Colonel Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts advocated New England’s secession from the United States in 1804, and creating a “Northern Confederacy.” He and others viewed this more perfect union as having “all the advantages which have been for a few years depending on the general Union [which] would be continued [and] without the jealousies and enmities that now afflict both, and which particularly embitter the condition of that of the North.” Notably, the slave-trading States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island would have been the cornerstone of this new republic.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
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Seceding from the Corrupt Aristocratic Democrats of the South
“In the prior history of the country, repeated instances are found of the assertion of this right [of secession], and of a purpose entertained at various times to put it in execution. Notably is this true of Massachusetts and other New England States. The acquisition of Louisiana had created much dissatisfaction in those States, for the reason, expressed by an eminent citizen of Massachusetts [George Cabot], that “the influence of our [the Northeastern] part of the Union must be diminished by the acquisition of more weight at the other extremity.”
The project of separation was freely discussed, with no intimation, in the records of the period, of any idea among its advocates that it could be regarded as treasonable or revolutionary.
Colonel Timothy Pickering, who had been an officer of the war of the Revolution, afterward successively Postmaster-General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State in the Cabinet of General Washington, and, still later, long a representative of the State of Massachusetts in the Senate of the United States, was one of the leading secessionists of his day.
Writing from Washington to a friend, on the 24th of December, 1803, he says:
“I will not yet despair. I will rather anticipate a new confederacy, exempt from the corrupt and corrupting influence and oppression of the aristocratic democrats of the South. There will be (and our children, at farthest, will see it) a separation. The white and black population will mark the boundary.”
In another letter, written a few weeks afterward (January 29, 1804), speaking of what he regarded as wrongs and abuses perpetrated by the then existing Administration, he thus expresses his views of the remedy to be applied:
“The principles of our Revolution point to the remedy – a separation. That this can be accomplished, and without spilling one drop of blood, I have little doubt . . . I do not believe in the practicality of a long-continued Union. A Northern Union would unite congenial characters and present a fairer prospect of public happiness; while the Southern States, having a similarity of habits, might be left to “manage their own affairs in their own way.” If a separation were to take place, our mutual wants would render a friendly and commercial intercourse inevitable.
It [the separation] must begin in Massachusetts. The proposition would be welcome in Connecticut; and could we doubt of New Hampshire? But New York must be associated . . . she must be made the center of the Confederacy. Vermont and New Jersey would follow of course, and Rhode Island of necessity” [Pickering to Cabot, “Life of Pickering,” pp. 338-340].
Substituting [Southern States for those Northern States above], we find the suggestions of 1860-61 only a reproduction of those thus outlined nearly sixty years earlier.
Such were the views of an undoubted patriot who had participated in the formation of the Union, and who had long been confidentially associated with Washington in the administration of its Government, looking at the subject from a Northern standpoint, within fifteen years after the organization of that Government under the Constitution.
His authority is cited only as showing the opinion prevailing in the North at that day with regard to the right of secession from the Union, if deemed advisable by the ultimate and irreversible judgment of the people of a sovereign State.”
(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume I, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, pp. 71-73)