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[172]

The right of secession.

A distinguished English writer says:

I believe the right of secession is so clear, that if the South had wished to do so, for no better reason than that it could not bear to he beaten in an election, like a sulky school-boy out of temper at not winning a game, and had submitted the question of its right to withdraw from the Union to the decision of any court of law in Europe, she would have carried her point.

Indeed, the decision of this question might, with propriety, and doubtless would, have rested for all time on the principles enunciated in the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798 and ‘99, and the report of Mr. Madison on these resolutions. The Virginia resolutions and report were drawn by Mr. Madison, the ‘father of the Constitution;’ and those of Kentucky by Mr. Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.

These principles, emanating from these ‘master-builders,’ would, as we have said, have settled the rights of the States on this question forever, but for the fact, as Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, of Massachusetts tells us that the North was controlled by expediency, and not by principle, in the consideration of them. These resolutions, when adopted by Virginia and Kentucky, were sent to the Northern Legislatures for their concurrence; and the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts, from whom we are quoting, says in terms, in his Life of Webster, that when the resolutions were thus submitted, ‘they were not opposed on constitutional grounds, but only on those of expediency, and hostility to the revolution they were considered to embody.’ That they did not, and could not, cite any constitutional principle as ground for their rejection, only they held that the revolution involved in their application was at that time inexpedient. In other words, it did not pay the New England States to endorse the principles of those resolutions then; but when they thought they were being oppressed by the Federal Government a few years later (as we shall presently see), they were not only ready to endorse these resolutions, but actually threatened to secede from the union.


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