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The Legality of Secession Prior to the Civil War, southerners had felt their liberties to be threatened and therefore seceded from the union. Was this really secession or was it illegal for southerners to secede? This is dependant on the rights of States. Do the States have a right to secede from the union? These States' rights are discussed within the Virginia and Kentucky Resolution, during the Hartford Convention, through Hayne and Calhoun, from South Carolina's declaration of secession, from Jefferson Davis' point of view, and from a comparison to the 18th century colonists. When the Constitution was created ""¦those who wrote and ratified the Constitution recognized secession as a legitimate"¦measure of protection against the"¦general government"¦[which might] violate the"¦Constitution and usurp the rights and liberties of the people of the sovereign States."(Rozwenc 23) Southerner's felt that liberty to be threatened and therefore had a right to secede.

Madison and Jefferson wrote the Virginia and Kentucky Resolution respectively.

These two documents were written due to the passing of two acts, the Alien and Sedition Acts. In his Kentucky Resolution, Jefferson stated that the union was a compact among States. He believed that States can declare the Alien and Sedition Acts as unconstitutional and that ""¦whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force."(Rozwenc 48) This, Jefferson believed was the only remedy to anything unconstitutional. Jefferson warned ""¦that successive acts of tyranny ought to drive the States into revolution and blood." (Rozwenc 48) Madison's Virginia Resolution was not as strongly worded but contained the same principles. Madison stated that "dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the States, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil."(Craven...