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After hostilities began at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, , the border states of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the new government, which then moved its capital to Richmond, Virginia. The Union was thus divided approximately on geographic lines.

Twenty-one northern and border states retained the style and title of the United States, while the eleven slave states adopted the nomenclature of the Confederate States of America. The border slave states of Maryland , Delaware , Kentucky , and Missouri remained with the Union, although they all contributed volunteers to the Confederacy. Fifty counties of western Virginia were loyal to the Union government, and in this area was constituted the separate state of West Virginia.

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Secession in practical terms meant that about a third of the population with substantial material resources had withdrawn from what had constituted a single nation and established a separate government. The term secession had been used as early as South Carolina threatened separation when the Continental Congress sought to tax all the colonies on the basis of a total population count that would include slaves. Secession in this instance and throughout the antebellum period came to mean the assertion of minority sectional interests against what was perceived to be a hostile or indifferent majority.

Secession had been a matter of concern to some members of the Constitutional Convention that met at Philadelphia in Theoretically, secession was bound up closely with Whig thought, which claimed the right of revolution against a despotic government. Any federal republic by its very nature invited challenge to central control, a danger that James Madison recognized.


He sought at the convention a clause that would prohibit secession from the proposed union once the states had ratified the Constitution. The Constitution as framed and finally accepted by the states divided the exercise of sovereign power between the states and the national government. By virtue of the fact that it was a legal document and in most respects enumerated the powers of the central government, the division was weighted toward the states. Yet much of the charter was drawn up in general terms and was susceptible to interpretation that might vary with time and circumstance.

Secession in the United States

The very thing that Madison feared took on a concrete form during the party battles of the Washington and Adams administrations. And paradoxically, Madison found himself involved with those who seemed to threaten separation. In their reaction to the arbitrary assumption of power in the Alien and Sedition Acts , Thomas Jefferson and Madison argued for state annulment of this legislation.

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The national judiciary, they felt, was packed with their opponents. Neither resolution claimed original sovereignty for the states, but both argued for a strict reading of enumerated powers. During the War of , a disaffected Federalist majority in New England advanced the compact theory and considered secession from the Union. As modernization began to take hold in the United States, differences between the two major sections grew more pronounced: a plantation cotton culture worked by slave labor became concentrated in the South and industrial development featuring free labor in the North.

A wave of reform activity in Europe and the United States made the abolition or at least the restriction of slavery a significant goal in the free states. Since abolition struck at the labor system as well as the social structure of the slave states, threats of secession punctuated the political dialogue from through John C. Calhoun , the leading spokesman of the slave states, charged frequently and eloquently that the South and its way of life were under assault from an industrializing North.

Like other proponents of endangered minorities, he looked to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions and their assertion of the federal compact for the basis of his defense. He argued that a state or a group of states could nullify a federal law that was felt to be against a particular interest. Although always seeking an accommodation for the South and its slave plantation system within the Union, Calhoun had hoped that nullification was a proper, constitutional alternative to disunion. But he eventually invoked secession with particular vehemence after the territorial acquisitions of the Mexican War and the formation of the Free-Soil party in They declared that the Constitution operated directly through the states on the people, not upon the states as corporate bodies, and their view gained wide acceptance in the free states.

Calhoun was instrumental in fostering southern unity on a sectional basis and in formulating the call for a convention of delegates from the slave states to be held at Nashville, Tennessee , in There is little doubt that had he lived, Calhoun would have been a formidable force for secession as the ultimate weapon. His death and the working out of a compromise that strengthened moderate opinion in both sections kept the secessionist element at bay temporarily.

The seceding states formed a government, the Confederacy , in early Nearby words secchi, pietro angelo , secco , secede , secern , secernentasida , secession , secession, war of , secessionist , sech , sechenov , seckel. Can be confused cession secession session.

Secession | United States history |

Grant James D. Reminiscences of a Rebel Wayland Fuller Dunaway.

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Derived Forms secessional , adjective secessionism , noun secessionist , noun , adjective. Besides the 48 conterminous states that occupy the middle latitudes of the continent, the United States includes the state of Alaska, at the northwestern extreme of North America, and the island state of Hawaii, in the…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox.

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