The question of the abstract right of secession is one which has never been thoroughly discussed. The framers of the Constitution made no provision for it and no provision against it. As the Grecian legislators refused to attach penalties to certain crimes, or even to mention them in their statutes, because they were deemed such as human nature in its normal condition would never perpetrate, and their mention might suggest them to the morally depraved, so the founders of the Republic thought it unnecessary to stipulate pro or con with reference to a contingency which they could hardly contemplate as even among the remote possibilities of the far-distant future. Scarcely has a generation passed away, when the question comes up for practical solution, certain States claiming the right to withdraw, and threatening to put it into execution. Putting aside the abstract right of secession, the present aspect of the South demands attention, as it is fraught with immediate and important consequences to the country at large.

There can be no question that the intention of the statesmen who framed the present Constitution, and arranged the terms of Union was to establish a permanent government capable of protecting and perpetuating itself. Still it must be remembered that the Federal Government is the result of a voluntary compact between sovereign States, based upon a written agreement, and the real existence of the union must depend upon the faithful performance of the terms of that agreement. Whether the right to secede be admitted or denied there can be no two opinions on the fact that any violation of the constitution by the general government, deliberately persisted in would relieve the state or states injured by such violation from all legal and moral obligation to remain in the union or yield obedience to the federal government. But who is to judge of this violation? The constitution itself provides a judge. It provides that “this constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land.” The very letter of the constitution is law and other enactments framed in harmony with it. Consequently any law not in strict accordance with the constitution is null and void. And if a question arises as to whether any particular piece of legislation is in conflict with the constitution or with the reserved right of any State it is not the state or states to be affected by the law, nor the Congress that passes the law that is to judge whether the law is just and operative or unjust and void, but an impartial tribunal erected for the purpose. The federal government consists of a judicial, as well as a legislative and executive branch; and to that authority all disputed questions are to be referred. Should a state feel aggrieved, this is where her appeal properly lies. Until every branch of the government conspires to violate the compact by virtue of which it exists, the last resort of secession or revolution should not be invoked. The South will therefore be clearly in the wrong in seceding under present circumstances.

At the same time it is well to remember that there is a logic above that of facts which sometimes precipitates revolutions. The South believes that she has received provocation sufficient to justify her in refusing to place any further confidence in the justice or friendly feeling of her sister States, and most of all because the future is pregnant with signs of danger and aggression far beyond anything attempted. It must be confessed that a large number of Northern States have, by their legislatures, nullified a plain provision of the Constitution, as regards the return of fugitive slaves. That constitutional provision is unpleasant to the feelings of northern people, therefore they have set it at nought. Is not such action as rank nullification as ever South Carolina attempted? Yet we hear nothing but denunciation of Carolinian nullification from the very lips of those who voted for or sanctioned northern nullification. But the action of separate States can afford no valid plea for secession to other States. The general government has not only not sanctioned nullification in either case, but met it with equal promptness when necessary, and the Burns slave case in Boston, in the very heart of abolitionism, was a vindication of the guarantees of the Constitution which ought to satisfy those who complain on this point. We doubt not but Mr. Lincoln will faithfully execute the provisions of the Constitution which apply to his office, and whether or not, it is time enough to condemn him when he proves recreant.

While we see no real cause for secession on the part of the South, should any states attempt it there is nothing to be done but let them go. To hold any state by force of arms and compel it to remain attached to a confederacy it ceased to respect or trust in and obey a government it despised, would be to convert our government into a sanguinary and odious despotism. The difficulties which must beset any state or states that choose to secede will be naturally so great, the advantages so few and the disadvantages so many, that even South Carolina, when brought face to face with the reality, may yet reflect and draw back. But whatever may be the result of the present excitement there can be no hope entertained of the permanence of the union if the present acerbity of tone and bitterness of feeling shall continue to prevail in the respective sections. Already we have ceased to remember that we are one people, the inheritors of a common patrimony and the joint heirs to the proud memories of the revolution and the most magnificent achievements ever accomplished. Instead of brotherly feeling and kindly consideration for each other[‘]s diversity of sentiment, we criticise each other with merciless severity and in a spirit of malice and all uncharitableness. If we think the Union worth preserving we must curb our insolent pride and pharisaical assumption of superiority. The white men of the South are of our own blood and race. The haughty feelings of Caucasian manhood, and the spirit of freemen that will acknowledge no superior, animates their souls, and we may accept them as brothers and equals, or drive them into the position of terrible and unnatural enemies. Many believe that the apprehensions expressed with regard to Lincoln’s election were insincere; and many fail to see the significance of the commotion that has followed that event. But that there is danger ahead, few can fail to comprehend, and that danger may be averted by conciliation, or it may be precipitated and rendered irremediable.