Southern Plantations & Charm

Who
was the “Father of Secession”?

John
C. Calhoun

Since the 1830’s, John C. Calhoun has been known as the “Father of Secession”
because of his strong commitment to states rights, a limited central government,
nullification of Federal laws by the state and free trade. This had not always
been the case. He had been a proponent of a strong Federal government after the
War of 1812.
The Tariff of 1828 or Tariff of Abominations began to change Calhoun’s mind. The
tariff was passed for no other reason than to protect northern industry and was
harmful to the Southern economy. It was at this point that Calhoun stated that
any state had the right to nullify any law made by the Federal government which
was unconstitutional.
By 1832, the tariffs had become such an issue that the South Carolina
legislature declared these taxes unconstitutional and refused to collect them
for the Federal government. Congress quickly passed the Force Bill giving the
President power to send a military force into any state who did not comply with
Federal law. South Carolina quickly nullified the Force Bill. The U.S. Navy was
dispatched to Charleston Harbor.
War was averted by the Compromise Tariff of 1833. This gradually lowered the
tariff rate to just 20% on imported goods over the course of the next ten years.
But, was John C. Calhoun truly the “Father of Secession”?
Timothy Pickering

Timothy Pickering was a senator from the state of Massachusetts and a member of
the Federalist Party. In 1803, he got into an argument with President John Adams
because the president planned to make peace with France. He then attempted to
get the New England states to secede from the Union and form a separate
Confederacy.
Josiah Quincy

In 1811, Louisiana was applying for statehood, Massachusetts Congressman Josiah
Quincy was bitterly opposed admitting another Southern state. He stated that it
was his “deliberate opinion, that if this bill passes, the
bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved; that the States that compose it are
free from their moral obligations; and that, as it will be the right of all, so
it will be the duty of some, to prepare definitely for a separation, amicably if
they can, violently if they must.” He is given credit as the first person to
speak of secession on the floor of congress.
But, what have others said about the right of a state to secede from the Federal
government?
James Buchanan

Just before the Civil War began, President James Buchanan in a message to
congress said, “The fact is that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can
never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it can not
live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress possesses
many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was not placed in
their hand to preserve it by force.”
Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson said, “If any state in the Union will declare that it
prefers separation…to a continuance in union… I have no hesitation in
saying, ‘let us separate.’ “
Did
this man believe in secession?

When the United States went to war with Mexico, most Northerners believed the
South supported the war out of greed for Mexican land. Illinois Congressman
Abraham Lincoln stood on the floor of congress and announced, “Any people
anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and
shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.
This is a most sacred right — a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate
the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an
existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that
can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much territory as they
inhabit”.
Ironically in 1861, he would change his opinion of the legality of secession.
Why? When told by New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley that the Southern
states should be allowed to go in peace, Lincoln replied by asking where the
Federal government would get its revenue.
Also in 1826, the United States Military Academy at West Point had a text book
called Rawle’s View of the Constitution. This book taught the right of a state
to secede.
It’s interesting to note that John C. Calhoun wasn’t the first man to propose a
state’s right to secede, but he is the most famous and that is because South
Carolina eventually did secede and a war resulted that cost the country over
650,000 lives.

One thought on “Southern Plantations & Charm

  1. Dear Mr. Kent:

    I am interested in my Alabama lineage and am having trouble locating information on my ancestor, John Davenport who lived in Lawrence Co. AL at the time of the War of The Northern Aggression. My other ancestor James Goode was with the 16th AL. Any suggestions? I’m driven to find out about my lineage and would appreciate any suggestions you might have.

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