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The Constitutionality of Secession

Essay by   •  October 16, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  617 Words (3 Pages)  •  78 Views

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The question of whether or not South Carolina, or any state for that matter, had the right to secede is invalid. This question cannot begin to be answered, because it simply does not exist. The opinions of scholars on whether secession is constitutional or not are unreliable. This is the direct result of everyone having their own opinion. One’s position on the spectrum of views on secession depends entirely on how they interpret the United States Constitution and the Articles of Confederation. In truth, the Constitution itself does not advocate nor condemn the idea of secession. The very way in which the United States Constitution came about renders its view ineligible and possibly biased. The people of South Carolina merely exercised their right to revolution. They were rebelling against the United States, like their colonial counterparts had rebelled against Britain. David Blight stated in Did South Carolina Have a Constitutional Right to Secession?, “…In any reasonable definition, that is therefore exactly what the Confederates were in 1860-61: rebels, or revolutionaries, against the United States. They were not exercising a right to state sovereignty.” As for the Articles of Confederation, they were merely a temporary framework on which the fragile nation was to be balanced upon. It was not meant to be set in stone, and thus it cannot support the idea of secession. The question of whether or not South Carolina had the right to succeed cannot be answered because the original Constitution did not state anything for it or against it.

In Daniel A. Farber’s “The Fourteenth Amendment and The Unconstitutionality of Secession”, he correctly states that at the time of the Civil War, the choice to support your state or your nation was an unclear and ambiguous one. However, with the end of the Civil War and the addition of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution the idea of secession was deemed unconstitutional. It is only natural that an amendment to the constitution would need to be implemented in the aftermath of a devastating war. The amendment was added in order to prevent another event mirroring the Civil War from occurring. The idea of the amendment itself supports the statement that the Constitution does not favor nor reject secession. An amendment had to be added, because otherwise the Constitution would remain as ambiguous as before and the risk of another Civil War would still remain.

In regards to the Articles of Confederation and their relationship with the United States Constitution, the way one interprets these documents influences their opinion of the matter of secession. As Chandra Manning states in “Did South Carolina Have a Constitutional Right to Secede?”, “If one sees the Constitution as a complete rejection of the Articles of Confederation, with no carry-over, then the Constitution neither permits nor forbids secession.” The entire system of whether or not secession is right or wrong depends

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