THE political theory on which the Southern states in 1860 and 1861 based their right to withdraw from the Union was not the sudden creation of any one man, or of any one group of men. Like other ideas that have played a prominent part in history, it was a gradual evolution from earlier and less elaborate conceptions. Its history runs back to colonial days, and its origin may be traced in the desire for independent action which led the early settlers into the wilderness. This was the guiding impulse in their long struggle against external control. Sometimes this struggle was against political control, sometimes against religious, sometimes against commercial.
Usually it was directed against what might roughly be called the central government of their day—parliament and the king; and when other measures failed, it finally took the form of definite separation and independence. Occasionally the struggle was local, growing out of discontent with the government of some particular colony, and resulting either in open resistance, as in the case of Bacon’s rebellion, or in the more or less peaceful withdrawal of a portion of the inhabitants and the founding of new and separately organized communities, as in the case of Connecticut and Rhode Island. On other occasions the dissatisfaction in the older colonies was largely economic and the withdrawal took the form of that western movement in search of better opportunities which laid the foundation of future states across the Alleghany Mountains.
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