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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXI. Political Writing Since 1850

§ 4. States’ Rights and Secession

These writings and others of minor importance are the record of a change in Southern opinion, the passing of the conviction that slavery is inherently wrong, to be abolished in the future, to as strong a conviction that slavery is right per se; they also mark the declining influence of Jefferson’s political ideas. The constitutional theories of states’ rights and secession, to which the protagonists of slavery looked for ultimate defence, were likewise the subject of discussion. Calhoun’s Disquisition on Government and Discourse on the Constitution were posthumously published in 1851. Politics gave an opportunity to carry to the people the constitutional conceptions of the great theorist. This was notably true just after the compromise of 1850 was enacted, when a definite movement was inaugurated in the cotton states to reject the compromise and bring about secession. Typical was the trend of argument and appeal in South Carolina. Edward B. Bryan, in advocating immediate secession, anticipated one of Lincoln’s themes when he wrote: “The cement is broken; the house is divided against itself. It must fall.” William Henry Trescott, about to begin a long career in diplomatic service, likewise wrote; “The only safety for the South is the establishment of a political centre within itself; in simpler words, the formation of an independent nation.” The aged Langdon Cheves wrote the following call to the Southern people: “Unite, and you shall form one of the most splendid empires on which the sun ever shone, of the most homogeneous population, all of the same blood and lineage, in soil most fruitful, and in climate most fruitful. But submit—submit! The very sound curdles the blood in my veins. But, Oh, Great God, unite us, and a tale of submission shall never be told.”