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Nov 18, 2005 11:02 am

Who Said This?

"In resorting to war, the slave states committed the moral error of repudiating a contract after taking special advantage through it. The Federal government was clearly obligated to maintain itself against aggression or disruption; having received its authority by delegation, it had no right to abandon its deputed function unless legitimately dissolved by the same means through which it was instituted."

For the answer, click below on Read More.

Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1993, reprint of 1943 edition), 141.

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Roderick T. Long - 11/21/2005

Yes, Paterson said that. But she also immediately went on to say: "[T]he operation and consequences of the Reconstruction Act must raise grave doubts whether there could be moral authority for perpetuating by force a union of voluntary origin. Nor is it justifiable to alter the terms of contract when one of the parties is under duress. ... The Reconstruction Act ... wiped out the states as political entities."

In short, Paterson thought both sides were behaving unjustly.

David T. Beito - 11/20/2005

There are two questions here for me.

Does the Constitution provide for a right of secession?

I am dubious that it does, either explicitly or implicitly. The men who wrote the Constitution for the most part were nationalists and centralists.

Moreover, it is telling that the Federalists during the debate over the Constitution never argued that states had the right to leave the new union, even though such an argument might have won them AntiFederalist votes.

Do I believe in the right of secession?

Yes I do but I interpret this right broadly. For me, it would include the right of slaves in a John Brown road rebellion to carve out antislavery Republic, and the right of black South Carolina majority to have violent revolution against their white masters in 1861.

Charles Johnson - 11/20/2005

Well, then, do you think that Paterson is right or wrong?