The right of secession—a Review of Bledsoe's able work.
From the Times-dispatch, October 20-27, 1907.
An Epitome of the views of Webster, Calhoun and other famous statesmen. By Frederick Wilmer Sims, Louisa, Va.
Is Davis a Traitor, or Was Secession a Constitutional Right, Previous to the War of 1861?
By Albert Taylor Bledsoe, A. M., L. L. D., late professor of mathematics in the University of Virginia.
Republished by Mary Barksdale Newton, in memory of her husband, Virginius Newton, of Richmond, Va. The Hermitage Press, Inc., 1907, Richmond, Va.
As expressed in its preface:
It is not the design of this book to open the subject of secession (but merely to discuss that subject from the standpoint of abstract right), in order to vindicate the character of the South for loyalty, and to wipe off the charges of treason and rebellion from the names and memories of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Albert Sydney Johnston, Robert E. Lee and all who fought and suffered in
nance of ratification of the Federal Constitution, expressly reserved the right to resume the powers delegated to the Federal Government, whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.
The idea of the individual citizen having surrendered, absolutely, certain natural rights, in order that civil society or government might be formed, under the theory of the original contract, the social contract, the social compact, or the implied social compact, discussed by numerous European writers, —some treating such contract or compact as having been in fact made, some as wholly imaginary and some as implied,— was familiar to the framers of our Federal Constitution.
But the conception that a sovereign State could make such surrender, absolutely, of certain sovereign rights, in order to form civil society or government, was, at the time of the formation and adoption of our Federal Constitution, wholly new.
Pelatiah Webster, in 1783, first expressed the idea that a Feder
played in this work.
Preamble to the Constitution.
The history of the authorship of the initial clause of our Federal Constitution, We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of Ameica; and of the writing of it by Gouverneur United States of Ameica; and of the writing of it by Gouverneur Morris, the draftsman of the committee on style; and of its adoption by the whole convention in absolute silence, is peculiarly instructive and interesting reading.
In this connection will be remembered Mr. Calhoun's suggestion, in his debate with Mr. Webster in 1833, that this phraseology—We, the people, etc.—was used as expres sovereign States, acting for themselves and for the people of the several States, respectively; and that such Constitution was not formed by the people of the United States as a whole, acting individually and nationally, with respect to the nationel powers delegated.
It will be remembered that Mr. Calhoun brought all the weight