There are two theories that continue to influence American political thought; the Compact and the Nationalist Theories. Lets start with the Compact Theory.
The Compact Theory was the theory held by the founding fathers. The State’s came before the central government and even created and authorized the central government. These distinctions are vital, as we will soon see. First, the State’s have rights that go above those of the central government; this means that if the central government tries to impose something on the State’s, those State’s affected can fight back, and hold their own against the central state. Second, they have the right to leave the union, since they created and authorized the union; this would mean that the Southern States had every right to leave the Union in 1861. The refusal of the Northern States to allow them to do this would necessarily be treasonous to the entire idea of the Union.
However, under the Nationalist Theory, the Northern States would have every right to summon troops and attack the South and force them into unconditional surrender and back into the arms of the Union. Why shouldn’t they? The Federal, or Central, government has supreme authority over the States, and is supported not by a Republic representing the States, but by the populace. This means that if the Central government oversteps the bounds given it by the people, all they can do is attempt to vote out the offending politicians in the next election. They cannot ask their respective States to intervene; they can only wait and hope that they win the next election.
So, we see that the whether we hold to the Compact or to the Nationalist Theories is vital when coming to how we view the political sphere. The Compact Theory in supporting the States that founded the Union takes the total opposite and opposing view over the Nationalist Theory in its support of a strong, central state with unlimited powers over the States and We the People.