A Precedent for Secession

Early in the history of the country the right of a state to withdraw peaceably from the Union had been widely held, and at several critical moments threats of secession had been made, the most notable being in 1814, when the New England states had held a convention at Hartford, Connecticut, to discuss secession on account of their dislike of the War of 1812.  Thus there was precedent, in the North no less!  

Virginians controlled the White House from 1801 to 1825, and the New England Federalists were not happy campers.  They complained that the admission of new Western states was changing the original balance of power between the North and South.  New Englanders growled about threats of secession during the Embargo crisis of 1807-1809.  New England opposed the declaration of war with England in 1812, and used states rights arguments to criticize and obstruct the conduct of the war of 1812.  They discouraged New Englanders from enlisting in the army to prosecute the war.  Daniel Webster made his political name obstructing John C. Calhoun's efforts to strengthen the war effort.

A proposal to conscript state militiamen pushed the Massachusetts legislature to call a convention at Harford, attended by delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  This convention was held in secret from 14 December 1814 to 5 January 1815.  The official Hartford statement counseled a form of state nullification and urged constitutional amendments to protect  New England rights and interests against a national majority dominated by the South and West.  Although the convention did not actually call for secession, it did hint at "drastic actions" if the "moderate demands" of the Convention were not heeded.

This crisis never occurred.  Andrew Jackson stomped the British at New Orleans on 8 January 1815, and a peace treaty was signed at Ghent on 24 December 1815.

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