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The right of secession.

First and foremost of the States which seceded appealed to the Constitution in justification of their course. The rightfulness of this contention must be determined not by our conceptions of what would have been the best system of government or the best form of constitution, but what, in the light of the admitted facts of history, and the actual terms of the Constitution as adopted, were the relative rights of the States and of the Union, with respect to this great problem. I can not, upon this occasion, do more than epitomise the facts and reasoning upon which the advocates of secession maintained the justice of their cause. It will help to a clearer understanding if we take one Commonwealth and portray her relations to the Union, and as we are to-day to honor the memory of Virginians, I shall select for that purpose our native State.

Virginia was one of the original colonies, having a separate existence from the other colonies, and yet, like the others, forming an integral part of the British Empire. Pending this political relation, the allegiance of her citizens was due the British crown.

On the 15th of May, 1776, the people of Virginia met in convention, and acting without association with any of the other colonies, declared her separation from and independence of Great Britain.

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