Previous (pre-Civil War) attempts at secession

I read recently that there were several attempts at secession before the Civil War.

One was by some Northern States in the 1790’s.

Another was in the 1810’s.

The last was in the 1830’s.

I was familiar with the one in the 1830’s, but not with the earlier ones.

What were the reasons and resolutions of them?

Was it in the 1830s that Andrew Jackson vowed to ride down to South Carolina and personally hang the first secessionist he found from the nearest tree?

I believe the one mentioned in the 1810s was contemplated by pro-British New Englanders after the Virginian Pres. Madison urged congress to declare war in 1812.

1790s - Shays or the Whisky rebellions? I believe Washington even dusted off the old general’s uniform for those.

Elmer J. Fudd,
I own a mansion and a yacht.

During the War of 1812, several Federalists in New England suggested- given the incompetence of the U.S. of A. in fighting the British- that New England should secede from the U.S. and apply to England for re-entry and protection. No real actions were ever taken upon this, but the fact that it was suggested by some local politicians and editors was enough to brand the entire Federalist party as traitors; shortly after the war, the Federalist party disbanded (although the scandal was only part of the reason for that; the main reason was that the Federalist party simply never organized itself as a truly national party, and therefore got its rump kicked by Jefferson’s Democratic Republicans on every issue).

In 1832, South Carolina invoked its ‘Nullification’ law regarding the new tariffs that had been passed in Congress. The Nullification Law basically stated that, as a state, South Carolina was only a voluntary member of the United States, and therefore could refuse to enact or follow laws passed by Congress as the government of South Carolina saw fit (the argument was much more legalistic than that, but you’ve caught me away from my reference materials). South Carolina was supported on this measure by Vice President John C. Calhoun (formerly a Senator from South Carolina); however, it was vigorously (and successfully) opposed by President Andrew Jackson. Jackson threatened to send troops into South Carolina in order to enact the tariff. Several South Carolina politicians and editors threatened to have the state secede from the Union should such matters be taken. Jackson then upped the ante by promising to hang every one of them from an apple tree. Given Jackson’s prior record regarding hanging people, Calhoun and the others quickly shut their mouths and agreed to allow the tariff to be emplaced.

As for the 1790’s- I’m not familiar with any specific call for a state to secede from the Union.

I think if Shays’ rebels had ever controlled a state legislature, they would have had very little trouble seceding from the Confederation. The Articles of Confederation provided for a loose enough union that it would be no big deal if someone decided to leave.

Okay, I’m exaggerating when I say, “No big deal”, but at that time, the U.S. was quite a young notion, and not nearly as many people considered it a sacred/eternal compact as did after the Constitution.

Plus, it would be more difficult for an “emergency army” of state militias to consider knocking over a (however wayward) state government, than it would for a relatively simple matter like arresting Mr. Shays and his ragged band.

On the Hartford Convention of 1814 see:

Lex Non Favet Delicatorum Votis

I’d just like to add that, near the end of the Civil War, Georgia considered seceding from the Confederacy.

“Love 'em, fear 'em, and leave 'em alone.” – Dr. Spockiavelli

tracer said:

You mean like West Virginia secedeed from Virginia? Now there was an interesting bind for the Confederacy.


“It’s a damned simple mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”
-Andrew Jackson

OK, if anyone is listening, this is the scant evidence I found:

1798: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison drafted the “Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions,” threatening secessing if the Federalists didn’t back off from trying to make it illegal to criticize the government. Or something like that.

1812: The New England states were not in support of the War, and threatened secession.

1832: Already well-documented.

Since these secessions never took place, it’s not know whether the Supreme Court would have held them as legal or not.

Seeing as how one of them was threatend by some of the Framers, it tends to add legitimacy to the states claim of the sovereight right of secession.

Yeah, I’ve always thought it was pretty obvious that the framers felt secession was perfectly fine. The fact that they didn’t mention it in the Constitution is pretty weird, and probably means one of three things:
(a) it was so obviously unconstitutional it didn’t even bear mentioning;
(b) it was so obviously constitutional it didn’t even bear mentioning;
© they didn’t feel like creating strife by opening a Great Debate ™ on the subject, so they just kinda forgot about it.

© doesn’t seem very likely, since they dealt with a lot of super-contentious issues head-on, e.g. slavery, export and import taxes, etc. Why deal in detail with the issue of how states can be added to the union and forget about how states could leave.

(A) doesn’t seem very likely, since state’s rights are rarely enumerated in the Constitution; usually, only limitations on state’s rights are enumerated (no duties on imports from other states, no maintaining “troops of war”, etc.) So if secession is one of the few things a state can’t do, it is very odd for the founders to be silent about it.

That’s why I stick with (b). It stands to reason that if the framers had fought on died for the rights of nationhood, they would be reluctant to deny those rights to the people they had fought alongside. If there is a power to create a political union, there must logically be a power to dissolve one, as the framers had proven by driving the British out. And the 10th Amendment specifies exactly who holds all the powers not otherwize provided for.

Any similarity in the above text to an English word or phrase is purely coincidental.

Maybe the Rebs were just remembering this:

Problem with Revolutions is that the only way to prove you’re right is to win the war. :slight_smile:

Lex Non Favet Delicatorum Votis