One of my students (not coincidentally one who has a confederate battle flag on his truck who said cheerily he "considers it my national flag") was arguing today that secession was legal and that the Surpeme Court had never ruled on it. Actually, it did in Texas v. White 74 U.S. 700, which you can read here.

some relevant passages:

"
But the perpetuity and indissolubility of the Union by no means implies the loss of distinct and individual existence, or of the right of self-government by the States. On the contrary, it may be not unreasonably said that the preservation of the States and the maintenance of their governments are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the National government. The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.

When Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.

Considered as transactions under the Constitution, the ordinance of secession, adopted by the convention, and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, and all the acts of her legislature intended to give [p701] effect to that ordinance, were absolutely null. They were utterly without operation in law. The State did not cease to be a State, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union."

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