Let's define our terms:
Secession = noun - Latin: Secessio
The act of withdrawing, particularly from fellowship and communion.
The act of departing; departure.
Secede = Verb intransitive - Latin: Secedo; se, from, and cedo, to move. Se is an inseparable preposition or prefix in Latin, but denoting departure or separation.
To withdraw from fellowship, communion or association; to separate one's self;
Covenant = noun - Latin: convenio, con and venio, to come. Literally, a coming together; a meeting or agreement of minds.
A mutual consent of agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing; a contract; stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed; or it may be implied in the contract.
= verb intransitive - To enter into a formal agreement; to stipulate; to bind one's self by contract.
= verb transitive - To grant or promise by covenant.
States' Rights = In American political discourse, States' Rights refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments according to the United States Constitution, reflecting especially the enumerated powers of Congress and the Tenth Amendment. The enumerated powers that are listed in the Constitution include exclusive federal powers, as well as concurrent powers that are shared with the states, and all of those powers are contrast with the reserved powers - also called States' Rights - that only the states possess.
The question of who held ultimate political power over the people by law -- if the states or the national government -- was contested by the Federalists and Anti-federalists since the founding of our nation and this long, drawn-out quarrel played a part in the Civil War. States' Rights didn't just randomly occur to the Southern states and secession wasn't invented by them -- States' rights and the right to secede had been there from the start! After all didn't the United States exercise States' Rights in order to secede from the tyranny of England? So why couldn't the states do the same?
Well, before we answer that question it is necessary to go back and look deeper into States' Rights, covenants and secession and the role they played in the beginning of our nation.
As I stated before, the fact that the USA first declared independence from England shows that people believed in the rights of the people- the states- to break away from a tyrannical government. But for the sake of getting to the truth of the matter, let us ask: Did the states claim the right to secede from the central government if deemed necessary? Did the states have the right to nullify laws that considered unconstitutional? Ultimately, were the states right in asserting their rights to secession and nullification?
The Declaration clearly states: "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, 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 principles and organizing its powers in such from, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.......We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved, and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish commerce, and do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Wow! Thats pretty self explanatory! We see that the founding fathers clearly delineated the fact that seceding from a despotic government is not only our right, but our duty. Furthermore, they state repeatedly that the colonies were free and independent states - - not "an independent state" but INDEPENDENT STATES!
When the Constitution came into effect in 1789 it spelled out the view of the states over who held the ultimate political power over them: "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled." It was an accepted, codified fact that the States retained their sovereignty and power, except those powers that they covenanted to give to the Federal Government AND the government was not delegated the authority to coerce any of the States to remain in a forced union. Therefore, we can conclude that the taking up of arms by the North to force the South to remain in the union was completely unconstitutional and that the Southern states were merely exercising the sovereign rights reserved by them as Free and Independent States.