The 1830s were a tumultuous time in American History. The tariff debate between the North and South reached a fever pitch and resulted in the emergence of sectional bickering that foreshadowed the Civil War. During this time frame, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster emerged as sectional champions for the South and North, respectively, in a series of Sentate debates with many pages of history being devoted to their arguments. Secession and nullification were the watchwords of the era and tensions were high. A tariff deal was eventually struck and tensions subsided . . . for a time; however, the philosoophical status of secession and nullification in these United States persisted and boiled over by the 1860 election.
Despite the fame of the Calhoun/Webster conflict, others quietly weighed in on the nature of the Union. What was the status of the States? What was the nature of the Union? In this short selection, John Quincy Adams had some interesting things to say.
August Glen-James, editor
Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution . . .
“The indissoluble link of union between the people of the several States of this confederated nation is, after all, not in the right, but in the heart. If the day should ever come, (may Heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interest shall fester into hatred, the bands of political associations will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited states to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect union, by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be re-united by the law of political gravitation to the center.”
—John Quincy Adams, 1838, Speaking about the right of revolution. (Appendix to the “Globe”)
Bledsoe, Albert Taylor. Is Davis a Traitor: Or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861? Pantianos Classics, first published in 1866. Page 79.