An irony in American history has the doctrine of secession originating in the South when it was first advanced by New England over the issue of Louisiana’s admission to Statehood. Jefferson and Madison, both Southerners, opposed secession; New England Federalists demanded it.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
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New England Federalists and their Secession Doctrine
“The final political phenomenon to arise out of the North-South competition of the 1790s was the doctrine of Secession. It represented the death rattle of the Federalist party. The pivotal year was 1800 when the Democratic leaders Jefferson and Burr succeeded in putting together a coalition of the have-nots of the country – the agriculturalists of the South and the proletarians of the Northern cities. They won control of the nation.
The Federalist party survived another sixteen years, although it never again won control of the House, Senate or presidency. It did not take defeat well.
Barely three years after the Democratic rout, Northern Federalists began arguing for the secession of the New England States from the Union. There was nothing understated about their secessionist position. It was widespread, and if it could not be done peaceably, they said, it should be done violently.
Listen to one of the many secessionists, Josiah Quincy III, scion of the New England Quincy’s, future mayor of Boston and future president of Harvard University. In 1811 he was a thirty-eight-year-old congressman standing opposed to the admission of Louisiana as a State:
“It is my deliberate opinion,” he said, “that if this bill passes, the bonds of this union are virtually dissolved, that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some to prepare, definitely, for a separation; amicably if they can; violently if they must.”
One man who listened carefully that year was a freshman congressman from South Carolina. He was John C. Calhoun, who had been taught the secessionist doctrine in the law schools of New England, who had listened to it in the Congress, and who would one day carry it back down South . . . .
Meanwhile, it is an unfair stroke that history has identified the South with secession when in fact the earliest and clearest arguments against it were proposed by Jefferson and Madison.
The creators of secession doctrine, and the teachers of it from 1800 to 1817, were New England Federalists.”
(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, A Revisionist History, David Leon Chandler, Doubleday & Company, 1977, pp. 114-116)