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In Their Own Words

March 16, 1861

Secession Convention Adopted “Ennunciation of Fundamental Principles”

Georgia’s secession convention adopted “an Ennunciation of Fundamental Principles” explaining why the state of Georgia was fully in its right to secede and take all subsequent actions. This resolution is a clear statement of the doctrine of sovereign states’ rights in which all the seceded states firmly believed:

Experience having admonished us that there exists a wide spread disposition in many sections, to question or deny the right of the people of Georgia, to be a free, independent, and sovereign State, endowed with all the rights of a perfect sovereignty, among which is the right to secede from a Confederacy, upon finding a continuance in it incompatible with her peace, safety, happiness, interests, or liberties: Aware, moreover, of the importance of a thorough understanding of the fundamental principles of all just government by the people of a free State: We, the representatives of the people of Georgia, in that supreme and sovereign capacity wherein they are entitled to make, alter, and abolish Constitutions and Governments, do hereby publish and declare: First, That sovereignty is the supreme, ultimate power, abiding in the people of an organized community or State. Second, That sovereignty is one, indivisible, inalienable, and imprescriptible. Third, That all other power in the State is derived from, is subordinate to, and revocable by, the sovereignty. Fourth, That Governments are not sovereign, but the creatures of the sovereignty, ordained and established by it, for the purpose of a convenient exercise of its ordinary powers, in the enactment, administration, and execution of laws, to establish justice, and to promote the peace, good order, security, and prosperity of the State. Fifth, That constitutions or fundamental laws, are the direct enactments of the sovereignty, organizing governments, delegating, defining, and limiting their powers, and enumerating the purposes for which those powers are to be exerted. Sixth, That allegiance is due only to the sovereignty, and obedience is due to government only as its regularly constituted organ. Seventh, That no mere government, whether it be a government proper or improper, has a right to resist the regularly expressed will of the sovereignty which created it, either for the purpose of retaining power, or of continuing its existence against that will. Eighth, That there ought to be established a real and effective responsibility on the part of all officials in every department of government. Ninth, That power given for one purpose, cannot rightfully be exercised for any other, and therefore the taxing power can be exercised only to raise revenue to defray the expenses of government, defend the State, or for some other purpose specified in the grant of the power. Tenth, That the system of taxation adopted in a free State, ought to be just and equal in its operation as between individuals, classes, and sections; and ought to be generally and thoroughly understood by the people, in order that they may be enabled to hold their representatives to a real responsibility, and secure simplicity, economy, and purity, in the administration. Eleventh, That in its relation to individuals, the protection of person, property, and character, against violence, fraud, and defamation, is the sole legitimate object of all just government; and an imbecile government which cannot, or a corrupt government, which will not give it, ought to be reformed or overthrown. Twelfth, That it is the indispensible duty of a good government, to provide an easy, prompt, and adequate remedy for the infraction of every right; and a just, but certain punishment for every wrong or crime. Thirteenth, That all citizens of a free State, may freely, and peaceably, assemble to consider any matter interesting to them; may keep, and bear arms; may petition their government for anything within the sphere of its powers; may freely speak, write, and publish their opinions upon any subject, standing to the penalty of law for any abuse of these privileges; may profess any religious creed, and practice any form of religious worship, without being subjected, on account thereof, to any political or legal disability, or entitled to any political or legal privileges of favor.

Read the full journal of Georgia’s secession convention here.