Secession, Is It Constitutional, And Should We Do It: It’s Foundations of Freedom Thursday, a special day of the week where we get to answer questions from you, the listeners! Tune in today as we answer your questions such as, was the secession of southern states constitutionally valid?  Can Texas secede constitutionally?  Did Lincoln ignore the Constitution? And so much more, right here on WallBuilders Live!  

Air Date: 07/06/2017


Guests: David Barton and Rick Green.


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast.  However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers.  Additionally, names may be misspelled because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.


Welcome

Intro:

Samuel Adams said, “€œThe liberties of our Country and the freedom of our civil Constitution are worth defending against hazards. And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”€

Rick:

You found your way to the intersection of faith and the culture. Welcome to WallBuilders Live where we”€™re talking about today’s hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always looking at it from a Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.

It’s Thursday, so it’s foundation to Freedom Thursday, that”€™s why you heard the quote out of the mouths of babes, right? In terms of what our Founding Fathers said. But hearing those quotes from kids, always love that on Thursdays.

The reason we call it Foundations of Freedom Thursday is because it”€™s a chance to really get to those foundational principles in our Constitution, the Declaration, and what the perspective is from a Biblical worldview in terms of the issues of the day.

So, Thursday is a special day to do that based on your questions. So the topic itself is chosen by you. You send in your questions and we dive into those and bring these resources alive to you. And those resources, of course, are coming out of David Barton’s library which is the largest private collection of Founding Fathers documents, original resources, incredible place.

You can find out more about the library and even get some of the resources there at our website WallBuilders.com. And then our other website is WallBuilders Live.com, and that’s our radio site where you can get more of these Thursday programs in the archives,  or get our Good News Friday program, or some of the interviews we do with various guests throughout the week. That”€™s all available right there on the website WallBuildresLive.com.

So it’s Thursday, Foundations of Freedom Thursday and we’re here with David Barton. He’s America’s premiere historian and our founder here at WallBuilders. By the way, my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state rep and a national speaker and author. Today we’re going to jump into your questions.

So, David, let’s dive into some of those questions from the audience. By the way, those viewers if you’d like to send in your own questions send it into Radio@Wallbuilders.com.

Ryan from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania

First question today, David, comes from Ryan in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. He says, “€œYou’ve presented evidence that slavery was at the root of the Confederate States secession. However, was the secession of those southern states constitutionally valid?”€ David, he goes on to talk about Lincoln Detractors present him as a tyrant who declared war-

David:

Wait a minute, who declared war?

Rick:

Yeah, I could have sworn it was the South that fired first.

Was Abraham Lincoln A Tyrant?

David:

I think the South is the one who fired. Yeah, but that”€™s the thing with Lincoln Detractors, they don’t necessarily let facts get in their way.

Rick:

Oh, wait, before you go on to answer the rest of that. I”€™ve got to tell you, I found it an interesting. You probably knew this but I didn’t. Abner Doubleday, inventor of baseball, Union Major General, and not only did he fight at Gettysburg, he was the guy that gave the order for the first Union shot to be fired back at the Confederates when they fired on the Union soldiers at Fort- I had no idea!

David:

Interesting!  

Rick:

Yeah, I had the family out at Gettysburg a couple weeks ago. We were just doing some cool research. And I was like, “€œYou”€™ve got to be kidding me!”€ Abner Doubleday was here, I knew he’s buried at Arlington but I just didn’t know any of the history. Sorry, bro, you got me thinking about that when you mentioned the Confederates firing.  

David:

That”€™s great.

States Trying To Secede Is Nothing New

Rick:

So, back to this idea of the Southern states secession, was it constitutionally valid or not?

David:

Well, the first thing to do is let’s talk about secession before the Civil War. Because the civil war, yes it was there, but that’s not like the first time this has come up. You had a secession effort starting back in the 1790s and the 1800s.

Rick:

No kidding? That quick after we become a nation?

David:

Well, it’s human nature, “€œI don’t like the way you’re playing the game, I”€™m going to pick up my ball and go home.”€ And that is human nature. And so it has gone from the very earliest years.

You had what was called the Essex hotel. Massachusetts was fed up with what was going on with- They don”€™t want to get behind Aaron Burr from New York and etc. So they were fed up with Jefferson and the Jefferson policies and so they’re going to secede. So it was Federalist versus Anti-Federalists. You just came through a really brutal presidential campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and John Adams of Massachusetts.

Adams lost, “€œWe’re going to secede. We’re not going to be part of this Jefferson administration.”€ Hey, that kind of sounds like what’s happening now with the reaction of Trump in a lot of ways.

Rick:

No kidding. Nothing new under the sun after all, huh?

David:

Nothing new under the sun. He had this really vicious election. And so the losers wanted to pick up the ball and go home. Then as you get into the war of 1812, then you have Hartford, Connecticut, they have a convention in Hartford, Connecticut and Connecticut says, “€œWe’re going to secede. We’ve had enough of this nonsense. We’re tired of Virginia having all the presidents of the United States. We’re out of here.”€ So you have in the 1810 time frame an attempt to secede coming out of Connecticut.

And then you have the same thing going on in Virginia with the Alien Sedition Acts. Alien Sedition Acts are passed by John Adams and he’s a Federalist and Virginia is Anti-Federalists. So in those Alien Sedition Acts that are passed that says, “€œYou can’t criticize the president of the United States”€ and says that it’s against the law to criticize the president the United States. So Virginia says, “€œLet’s secede.  We’re not going to be part of this United States anymore.”€

And so you just go through so many of these. Abolitionists wanted to secede because they couldn’t end slavery in the United States, “€œSo we’re just going to leave and create our own nation where we can end slavery.”€

One after another. As you get into the what’s called, “€œThe Nullification Crisis”€ in 1832, Andrew Jackson, and South Carolina is saying, “€œWe’re going to leave the United States. We’re tired of you guys picking on slave states and trying to help the economy for the free states and we’re not going to be part of it so we’re leaving.”€

So you have all these secession movements that lead up to this one in 1832. Well, guess what? A whole lot of the Founding Fathers are alive for these secession movements. George Washington was alive for some of the early secession movements-

Rick:

Wait, you mean we’re going to have some firsthand accounts of their positions on these things? The guys that actually gave us the country?

David:

Oh yeah.

Rick:

So they gave us the Constitution, then they are alive long enough to see exactly what we’re talking about, and I bet you’re going to give us some quotes directly from them?

David:

Yep, there’s some there’s some good stuff coming.

Rick:

Alright then, you’ve got to hold on to that! Quick break, David Barton is giving us some of this history on a great question. Ryan, it really is a good question, thanks for asking. And others send your questions to Radio@WallBuilders.com. We’ll be right back on WallBuilders Live!

Outro:

Thomas Jefferson said, “€œThe Constitution of most of our states and of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. That they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.”€

Moment From American History

This is Tim Barton with another moment from American history. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees to every individual the right to keep and bear arms, has been targeted for years now by those who are determined to dismantle the individual right to self-protection.

Opponents argue that “€œOnly the militia, the military, and law enforcement are to have and use firearms.”€ But those who wrote the Second Amendment strenuously disagreed, including Founding Father Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration, a president of the Continental Congress, and one of those who actually framed the Second Amendment.

He declared, “€œTo preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”€

For more information about Richard Henry Lee and the history of the Second Amendment go to WallBuilders.com

Was The Secession Of The Southern States Constitutionally Valid

Intro:

President Calvin Coolidge said, “€œThe more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”€

Rick:

That it was! I love hearing it out of the mouths of babes. Thanks for listening today to Foundations of Freedom Thursday! We appreciate you staying with us. As we were going to break, David, you were answering this question about whether secession of the Southern States was constitutionally valid.

You mentioned the fact that there were Founding Fathers, who would obviously be able to give us the original intent of the Constitution, still alive at the time some of those movements were happening that you talked about in the last segment that were essentially efforts at secession even that early. So they commented on that, they gave us their thoughts on whether or not that would be constitutional.

David:

Yeah, they made their thoughts very clear. And by 1828 is when you really see secession become super serious with South Carolina. That’s where they’re threatening- it”€™s called, “€œthe nullification crisis.”€ Andrew Jackson then becomes president in 1829 and he has to deal with South Carolina saying, “€œWe’ve had it with you guys we’re leaving the union.”€

And so Andrew Jackson who is himself a Southerner, is in a constitutional office and what’s he going to do as president? Of course, he resists and opposes that. But Daniel Webster at that time was a very young U.S. senator.

He had just recently been elected to the U.S. Senate and he ends up in really a three-day debate with Hayne out of South Carolina. And Hayne is arguing on the floor of the Senate, “€œWe have the right to secede, we have the right to leave. We’re not going to be part of this nonsense. We’re out of here.”€ And then that”€™s when what”€™s considered the most famous speech in the history of the U.S. Senate is Daniel Webster’s replies to Hayne.

It was a two-day speech that he gave on it. In it, he took several things Hayne and the Senate responded to him. Senator Hayne had said this, “€œWe are to have liberty first and union afterward.”€ In other words, our state liberty is the most important thing to us. And if we want to be part of the Union we can. But the first thing is our liberty as individuals.

So Webster’s reply and the famous line that came out of his speech was where Webster said, “€œNo, the proper view is not liberty first and union afterward. The proper view is liberty and union now and forever one and inseparable.”€ In other words, you don’t have the right to choose one or the other. This is not a Socratic kind of debate where you have to choose.We have both up here. We have liberty and union.

What The Founders Said About Secession

So when that speech was given. Guess who wrote Daniel Webster and praised him for what he had done in standing up against secession?

Rick:

I”€™m guessing it might have been one of the guys at the Constitutional Convention?

David:

A guy named James Madison-

Rick:

Some people refer to him as being fairly important and maybe even keeping some of the journals at the Constitutional Convention.

David:

Well, you know, a lot of people call him the father of the Constitution. And he writes Daniel Webster says, “€œBingo, right on.”€ Well, he didn’t say bingo, but he said that that’s exactly it-

Rick:

They didn’t have Bingo back then.

David:

I don”€™t know, maybe they did. But you’re exactly right, there is no right of secession. We’ll guess what, George Washington had already said that, as had other Founding Fathers.

Thomas Jefferson let me just read you a quote from Thomas Jefferson on this. Thomas Jefferson says, “€œI fear from the expression in your letter that the people of Kentucky think of separating from the United States. I should think this a most calamitous event and one that every good citizen should set himself against.”€

You don’t have a right to secede. You can’t leave the United States. See, we’re so used to having no fault divorce today that for any reason we can leave anytime we want to. But they believed in covenant marriage back then. You entered into a marriage and you don’t get the right to divorce just because you don’t like the way things are going. You stay with this marriage and that’s what it was, it was a covenant. They saw the Constitution as a covenant, literally.

Can Texas Secede Constitutionally

And so when South Carolina, particularly John C. Calhoun, comes along and says Oh no, no, no this is just a contract that we can break. No, the Founding Father said, “€œNo.”€ And it’s significant and that 1832 timeframe when they were having that secession crisis, it went from the Nullification Crisis to a Secession Crisis with South Carolina.

So many pamphlets were produced at that time quoting the original Founding Fathers on how you do not have the right to secede. You can’t do that. So there were a number of pieces that came out at the time saying, “€œNo, there’s no right to secede.”€ And that was out there 30 years before South Carolina decided to secede anyway into did the Civil War.

So the other ten states followed South Carolina and there was secession and it was a divorce and it was not a good deal. But the perspective is the Civil War is not the first time this was done. It was done back at the time the Founding Fathers and every single time it was put down and pushed to the side and said, “€œNo, you cannot constitutionally do that.”

Rick:

Which really helps us, certainly, if we’re going to be originalist, we”€™re going to answer that question from the perspective of the people that put the constitution in place. What did they intend?  What did they believe at the time?  And what did they actually say?

This isn’t like a lot of questions, you know, sometimes on our show, we ask a question about, “€œWell, if the Founding Fathers were alive today what would they say about this circumstance?”€ Well, here’s one where you actually said they were alive, some of them, and they did comment on it. And there you have it.

So it was very clear they said, “€œAbsolutely not. You can”€™t secede.”€ So we could get into that whole debate about whether or not Texas can, and I used to think that they could, but not true. I went and researched all that a few years ago and-

David:

Oh, but it is so much fun to just say it.

Rick:

Oh, I know, have you ever noticed how often when we travel outside of Texas people say, “€œHey, if y”€™all secede let us know ahead of time and we”€™ll move to Texas.

David:

That”€™s exactly what I was going to say. It”€™s fun to say it because people say, “€œCan we join you guys?”€ Which it’s an interesting thing, but no, you cannot legally do that and that’s not a serious thought in Texas. We spoke about it-

Rick:

And you know, it is just like the Founders were trying to get across. I think what you were saying is, “Look, it’s a compact and a contract, and it’s a commitment.” 

You’re saying, “€œLook, man, it wasn’t just Texans that died for us at Iwo Jima, and in Korea, and all these places that so many sacrificed for this nation. I would feel like I was abandoning them to say, “€œWe’re just going to run because we don’t like what’s happening in other parts of the country.”€

David:

Yeah, you can’t do that. I mean you can’t run and abandon. And that’s the problem with no-fault divorce when they introduced it in 1968, I think that was the first state to pass it. Now anytime you get into a little trouble, “€œI’m just going to pack up my bag and go home.”€ No, you’re going to stay and work it out.

Rick:

Yeah, that’s a great point, that’s a great comparison too. And it really is that same attitude. A very quick break David, we”€™ll come back on this one just a second. Stay with us folks, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live.

Outro:

George Washington said, “€œThe Constitution approaches near to perfection than any other government instituted among men.”€

Constitution Alive

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution but just felt like, man, the classes are boring or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago or I don’t know where to start? People want to know. But it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the Constitution either.

Well, we’ve got a special program for you available now called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. It’s actually a teaching done on the Constitution at Independence Hall in the very room where the Constitution was framed. We take you both to Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty and Independence Hall and to the WallBuilders”€™ library where David Barton brings the history to life to teach the original intent of our Founding Fathers.

We call it the QuickStart Guide to the Constitution because in just a few hours through these videos you will learn the Citizen’s Guide to America’s Constitution.  You’ll learn what you need to do to help save our Constitutional Republic. It’s fun! It’s entertaining! And it’s going to inspire you to do your part to preserve freedom for future generations. It’s called Constitution Alive with David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at WallBuilders.com.

Philosophical Reasons To Not Secede

Intro:

President Calvin Coolidge said, “€œThe more I study the Constitution, the more I realize that no other document devised by the hand of man has brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.”€

Rick:

Welcome back, thanks for staying with us on WallBuilders Live, back with David Barton now on this Foundations of Freedom Thursday. David, we’re still on the subject of secession and whether that’s constitutional. It certainly laid out why the Founders said it was not.

But now we’re kind of getting into even why, from a philosophical, and just a relational point of view. Because it is a commitment, you had that analogy before the break of divorce, and that’s why no fault divorce has hurt us because it’s put us in that mindset of, “€œI just don’t like the way things are going.”€ And then walk away.

David:

Yeah. And you can’t just walk away. And by the way, I’m really struck by something that Ryan pointed out. He started this question by saying, “€œMany Lincoln Detractors say that you have a right to secede.”€ Well no, you don’t have a right to secede. That”€™s the wrong mentality.

Did Lincoln Ignore The Constitution?

But I just want to have the Lincoln Detractors for a bit. I don’t hear what you hear from Detractors, but when somebody attacks Lincoln the first, well let me ask you, what’s the first thing you hear when someone goes after Lincoln? What do they complain about the most that Lincoln did in the Civil War?

Rick:

Let”€™s see, ignored the Constitution.

David:

Yeah, in what sense? In what part did he ignore?

Rick:

The, what was it, I guess wasn”€™t it habeas corpus, the right of habeas corpus?

David:

Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Rick:

I hear that one a lot.

David:

He ignored the Constitution because they had a right to secede and he suspended habeas corpus. Now, that’s an interesting thing because when you read Article 1 Section 9 out of the Constitution I’m reading here Clause 2 of Section 9, it says, “€œThe privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.” That’s pretty clear. And Abraham Lincoln did that.

Now I want to play with this just for a minute, because in the last couple of cycles of presidential campaigns I’ve been selected as one of the 112 Republicans to write the Republican platform nationally.

We have hearings and people come from across the country to come and say, “€œHere’s planks we would like to have on the platform.”€ And libertarians are all pro-Constitution and they came. I was on the Constitution Subcommittee, that”€™s what we do.

And on three separate occasions these guys said, “€œLook, we have to uphold the Constitution. So we think Republicans should pass a resolution that says you can not suspend the right of habeas corpus.”€ Because they were concerned about the Patriot Act and everything else. “€œRepublicans need to go on record saying what the Constitution says. You cannot suspend the right of habeas corpus.”€

I just read to you Article 1 Section 9 paragraph 2 that said, “€œThe privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.”€ But I didn’t finish reading the clause. There’s not a period where I stopped, there’s a comma there. Here’s what the folk law says. “€œThe privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless, when in cases of rebellion, or invasion, the public safety may require it.”€

Rick:

Interesting, that kind of changes things especially considering the context of when this was done.

David:

Well, it was called The War of the Rebellion is what the Southern guys called it. And the Constitution says, “€œIn cases of rebellion you can suspend the right of habeas corpus.”€ So please point out to me what was unconstitutional in what Lincoln did in suspending the right of habeas corpus in cases of rebellion.

And so in all three cases with the Libertarians, I said, “€œGuys, I’m not going to put in the Republican platform something that completely violates the explicit wording of the Constitution.”€

“€œWell, the Constitution doesn’t say-“€Â 

“€œYes, it does. When you read the rest of the clause.”€

“€œWow, we do know that.”€ And these are the guys that claim to be constitutional experts. So that’s why Lincoln Detractors on this are so wrong. They start with several wrong premises. One is that you can’t suspend the right of habeas corpus, you can’t in normal circumstances in peacetime. But in cases of rebellion or when public safety requires it. Yes, you can.

The Founding Fathers understood that and they specifically wrote it in. And so the same guys that say, “€œYou have a right to secede.”€ Are the same ones who said, “€œLincoln violated the Constitution by suspending the right to habeas corpus.”€ No, read the documents, read the history.

And it’s interesting every single one of these issues of secession, listed a bunch when we started, they all stemmed from one idea that is still being perpetuated and advocated today, an interesting idea.

Rick:

Going to take a quick break. We’ll get that idea when we come back. Stay with us folks, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live!

Outro:

Thomas Jefferson said, “€œThe Constitution of most of our states and of the United States asserts that all power is inherent in the people that they may exercise it by themselves that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed. That they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.”€

Biographical Sketches

Hi, friends! This is Tim Barton of WallBuilders.This is a time when most Americans don’t know much about American history or even heroes of the faith. I know, often times as parents, we’re trying to find good content for our kids to read.

If you remember back in the Bible, the Book of Hebrews it has the Faith Hall of Fame, where they outlined the leaders of faith that had gone before them. Well, this is something that as Americans we really want to go back and outline some of these heroes not just of American history, but heroes of Christianity and our faith as well.

I wanted to let you know about some biographical sketches we have available on our website. One is called, “€œThe Courageous Leaders Collection“€ and this collection includes people like Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, George Washington Carver, Susanna Wesley, even the Wright brothers.

There’s a second collection called, “€œHeroes of History“€ in this collection you read about people like Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Columbus, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Harriet Tubman, the list goes on and on.

This is a great collection for your young person to have and read. And it’s a providential view of American and Christian history. This is available at WallBuilders.com.

The Word That Led To Every Secession Attempt

Intro:

Thomas Jefferson said, “€œ In questions of power then let no more be heard of confidence in the man that bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”€

Rick:

I love that quote. That may be my favorite Jefferson quote because it says, “€œWe should do elections but you can’t put your faith in the person getting elected.  You’ve got to bind them down with the change the Constitution. Good stuff. Alright, David, you left us hanging there before the break.

David:

Do you know what single word led to every secession attempt? What single word preceded every effort to secede from the United States?

Rick:

My guess would be nullification.

David:

That”€™s it. Nullification. Every single time-

Rick:

Because that gets you in the mindset of, “€œWe have the right to do whatever we want.”€ Right?

David:

That’s right. This is a big thing that’s gone the last three or four years in the conservative community, “€œWe need the right of nullification.”€ Particularly when Obama was president. No, you don’t need the right of nullification. The Founding Fathers explicitly said, “€œYou don’t have that right.”€

“€œWell, you have Jefferson and Madison who gave us the Virginia-Kentucky Resolutions, gave the right of nullification.”€ No, Madison and Jefferson said, “€œWe think all the states should come together to nullify federal law.”€”€œOh, all the states, not just one state.”€

Rick:

Basically convention of states.

David:

Exactly right.  You get a state that says, “€œWell, we’re going to nullify Obama’s thing on the Second Amendment because we don’t think he can tell us what we can do with our guns.”€

No, there are other means to do that. Every single time nullification is what preceded every secession attempt. And the Founding Fathers shouted down nullification just like they shouted down secession.

So, it’s interesting that it’s so-called, self-proclaimed, “€œconservative constitutionalists”€ that do that, but bless their hearts, they just don’t understand history or the Constitution. This is a great question that we were asked today because it really does go into a lot of the mentality that is still out there today that runs around that should not be.

We need to build the same on the Constitution. History makes it really clear what that original intent of the Constitution is. And when it comes to things like nullification, like secession, like Lincoln Detractors- and Lincoln’s got faults, sure, but the thing is they consistently charge him with are the things that he really got right not wrong. So it’s just interesting to see what’s back there.

Rick:

Yeah. And I get sometimes the frustration people feel, and they feel like the country’s going down or we can’t control Washington, D.C. And so they want to give up basically and say, “€œWell, let’s go to one state and get that state to secede.”€ Or whatever strategy it might be.

The fact of the matter is, we have the tools to change the nation  We’ve got to be willing to use them. The Founders did give us the proper nullification tool which is in Article 5 like you said with Jefferson-Madison saying, “€œBring the states together.”€

So I get the frustration. I understand why people say, “€œI’m just done with everybody else out there that’s going leftist on us.”€ But don’t give up on them.

So many throughout our history made incredible sacrifices to hold this country together to defend its freedom make it possible for our children to grow up in freedom. Let’s do our part now. Let’s make sure we do everything we possibly can to restore those constitutional liberties the right way using the Constitution to do it properly.

Thanks For Listening 

Thanks for listening today folks! Send your questions into Radio@WallBuilders.com and we’ll try to get to them on Foundations of Freedom Thursday. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live!

Abraham Lincoln said, “€œWe the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”€