Stephen C. Neff


This discussion will briefly outline the legal arguments in favour of the secessionist position. The first section will survey four arguments that could, in theory, have been employed but which, in practice, were used either not at all or only marginally. The second section will survey, in greater detail, the principal argument which was advanced in 1860-61: that secession was a lawful remedy available to the Southern states in the face of material breaches of the Constitutional compact of 1787 by the free states. It will be observed that, in this argument, general considerations of natural law and of the law of nations played a central role.