The Precursor to the Winter of Secession

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Washington in 1860. Photographer Unknown.

Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the Election of 1860 was disconcerting news for the South. It was the most recent event in a string of events that seemingly endangered the southern way of life and the future of the country. At a time when many northerners suspected southern threats of secession were but a bluff, there was evidence that the country had already split and the formalities were soon to follow. Read more

Constitution Sunday: “Publius,” The Federalist VIII [Alexander Hamilton]

“Publius,” The Federalist VIII [Alexander Hamilton]

New-York Packet, November 20, 1787

Following are excerpts from The Federalist VIII, authored by Alexander Hamilton:

“Assuming it therefore as an established truth that the several States, in case of disunion, or such combinations of them as might happen to be formed out of the wreck of the general confederacy, Read more

The Supreme Court Under Jackson

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Roger B. Taney. Photograph by: Mathew Brady.

John Marshall, perhaps the greatest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, died on July 6, 1835. As his life was coming to a close, he wrote Joseph Story, “I yield slowly and reluctantly to the conviction that our constitution cannot last.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 439 quoting John Marshall to Joseph Story, Sept. 22, 1832, quoted in Kent Newmyer, John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court (Baton Rouge, 2001), 386.

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The Fort Hill Address

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John Calhoun.

John Calhoun, by 1831, had alienated himself from President Andrew Jackson, and he wanted to “head off talk of secession,” and on July 26, 1831, he published his “Fort Hill Address” in a South Carolina newspaper. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 399.

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Retention of the Supreme Power

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James Wilson, as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. By: Robert S. Susan, after Leopold G. Seyffert, after Max Rosenthal.

Capturing the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution was expressing “the inherent and unalienable right of the people” to determine their system of government. Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic: 1776-1787, 535 quoting Wilson, in McMaster and Stone, eds., Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 317.

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