A HISTORIC JUDICIAL CONTROVERSY AND SOME REFLECTIONS SUGGESTED BY IT
PROBABLY most well informed persons of the present generation associate the notion, once maintained, that a state might secede or nullify an act of Congress, with the South and its earlier statesmen. And it is true that the resolutions drawn substantially by Jefferson and adopted by the Legislature of Kentucky in 1798, and similar resolutions drafted by Madison and adopted by the General Assembly of Virginia in the same year, together with some similar and more explicit declarations by the Legislature of the former state in 1799, seem to furnish some warrant for this impression.
Yet it seems to be well authenticated that the first real efforts to secede were made in New England; while the first formal and definite effort at nullification under solemn judicial sanction was made by the State of Wisconsin in the historic controversy to which I shall, on this occasion, particularly refer.
The first attempt at secession arose in consequence of the Louisiana Purchase. It was contended by the leaders in this movement that the annexation of Louisiana created, in fact, a new confederacy to which the states were not bound; that it was oppressive to the interests and destructive of the influence of the northern section, whose right, and, indeed, duty, it was to secede.
It was said that as a result the evil of slave representation would be aggravated and the Union itself be endangered by this expansion of its territory and weakening of its line of defense against invasion. A Northern confederacy was planned by the Federalist leaders in New England. Among those involved was Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts. He had been Post-master General, Secretary of
- An address delivered before the Indiana State Bar Association at its meeting of July 11, 1912.