The most common thing a secessionist will get called is a traitor. American nationalists go on and on about meaningful issues but when it comes to Confederates and Confederate sympathizers, they are traitors that must be squashed. The revolutionary heroes, they reason, were not traitors because they had been abused and were not really British. How is it that a country formed from secession would make secession a form of treason?
The truth is secession is not treason and was completely legal until Abe Lincoln decided it wasn’t. The founding fathers saw it the same way, writing in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
Was Jefferson such a hypocrite that he would not support the dissolution of the union if the people of one part called for it? Of course not. Secession became a hot-button issue less than 30 years after the union was created with the signing of the constitution, doing away with the articles of confederation which had organized the states in more of a NATO-like alliance than a single country. The states united for protection, operating under a single federal government. This was a voluntary union, and as such New England debated whether or not to secede during the War of 1812, a war that pitted them against their primary trade partner and looked over their interests by warring with Britain.
They had every right to do this, as did South Carolina during the nullification crisis when the honorable state stood up for its citizens against a debilitating tariff and nearly seceded. South Carolina did the same less than 30 years later, this time going all the way and actually seceding.
Other Southern states ran to South Carolina’s aid, going with her. Once Lincoln was in office, he was quick to declare the Southern states in a state of rebellion and Confederates were labelled as traitors. Lincoln himself had said it best.
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right—a right which, we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with, or near about them, who may oppose their movement.
In our own lands we Southerners declared ourselved free. At what point I wonder does the majority not have the right to suppress their neighbors? I would figure it be when the region declaring itself free is a distinct entity, like a state. By popular vote, one by one, the South left the Union to form a more perfect Union. Eleven states in total, though that easily could have been fourteen had Lincoln not suppressed Maryland as he did.
Lincoln defended Texas’ right to secede from Mexico, as well as America’s in the revolution. The will of the people is to be carried out faithfully by the consent of the governed, not those thousands or even hundreds of miles away. This is why the Confederates are not “traitors.” They fought so that their country and people may be free, not to subjegate the Yankees above them. Their cause was just, Lincoln’s was not.
Yet American nationalists will still call us and our ancestors traitors. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are patriots of our people, not of other’s.