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The social compact that created the Union did not, according to America's Founders, allow for the possibility of secession by individual states. Abraham Lincoln, following the Founders' arguments for an indissoluble Union, argued that the Union was born with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration precedes the Constitution, which gives political shape to that perpetual Union.

The pro-slavery cause argued that the constitutional compact had been violated, which justified their efforts to secede from the Union. However, the social compact, being entered into by all parties equally, continues until all simultaneously chose to dissolve it. As Lincoln stated, "the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy." The Constitution is wholly antithetical to anarchy and chaos.


"The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'til changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all." —George Washington, "Farewell Address"
"Those who set up force again in opposition to the laws, do rebellare, that is, bring back again the state of war, and are properly rebels." —John Locke, "Second Treatise of Government"
"And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual." The Articles of Confederation
"That whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the Union, or contribute to violate or lessen the Sovereign Authority, ought to be considered as hostile to the Liberty and Independency of America, and the Authors of them treated accordingly." —George Washington, "Circular Letter to the States"
"A firm Union will be of the utmost moment to the peace and liberty of the States as a barrier against domestic faction and insurrection." —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 9
"What the fate of the Constitution of the United States would be if a small proportion of States could expunge parts of it particularly valued by a large majority, can have but one answer." —James Madison, "Letter to Edward Everett"
"The Constitution is a compact; that its text is to be expounded according to the provision for expounding it, making a part of the compact; and that none of the parties can rightfully renounce the expounding provision more than any other part." —James Madison, "Letter to Edward Everett"
"Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility." —Daniel Webster, "The Constitution and the Union"
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is, that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us." —Abraham Lincoln, "Address at Cooper Institute"
"I hold, that in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual." —Abraham Lincoln, "First Inaugural Address"
"If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government, is acquiescence on one side or the other." —Abraham Lincoln, "First Inaugural Address"
"Plainly, the central idea of secession, is the essence of anarchy." —Abraham Lincoln, "First Inaugural Address"
"A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence, and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this." —Abraham Lincoln, "First Inaugural Address"
"The principle itself is one of disintegration, and upon which no government can possibly endure." —Abraham Lincoln, "Message to Congress in Special Session"
"This is essentially a People's contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life." —Abraham Lincoln, "Message to Congress in Special Session"
"Ballots are the rightful, and peaceful, successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly, and constitutionally, decided, there can be no successful appeal, back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections." —Abraham Lincoln, "Message to Congress in Special Session"

"Positive Good" School

"Thus the constitutional compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation." South Carolina Secession Declaration
"Secession belongs to a different class of remedies. It is to be justified upon the basis that the States are sovereign. There was a time when none denied it." —Jefferson Davis, "Farewell Address to the Senate"
"I hope the time may come again, when a better comprehension of the theory of our Government, and the inalienable rights of the people of the States, will prevent any one from denying that each State is a sovereign, and thus may reclaim the grants which it has made to any agent whomsoever." —Jefferson Davis, "Farewell Address to the Senate"
"Then, Senators, we recur to the compact which binds us together; we recur to the principles upon which our Government was founded; and when you deny them, and when you deny to us the right to withdraw from a Government which thus perverted threatens to be destructive of our rights, we but tread in the path of our fathers when we proclaim our independence, and take the hazard." —Jefferson Davis, "Farewell Address to the Senate"
"We are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world. Seven States have within the last three months thrown off an old government and formed a new. This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood." —Alexander Stephens, "Cornerstone Speech"
"We maintain that in every compact between two or more parties, the obligation is mutual; that the failure of one of the contracting parties to perform a material part of the agreement, entirely releases the obligation of the other." South Carolina Secession Declaration
"By the necessary course of events, if left to themselves, we must become, finally, two people." —John C. Calhoun, "Speech on Reception of Abolition Petitions"
"Abolition and the Union cannot co-exist." —John C. Calhoun, "Speech on Reception of Abolition Petitions"