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Old January 4th, 2013, 10:22 AM   #171

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Originally Posted by constantine View Post
And, yet, were powerless in the government that supposedly represented them.
They were far from powerless, as Alexander Stephens, future Vice President of the CSA, pointed out in a speech where he explained in detail why they should NOT secede. Not only did they have a powerful block in the Senate and the House, but as Fiver pointed out, they controlled the Supreme Court.



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And realizing this they ensured certain safeguards were written into the constitution, such as Article IV, Section 2, Paragraph 2. Safeguards that were being blatantly ignored by their northern neighbours and only half-heartedly enforced by the federal government, which had the effect of destabilizing the peculiar institution and undermining the value of property held in the form of slaves. Numerous secession documents from several states attest to this concern. They didn't sign on to a representative democracy, only one half of one third of the government was representative, they signed on to a constitutional republic, in their view the other states had violated this compact in such a way as to make it untenable and undesirable to continue without the previously granted safeguards.

The safeguards promised to them under the constitution were being undermined and they no longer felt the federal government represented their interests.
"Half-heartedly enforced by the federal government"? The federal government was EXTREMELY active in enforcing the fugitive slave law. See for example the cases of Anthony Burns, and the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Lincoln had also pledged to uphold the fugitive slave law.


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But what's the relevance of all this? Either 'Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness' or the contrary is true.

So I guess I guess the question I should ask is, do people have the right of self-determination? To suggest that they do when you agree with their aims but do not when you disagree with their aims would seem to be a remarkably arbitrary position. Regardless of the reasons behind the decision to exercise this right, is, as Jefferson asserts, this a fundamental right or not?
Yes, I believe the right to self-determination is a fundamental right. But like all rights, it has its inherent responsibilities. One responsibility is to coolly, calmly and soberly insure that separation is the PEOPLE'S will. And if it is determined that it is the people's will, then the next responsibility is to exhaust ALL legal and peaceful avenues of separation FIRST, before resorting to force. The secessionists failed miserably at both. In fact they didn't even try.

Only one of the original seven seceding states put the matter of secession up to the public for a referendum. The other states steadfastly refused to. And it's no wonder why - in the absence of war, the majority of white Southerners were opposed to secession. So what does that tell you about the principle of self-determination? (Not to mention the obvious irony that the whole reason for self-determination in the first place was to deny self-determination to black Southerners "for all future time".)

As for exhausting all legal and peaceful avenues, the secessionists completely ignored the Supreme Court and the Constitution when it came to secession. If they believed secession was constitutional, they could have taken their case to the Supreme Court. If they believed it was unconstitutional, they could have tried to pass a Constitutional amendment. Instead, they chose the path of confrontation - of "might makes right". But they didn't have the might, and that, in itself, made them wrong.

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Old January 4th, 2013, 11:30 AM   #172
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They were far from powerless, as Alexander Stephens, future Vice President of the CSA, pointed out in a speech where he explained in detail why they should NOT secede. Not only did they have a powerful block in the Senate and the House, but as Fiver pointed out, they controlled the Supreme Court.
They still had some influence, but with westward expansion it was quickly evaporating and, simultaneous with this, the power and the industry of the North was growing, in 20 years time it would have been impossible for the South to even attempt secession. There were good political reasons to wait and see how things developed, but there were good military and logistical reasons that the South should have seceded 20-30 years earlier. If secession had occurred when the Nullification crisis took place, the odds were on the south winning.

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"Half-heartedly enforced by the federal government"? The federal government was EXTREMELY active in enforcing the fugitive slave law. See for example the cases of Anthony Burns, and the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Lincoln had also pledged to uphold the fugitive slave law.
The site you referenced about Anthony Burns says that he was the last fugitive slave arrested and returned to slavery in Massachusetts, this was in 1854...so yes, I think 'half-hearted' is a good description, maybe even a little too generous. Federal marshals may have still enforced the fugitive slave laws in some states, but these marshals were few and far between. The concern of the south was that the northern states were ignoring their constitutional obligations under Article IV, Section 2 of the constitution, which they had agreed to when they entered the Union, and the ignoring of this constitutional provision was causing grave harm to the interests of the southern states.

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Yes, I believe the right to self-determination is a fundamental right. But like all rights, it has its inherent responsibilities. One responsibility is to coolly, calmly and soberly insure that separation is the PEOPLE'S will. And if it is determined that it is the people's will, then the next responsibility is to exhaust ALL legal and peaceful avenues of separation FIRST, before resorting to force. The secessionists failed miserably at both. In fact they didn't even try.

Only one of the original seven seceding states put the matter of secession up to the public for a referendum. The other states steadfastly refused to. And it's no wonder why - in the absence of war, the majority of white Southerners were opposed to secession. So what does that tell you about the principle of self-determination? (Not to mention the obvious irony that the whole reason for self-determination in the first place was to deny self-determination to black Southerners "for all future time".)
And I believe two more of the Confederate states also had a referendum, if memory serves me right. Considering the referendum did pass in states where it was presented and the popular support elected representatives of the other states that seceded through the legislative process, I think we can safely say it was the will of the people. At least as much so as we can say this about the American Revolution, I don't recall any referendums in that conflict.

As for the self-determination of the slaves, there's an argument to be made there, but not on behalf of the union. If the union had entered the war, from the outset, to defend the rights of the slaves then maybe it could be made; but that would have possibly undermined the political support for the war from the outset and wasn't stated as an initial war aim.

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As for exhausting all legal and peaceful avenues, the secessionists completely ignored the Supreme Court and the Constitution when it came to secession. If they believed secession was constitutional, they could have taken their case to the Supreme Court. If they believed it was unconstitutional, they could have tried to pass a Constitutional amendment. Instead, they chose the path of confrontation - of "might makes right". But they didn't have the might, and that, in itself, made them wrong.
I don't see why the Supreme Court should have been consulted, since Mulberry the Supreme Court has had a role in interpreting the constitution, but creating, altering, or abrogating the constitution has always been reserved to the states...and still is to this very day. There's still a question of the acceptability of unilateral abrogation, but the Supreme Court would not be the appropriate forum to consider this matter, a constitutional convention would. Now, an argument could be made that it would have been prudent for them to take their concerns to a constitutional convention, but I don't think the Supreme Court would have been an appropriated forum as it would have been conceding rights clearly reserved to the states to a branch of the federal government.

But, ultimately, if we are to accept the right to self-determination, we must accept it independent of the forms and laws of the government with which the people want to break. It's obvious that it was not legal for the colonies to secede from the British Empire without the consent of the King and, possibly, parliament...but if self-determination truly is a natural right, it stands above the King's law. Likewise, if it truly is a natural right, as Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence suggested, it must stand above the constitution and the laws of the United States. So even if certain forms and procedures would have been more politically appropriate, we can't allow bureaucratic formality to deny men a natural right and we must recognize that the right to self-determination trumps the law of any nation. If nothing else, that's certainly how the founding fathers saw it.
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Old January 4th, 2013, 12:31 PM   #173
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Originally Posted by Jax Historian View Post
il

First, you're right, I mistakenly attributed you with someone else's claim. again, my apologies.

Second, I appreciate you're political philosophy. As I see it, you are in conflict with Rongo's position because he sees the political problem in terms of specifics - a group of people rights, especially legal rights, after entering into a contract (the Constitution); where you're position is more abstract - what, if anything (or, does it matter?) justifies any group's right to use of violence for political self-determination?

For me, some of the great problems of political philosophy lie at the level we look at them. Keep saying what you're saying, its interesting. But don't dismiss objections to your position as emotional and knee-jerk. You've opened a serious can of philosophical worms here, stick to your argument.

And yes, there are people you can't talk to because they engage in the "Great American creation myth" (actually, I don't think there is just one, but dozens of Great American myths). But on this forum, at least some people's responses to what you're posting will be pretty well thought out, far beyond mere ideological servitude. So, to whom are you talking? 'Them' or 'us'?
No harm done and thanks for the input. I've been on some message boards where I'd end up just avoiding certain topics, not because they weren't interesting and not even because the conversation wasn't good, but because they're those kind of topics that lead to a knock-down drag-out fight when new members came on board. After a while you just get fatigued with rehashing the same old arguments. In those instances, I too can be prone to quick knee-jerk reactions, it's most understandable. When I got hit with a pre-canned wall of quotes, I should have suspected that that's what was going on here It's understandable and it's still been a really good discussion, I've quite enjoyed it, but I can see that it's not something I'll probably want to be doing on a regular basis. It's been nearly 20 years since I spent much time on the civil war (though it was my favourite subject at the time), usually it's European history these days, I guess I forgot how contentious the issue can be.
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Old January 4th, 2013, 01:02 PM   #174

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And, yet, were powerless in the government that supposedly represented them.
ONCE. they were powerless in the government that represented them ONCE. and the one time SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE UNITED STATES that a presidential election didn't go to a slaver or a doughface, they threw a tantrum like the spoiled brats that they were. i'm honestly more surprised that there wasn't a NORTHERN secession before then, considering how much the South subverted their states' rights to not practice or condone slavery
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Old January 4th, 2013, 01:09 PM   #175

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The site you referenced about Anthony Burns says that he was the last fugitive slave arrested and returned to slavery in Massachusetts, this was in 1854...so yes, I think 'half-hearted' is a good description, maybe even a little too generous. Federal marshals may have still enforced the fugitive slave laws in some states, but these marshals were few and far between. The concern of the south was that the northern states were ignoring their constitutional obligations under Article IV, Section 2 of the constitution, which they had agreed to when they entered the Union, and the ignoring of this constitutional provision was causing grave harm to the interests of the southern states.
I'm sorry, but I've given you clear, concrete examples of when the Federal government went to great lengths to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. If you'd like to make the case that they didn't, then I think you're going to have to pony up with some examples, not innuendo.


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And I believe two more of the Confederate states also had a referendum, if memory serves me right. Considering the referendum did pass in states where it was presented and the popular support elected representatives of the other states that seceded through the legislative process, I think we can safely say it was the will of the people. At least as much so as we can say this about the American Revolution, I don't recall any referendums in that conflict.
Virginia and Tennessee held popular referenda AFTER war had started, when it was clear that emotion would give the secessionists the victory. Prior to war starting, secession was so unpopular in Tennessee that it didn't even hold a secession convention. Don't you find it interesting that referenda were only held when victory was a sure thing?

Alabama, on the other hand, held a secession convention, not a popular referendum. During the convention it became clear that the vote could be a close one. Yet here's what delegate William L. Yancey (called by many "the father of secession") told the convention:

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"It is useless to disguise the fact, that in some portions of the State there is disapprobation towards our action; and, I venture to tell the gentleman from Tuscaloosa, that when that Ordinance shall be passed, even if it be by the meagre majority of one, it will represent the fullness, and the power, and the majesty of the sovereign people of Alabama. When it shall be the supreme organic law of the people of Alabama, the State upon that question will know no majority or minority among her people, but will expect and demand, and secure unlimited and unquestioned obedience to that Ordinance... Men, who shall, after the passage of this Ordinance, dissolving the union of Alabama with the other States of this Confederacy, dare array themselves against the State, will then become the enemies of the State. There is a law of Treason, defining treason against the State; and, these who shall dare oppose the action of Alabama, when she assumes her independence of the Union, will become traitors--rebels against its authority, and will be dealt with as such." - William L. Yancey, January 9, 1861

Source: William Russell Smith, 1815-1896. The History and Debates of the Convention of the People of Alabama : Begun and Held in the City of Montgomery, on the Seventh Day of January, 1861; in Which is Preserved the Speeches of the Secret Sessions and Many V
So in what could be a close vote, Yancey is willing to brand anyone who doesn't go along with the results of the vote as a "traitor", and to deal with them "as such". And all this without even the least bit of consideration of putting it to the people for a referendum. That's "self-determination"? Really?

Now consider Georgia. Georgia also held a secession convention, with no popular referendum either. The convention voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession. When Georgians challenged the results and demanded that Governor Brown release the records of the votes for convention delegates, he initially refused. Finally he caved in to public pressure and released records showing that Georgians had voted 50,000 to 37,000 in favor of secessionist delegates. But it turns out that the Governor cooked the books. The Georgia Historical Society published an exhaustive study of the records in 1972 and concluded that actually a slim majority of Georgians voted AGAINST secessionist delegates. (Details here)

Same was true in Louisiana. Here's what Dr. David Williams, history professor at Valdosta State University in Georgia, had to say about it:

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One Louisiana delegate told his colleagues that in "refusing to submit its action to [the voters] for their sanction... this Convention violates the great fundamental principle of American government, that the will of the people is supreme." In March, the New Orleans Picayune stated plainly that secessionist leaders across the South were giving "new and startling evidence of their distrust of the people, and thus furnished strong testimony... that the South was divided, and that the movement in which we are now engaged has not the sanction of the great body of the people."


In his seminal study of the secession crisis, David Potter looked at the popular vote for state secession conventions throughout the South and concluded:
At no time during the winter of 1860-1861 was secession desired by a majority of the people of the slave states. . . . Furthermore, secession was not basically desired even by a majority in the lower South, and the secessionists succeeded less because of the intrinsic popularity of their program than because of the extreme skill with which they utilized an emergency psychology, the promptness by which they invoked unilateral action by individual states, and the firmness with which they refused to submit the question of secession to popular referenda.

Source: David Williams, A People's History of the Civil War, p. 58
So we CANNOT "safely say it was the will of the people." All we know for sure is that it was the will of the slaveholding politicians who ran the show. And that's also all the people of the North and the people of Europe knew for sure, which is one of many reasons why both believed the Confederacy lacked legitimacy, and why NO NATION ON EARTH officially recognized the CSA as a sovereign nation.

And as for the American Revolution, there was no way the colonists could have held a free and fair popular referendum on the matter of independence, because their country had been under invasion by the British for over a year. The two largest cities in America had been occupied, and in other cities the Crown had dissolved all public representative bodies. Even so, the delegates to the Continental Congress went to great lengths to postpone declaring independence until they were sure it was the will of the people, as has already been discussed here:

http://www.historum.com/american-his...ml#post1275538
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Old January 4th, 2013, 01:16 PM   #176

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I don't see why the Supreme Court should have been consulted, since Mulberry the Supreme Court has had a role in interpreting the constitution, but creating, altering, or abrogating the constitution has always been reserved to the states...and still is to this very day. There's still a question of the acceptability of unilateral abrogation, but the Supreme Court would not be the appropriate forum to consider this matter, a constitutional convention would. Now, an argument could be made that it would have been prudent for them to take their concerns to a constitutional convention, but I don't think the Supreme Court would have been an appropriated forum as it would have been conceding rights clearly reserved to the states to a branch of the federal government.

But, ultimately, if we are to accept the right to self-determination, we must accept it independent of the forms and laws of the government with which the people want to break. It's obvious that it was not legal for the colonies to secede from the British Empire without the consent of the King and, possibly, parliament...but if self-determination truly is a natural right, it stands above the King's law. Likewise, if it truly is a natural right, as Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence suggested, it must stand above the constitution and the laws of the United States.
Ah, I see, any legal means of separation is just "bureaucratic formality" and can be dispensed with. Well, in that case, I'm heading over to my local Post Office right now and seizing it, and declaring myself a new and independent country. Rongolia. Has a nice ring to it. (Ummm, just kidding, Feds )


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So even if certain forms and procedures would have been more politically appropriate, we can't allow bureaucratic formality to deny men a natural right and we must recognize that the right to self-determination trumps the law of any nation. If nothing else, that's certainly how the founding fathers saw it.
This is not correct. The founding fathers observed all the "bureaucratic formalities" they could, including sending the Olive Branch Petition to the King. Can ANYBODY even begin to imagine the secessionists sending a petition like that to President Lincoln?

It was precisely because of their experience under British rule that the Founding Fathers created a Supreme Court and an amendable Constitution. It was a blessing they bequeathed to their descendants so that they could resolve future problems like this PEACEFULLY. But their Confederate descendants spurned that blessing, in favor of another "blessing".

Last edited by Rongo; January 4th, 2013 at 01:43 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old January 4th, 2013, 01:27 PM   #177

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In those instances, I too can be prone to quick knee-jerk reactions, it's most understandable. When I got hit with a pre-canned wall of quotes, I should have suspected that that's what was going on here
It was not "pre-canned" then, but it is "pre-canned" now, and it will come back out again any time anybody comes here and makes statements like this:

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...Protectionism vs. free trade was the debate that tore the country apart.
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Old January 4th, 2013, 03:17 PM   #178

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It was not "pre-canned" then, but it is "pre-canned" now, and it will come back out again any time anybody comes here and makes statements like this:
The "pre-canned" quote claim was wholly unwarranted and pretty lame. I guess some people don't have enough faith in the intellectual content of their position to argue it straight up without stooping to personal low blows.
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Old January 4th, 2013, 03:23 PM   #179
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It was not "pre-canned" then, but it is "pre-canned" now, and it will come back out again any time anybody comes here and makes statements like this:
My apologies, I miss read your commentary the first time through; you said that you were pre-packaging them at that time to 'whack this mole with every time he pops up', I had thought you said that you already pre-packaged them for such an occasion.

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:Sigh: Indeed it is. I've decided to draw up a pre-packaged, pre-formatted response to whack this mole with every time he pops up, rather than having to track down all these quotes and format them each and every time. So here goes:
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Old January 4th, 2013, 05:25 PM   #180
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I'm sorry, but I've given you clear, concrete examples of when the Federal government went to great lengths to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. If you'd like to make the case that they didn't, then I think you're going to have to pony up with some examples, not innuendo.
You gave me a web page that said in the seven years before the war, after the case you referenced, not a single fugitive slave was returned from Massachusetts. What more evidence could one possibly need to demonstrate that the act was not being properly enforced? Or are you suggesting that there were no fugitive slaves that passed through Massachusetts during those seven years? And we're only talking about federal enforcement, we haven't even addressed how the northern states themselves actively avoiding upholding their responsibility under Article IV, Section 2. Many in the South at the time basically said that if the north is going to cherry pick the constitution for the parts they like and not live up to the responsibilities they committed to when signing it, it's already a dead letter.

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Virginia and Tennessee held popular referenda AFTER war had started, when it was clear that emotion would give the secessionists the victory. Prior to war starting, secession was so unpopular in Tennessee that it didn't even hold a secession convention. Don't you find it interesting that referenda were only held when victory was a sure thing?

Alabama, on the other hand, held a secession convention, not a popular referendum. During the convention it became clear that the vote could be a close one. Yet here's what delegate William L. Yancey (called by many "the father of secession") told the convention:

So in what could be a close vote, Yancey is willing to brand anyone who doesn't go along with the results of the vote as a "traitor", and to deal with them "as such". And all this without even the least bit of consideration of putting it to the people for a referendum. That's "self-determination"? Really?

Now consider Georgia. Georgia also held a secession convention, with no popular referendum either. The convention voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession. When Georgians challenged the results and demanded that Governor Brown release the records of the votes for convention delegates, he initially refused. Finally he caved in to public pressure and released records showing that Georgians had voted 50,000 to 37,000 in favor of secessionist delegates. But it turns out that the Governor cooked the books. The Georgia Historical Society published an exhaustive study of the records in 1972 and concluded that actually a slim majority of Georgians voted AGAINST secessionist delegates. (Details here)

Same was true in Louisiana. Here's what Dr. David Williams, history professor at Valdosta State University in Georgia, had to say about it:

So we CANNOT "safely say it was the will of the people." All we know for sure is that it was the will of the slaveholding politicians who ran the show. And that's also all the people of the North and the people of Europe knew for sure, which is one of many reasons why both believed the Confederacy lacked legitimacy, and why NO NATION ON EARTH officially recognized the CSA as a sovereign nation.
And, for all we know, we could say that the American Revolution was the will of the slaveholding and merchant politicians. After all, most of them were only elected by the few white male property owners who bothered to vote in these elections and patriots and republicans would have been more likely to vote in the continental elections than loyalists and monarchists. Not to mention, the violent actions of the patriots against the loyalists that occurred even well before open hostilities with the British Army certainly had the effect of dissuading their participation in public gatherings and manipulating election results.

You're right that elections were less than perfect in 1860's America and suffrage was far from universal. But at least there wasn't mob violence to dissuade voters and target public officials like was seen in Boston from at least 1774. These southern legislators and convention delegates represented the people of their states at least as well as the Continental Congress represented the American Colonists and likely moreso.

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And as for the American Revolution, there was no way the colonists could have held a free and fair popular referendum on the matter of independence, because their country had been under invasion by the British for over a year. The two largest cities in America had been occupied, and in other cities the Crown had dissolved all public representative bodies. Even so, the delegates to the Continental Congress went to great lengths to postpone declaring independence until they were sure it was the will of the people, as has already been discussed here:

http://www.historum.com/american-his...ml#post1275538
[/quote]

Well, first of all the British weren't invading anyone, they were defending their own land; that's the nature of a revolution, you try to take land that you live on, but is ruled by someone else, as your own. Maybe if the Colonists had actually voted on these matters before starting the war, they could have got a popular mandate. Then again, with a fair vote they may very well have voted not to secede, but that wouldn't have suited the purposes of the agitators, better to just stack the odds in your favor across the board. The link you provided included a quote referring to the legislative process being affected by mob violence, nothing can be further from democracy or the will of the people than mob violence...which is usually little more than a vocal minority trying to impose their will on anyone within their reach.

That's why it's best to deliberate about actions before hand, declare independence or war, then start fighting. I don't see how the patriots' decision to start a war then rubber stamp it latter by legislative bodies threatened by mob violence is in any way more justifiable than electing delegates and holding conventions, as was done throughout much of the south, or even holding referendums as happened in a few cases. The fact that the patriots started a war then declared independence when true representation was almost impossible (due to the war they started) detracts from their case, it doesn't strengthen it. Those are the tactics used by Marxists over the last century, who know they wouldn't win in a fair election.

I must say Rongo, I started this conversation thinking the two revolutions were comparable, but you brought up an interesting point about the patriots starting a war then forcing the declaration of independence through less than representative legislatures, skewed in their favour. But you're starting to convince me that I'm wrong, perhaps the south was more justified in secession than the colonies, as they had a much clearer popular mandate, untainted by war and violence. I'm still glad the north won, it turned out for the better, but I'm starting to question if I feel the same way about the american colonists.
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