (should all else fail) being secession. For you to imply that Jefferson would not support secession predicated on an unjust/puntative tariff or tax or on any unjust, immoral act that threatened the loss of freedom or any usurpation by a corrupt federal regime is just not true. Please keep in mind he was willing to state in writing that secession was a possibility because of the Alien and Sedition Act, the legislation that moved him (and Madison) to write the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions in the first place.

Actually Northern state legislators were the first to enact nullification legislation, for example in nullifying the Embargo Act of 1809 (an application of Jefferson’s (Madison) Virginia and Kentucky Resolves of 1798) and was seconded by all of the New England states as well as Delaware which referred to it as a “unconstitutional usurpation of power.” When the War of 1812 broke out following the Embargo Act Connecticut officials wrote that:

(The ‘blocked’ segments are quotations from Dr. Thomas J. Dilorenzo’s essay, “The Northern States’ Rights Tradition.” available here:

“ . . . . 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. The building cannot stand, if the pillars upon which it rests, are impaired or destroyed.”

The above quote from these learned Connecticut representative reflects an erudite understanding of Jefferson’s principles not only of ‘98’ but also of the olde revolution itself. Below DiLorenzo points out that these New England officials had additional concerns about the intentions of their Southern countrymen:

“The embargo, the war, and the Louisiana Purchase incited the New England Federalist Party to begin planning to secede from the Union. Governor Griswold of Connecticut announced the reason why: “The balance of power under the present government is decidedly in favor of the Southern states . . . The extent and increasing population of those states must forever secure to them the preponderance which they now possess . . . . [New Englanders] are paying the principal part of the expenses of government” without receiving commensurate benefits. Thus, “there can be no safety to the Northern States without a separation from the confederacy” (Henry Adams, Documents Relating to New England Federalism, 1800—1815, p. 376). John C. Calhoun would make this exact same argument some two decades later in complaining about the federal “Tariff of Abominations.””

DiLorenzo’s essay details several more instances when Northern states utilized state interposition/nullification to restrict the attempted usurpations of the federal government.

Your NO. 3, is simply wrong.
The idea of compact is grounded on the guaranteed rights of states as the fundamental constitutional political entity charged with protecting and guarding its reserved rights and the hard won liberties of her citizens. The states then, in convention, established the General Government.
The question presented is what entity shall interpret the constitutionality of federal legislation and actions. The consolidators argue that that privilege belongs to the SCOTUS. The problem, of course, is that the SCOTUS is a significant part of the general government and will be inclined by the nature of men, both good and evil, to support and defend their coevals at the expense of the states. We experience that phenomenon frequently these days.
On the other hand Calhoun and Jefferson and indeed, the Northern representatives described in Dr. DiLorenzo’s essay, understand that the final analysis must be in the hands of the people’s representatives in the sundry state legislatures. And, that long before the question of ‘secession’ is raised there is a plethora of political exigencies to exercise. The legislature of the state can communicate with the federal administration in an effort to seek redress. Failing that the state legislature can follow Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Ohio, Delaware et al in nullifying the offending federal legislation and await the reply of the general government. In all of these actions there will be expended a great deal of time; perhaps the general government will relent in its usurpations as it has done in most instances, perhaps the people of the states will relent in their objections and find redress in the response of the general government. Who can say. But, what is required of the state as the last constitutional line of defense, is the protection and safe guarding of the people’s liberties and the obtainment of God’s ‘justice,’ not the ‘justice’ of Leviathan.

I am greatly distressed that you would insult Cahoun’s intentions. He was after all a ‘national’ man who loved liberty as much as any American who ever lived. This from Calhoun’s Fort Hill Address, 26 July 1831:
“To be national has, indeed, been considered by many, even of my friends, to be my greatest political fault. With these strong feelings of attachment, I have examined with the utmost care, the bearing of the doctrine in question; and so far from anarchical, or revolutionary, I solemnly believe it to be, the only solid foundation of our system, and of the Union itself, and that the opposite doctrine, which denies to the States the right of protecting their reserved powers, and which would vest in the General Government, (it matters not what Department) the right of determining exclusively and finally the powers delegated to it, is incompatible with the sovereignty of the States, and of the Constitution itself, considered as the basis of a federal Union. As strong as this language is, it is not stronger, than that used by the illustrious Jefferson, who said, to give to the General Government the final and exclusive right to judge the powers, is to make “its discretion and not the Constitution the measure of its powers”; and that, “in all cases of compact between parties having no common Judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of the infractions, as of the mode and measure of redress.” Language cannot be more explicit; nor can higher authority be adduced.”

The issue then devolves on the ancient question, whether ours will be an absolute or constitutional government “resting ultimately on the sovereignty of the states, or on the unrestrained will of a majority; a form of government, as in all other unlimited ones, in which injustice, and violence, and force must finally prevail.”

And, because of your expressed admiration for state secession documents, this from the Georgia secessionists:

“ . . . The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the Federal Government; that of the the South not at all. In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade. Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. Theses interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency. The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country . . . ”

More on: Etcetera

Show 0 comments