He quotes a letter from British Lord Acton, who was the leading libertarian of his day, to Robert E. Lee:
I saw in State Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and wisely calculated to remedy.
I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our
progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo. — Lord Acton (Emphasis added by Mr. Kretzmann.)
Mr. Kretzmann includes quotations of Abraham Lincoln, familiar to most readers of this blog, about the purpose of that war being the preservation of the Union at all costs.
He then observes:
Today many find the idea of secession immoral and totally unacceptable largely based on what they learn about the Civil War in school. Textbooks and teachers are quick to blast the South’s secession, yet they omit the fact that the U.S. itself exists because we attempted to peacefully secede from Great Britain.
Secession is perhaps the greatest weapon of peace against a tyrannical, centralized authority. Without the possibility of state secession or nullification, what does the federal government have working against its power? As Thomas Jefferson stated, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” How can the states, and the people thereof, possibly resist that “natural progress” of government expansion if they are forcefully bound within a central government that may not serve their interests, and possibly even works against them?
How, indeed? Recently, I have been emphasizing that secession is a last resort. The legislative program I recommended yesterday has two purposes: First and foremost, to preserve the Union as it was intended by our Founding Fathers -- but failing that, to help prepare Ohio for life as an independent nation.
Daniel Webster, in his Second Reply to Hayne (1830), called for "liberty and union, now and forevermore, one and inseparable." That's fine, but when liberty and union work to cross-purposes, liberty must prevail.