24 October 2011

Modern Lawyers Defend Secession

 Selectively, of course. Britain's position on our Declaration of Independence:

The Declaration of Independence was not only illegal, but actually treasonable. There is no legal principle then or now to allow a group of citizens to establish their own laws because they want to. What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union?

*Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right. The Declaration of Independence itself, in the absence of any recognised legal basis, had to appeal to "natural law", an undefined concept, and to "self-evident truths", that is to say truths for which no evidence could be provided.

But in defense of America's first secession:

For American lawyers, the answer is simple: "The English had used their own Declaration of Rights to depose James II and these acts were deemed completely lawful and justified," they say in their summary.

And, of course, Southern secessionists used America's secession from Britain to support their position, as did some Northern newspapers:

If [the Declaration of Independence] justifies the secession from the British empire of 3,000,000 of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of 5,000,000 of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861. – New York Tribune, 17 December 1860

Precedent is a powerful and weighty argument. Of course, the legality of secession is one discussion, the wisdom and prudence of it is quite another. Read the complete story here.

*However, following Lincoln's logic he was, himself, illegitimate and should have surrendered the whole nation back to Great Britain - right?


13thBama said...

Interesting. So, when do we get West Virginia back?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Precisely, consistency is not on the side of those arguing against the legality of secession. Again, to be clear, I'm not arguing FOR the wisdom or prudence of secession, but do believe there is a strong case to be made that it was legal, as understood by the Founders and the states in 1861, which is why Davis wanted a trial and why federal prosecutors advised against one. Its an interesting intellectual exercise.

13thBama said...

If we relinquish our demands for West Virginia maybe they will give us Florida back?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Funny man. The Brits may want in on these negotiations. ;o)

Douglas Hill said...

13th, as a native of the state of it pains me to say this, but I don't think you want Florida back.

13thBama said...

Doug, you are probably right. Parts of Alabama fall into the same category, unfortunately.

Chaps said...

Davis and Lee had as much moral right, and far more legal right, to separate from the U.S. than Jefferson and Washington had to sepaate from Britain.

Douglas Hill said...

13th, I'm not surprised to hear of this about the "Heart of Dixie", as all Southern States are deliberate targets of cultural subjagation (obviously even Virginia has unwillingly relinquished her northern counties), but it's sad to hear just the same. Last time I traveled through Alybamy two decades ago she seemed rather intact, and the state is dear to me as my roots run through there (Lowndes County) on the roundabout path from SC to FL.

BTW, you should take Rick up on his offer to join us in the field; I have a spare 'tector you can use if his are busy.

13thBama said...


It sounds like a blast. You guys drop me a line the next time you plan a trip.

As for Bama, the socialists have taken over the schools. I guess it's the same thing they are doing everywhere else.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I say keep Alabama, the panhandle of Florida, and swap the rest of Florida for West Virginia. ;o)