James Madison Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, 6 January 1833

Montpellier Dec. 6, 1833

Dear Sir:

I rec’d last evening your letter of Dec. 3d asking whether from my knowledge of your grandfather’s opinions, you have erred in asserting that he never entertained the opinion that a State had a Constitutional right to secede peaceably from the union, at pleasure, and that this was not his reading of the Virginia & Kentucky Resolution of 98-99.

I do not recollect any precise conversation with him on the questions stated. Nothing certainly ever passed between us, which left an impression that he considered a State as having a Constitutional or any right to secede from its compact with the other parties, without their consent, or without such a breach or abuse of the compact as absolved the seceding party from the obligations imposed by it.

What is meant by a "peaceable secession" I do not distinctly understand. If it means an acquiescence of the other parties, that might be either a tacit consent, or a forbearance to assert their right without acknowledging the right of the seceding party. With cordial esteem

J. M.

Typed copy of draft by JM? (MHi); FC (NNPM); copy, also misdated December 6, 1833 (NjP: Crane Collection).

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