Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/83

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The Virginia Convention of 1788.

dress he says: "If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it." Calhoun believed in the right of secession. Henry Clay declared in the Senate chamber in 1850: "In my opinion there is no right on the part of any one or more States to secede from the Union." He depicted with horoscopic certainty the results that would ensue upon its consummation. Webster asserted "the people of the United States have declared that the Constitution shall be the supreme law." He denied both the right of nullification and secession. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, declared "No individual State, as such, has any claim to independence. She is independent only in a union with her sister States in Congress." Andrew Jackson was of the opinion that in adopting the Constitution the States "were no longer sovereign," and that the people "became American citizens and owed primary obedience to the Constitution and to laws made in conformity with the powers vested in Congress." He was a States right man so far as local concerns go, but for Federal sovereignty so far as the Constitution ordained. Secession was never a constitutional right, but, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by unjust oppression. Its exercise by the South was utterly without justification until the Southern States were called upon to furnish troops to invade their sister States. This act of the President was unconstitutional and forced Virginia out of the Union, both against her wishes and her interests. The election of Mr. Lincoln, per se, was not a casus belli or a justification of secession. He declared in his inaugural address: I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it now exists. I believe I have no legal right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." And in the platform of the party that elected him occurs this language: "Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions, according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to the balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend, and we denounce the