Saturday, March 10, 2007

The War of 1776 was a War of Secession

Argument: The American Revolution was not a War of Secession


America’s most prominent secessionist, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, was very clear about what he was saying: Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and whenever that consent is withdrawn, it is the right of the people to "alter or abolish" that government and "to institute a new government." The word "secession" was not a part of the American language at that time, so Jefferson used the word "separation" instead to describe the intentions of the American colonial secessionists. (Secessionist No. 18)

Clearly the joint declaration of 13 colonies from Britain was nothing more than the exact sort of separation that political theorist eventually came to call secession. Virginia's declaration of Independence (secession) occurred before the July 1776 joint declaration. The colonies had existed in some cases for 150 years with certain rights and privileges and maintained de facto status as the representative government of the sovereignty of the people. These were acts of separation carried out by political bodies relying on the sovereignty of the people. It was secession.

There were acts of civil disobedience before the political declaration, there were incidents of mob violence and there was the distinct possibility that the war might have developed into an insurgency of the sort we are familiar with in the 20th and 21st centuries, but this did not happen.

Likewise this war cannot be properly termed a revolution, for revolutions seek to replace one government with another. The thirteen colonies acted independently in a joint manner to declare their separation from Britain, and then acted jointly in their newly independent status to create, give birth, to a new entity. There was not revolution, no intention to replace the current government - there was only the intention to separate, to seceded from Britain.


  1. Very nice article. The spirit of John C. Calhoun is stalking the internet!


  2. Great blog! I'm adding yours to my list!
    God bless!
    aka Dixiegirl 4 Him

  3. This is not strictly true, as it was self-appointed "provincial congresses" which rebelled against the legitimately-constituted authority (i.e.: "the Crown" and the holders of the delegated power thereof such as Governors, colonial assemblies, etc).

    Much as one might say Lincoln "rebelled" against the Constitution by invading the Southern states, which had seceded in a completely legitimate and constitutional manner.

    There is little comparison between the America's first civil war and its second. The first was a revolution by a minority of colonists against the legitimate authority of the Crown, while the second was the invasion of sovereign states by the remaining United States, and the destruction of the previously-existing voluntary union and its replacement by an involuntary unitary state.