Did the Southern States have the constitutional right to secede?
I have done research on the Civil War. First of all, it wasn’t solely about slavery. It was a constitutional crisis. The southern states believed that they had the legal right to secede from the United States while the US government believed that secession was illegal. Thus there was a bloody war.
The prevailing view today is that the establishment of the Confederate States of America was illegal. In the Supreme Courts ruling on Texas vs White case in 1869 that secession is illegal because the Articles of Confederation which was the constitution of the United States before the 1789 Constitution referred to the United States as a perpetual union.
However, others argue that the Articles of Confederation which was established in 1781 as a treaty between the original 13 sovereign states lost its binding force because many states later violated the treaty. To establish a more powerful central government, there was a convention that in 1787 proposed the Constitution which they argue was a complete replacement of the no longer binding Articles of Confederation.
They argue that the Articles of Confederation was no longer binding is shown by the fact that the state’s ratification of Constitution did not follow the amendment process laid out in the Articles of Confederation. The amendment process of the Articles of Confederation required approval by all 13 of the state legislatures. The Constitution was originally ratified by only 9 states by ratification conventions not by the state legislature though it later got ratified by all 13 states. Thus they argue that the Supreme Court’s ruling invoking of the Articles of Confederation was invalid.
They argue that the Constitution contains the words “more perfect union” not “perpetual union” and that there isn’t anything in the constitution that says “states can not secede.” They argue that the 10th amendment says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” and that the power to prevent secession was never delegated to the federal government.
As for slavery, it would of eventually been abolished anyway had the Confederacy won. The slave economy was failing and there would have been international pressure to abolish it.
Resolution to the debate
To resolve the debate, the US government needs to pass an amendment restoring the Confederate States and allow the Confederate States to amend their constitution to rejoin the Union. This happened in the parallel universe at the encouragement of Michael Cooper.