The argument for a state's right of secession rests in the notion that the Constitution is silent on that right, and according to the 10th amendment, any rights not
delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.The argument for the right of secession cites that, since there exists no specific language within the text of the Constitution, language by which terms the states specifically delegated their rights of secession to be governed by the the federal government, then those who are of the mind, use that fact to claim that the states retained the right of secession under the Constitution.
But as we have learned in the previous installments in this series, the authority of the Constitution is limited not only by its own terms, but also by principles previously agreed and which served as given conditions under which the Constitution originally receive its authority. Because there is a flow of 'conditional authority' that runs from the Declaration of Independence, to the Articles of Confederation, that now terminates to presently reside within the Constitution, any conditions placed upon the use of that authority, which may have restricted the parties to the first two agreements, and which have never been removed according to the prescribed manners that the first two documents allow, those conditions still remain alive today, even under the Constitution.
So if the states gave up the right to secede under either of the two agreements which preceded the Constitution, and which serve as the source of authority for the Constitution, those agreements being the Declaration of Independence or the Articles of Confederation, that right is forever forsaken UNLESS some provision of the agreement under which that right was originally surrendered allows it to be restored.
In our last installment, we learned that the union of 'free and independent states,' which union came into being under the Declaration of Independence in 1776, became a perpetual union of states, as agreed under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, ratified in 1781, which agreement removed the right of secession, agreed unanimously among the states who were parties to the agreement, its Article XIII stipulating
Every State shall abide by the determination of the united States in congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the united States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.So according to the Articles of Confederation, the terms of which when fulfilled serve as the source of authority for the Constitution, those terms do not allow the states to secede from the union. And so, if the union which existed under the Articles of Confederation, is the same union that now exists under the Constitution, then that stipulation in Article XIII of the AoC must remain fulfilled, even today. Because one state agreeing to that stipulation served as an inducement for every other state to agree to it as well, which in effect changed the course of history for each other state, each state has the right to enforce that stipulation on every other state. That is the most basic tenet of contract law. For this reason, even today, every state in the union is bound to it. The union which came into being as 'free and independent states' under the Declaration of Independence, contingent on their own abiding preference to remain in the union, however unbound to do so, became 'perpetual,' under the Articles of Confederation, indicating that this union, comprised as it was, shall have no end. In agreeing to that stipulation, the states in the union no longer remained, 'free and independent.' That being the case, no state would possess the right to end it by seceding, that is, unless as the AoC states, agreed "in a congress of the united States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State."
These principles became the focal point of the debate which raged leading up to the presidential election of 1860. In March of 1861, before Abraham Lincoln would even take the oath of office as America's 16th president, seven states declared secession from the union, and claimed authority under the Constitution to do so. Lincoln had some decisions to make. And whatever decisions he made he would have to support to the new congress, a congress that would not even be seated for several months. So without an act of congress to back him up, and understanding that 'principle' has its moment before it becomes obsolete, Lincoln acted to save the union. He commanded a military response to the attack on Fort Sumter. He authorized the war department to begin raising an army. And he suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
On July 4, 1861, Lincoln addressed a special session of congress. And using the argument I give you above, he justified his actions to save the union. In Lincoln's language, here is an excerpt from that speech:
Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution, no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence, and the new ones each came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas; and even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein the "United Colonies" were declared to be "free and independent States"; but even then the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action before, at the time, and afterwards abundantly show. The express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of "State rights," asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the "sovereignty" of the States, but the word even is not in the National Constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a "sovereignty" in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it "a political community without a political superior"? Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty; and even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union, by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution to be for her the supreme law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from us, they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and, in fact, it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and in turn the Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.So although we seemed to have made a slight side trip, varying from the matter at hand, which is of course to decide whether America is Christian Nation, that side trip has been for a good reason. And that reason is that, if Lincoln is correct, then the conditions stipulated in the Declaration of Independence and in Articles of Confederation modify the meaning of the Constitution in such a manner that fulfilling the conditions of each of the first two agreements, is a necessary conditions for the third. And because Lincoln is universally admired, and the authority of his pronouncements as president are practically universally accepted, I have chosen here to invoke his words and his experiences during the most crucial moments since America's founding.
But in the next installment, as I promised earlier in the series, we will examine what George Washington, the universally admired father of the America nation, had to say on the subject of God, and Christianity, in the context treated by this series of articles. And then, just to set the stage, we will investigate just what our founding fathers had in mind as they stood in line to endorse the Declaration of Independence. So please come back as you have time and once again I thank you for taking the time to read and understand the information I present in these articles.