Often when the issue of secession has been “historically” dealt with it has been done in such a manner as to give the impression that it was purely a Southern political phenomenon. Clearly our present establishment “historians” love to have it so. As usual, there is a little more to the story than what they are pleased to tell us.
Lots of people other than Southerners, in years gone by, admitted the right of secession in this country. Well-known anti-slavery American jurist Joseph Story admitted the right of a state to withdraw from the Union. Judge Story stated: “The obvious deductions which may be, and indeed have been drawn, from considering the Constitution as a Compact between the States, are, that it operates as a mere treaty, or convention between them, and has an obligatory force upon each State no longer that it suits its pleasures, or its consent continues;…and that each State retains the power to withdraw from the Confederacy, and to dissolve the connection, when such shall be its choice;…” So it would seem that Judge Story thus admitted the right of a state to secede.
Thomas Jefferson believed in the right of state secession, and, according to Alexander H. Stephens, the Kentucky Resolutions fully established this.
Even ultra-nationalist Alexander Hamilton was forced, by his own admission, to admit that the right of state secession existed. In regard to Hamilton, Alexander Stephens, who was named after him, wrote: “Even Mr. Hamilton must have believed that this right was incident to the systems; for in his urgent appeals to Mr. Jefferson, as early as 1790, for his influence with members of Congress, in aid of the bill for the assumption of the States debts, he presented the strong reason, that if the measure should not pass, there was great danger of a secession of the members from the creditor States, which would end in ‘a separation of the States.’…he was Secretary of the Treasury. Would he have urged such an argument if he had not believed that those States had a right to withdraw?” That’s an interesting question that those nationalists today of the Hamilton stripe might consider addressing themselves to–then again, maybe not.
And William Rawle, U.S. District Attorney under George Washington, said: “The Union is an association of the people of Republics; its preservation is calculated to depend on the preservation of those republics…It depends on the State itself, to retain or abolish the principle of representation; because it depends on itself, whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right, would be inconsistent with the principles on which all our political systems are founded;…”
Even DeToqueville addressed the secession question. He had stated: “The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their Nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the States chose to withdraw its name from the contract, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so,…”
Even Utopian socialist Horace Greeley, no real friend of the South, said that: “The right to secede may be a revolutionary one, but it exists nonetheless;…We hope never to live in a Republic whereof one section is pinned to the residue by bayonets.” It could be that Mr. Greeley didn't really understand the motives of Abraham Lincoln, who had, himself, recognized the right of secession in early 1848–conveniently, just before the onslaught of the socialist revolts in Europe! Again, for more about that read Lincoln’s Marxists.
Just before, and during, the War of Northern Aggression, the sentiment in favor of secession came from other areas of the country and not just from below Mason-Dixon.
In Douglas County, Illinois a meeting was held which announced that: “We regard the Emancipation Proclamation…as the entering wedge which will ultimately divide the middle and northwestern states from our mischief-making, puritanical, fanatical New England brethren…” Culturally, this has happened, even though Lincoln’s “mystical Union” has been held together with bayonets.
In Brown County, Indiana, a gathering was convened that put forth this sentiment: “…Our interests and inclinations will demand of us a withdrawal from political association in a common government with the New England states, who have contributed so much to every innovation upon the Constitution to our present calamity of civil war, and whose tariff legislation must ever prove oppressive to our agricultural and commercial pursuits.” Mind you, such secession sentiments are coming forth from Indiana and Illinois.
Other sources have cited secession sentiment in even the Middle Atlantic states–New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Author William C. Wright has written that: “The secession movement was prominent in the five Middle Atlantic states. Within these five states were three types of secessionists; first, those who wanted to join the Confederacy; second, those who wished to form a central confederacy, that is, to join with the other border states and divide the United States into three separate nations; third, those who preferred to let the South go in peace rather than to use force to save the Union.”
Wright noted that Pennsylvania was the most pro-Union of these states, while New Jersey had strong economic and social ties with the South. New York was divided between the up-state region which supported the Union and the Hudson Valley and New York City areas that had ties to the South. New York City Mayor Fernando Wood had even made the proposition that New York City be made into a “free city.” Wright has duly noted that: “Together, the advocates of secession weakened the Lincoln administration’s ability to react to the Confederacy. At the same time, they offered the South hope of Northern support if war broke out.” In view of this, one might be led to wonder if this situation was the real reason for Lincoln’s actions in regard to Fort Sumter. I might also question why almost none of this type of material is ever presented in our “history” books, if such they can seriously be called. But that would be little more than a rhetorical exercise because I already know why.
The majority of people today, North and South, largely due to the abolitionist propaganda presented in our “history” books (whoever said history books had to teach real history?) and the rampant apostasy in the country as a whole, have viewed secession and the War of Northern Aggression in a strictly secular light. Many who have studied history will readily admit to the political and economic causes of the War, though some continue to persist it was all about slavery. However, most will not touch the theological reasons for secession.
However, there were many in the South that viewed secession in the same light that they viewed the biblical separation spoken of in Second Corinthians 6:14-18. They looked at an increasingly apostate and “progressive” North, while, in the main, most Southerners clung to orthodox Christianity. Informed Southerners watched much of the Northern clergy, no doubt influenced by the taint of Unitarianism, seek to deify man and to exalt the goodness of his human nature and his “free will.” It was the same sort of thing they did with abolitionist/terrorist John Brown in 1859 where Northern Unitarians claimed that Brown’s gallows was equal to Christ’s cross.
The late Professor M. E. Bradford, writing in the Southern Partisan magazine for the fourth quarter of 1991, noted that: “…Professor Bell Wiley observes, the Southern churches had always warned their communicants against ‘extreme confidence in human endeavor.’ The ordinary Southerner of 1860 did not approach the world as did those who had voted for Mr. Lincoln. They were…’as dubious of human ability in social and political matters as in the matter of salvation.’ The belief of the sovereignty of God and dependence of man was the whole of their thinking.”
In regard to Southern clergymen, Professor Bradford wrote: “Because most Southern clergymen were, during the years of sectional conflict within their denominations, convinced that apostasy and infidelity had become the dominant religions of the North.” You know something? They were right! Bradford observed that: “As the War approached, these (Southern) clergymen more and more tended to view the sectional controversy as a dispute between those who acknowledged the authority of the Scripture and those who set their own moral sense above it–in other words, between Christians and infidels.”
Thus we have another, seldom acknowledged, yet perhaps the most important dimension to the secession question–the spiritual and theological dimension. The majority probably have no interest in dealing with this aspect of the question. The “history” they’ve been taught tells them not to, but the spiritual dimension was and is here and needs to be dealt with. As someone with a Christian worldview, I believe all truth is educational and all things, ultimately, reflect someone’s theology. Everything eventually comes down to this–choose who you will serve, the Trinitarian God of the Scriptures or the World System. It has to be one or the other. Many Southern secessionists held to this view. For them, although political issues were prominent as were economic ones, their ultimate view of secession was a theological view. They viewed the doctrine of biblical separation and secession as one. In our apostate day, such a conclusion merits our serious consideration.
A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States
by Alexander H. Stephens (volume one)
Krause Reprint Company, New York, 1970
Democracy in America
by Alexis de Tocqueville (volume one)
Vintage Books, New York, July, 1990
The Hidden Civil War
by Wood Gray
Viking Press, New York, 1942
The Secession Movement in the Middle Atlantic States
by William C. Wright
Associated University Presses, Inc. Cranberry, New Jersey, copyright 1973
A Theological and Political View of the Doctrine of Secession
by Al Benson Jr.
The Copperhead Chronicle, Sterlington, Louisiana, copyright 1995, reprinted 2009
(booklet 30 pages)