Sowing the seeds of secession: the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions 1798, the Hartford Convention 1814, The South Carolina Nullification Crisis 1830-33

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Southern New Hampshire University
This paper explores the development of secession as a response to federal laws in the United States. The main argument of the paper is the idea that secession could be used as a legitimate response for a state or states to unfavorable federal laws and policies was planted with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions and continued to develop during the Hartford Convention and South Carolina Nullification Crisis. The main primary documents used in this paper to support the thesis are the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, the Report of the Hartford Convention and the South Carolina Nullification document. Additional primary sources include newspaper reports, presidential speeches and annual messages to Congress, and the South Carolina Exposition and protest as well as John C. Calhoun’s speech on the relationship between the federal government and the states. The paper examines the preamble and ratification of the constitution relying on primary sources for discussion and secondary sources to provide additional information. The discussion then moves on to discussions of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, the Hartford convention and South Carolina Nullification Crisis in separate chapters. The development of secession culminates in a chapter about the Civil War which explores the connection between the secession documents and the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. The final chapter discusses two Supreme Court decisions in which the majority opinions rule of the legality of secession. The epilogue briefly discusses present day secessionist movements in two states. (Author abstract)