Taking Secession Seriously–At Last

by Kirkpatrick Sale on April 29, 2009 · 154 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire,Region & Place

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Mt. Pleasant, SC–As little as I wished to make my first post for FPR an overtly political essay on contemporary affairs–I had meant to rumination growing up in a small village attendant upon farmlands in upstate New York–I was compelled by the events of the last few weeks to say a few words on the new phenomenon of serious discussion of secession. And secession is, anyway, a core principle of decentralism and self-determination, having to do with the distribution of power, approximate self-government, and the proper scale of human endeavors that I would take to be inherent in the Front Porch Republic.

It is heartening that at last, thanks to a few off-the-cuff remarks by Texas governor Rick Perry on “tea-party” day, people are starting to talk about secession in these not-very-United States, and for the most part taking the concept seriously. (“Secession Talk,” as the New York Times put it, “Stirs Furor.”) It’s the first time it has been a genuine subject in American public discourse, says Emory University secession scholar Donald Livingston, since the war of Southern Independence was settled in 1865.

So it’s no surprise that a lot of people have completely misunderstood it, and that the nerve in their knees often impels them to declare it illegal and unconstitutional. Robert Schlesinger, a columnist for U.S. News, is typical: under a headline “Texas Can’t Secede,” he wrote that “one third of the voters think the state has the legal right to secede from the Union.” Then, so sure of his errant position he could get cutsey, he added, “Ummm, no,” and went on to scold them for being so ignorant.

But the plain truth is that Texas has that right, and so do the other 49 states.

In fact, there has never been a real question about the legitimacy of secession. It was the principle that led the 13 colonies to fight to get out from under the British crown in the war of 1776. It was the principle implicit in the 13 states ratifying the Constitution in 1789, made explicit in the ratifying documents of New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island. It was the option understood to be available to all states from that time until 1861, and considered by New England states at the Hartford Convention of 1814. No one put forth a compelling argument that secession was unconstitutional, and the fact that the US Congress in 1861 debated and failed to pass a law against it proves that it was not illegal even in that year.

Lincoln put forth various, and often greatly varying, arguments against secession, but, as Livingston says, relying on their refutation by pro-Unionist philosopher Christopher Wellman (A Theory of Secession, 2005), “Lincoln’s arguments are preposterous.” He was not relying on reason and history and philosophical argument, no more than his party did, but on instinct and temperament, with pride and egotism (“Not on my watch”) mixed in.

(In fact, so far as reason has to do with it, Lincoln had previously argued that “any people anywhere… have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and to form one that suits them better,” and in his First Inaugural held that “if a majority deprives a minority of a clearly written constitutional right,” that would justify revolution.)

Of course it is true that the particular secession of 1861-65 did not succeed–but that didn’t make it illegal or even unwise. It made it a failure, that’s all. The victory by a superior military might is not the same thing as the creation of a superior constitutional right. In fact it dealt only with the question of whether secession would work that one time, decisively decided in the negative by an autocratic, unconstitutional usurpation of power and the waging of a deadly war that defied all civilized standards of warfare to date.

Amid all the talk today, it will be necessary for those who know history and the Constitution to refute those who throw up the rhetoric of “illegal” and “unconstitutional” and the like so that we can get on to an examination of its particular merits.

For example, that New York Times story on “Secessionist Talk” declared that there has been “no serious argument since the Civil War [sic]on behalf of a legal basis for a state’s secession.” Completely wrong. In 1998 David Gordon brought together ten eminent scholars to offer as serious, not to mention academic, a set of arguments for secession (Secession, State,and Liberty) as there could be. Some of the contributors to that volume, notably Livingston, Clyde Wilson, and Thomas di Lorenzo, have subsequently written any number of articles laying out the legitimacy and legality of secession from the Union. The Wellman book also is an extremely careful setting out of not only legal bases but moral and political supports for that action.

I’m not saying that secession is necessarily the immediate answer to the roiling problems of this country for everyone everywhere. But it is something that should rightly be considered, thoughtfully and thoroughly, by many of the states and regions that see themselves as illegitimately being pushed around and dictated to and mishandled by a central government that has, over the last few decades, proven itself to be undemocratic, unresponsive, corrupt, inept, and unduly intrusive, at times unlawful and unconstitutional, and essentially unable to govern at the geographic and populational scale to which we have grown.

Looked at it that way, it’s about the only thing that makes sense.

{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar D.W. Sabin April 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Oh goody…a secesh website. I shall oil the stone and caress the Bowie Knife tonight.

Say Secession…..Nullification…. and States Rights three times, finger a rabbit foot, wink your right eye twice then snap your heels and the New York Times turns into an actual newspaper…instead of , well…you know, a kind of mix between Highlights Magazine for children (specifically designed for Dentists offices as a way to entertain the kiddies before they must endure a session of pain), a Brochure from General Dynamics and any of a number of advertising promotions from only the most discriminatingly cultured emporiums. The august NY Times would be ok in its current debauched state if it were not actually the chief member of the Fourth Estate …like say, they were a magazine or a house organ for the Society For The Preservation of K Street, its’ assigns and heirs. Then what passes through it’s Mexican Oligarch-supported pages would be entirely customary. Old Adolph Ochs must be looking down right now and wondering what nitwits got a hold of his paper . Well, ok, maybe “nitwits” is a tad harsh….hmmm, lets say “slackers”.

Funny thing is, what’s actually unconstitutional is most of what those remorseless sycophants and boosters-fer-hire do as our “representatives”

avatar Patrick Deneen April 29, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Lincoln also argued in his First Inaugural that the principle of secession was anarchy. That is, whenever a minority does not have its way electorally, it might well secede, leading to an inexorable logic of secession by ever-smaller minorities. First there would be secession by several States, then one State from another, then one part of a State from another part, etc. etc., until it was every individual for him- or herself. Now, that’s what’s called a reductio-ad-absurdum, I believe, but there is a more than a mere kernel of truth in it. I think there are serious issues for discussion when it comes to an issue like secession, but any sort of blanket statement claiming categorically (and appealing to abstract Lockeanism) that every State has a right of secession, and the wildly underexplained and untheorized statement by Gov. Perry as evidence thereof, seems to me to not to take this issue with the seriousness it deserves, and to grant far too much to theory and far too little to practice and prudence.

I simply want to declare the following: this is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree, and mostly I believe folks here on the Front Porch are fairly reasonable. So, speaking for myself to yourself, I’m not persuaded that secession is as good an idea as that of a more robust form of localism within the context of the existing nation-state. That may be change we can all believe in, short of flying apart into 300 million ungovernable shards.

avatar ken mcintyre April 29, 2009 at 4:58 pm

I’m quite happy to see this topic arise. There was a very interesting conference on secession at (appropriately enough) the University of South Carolina in 2007. I was supposed to give a paper on Hume, Oakeshott, and Professor Livingston on secession, but unfortunately was unable to attend due to other circumstances. Professor Livingston is certainly the leading scholarly authority on the American issue, and his is a voice that needs to be heard. The conference itself, however, was truly international in respect to both participants and subject matter.

There are extraordinarily rich theoretical and practical questions that the subject raises concerning the character of political community and citizenship, the nature and function of the modern state, the relation between citizen and government, and the various ways in which people formalize and conceptualize consent. However, the powers-that-be in American academia and American public life are fundamentally uninterested in this topic and so dismiss it as if were an offshoot of the flat earth society. Fortunately, these dirigiste finger-waggers don’t control the internet.

Thanks, Mr. Sale, for bringing it here. I welcome the future discussion.

avatar polistra April 29, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Secession wouldn’t work now. The Feds have vastly bigger armies and weapons than Lincoln had, and they won’t hesitate a minute to use them.

Two lesser steps that could work:

1. A state could simply assert its proper position under the 10th Amendment, and ignore every Federal requirement that is unconstitutional. Especially ignore requirements planted by Federal courts, which have exactly zero authority to make laws or impose taxes. (In other words, a state could start behaving like Indian reservations, who seem to maintain the proper level of sovereignty.)

2. A state or city could pull a Hillsdale. Stop taking the Federal silver, which would free it from innumerable federal mandates. This is especially obvious with schools, which get about 8% of their budget from the Feds and must perform in return all sorts of nonsensical and counterproductive activities, which certainly cost more than 8% of their budget.

avatar ken mcintyre April 29, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Patrick is from Connecticut and I’m from Texas, which might explain some of our differences (although I’m certain that what we share is more important than those). I would like respond to his post, however, by noting that Mr. Lincoln’s logical reductios have all proven to be completely worthless. His ‘house divided’ speech, if taken seriously, is after all an argument against federalism of any sort, and a rather cogent restatement of the Hobbesian justification for a single and unitary authority (not exactly a perfect spokesman for localism). In any case, as so many have pointed out, the American house had been divided on innumerable issues before the War Between the States and had survived and continued to be divided on many of the same issues afterward and survived. And, in countries such as Switzerland, the house has been divided from the beginning with none of Mr. Lincoln’s predicted troubles ensuing.

On secession as well, the reductio is a mere logic chopping trick. There is certainly no way to easily define what constitutes a political community, but that doesn’t entail that any claim of independence on the part of a self-identified community must be denied lest anarchy be the result. After all, an infamously totalitarian state allowed for the peaceful secession of its federated political communities with relatively little violence, unlike the supposed model of self-government. The Czechs and Slovaks split peacefully, as well. But Mr. Lincoln couldn’t get past his abstractions. As Mencken pointed out, the only problem with Mr. Lincoln’s address at the Gettysburg battlefield was that almost every word in it was false, both historically and conceptually.

I understand the loyalty that many, including myself, have to this country (and I feel it more strongly now that I am in a foreign land), but I also feel a great loyalty to my home, my state, and my region. And to pervert EM Forster a bit, if it ever came to choosing between my country and my home, I certainly hope that I would have the courage to choose my home.

avatar Allan Carlson April 29, 2009 at 9:19 pm

`A small historical footnote on secession: sometime in the mid-1990s, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress to allow residents of “The Northwest Angle, Minnesota” to vote to secede from the Union, and join neighboring Ontario. I understand that this was the first bill-of-secession introduced in the Congress since the unfortunate events of 1860-61.

“The Angle” is that odd piece of land, about 10 miles by 10 miles square, that juts above the 49th parallel at the north end of The Land of 10,000 Lakes. Surrounded on three sides by Lake of the Woods, this geographic peculiarity is the result of the Treaty of Paris, 1782, which ended the American Revolution. A still canny Benjamin Franklin used a faulty map to convince the British to fix the northwest border of the independent United States at the NW corner of this remarkable body of water (over 10,000 islands in the Lake), so creating The Angle.

Only about 100 persons live there year-round… most of them making a living by running fishing- and hunting-camps. For over forty years, most summers, my family and I have spent a week or two on the Angle, renting a cabin from Dale and Grace Prothero; not so much because of the fishing, but because of the people there and the community and the real sense of “getting away” (e.g.: no regular phone service… until three years ago, when some idiot raised a cell-tower!).

The secession bill came in response to a new Ontario fishing regulation that prevented persons sleeping in Minnesota from catching and keeping walleyes caught on the Canadian part of the Lake the next day. In truth, the purpose of the bill was to get the attention of the U.S. State Department, in order to pressure the Canadians into a better deal (which worked, after a front page article in the NEW YORK TIMES on the situation).

All the same, I have wished that the bill had passed, and that “The Angle” had voted to secede…. not to join the Canadians, but to be an independent nation, America’s own little Andorra or San Marino, subsisting on the sale of postage stamps…. and banning forever the use of cell phones.

avatar limitedgovernment April 29, 2009 at 9:35 pm

This is an interesting column that stays a few steps shy of secession: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/938695/localism_liberty.html?cat=9.

avatar Chuck April 29, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I grew up in Illinois. Lincoln was from Illinois. Barack Obama is from Illinois. We Illinois folk know how to deal with succession.

We don’t have to win the argument. We only have to win the war.

avatar ken mcintyre April 29, 2009 at 10:20 pm

I believe that the correct response to Chuck is ‘sic semper tyrannis’.

avatar Kevin Carson April 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

The arguments for national sovereignty by Webster, Story, Lincoln et al were, historically speaking, complete and utter buncombe. I analyze them in depth here, based on a minute examination of what actually happened from roughly 1774-1789: http://www.mutualist.org/id21.html

avatar John Médaille April 29, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I do not like secession for two reasons. The first is that it is too much like divorce. And not even like the good old-fashioned kind of divorce, but the new-fangled “no fault” divorce. In the old days, you had to make a case, you had to convince a judge or sway a jury. You had to prove adultery, or cruelty, or some such. This could lead to exciting episodes with private detectives lurking in the shadows to emerge suddenly with a camera to catch the parties in flagrante. In the old days, you had to prove a point, now you only have to prove a pique. Now the judge is not there to divide the parties (they do that themselves) but only to divide the property. And like divorce, only one party needs to agree to the breakup. So it is with secession. Before what judge do you have to show just cause? Do you need your detective to photograph congress passing a tariff bill? Not that I can see. Mere irritation is enough to dissolve the Union, and the Union always gives cause for irritation. As it is with any marriage, so it is with any union.

But more importantly, the right of secession interferes with the right of rebellion. There may, or may not, be a political right of secession; there is always a natural right of rebellion. The political right of secession, like the new-fangled right of divorce, may be exercised on a whim; the natural right may only be exercised at a hazard. The Southerners claimed a right of secession and rejected the title of rebel. They should have rejected a right of secession (as they later did within the confederacy) and accepted the role of the rebel. The very hazard makes the thing improbable, save on the most egregious grounds. The South may secede because the tariff is too high or the limitations on slavery too onerous (we are speaking of the masters here). But would they rebel on the same grounds, had they thought of it in those terms? A 50% tariff may cause a man to throw away his vote; would it cause him to throw away his life?

Kirkpatrick wants to be a politician; I would rather he be a general. He wants to lead a state and I want him to lead an army. Some might object that Vermont might not be up to the task. But the day is coming, is nigh at hand, when the Union will make no further sense. States will stop asking the Federal government to bail them out because they will realize that all along they have been bailing out the Federal government. They will realize that they are better off controlling their own affairs, and joining with such neighbors that want to control their own as well. People will stop remitting taxes to the Federales. On that day, they will rebel, and they will win because everybody else will be doing the same.

But on that day, Kirkpatrick will find secession to be an embarrassment. If it is a right, then one day, Burlington will battle Bennington; there are always causes for division if the division has no cost. It is not logic chopping to assert that if a state may secede from a nation, a city may secede from a state. Secession, like divorce, is the principle of anarchy.

avatar David April 30, 2009 at 12:03 am

To some degree, I second Medaille comment above, but more broadly I find the whole discussion worrisome. There are many paths American history has trod to varying degrees of success and failure for the nation, the one that provides only darkness is secession. There is a reason the Federalists ceased to be after contemplating that option for too long, sadly the Democratic Party was not forced to follow them after the great conflagration.

On a more base level, I have found this website to mostly be a breath of fresh air in our debased political environment, but if this is where localist discussions head, well count me out.

avatar D.W. Sabin April 30, 2009 at 9:20 am

“Buncombe”….yays, one of my favorite Menckenisms. As to Secession and Anarchy. One does not have to be a lover of either Secession or the sweet notion of a civilized anarchy to support the clarifying effects of both. They are elements of the Separation of Powers…that thing the Framers endorsed as a means to avert exactly what we have today: A Bloated Federal Government in Serial Offense against not only the Republic itself but just good old fashioned common sense.

Having lived in the Green Mountain State in the mid 70′s for a spell…in both Burlington and Underhill, I’m not sure, as Medaille suggests that Bennington would go to war against Burlington…unless, of course, Burlington imposed an embargo on Hackey Sacks against granola Bennington because her pottery producers imposed an unfair tariff. I don’t think the natives of any town in Vermont care enough …well, a better phrase would be have enough antipathy perhaps…..to go to war against another Vermont town. Rural Yankees…not the modern suburban ones… are the last bastion of live and let live, “don’t tread on me”…laissez faire. Were Burlington to attempt war on Bennigton…… Barre, White River Junction, Essex, Winooski and Middlebury would tell Burlington to mind its own business and settle the hell down .

Anything that might re-ignite a long overdue discussion of the imperative benefits provided by the Separation of Powers I’m all for. I would like to think we could enjoy a prudent National government that does not express itself against the better interests o not only the States but the entire nation itself. The Federals today wouldn’t know prudent self-interest if it hit them up side their great spouting heads. It functions as an agent of Heedless Interests who focus attention on things that will either come back to haunt us or are way beyond what we should be paying any attention to. Sure, their are evil forces and tyranny abroad in the world but we foment it as much as we might combat it. Sometimes we do both in a perfect feedback loop of permanent war.

avatar Dan April 30, 2009 at 9:26 am

There is no serious talk about succession. What there is is a knucklehead governor who put his foot in his mouth while engaging in a cheap piece of political theater.

The degree to which people are talking about succession is the degree to which they are talking about Perry being a knucklehead.

Perry’s offices response, he never advocated for succession.

On the issue itself I second the comments of both John and David.

avatar ken mcintyre April 30, 2009 at 11:26 am

As a Texan, I will grant you that Mr. Perry is a knucklehead (he’s an Aggie, after all), but I’m unsure what you mean when you say that there is ‘no serious talk about successsion’ (and, without wanting to sound like a pedantic prig, it is secession not succession that we are discussing). There are secessionist movements scattered around the globe. Some are based upon ideas of ethnic nationalism, some on claims about linguistic identity, some on notions of culturual particurity, and some are based primarily upon critiques of incompetent government. There have also been numerous successful secessionist movements in the past twenty years (the secession of the myriad ex-Soviet Republics, the secession of the ex-Yugoslavian provinces, Eritrea There is a serious academic discussion of the issue (though it is somewhat muted in the US).

On the other hand, if you mean merely that secession is not a central issue in the American polity these days, I will grant you that, but it wasn’t exactly topic number one in Moscow in 1986 either and look what happened to them. Speaking of which, Mr. Gorbachev’s treatment of secession certainly stands in stark contrast to St. Abraham’s.

avatar Dan April 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Ken,

To clarify I meant there is no serious talk of secession in the 21st century United States.

Civil War reenactors, as in so many other things, being the exception of course.

avatar vera April 30, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Secession, like alliance, is a basic human need. It is not when it is easy that groups go to war against each other, but when it is hard. Communities closer to the state of nature — tribes, for example, or Anabaptist Old Orders — secede routinely. At times, it is because they have grown too big for community to function well. Other times, there “irreconcilable differences.” And so they hive off. This is a very successful, time tested strategy for maintaining peace as well as diversity.

Just imagine if the earlier New England towns with their self-management via town meetings had the sense to secede internally — one neighborhood from the other — when the town grew too large! They could have maintained their face-to-face democracy. Instead, they hired a town manager or mayor and the community began the slide into anonymity and fragmentation.

avatar G.S. April 30, 2009 at 5:07 pm

First off, I second this statement of Mr. Deneen’s:

“I simply want to declare the following: this is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree…”

Actually, I think I do agree with Mr. Medaille on one point, to the extent that secession is not some cosmic capital-lettered transcendent ideal principle.

IMO secession represents no more existentially-rooted rightfulness than democracy does — they should both be secession and democracy rather than Secession and Democracy. They are potential tools to greater ends rather than sanctified ideals unto themselves.

The bit about secession v. rebellion, however, I must admit that you lost me. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree because I don’t understand you. By “rebellion”, do you mean staying in the Union but refusing to obey its authority? I also don’t understand about Sale wanting to be a politician when he should be leading an army. I assume you don’t mean that literally.

On a different note -

“There are many paths American history has trod to varying degrees of success and failure for the nation, the one that provides only darkness is secession.”

What do you mean by “American history”? Do you mean 1776? Or are you referring to West Virginia? Or maybe when those sinister Filipino secessionists had their way in 1946?

Right, right — I forgot… one nation, indivisible, an immortal city-on-a-hill for all eternity…

Disagree, fine; I have no deep problem with, say, Mr. Deneen’s position — which makes an excellent point about the whole question of where-does-the-right-of-secession-end.

Come to think of it, I’m not exactly that much of a “secessionist” myself — I’m more of a get-prepared-in-every-way-possible-for-when-the-Tower-of-Babel-collapses-under-its-own-weightist.

Anyhow … please spare me the Gothic foreboding & overwrought, scandalized hand-wringing about the mere fact that some have the impudence to propose such a “worrisome” discussion.

I’ve met Dr. Livingston; he neither has cooties nor is he in league with the Sith Lords.

avatar Kevin Carson April 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm

G.S.:

Rebellion is revolutionary, whereas proponents of secession in the American context defend it as entirely legal and implied in the same procedure by which states originally acceded to the federal union.

The Constitution derives its authority in each state from the sovereign authority of the people of that state alone (See Madision in Federalist No. 39), and can be ended by the same sovereign authority. According to this doctrine, each state has two municipal corporations, a federal and state government, exercising their powers on the soil of that state, pursuant to the sovereign popular will. The state, in effect, enters into a compact by which it agrees to allow the federal government to exercise the powers outlined in Article I Section 8, and agrees voluntarily not to exercise the powers prohibited in Article I Section 10, so long as it is party to the Constitution.

avatar G.S. April 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Mr. Carson,

Thanks kindly. I’ll chew on that for a bit.

avatar Vincent April 30, 2009 at 5:31 pm

[quote]There is no serious talk about succession.[/quote]

Says the man in reply to an article about succession. What about the people who replied to the article before you did? Were their responses not serious enough for you?

avatar Jason Calley April 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm

It should be obvious that secession is foolishness. Obvious.

To think otherwise is to deny that the founders of this nation, the men who removed us from the British Empire, had the undisputed right to forever impose their vision of government on all generations of humans who would ever claim a home here in America. Who can dispute that while they had the right to form their own government to ensure their freedom, no other generation could ever claim that right? They set up a government, and while no one alive today was instrumental in forming that union, we must all perforce bend our back and serve under the system they created. They made the union, and now we are chained to it forever. Forever. We may never join together to dissolve what they made and rebuild it to suit our own desires.

What could be more obvious? Who can deny it?

avatar Adam April 30, 2009 at 6:07 pm

The biggest thing to recommend secession over rebellion is that one rejects the initiation of force, while the other essentially requires it. Secession is simply the concept of saying, “If you guys want to be ruled over by a bunch of collectivist thieves (sorry, ‘redistributionists’), that’s fine, but I want no part of it. I’ll leave peacefully. Rebellion, on the other hand, basically requires war on the established government. Initiation of force is immoral and wrong. Defending oneself from aggression (say, the aforementioned collectivist thieves trying to use force to prevent the secession of a person or group of persons from a body politic), is not immoral or wrong.

It may seem like a meaningless distinction, but I promise you it’s not. There’s a reason that killing someone without cause is murder, and killing someone who has attacked you is legal self-defense. The same principles apply to large bodies of people as to individuals, even if the law says differently.

avatar Nellis Lake April 30, 2009 at 6:15 pm

If secession is not an option in a nation, then freedom is less valued by its government than totalitarianism. As to whether the federal govt today has a vastly larger military than the North had versus the South in the 1860s, one would be wise to also consider that the debt the federal govt has today is unparalleled in human history. And it is especially this gargantuan, super-sized debt, with its ancillary nannyism and that has kindled the fresh interest in secession. There are many Americans who would rather be part of no state than a total state. And that number is growing. They can’t taser us all, can they?

avatar John Médaille April 30, 2009 at 6:22 pm

G. S. says The bit about secession v. rebellion, however, I must admit that you lost me. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree because I don’t understand you.

I simply mean that in the Course of human events it sometimes becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them. (catchy, no? I had some help writing that.) However, this is not a political process, as the real authors of that statement realized. It is a “process” proved by force of arms, which the founders knew. By putting their signatures on the dotted line, they knew it was victory or death. Or worse, Australia.

C’mon, Kevin, you’re an anarchist, and a principle of anarchy would appeal to you, regardless of what Madison did or didn’t say. I’m a monarchist, so I can’t be so blithe about it. But the problem is that your interpretation makes of the constitution a contract. But contracts normally have specific exit provisions. There are unilateral contracts, which one party may make and break, but this wouldn’t qualify. In a normal contract, either all parties agree to break it, or there is a procedure to break it, or there is a way to take it to court and have a judge declare it broken on some legal pretext. But there is no procedure in the constitution for exiting it, no court to break it (well, not on this issue; the courts break it routinely for their own reasons), and no likelihood that all the states will agree to part with any state.

That leaves rebellion, which is always a right, if rightly justified. Alas, it is one of the rights that can only be exercised on the field of honor, one of the more expensive pieces of real estate in human history.

avatar Kevin Carson April 30, 2009 at 7:00 pm

John Medaille: I certainly don’t mean to denigrate rebellion or revolution. I see secession as another, complimentary weapon.

And by my legal argument, each state’s relationship to the federal union is not a two-party contract at all. The decision to ratify was unilateral, and can be reversed unilaterally. A state could have chosen to stay out of the union altogether, without any other state having a legal say in it (which Rhode Island did in fact do until well in the Washington administration, until Hamilton’s bullyboys finally used a punitive trade embargo to blackmail that state into joining). And a state can choose to leave, likewise, for whatever reasons it deems sufficient. It’s no different IMO than France withdrawing from NATO. The federal union has no moral authority whatsoever beyond the will of its individual members.

But rebellion is good.

BTW, it’s quite conceivable that, had it not been for the crackup of the Democratic party over the slavery issue, the increasingly pro-slavery tendency of the national government would have provoked secession in New England. Until that stroke of fortune, the abolitionists were very much in rebellion against federal authority (e.g. Brown at Harper’s ferry, the juries that nullified the Fugitive Slave Act, etc.). And the Confederacy after secession, OTOH, would have been a fruitful ground for rebellion.

avatar Richard Burnett April 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

The secession issue is a complex one. Madison’s letters during the Nullification crisis, his arguments in the Federalist on the advantages of Union should be compared with the KY-VA resolutions. The same with Jefferson, who moved back and forth on the issue of Union and State’s rights or secession. Other Founders and Framers also held opinions on Union and secession that are hard to place–perhaps a key to the wrangle is the odd formulation of the governments under the Constitution, the partly federal(confederal) and partly national arrangement to be found in the Constitution, at least this is Madison;s view. As the States are not like European provinces, but also not sovereign, except in a certain sphere, and because the Constitution was not ratified by the State legislatures( a point driven home by Madison again and again) but ratified by the people through the several conventions held in the several States, the question of the compact theory that gives rise to the theory of legal secession to be found in the Constitution is in doubt.
Indeed, while one writer here may be from Texas and the other from one of the original thirteen States, the ringer is the place of all the other States that began as federal territories, approved of as States by the national government. In this regard we have at least three kinds of States–the original colonies/States, the republics(Texas) annexed into the U S, and the rest as territories becoming States through the process l;aid out in the Constitution. We may find that one or more of the original 13 have, via the Articles, a claim to a sovereignity, as well as those republics, but what of those creations by the Congress, those territories becoming States? No, a one size fits all theory on secession is as useless as the attempt to classify the US governments, national and State, in the manner of European governments–the Old World definitions do not fit. But many secession and union theories try to make the arguments simplistic following the European definitions of unitary governments and confederations. According to these, the US must be all one thing or the other–a confederation of sovereigns or a union of powerless states. And this vexed question will continue–the States have not lost their power, as they are represented in the Senate(composed of two representatives from each State) and in the House(where those representatives are from the States, as in those State delegations representing the interests of those States) In short, the Congress must go back to the each of its States in order to be re-elected and thus cannot ignore those State interests. No European government is so arranged.Add to this the State by Stae election of the President–the Electoral College–and there’s another power the States have to include the fact that each State makes the rules for that election.
The focus on the Tenth Amendment is misplaced; the political power the States have is not added to nor reduced as these States have that power because they sit in the national government.
It is not at all unrenarkable that the Governor of Texas would hold to some form of secession while the U S Senators and representatives from Texas would perhaps hold to another idea of union. This simply reflects upon the compunded compromises that are the Constitution.

avatar darkfire April 30, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Reasonable people can not claim illegality of secession. Have you naysayers ever read the Declaration of Independence? Probably not, if you’ve been educated by federal govt controlled schools.

Secession is the natural right of any body of people in any country in the world.

“…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

The USA was born of secession. Another country will one day be born by secession from the Empire of the USA.

avatar damoncrowe April 30, 2009 at 8:06 pm

After reading some of the comments, I fell compelled to comment myself.

To those of you who dislike secession, I would ask you, “then what is the redress of a humiliated and ‘occupied’ people?”

This is a very simple question that cannot be answered by statists and “Royalists” outside of the philosophy of secession.

Furthermore those disenfranchised and forced to be slaves to a state that has abolished justice and declared itself to be god do not care that one dislikes secession because “it is too much like divorce.”

Your example is very, very poor because you trust that the judge acts as an unbiased and educated man. The problem is that you have failed to understand that the judge is an arm of the state, though, it makes no difference.

One need only look to recent and past court decisions to see that the judges have no respect for liberty or the constitution.

To those who relish or condone the state’s tyranny because they are too cowardly, too comfortable with their lives, Samuel Adams speaks directly….

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may your posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

avatar Harold Crews April 30, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Well actually even in a bi-lateral contract one party can terminate the contract by showing a change in circumstances such that to continue the performance would not further the intent of the parties. There may very well be damages to pay, but the contract would be ended. Also some people argue that secession is permitted only when all parties consent to the withdrawal. A State would wish to secede only when it was being exploited by remaining in the Union. The exploiting States or interests who dominate such States would not consent. Therefore this is no right at all. The Colonies certainly did not have King George III or Parliment’s consent to leave the Empire.

Jefferson’s observation is true that people will not change their political institutions for light and transit reasons. There are fairly high costs in fundamental political changes after all. Most people are reasonable after all.

avatar Ron Holland April 30, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Secession is as American as apple pie and our ultimate and final defense against Washington tyranny. Also it is great to read that Kirkpatrick Sale has moved from Vermont to South Carolina. We are planning to move to the SC coast in July.

avatar Connie Mack Jr April 30, 2009 at 8:49 pm

“Taking Secession Seriously–At Last” *Story

Not really! More like Field of Dreams Secession!

A adviser to Stalin once commented to him that invading Poland would cause problems with the Pope and the Church.

Stalin asked the adviser ” How many Divisions does the Pope have?”

” None” said the Adviser

So how many Divisions does the Secession movement have? Except a couple old white dudes from the 101 st Montana Milita.

avatar logos April 30, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Not only was our country born of “illegal” secession from Great Britain, but the Constitution itself was born of “illegal” secession from the Articles of Confederation — nine States ignored the Articles and declared a new supreme law amongst themselves, leaving the remaining four States to join or twist in the wind. So the States have the right to secede, and the only remaining question is whether any of them should exercise it. The answer to that question is for each State’s citizens to decide for themselves.

For my money, secession is the last best hope of countering the monstrous creature masquerading as the federal government, a creature that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the limited government outlined in the Constitution. A constitutional government would exercise only its enumerated powers, leaving the vast reservoir of authority with the people and the States to accommodate their diverse ways of life. As things stand, a monopolistic and unconstitutional authority pervades every nook and cranny of our existence, rendering every activity big or small a political question subject to faraway control. We have reached a point where obeying this unlawful authority is the true act of treason, and refusing to obey it is the true act of patriotism. Secession is a peaceful, but effective, means of collectively announcing our disobedience.

No government voluntarily surrenders its power, and there is no reason to think this one will either. I remain optimistic, though, because this Byzantine monstrosity cannot keep up with the quickening pace of modern life. The hysteria surrounding terrorism, recession, swine flu, and the like are desperate attempts by a moribund regime to cling to its ebbing control. Talk of secession is in the air because in the modern world, individuals and communities are growing aware that they do not need to hand over vast sums of money and power to a central authority that obviously cannot keep us safe, and which itself has became the greatest menace to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

avatar Trouble April 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I am impressed. For once a contentious subject is treated with reasonable respect from both sides.

And a Leftist wrote the article!! I must check for flying pigs!!

All kidding aside, the article is well written. Federal Control is far far out of control. Representatives and Senators in DC fail on all counts to truly represent their constituents. Along with that, blatant violations of our Constitution have been enacted throughout the last century. This must soon stop and be reversed or the United States will fragment and disappear.

To my way of thinking, the best route would be the restraining of the Lower (aka Federal) Government back to its original and proper defined Powers as delegated to it in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution. Failing that, then peaceful departure (secession) will be the next step.

Unlike the Civil War, today’s military is much less likely to be willing to back a Federal Governement in an attack on any of the Sovereign States. In the original Civil War there was a idealistic rallying cry for the North to make use of. It wasn’t the real reason for the war, but that did not dissuade the North from using it.

Today’s military has access to far more information and understanding than the armies of the Blue and Grey did. They also have much more suspicion about the political masters in DC. I think it more likely that in the event of a new civil war, our soldiers will be more likely to follow their oath and honor. Their Oath is to the Constitution and, trust me on this, they already know who is violating it.

However, let’s not jump the gun too much on the idea of secession. I’d rather not see that come to pass unless absolutely necessary. One of these routes is for the States to enforce their rights over the Federal Government. (Cheers to Montana for their passage this week of the Firearms Freedom Act.)

For those not familiar with it, here is the Tenth Amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In short, unless the Power in question is specifically delegated to the Federal Government in the Constitution, it does NOT have it. This means that every Federal Law made that is not enumerated in the Constitution is (in one simple word) illegal.

It will take the States, empowered and directed by the People, standing up and taking back their usurped Powers from the Lower Government to preserve Liberty. Should that effort fail, it will then be the legal duty of the States to secede and find a new path.

Our Founders built these rules into the Constitution for a Reason. What we see in DC today is that Reason.

avatar John Médaille April 30, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Kevin, I think there is a big difference between an alliance like NATO and a nation like the United States. You can withdraw from an alliance when it no longer suits your purposes. But there is no hint in the Constitution that the founders conceived of this as an alliance. Indeed, a strong central gov’t was the whole point of replacing the Articles of Confederation. Your argument would apply, I think, to the A of C.

However, I think we take the subject much too seriously. At a practical level there is not a prayer. And there won’t be prayer until the subject becomes irrelevant. Or rather, until the Federal Gov’t becomes irrelevant. Cf the USSR.

Damoncrowe, the redress of the humiliated and occupied is rebellion. It certainly isn’t secession. If the occupier recognized a right of secession, he wouldn’t be an occupier.

avatar Cory Burnell May 1, 2009 at 12:42 am

If Chuck from Illinois knows so well how to deal with secession, my advice is that he improve his knowledge by learning how to spell it. Hey historically-challenged ignoramus: it’s spelled SECESSION not SUCCESSION. You demonstrate your lack of credentials to even speak on the subject! Must be those fantastic Illinois gubmint skools teachin ya all ’bout SUCCESSION, right?

avatar Jason Calley May 1, 2009 at 6:45 am

Logos is correct in his post.

All governments are based on our voluntary restraint of individual natural rights, giving power to our state or to the federal level for the purpose of protecting our rights. Even if you grant (and I don’t) that the individuals who signed the Constitution were forever bound by it, the fact is, that no one alive today was a signer.

Governments — or at least all representative governments, federal, state and local — are legal abstractions created for specific and limited functions by the common agreement of living breathing humans. Legal abstractions do not have rights, not even a right to exist. Any time that the population of an area decides that they wish to create an alternate form of government, their natural rights as humans exceeds any imagined right of a legal abstraction to continue its existence.

As much as I revere and admire the principles laid out in the US Constitution, humans — natural humans, living breathing humans endowed by nature or nature’s God with intrinsic rights — always have the right to dissolve their government and create a new one.

Supporting the right of any governemnt to exist in perpetuity, regardless of the wishes of those under its governance, is certainly a proper stance for a monarchist, a subject or a slave. It is not proper for a citizen or any free human.

avatar icr May 1, 2009 at 7:44 am

1. A state could simply assert its proper position under the 10th Amendment, and ignore every Federal requirement that is unconstitutional. Especially ignore requirements planted by Federal courts, which have exactly zero authority to make laws or impose taxes. (In other words, a state could start behaving like Indian reservations, who seem to maintain the proper level of sovereignty.)

Alaska-with its huge oil revenue fund-seems to be in an excellent position to enact this kind of semi-secession from the Empire.

Concrete example: Alaska could reject the current absurd AA regime and institute a regime of scientifically-based cognitive testing(like the old Federal PACE exam) for hiring and promotion of state employees. In addition to asserting its rights under the Tenth Amendment it could also cite the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On the neo-Jim Crow nature of the AA system(in case anyone wasn’t fully aware of it) see: http://www.vdare.com/sailer/090419_ricci.htm
http://www.vdare.com/sailer/090426_ricci.htm

I also think we should throw a wrench the into two-party duopoly by selecting a likely small state with initiative and referendum and trying to get PR and/or Range Voting passed. Recall when states were supposed to be “laboratories” of democracy?
http://www.rangevote.net/

avatar Winston Smith May 1, 2009 at 9:14 am

The question is not whether secession is lawful; the question is what will it take to convince the majority of a state to secede? And which state?

Less talk; more action.

avatar Aaron May 1, 2009 at 9:23 am

America would operate a lot better if we were more of a confederacy of free-trade states, like the EU. Let the bible belt try out their corrupt social practices for a while, and let the coasts bankrupt themselves with social programs.

If the North East wants to secede, let them, or anyone else for that matter.

Considering our state’s have similar GDPs to other nations, I think we can pull it off. Competition of ideas would lead to true progress.

avatar drawlr May 1, 2009 at 9:30 am

The author omits the most important part of the Lincoln quote – “having the power.” See below.

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right – a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.” ~ Abraham Lincoln, (speech in Congress January 1848)

In other words, the South was inclined to form a better government, but they did not have enough power. That principle will probably come to bear nowadays if any state or group of states attempts to secede. Tyrants do not easily release their source of labor and wealth.

avatar Sean S. May 1, 2009 at 9:40 am

The better question, than philosophical rigaramole, is who here has a plan to actually effectively govern a “seceded” state? Any of you? I note that Mr. Sale is one of the people involved in the goofy Vermont secession movement, clearly believing that with maple syrup and a half-way decent craft brewing industry, the landlocked country of Vermont will rise to economic prosperity and freedom.

Secession probably wouldn’t change any of the woeful dynamics at play in any given state’s legislature. I know in SC we wouldn’t wake up the next day with an actually functioning General Assembly, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to fund most, if not all, of the public goods essential to keeping a state of 3 or so million people humming along.

Secessionists misunderstand that an ineffective governing system is not improved by redefining its geographical boundaries. The power dynamics will essentially still be the same; though left-wing, if one can use that term, Guy Debord sums up the situation any “independent” country finds itself in after “freeing” itself from the yoke of its supposed oppressor, a larger imperial state. While written in context of many of the third world movements going on in the 60′s and 70′s, and why “colonial independence” wouldn’t change anything, it can be tweaked to apply to secessionist movements.

These countries, where foreign imperialism remains the real master of the economy, enter a stage where the compradores have gotten an indigenous State as compensation for their sale of indigenous products, a State which is independent in the face of the local masses but not in the face of imperialism. This is an artificial bourgeoisie which is not able to accumulate, but which simply squanders the share of surplus value from local labor which reaches it as well as the foreign subsidies from the States or monopolies which protect it.

The idea that any seceded state would be truly independent from the larger world is myth, one exposed quickly in the aftermath of many secessionist and nationalist movements over the years. As the Confederacy found out when its cotton wouldn’t sell and they couldn’t get any loans, to various resource-rich states that find themselves unable to process their own finished goods, time and time again people find its harder than one thinks to set up shop anew.

avatar Lee Laurais May 1, 2009 at 9:56 am

Dissolution may be preferable to secession.Self-defined communities would then interact with one another for good and ill. Geographic identity is only one way to structure community. Many people identify far more by race, gender, other collective criteria than they do by specifically regional considerations. I don’t see an automatic virtue in radical de-centralism, yet I can see it coming about as larger governmental structures break down and leave ever greater numbers of people to our own devices. Secession or dissolution can happen when a larger collective is no longer able to dominate or maintain a smaller collective. Federation can happen for the opposite reason. For years, many of us in Western Massachusetts, the land of Daniel Shays, have been wishing we could say so long to the dreadful Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but even if we could, would we be better off for doing so? I don’t know. And what about the “Tories” who, for their own interests, would look to foil any attempt at separation? Ignoring the state and the State may be the better option insofar as that option might be possible. For the great majority of people, it may not be.

avatar Alex Zoum May 1, 2009 at 11:03 am

Secession Not Necessary

There is no need to break from the Union if the States were to exert their power and not let the Federal GUNverment trample their jurisdiction. Of course the States feel that they need to bow to Washington because the States don’t have the counterfeiting Federal Reserve to “print” money to fund their overspending.

avatar Paul Bonneau May 1, 2009 at 12:04 pm

The argument that no one has a plan to govern a seceded state, is not very convincing. The state government will do so, obviously. That state governments are dysfunctional is not a deterrent to this; all they have to be is less dysfunctional than the federal government, a very low standard to exceed.

One suspects that if a state were to secede, others would not be far behind, so that it would not be twisting in the wind alone. And many others would not jump on board with the feds to repress that secession. Lessons taught in the earlier attempt (“Civil War”) would not be disregarded. Non-cooperation, rather than belligerency, would be the rule. Gandhi would be the patron saint. Recall that Gandhi did win.

Another tactic would be to secede in fact if not in name. Autonomy movements, in other words. Nullification movements. Already happening…

Some worry about secession happening until we are 300 million seceded individuals. Hard to believe this concern is serious, as if no other incentives (such as self-preservation) ever come into play. Don’t worry, it will stop at some point. Probably before it really should, unfortunately.

The interesting thing is that the federal government, to prevent secession or autonomy, will have to get mean. The meaner it gets, the less legitimacy it has. Once people decide to go, there is no stopping them, unless bad decisions are made or provocateurs wreck things (always a possibility, but also possible to guard against). The main point is less what the feds will do, but when the people will get in their mind to leave. It appears more and more are getting it in mind.

avatar Victoria May 1, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I’m just wondering what all those here who disagree with the wisdom and/or rights of states to secede think of the secession of the territories of the former Soviet Union. Are we to believe that keeping those areas together under the control of Soviet centralized planning was more important than the autonomy and interests of those region states that did secede? What makes our union more sacrosanct than the Soviet’s?

avatar icr May 1, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I don’t think anyone sane is thinking of something equivalent to the firing on Ft. Sumter. The point is to de facto disentangle a given state or states from the chains of the federal leviathan. This can be done progressively through a series of measures-not by some outright declaration of independence.

It would also make sense to change voting systems (where possible) so that the “two party” scam can be begin to be dismantled. Even in the best of circumstances a two party system moves both together to capture
the “center”. Today”s center (which is determined by the consensus of the ruling elites) is PC-Multicultist-Cultural Marxist and a thinly disguised Wall Street crypto-Marxism.

A libertarian economist with a bare-bones analysis of the two party system in the US:
http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2008/09/how_dems_and_re.html
(…)
The first big misconception is the parties’ key differences are substantive. They aren’t. Reps don’t want to get rid of the welfare state. Almost all Reps support spending a big chunk of GDP on America’s poor and old. And Dems don’t want anything like socialism. Almost all Dems want America to remain a country where markets are the default and people can get rich if they play their cards right.

So what is the “key difference” between the parties? Rhetoric. When Republicans advocate a small contraction of the welfare state, Democrats claim that Republicans totally oppose the welfare state. And many Republicans oblige them by standing up for “liberty” and “responsibility.” Similarly, when Democrats advocate a small expansion in the welfare state, Republican claim that Democrats oppose free markets. And many Democrats oblige them by saying things like “markets only benefit the rich.”

This rhetorical illusion is so powerful that when a Democrat like Clinton adopts many pro-market reforms, Republicans still hate him as a 60s radical. And when Bush II sharply expands the welfare state, Democrats still hate him as a billionaire’s lackey.
(…)

A state like Montana-which allows constitutional amendments through
initiative and referendum- could institute reforms like Proportional Representation voting and Range Voting and start the process of diminishing the power of the current elites. These reforms would result in a permanent presence in state govt of genuine pro-State Sovereignty advocates. Believe it or not, the general public takes you more more seriously when you have actual elected officials and the MSM even starts to take you somewhat seriously.
http://rangevoting.org/Duverger.html
http://www.proportional-representation.org/

avatar Carl May 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Mr. Sale, I came to your fine post on this issue from a link over at Taki’s magazine. While I agree with your assertion that states have a right to secede, there is a potential bad side of secession which can be seen in the supposed nationalist movements in the EUSSR – particularly the UK, where independence for Scotland and Wales is supported by the nomenklatura in Brussels. The pro-independence Scots and Welsh parties likewise have no problem with bowing before the monstrosity in Brussels.

Rick Perry, of course, is well-known for his boosterism for the “NAFTA Superhighway” – a globalist scheme to facilitate the creation of an NAUSSR. Pardon me if I cannot bring myself to take the alleged secessionist sentiments of a confirmed globalist as anything other than the worst type of cynical opportunism.

avatar Nick May 1, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Welcome to South Carolina!

Note: We tried seccession once before….and look what it got us. Just behave and grow comfortable with being a slave to the State and Federal governments…with a little dash of local tyranny sprinkled in. The sooner everyone on the lower rung submits to their higher authority the better everything will be.

avatar Kevin Carson May 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

John M.: Even if we are one nation in a cultural sense, that doesn’t itself entail any particular view of the permanence of the federal arrangements between the states. And in terms of the actual mechanics of establishing the 1789 Constitution, it rests on the accession of the people of a state–so it is no more binding against the will of a state than the Articles were. Whether secession is advisable is another matter, of course.

Sean S.: One of the ironies of Republican politics is that the Red States that whine most about big government and federal oppression are net tax consumers (just as the parts of the country that talk most about Fambly Valyas have the highest rates of divorce and teen pregnancy). They mostly depend very heavily on federal military bases, extractive industries that are heavily subsidized by the feds (the so-called “Sagebrush rebels” are corporate welfare queens, etc.).

But the people involved in projects like the Vermont secession movement are generally also economic decentralists, in favor of shortening corporate supply chains and relocalizing economies, with community-supported agriculture and small-scale manufacturing for local markets, etc.

avatar Sean S. May 1, 2009 at 1:12 pm

“The argument that no one has a plan to govern a seceded state, is not very convincing.”

It is when one has to live with other people’s idiocy. It’s also not an especially convincing argument politically, but hey, what do I know?

“The state government will do so, obviously. That state governments are dysfunctional is not a deterrent to this; all they have to be is less dysfunctional than the federal government, a very low standard to exceed.”

Again, for those people living in it, it IS a deterrent. Whats the point of switching one group of inept people for another? A keen desire to wave the flag of one state apparatus? Thats even more irrational than your other comment.

People want results. The presumption throughout this whole thread, with scant factual proof, is that secession will mean a more responsive government as if the only thing that makes politics bad today is the sheer numeric scale of it. I believe the numbers game is the only true ruse behind dingbats who talk about secession; unable to convince anyone of their superior ideas politically, they’ve decided to redefine the rules of the game.

The point about the collapse of the Soviet Union also misses the point that it collapsed. Realistically Moscow could no longer subsidize or support the many apparatuses it supported in the various satellite states. In the end most left less because of a desire for free markets, and democracy, but because they had to fend for themselves. (Note: before anyone says it, no, you can’t reasonably look at today’s government and argue that its ‘collapsing’, going to ‘collapse’, etc.) Yugoslavia’s balkanization, while stoked by ethnic nationalism and foreign intervention, also rose and fell on the weakness of the central apparatus, which under Milosevich was crumbling.

avatar Rob Tremewan May 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Realistically, how can we have “a more robust localism” in the context of a federal government that has long broken free of the constitutional chains that bound it to the specifically enumerated powers and limited scope of government? A number of states have embarked on efforts to reaffirm the 10th amendment, which I support. However, if the federal government has not respected the sovereignty of the states and the necessary limits to its authority, how can we realistically expect the federal government to respect these legislative acts by individual states reaffirming the 10th amendment? No meaningful redress, reform or reversal is likely if even possible within the context of our corrupt political system.

The federal government today is in effect a central government with virtually no limits to its power, scope nor intrusiveness contrary to the intent of our founders. Furthermore, it is egregiously in violation of the spirit of the declaration of independence. In essence, the federal government and the agents thereof are the Red Coats of today. They have violated, usurped and tread upon our rights far more egregiously than the regime under King George ever did, yet we quibble. We have a corrupt “two party” political cartel system that uses every means legal and illegal to prevent competition, stifle debate and otherwise ensure that the American people have but two choices to perpetuate this condition; just pick your poison. We are to be ever satisfied by a choice limited to the lesser of two evils? Such a choice is still a vote for evil, is it not?

If the government respected the constitution, political party wouldn’t matter because regardless of who won an election, our rights, our property and the fruits of our labor would be safe. This is hardly the condition that exists today.

The only change we can count on is one of ever expanded scope and intrusiveness of government, only differing by degree and emphasis between the democrat and republican cartels, which are actually opposite sides of the same coin. We are force fed the right vs. left, liberal vs. conservative, democrat vs. republican, red state vs. blue state binary paradigm nonsense by the corrupt political establishment and the “mainstream” media (which are in collusion), as if there are no legitimate alternatives and these parameters encase the boundaries of acceptable/respectable political discourse in America.

Certainly reasoned debate and dialogue are in order, as is educating people on the issue of secession. However secession is absolutely a legitimate option and is very much in the American tradition. We began through secession from the British Empire and the U.S. government itself has supported secession of foreign states (though it may not enthusiastically embrace the prospect here). How can a state of its own free will voluntarily join a union but not be allowed to leave voluntarily? Such would be a repudiation of the very foundations of America pursuant to the declaration of independence and self determination. Notwithstanding the abomination that is slavery; the south was right. Yet, is not the draft a form of slavery? Is not the income tax/property tax a form of slavery? I digress. Regardless, just as the USSR was an unsustainable political entity, so is the USA come USSA. Division, dissolution and secession will inevitably result along state, regional and ethnic lines. The behemoth that is the federal government has become too big, too costly, too intrusive and too far removed from the intent of our founders as a constitutionally limited republic. Not to mention, the government is destroying the dollar to maintain unsustainable levels of spending and the global footprint of US hegemony/empire.

More and more secession is an attractive option.

avatar D.W. Sabin May 1, 2009 at 1:40 pm

As we debate whether or not it is either legal or prudent to exercise a right of the States for secession, we might want to take a quick look at our…lets see now, what is the word I’m looking for…ahhh, oh yes, “Representatives” . It would seem to me that the Federal Government essentially seceded from the interests of the individual citizen or their States some time ago. If a State were to officially secede, it would simply be formalizing something that already exists except for one thing: Taxation. The booboisie dutifully sends in their protection money and the Federal Government dispenses it to a military-industrial combine that makes Tammany Hall look like the Colorado Springs Garden Club.

Senator Dodd is a lovely case in point. Recently, his campaign staff announced that the Connecticut Senator had amassed a Million dollar re-election slush fund and was well on it’s way to overcoming the lack of enthusiasm on the part of various unhappy members of the Nutmeg State. Well, a few days later, a commentator on NPR revealed that of the Million dollars, only $4,000 had actually come from State Citizens. Not even a half a percent of his re-election fund came from the State Citizens he represents. The Banks he was charged with regulating in the run up to this hangover from a sustained era of Bunko no doubt put in more than a half a percent of the re-election fund. This story seems to have gained no traction and so may indeed be apocryphal but frankly, I doubt it. Our elected Representatives dispense sentimental pap to their citizens while representing whatever array of special interests they have aligned themselves with .

Washington D.C. Seceded from the States some time ago but is still collecting tribute , largely to prosecute a war machine and maintain over a thousand bases all over the world while growing the rest of the bureaucracy apace so that the military budget will not look so big in comparison. Good luck with reforming this beast before it turns on you whether you secede or not.

avatar al May 1, 2009 at 4:16 pm

secession is nothing short of dismantling the United States. It’s treason of the highest degree. Lincoln knew how serious its consequences can be and the nation stood by him amid the huge losses suffered just to keep the country together. You might as well call it treason.

avatar LaughingTarget May 1, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Kevin Carson -

That’s actually not true. There are 19 states that are classified as Tax Donor states, 10 of them are red, 9 of them are blue, so there’s a 50-50 split between the two. Texas, red, is the second largest tax donor behind California, blue. Both have active secession movements (yes, California has it). Both states have a very valid claim to the movement since they’re clearly being fleeced to pay for people elsewhere.

Some tax donor states, like Florida and Texas, can handle secession as their economies are mostly self-sustaining, have access to trade routs and otherwise can function as individual nations. Others, like Indiana and Minnesota, would have a bit more trouble due to logistics, but still have a valid claim to secession since they, too, are paying more to the maw than they’re getting back.

The tax donor status of various states is a perfectly legit reason to seceed from the Union as they’re no longer being treated as equals, but as a means to pay for the excesses of everyone else. Tax donor status is political party neutral, so is secession.

avatar Esmeralda_Pearl May 1, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Alaska has a very strong secessionist movement.

Some people in NYC have been making the case for secession from NYS because the city pays more to the state than it receives in school aid and other redistributions schemes of the NYS Legislature. Many who support this idea want to include Long Island and possibly Westchester and Rockland counties in the secession.

I happen to believe that secession or rebellion should be actions of last resort. Any state that seceded would probably face a military reprisal. This would be especially true if Obama was the president at the time of secession. He seems to see himself as some sort of princely Socialistic Lincoln…with a little bit of messiah thrown in for good measure.

Clipping the Federal Empire’s imperialistic wings might be achieved in other ways. For instance repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments. Repealing the 17th would have the added benefit of crippling K street. Can you imagine where a Federal Senator’s loyalties would be; if he/she was chosen by their state legislature? Talk about “States Rights”!

avatar Trouble May 1, 2009 at 9:20 pm

To “al”

Not true. Licoln’s position was actually in violation of the Constitution. The Southern States had every right to leave peacefully and tried to do just that.

Several times in the late 1700′s and early 1800′s there were States that effectively seceded from the Union for various reasons.

I do recommend that you do some historical research.

avatar icr May 1, 2009 at 9:52 pm

The point about the collapse of the Soviet Union also misses the point that it collapsed. Realistically Moscow could no longer subsidize or support the many apparatuses it supported in the various satellite states. In the end most left less because of a desire for free markets, and democracy, but because they had to fend for themselves.-sean s

Yeah, the Poles really LOVED the Russians and being part of the Warsaw Pact. IN the Baltic States there are considerable tensions between the indigeneous peoples and the Russian colonizers and their descendants to this day.

avatar icr May 1, 2009 at 10:04 pm

As I said before Alaska is good position to effect nullification because of the huge amount of money in their oil revenue fund. They don’t need more federal pork for more bridges to nowhere.

If Alaska nullifies a number of the manifestly absurd regulations imposed by the Feds I think it unlikely that BHO would launch a military expedition to subdue the Alaskans or call in nuclear strikes.

avatar icr May 1, 2009 at 10:25 pm

The only change we can count on is one of ever expanded scope and intrusiveness of government, only differing by degree and emphasis between the democrat and republican cartels, which are actually opposite sides of the same coin. We are force fed the right vs. left, liberal vs. conservative, democrat vs. republican, red state vs. blue state binary paradigm nonsense by the corrupt political establishment and the “mainstream” media (which are in collusion), as if there are no legitimate alternatives and these parameters encase the boundaries of acceptable/respectable political discourse in America.-Rob T

You create conditions that allow non-mainstream parties to be serious contenders and not just joke candidates.
http://www.rangevote.net/

Sixteen states allow constitutional amendments through initiative referendum. Range Voting and Proportional Representation would make third parties viable and make possible the replacement of the usual political hacks by the kind of malcontents and eccentrics who might have the courage to defy the tyranny of the federal government. http://reformthelp.org/issues/voting/range.php
http://rangevoting.org/ForLibs.html

avatar Josh Cooney May 1, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Who do I send money to to support California’s secession movement?

avatar Epiminondas May 1, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Break up this country before it does any more damage to itself and others.

avatar Bill Meyer May 2, 2009 at 12:35 am

Interesting discussions. Concerning the one gentleman who likened secession to a bad “No-fault Divorce”, consider the futility of getting a central government judge “authority” to approve of such an act. Unfortunately, there are few examples of tyrannical governments allowing folks to “take their ball and go home”. Liberty isn’t normally granted…it’s taken.

avatar Scott Harmon May 2, 2009 at 1:11 am

I see no issues with secession. If a particular group of people (a state) does not want to remain a part of the Union, then let them go. Who cares? Lincoln’s interpretation, who cares? Lincoln’s own words support the “throwing off” of a government that the people don’t want. I guess Lincoln did not act as he said–big deal. Things change, people change, and the past is what it was. Secession, go for it!

avatar Kevin Carson May 2, 2009 at 1:36 am

Laughing Target: Thanks for the clarification.

Al: That’s simply utter nonsense, historically speaking. I challenge you to read the historical account of state sovereignty in the formative period I linked to in my first comment.

avatar MiBu May 2, 2009 at 4:55 am

The only legal document for the existence of the US Government is the Constitution. All too often, since 1861, the three branches of the gov’t have usurped it by establishing the Federal Reserve, and removing gold as currency. Making rulings and law outside its purview. When one looks at the wording of the “necessary and proper” and “regulate commerce” clauses it is very apparent the central government has gone way beyond it’s authority. The Tenth Amendment clearly leaves all powers not delegated to the gov’t to the states and the people. Space here is limited and I think people reading this post grasp my point. The problems we face today CAN be addressed Constitutionally (although it was written some 220 years ago) by either amending it or letting the States take care of it themselves. 90% of what the Congress and Exec pass as “law” is unConstitutional but doable with a combination of creativeness within the separate States and re-mixing the taxing structure. Way too much goes to Washington, not enough to state governments. That said, since the central government is increasing it’s encroachment (since when can a sitting US president fire a citizen in his private job?) and meddling in State’s and People’s business, a reaffirmation of State’s rights is necessary. If the central government violates its own “supreme law of the land” then I submit it is an unchecked, rogue regime acting in a criminal manner, no matter how well intentioned the actors within it. When one considers the foreign money to the Clinton-Bush-Obama coffers, it becomes all the more sinister.
The very fact this whole topic is seriously being discussed shows how disgusted a growing number of people are by the gov’t inside the Beltway. I rather imagine such discussions taking place in 1773 or 1858. How much time do we have left before the situation escalates? The “secessions” of 1776 and 1861 may not have had a majority of the population behind it, but soon the momentum building toward it led to hostilities. A recent poll showed that 25% of Texans would vote to secede and many use that as a reason to brush-off secession talk. They don’t see the reverse of that. Texas has a population of 24 million people. The poll (if valid) shows that SIX MILLION people WOULD be willing to break away. That’s a lot of people and probably be of the mindset willing to take up arms to make it so. I don’t want to see it happen, but because of the Dem/Repub oligarchy growing increasingly out of control, I fear time is running out for the United States.

avatar Dave May 2, 2009 at 7:37 am

There’s no better way to root out and expose those with tyrannical or statist impulses (in government and of journalists) than by broaching the topic of secession.
Notice how congress quickly ceased discussing the assault weapons ban with the emergence of affirmations to the tenth amendment by numerous states.
Congress has pushed some buttons and they didn’t like the reaction.

avatar Carpenter May 2, 2009 at 7:47 am

It is fun to read the comments by the establishment supporters here.

D.W. Sabin can only offer insults, and then veer off in a tirade against the NY Times (what does that have to do with the topic?).

Patrick Deneen is afraid that if you let one state secede, others might too! Forbidding them is the only solution. Funny; how about changing establishment policy so that states don’t WANT to secede instead?

Chuck relies on smug arrogance, the hallmark of the leftist.

John Medaille says secession is “too much like a divorce” and, amazingly, that “the right of secession interferes with the right of rebellion.” Now that’s the most ridiculous anti-secession argument I have heard so far.

It seems the Lincolnites are ideologically bankrupt. And what to expect, when their task is impossible: to make it sound democratic to chain down by force people who don’t want to stay any longer. I suppose they would also advocate murder of Scandinavians, if the Swedes and Danes would some day decide to leave the European Union. You can rehash the same arguments: “The Union is indivisible!” “If you let some leave, others may do the same!”

avatar icr May 2, 2009 at 7:49 am

A federal absurdity that should be nullified:
http://vdare.com/sailer/090419_ricci.htm
http://vdare.com/sailer/090426_ricci.htm

Returning to the example of oil-rich Alaska, the state could return to a pre-Griggs state of affairs and hire and promote state employees through (scientifically-validated) cognitive testing.Something like the old federal PACE exam (scrapped for not passing enough NAM’s)could be used.

The above is a less semi-theological question that the perennially vexing one of whether certain Western and Mountain states should be owned (a) 95% by the Central Government, (b) 80% by the Central Government (c) some other number subject to some kind of negotiation.

avatar jharry3 May 2, 2009 at 8:15 am

The best argument I have heard that supports the right to seccession is that the State’s existence all predated the current Constitution.
In fact King George had to sign a peace treaty with each State as they were all separate States.

The States first tried the Articles of Confederation and then, in a bloodless explusion, the representatives of the States killed the Articles in a secret meeting (all were Masons and knew how to keep a secret) and emerged with the 1787 Constitution: A voluntary Union with some limited powers granted to a Federal Government.

The key word here is “granted” – That’s the word Hamilton, and later Lincoln, hated.
Both ignored that word, Lincoln to the tune of over 600,000 dead on his soul.
The expression “might makes right” is hateful to liberty.
If you believe that then you are a thug who would support thugs to be in charge and would joyfully go collect “protection money” to keep the thugs fully funded (think Lincoln and tariffs).

Why would a bunch of men, all lawyers, grant eternal power to a superior government body in 1787?
Especially after they had just fought a war of secession combined with an internal civil war (don’t forget the Tories) to secede from British rule.

Using Occam’s Razor does it not make sense they would have an “out” clause expressed or implied in any document they would sign?

It strains common sense to think otherwise.

avatar Tim May 2, 2009 at 8:58 am

The United States is becoming increasingly ungovernable. The federal government is essentially bankrupt, resorting to printing up money to pay the interest on its mounting debt. The United States is simply too big to be governed justly. The orgy of government bailouts and corrupt bargains have exposed our political economy for the kleptocracy it is.

Secession is creeping into public discourse because more people are coming to the rational conclusion that being in the Union is no longer worth the price. With its warfare and welfare schemes, the federal government has already loaded down every American with $175,000 of debt and with Obama planning Great Society II, that burden will only get bigger in the next few years.

Twenty-five states have passed laws or resolutions announcing they will not enforce the Read ID Act of 2005. This is nullification.

avatar tgreen May 2, 2009 at 9:19 am

secession won’t happen. even if it does. the american people have been dumbed down to the point where the replacement government would be just as bad or worse than the one we have now. sarah palin would be our president.

avatar Tim May 2, 2009 at 11:30 am

Secession is already happening. Liquidation often follows bankruptcy and the US government is bankrupt. There is simply no way the federal government is going to able meet all of its obligations in the next decade without massive tax increases and monetary inflation. This will be the tipping point.

The fact that a sitting governor of major southwestern state has endorsed secession as a right means that it is now being discussed in polite society. Once seccession is added to the public discourse, there will be no turning back. Sure, the Establishment will push back and try to marginalize the burgeoning seccession movement by calling its members “cranks”, “racists”, and “anti-American” but the truth is secession is part of the American tradition. As Mr Sale and many others have pointed out, this nation was born in the spirit of secession.

avatar BrianT(inNY) May 2, 2009 at 11:45 am

Sean S. Please expand on your statement that “..you can’t reasonably look at today’s government and argue that its ‘collapsing’, going to ‘collapse’, etc.”.

I’m pretty sure the argument that they’re headed for collapse is a strong one. What they’re doing with uncontrolled issuance of fiat money will lead there.

Nation debt hits 11 Trillion Dollars – going to 16.2 trillion:
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - –
(from…)
( http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/03/17/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry4872310.shtml )

The Administration’s four year estimate shows that by the end of September 2012, the Debt will have soared to $16.2-trillion – which amounts to nearly 100% of the projected Gross Domestic Product that year.

The U.S. is running up so much debt so quickly, some investors are worried. Over the weekend, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who says his country has about a trillion dollars invested in U.S. Treasury notes, said he wanted a guarantee.

President Obama said Wen’s got nothing to worry about.

“Not just the Chinese government, but every investor, can have absolute confidence in the soundness of investments in the United States,” he said on Saturday.

“That’s because the U.S. government’s power to tax stands behind all of its debt. If Uncle Sam ever needs a bailout, then as now, taxpayers get nailed. “

It took the U.S. government 191 years – from 1791 until 1982 – to run up its first trillion dollars in debt. The second and third trillions got on the scoreboard much more quickly – each in just four years.

By the time George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the National Debt stood at $5.7-trillion. He ran up more debt faster than nearly all of his predecessors combined: just under $4.9-trillion.

The National Debt stood at $10.6-trillion on the day Barack Obama took office. But if his budget projections are accurate, he’ll run up nearly as much government debt in four years as President Bush did in eight.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Then there’s the Social Security & Medicare UNFUNDED Liability of 66 Trillion Dollars
- http://www.agorafinancial.com/iousa.html

77 Trillion Dollars of debt is more than the gross domestic product of the ENTIRE WORLD. The only answer: collapse of the system.

Everything they do is based on “Public Opinion”. That’s the all important principle behind representative democracy. Once the general faith in ‘the system’ is gone, thus goes ‘the system’.

Add to that an estimated $236 trillion in ‘Structured Investment Vehicles’ (CDO’s, swaps, etc.) that haven’t – yet – gone south. The world-wide loss of wealth at this early point in the correction is around $50 trillion. We’ve only just begun to see the breadth and depth of what Washington has wrought.

Should the Chinese decide to dump their dollar-denominated assets, the rest of the World will quickly follow suit. What happens if (when?) those dollars come home? Likely outcome: hyperinflation to make the Weimar Republic look like a college frat-party.

Two options: a return to the representative, strictly limited, Constitutional Government, or the worst Totalitarian regime the World has ever seen. The latter being the only way “They” are going to keep “Us” in tax-slavery bondage to “their” debt.

avatar Kevin Carson May 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Tim’s comments are perhaps the most relevant to real-world possibilities of any in this thread.

Regardless of debates over the legality of de jure secession, it’s quite plausible that we might see de facto dissolution of the union in the fairly near future. As government is bankrupted in futile efforts to keep up with corporate welfare queens’ demand for subsidized inputs, and as Peak Oil drives gas toward $12/gallon, we are likely to see the regimes in Washington, Albany, Sacramento et al become increasingly what John Robb calls “hollow states.” The state legislature probably won’t forswear allegiance to Washington, and neither will city hall formally secede from the state. The television pageantry of government will continue, with the President smiling and giving speeches and signing bills with no real authority except on paper. But localities will increasingly be forced to take over the real functions of government as Washington’s and Sacramento’s ability to provide grants in aid becomes exhausted. And localities will increasingly become the final interpreters of central regulations, as the central governments’ resources for enforcing them are exhausted.

The last century or so of the Roman Empire in the West is a good example, with German tribal kings running events on the ground and swearing nominal fealty to Rome. See also the al-Maliki regime’s deal with Sunni tribal leaders in al-Anbar province, and Pakistan’s deal with the Taliban in Swat provience.

avatar D. Saul Weiner May 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm

There is no serious talk of secession until the NY Times decides to publish an article on it.

avatar John C. Randolph May 2, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Jefferson Davis made the argument in his inaugural address that secession is the honorable thing to do, and nullification is not; that if a state remains in the union and obtains the benefit of that participation, then it had the obligation to abide by the rules of the union. But if the state decides that the burdens imposed by the federal government outweigh the benefits it provides, that we are entitled to secede and give up the benefit to be free of the burden.

-jcr

avatar Dan McDonald May 2, 2009 at 6:15 pm

While I doubt that many Americans presently support any idea of secession, the reality is that Americans of most all political stripes recognize that our Republic is in serious danger. More and more people recognize that we live in an oligarchy with a triumvirate of bought politicians, elite corporations, and a runaway bureucracy that is anything but the constitutional government established. How was our Constitution established in 1789? It was established when 9/13 of the original states voted to secede from the union established under the Articles of Confederation, and voted to establish a Constitutional union. Our present Constitutional government was established by secession from the original United States of America. Obviously many people refuse to recognize that secession as secession.
The reality of the present situation is that we live in a nation that is wary of our political system. The present American patriotism will likely face challenges as foreign nations move away from the dollar and our runaway indebtedness turns on us as it turned on the French monarchy that seemed certain that they ruled as divine right kings. Secession is idle talk presently, but if hyperinflation erupts due to the runaway Keynsian economic policies, then we may see a mass movement towards secession. As the Soviet Union showed, all the weapons a modern state can muster are worthless once soldiers decide they stand against their families if they stand for the state. I suspect that secession will become far more popular if the present policies of government create hyperinflation.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 2, 2009 at 10:39 pm

My recent e-mail response to the NY Times:

“The Times’s April 17 article “Texas Governor’s Secession Talk Stirs Furor ,” states that “historians and law professors say there has been no serious argument since the Civil War on behalf of a legal basis for a state’s secession.”
This is not true of all historians and law professors: for example, historian AND law professor Kevin R. Gutzman, author of “Who Killed the Constitution,” concedes that every state is a fully sovereign nation under international law. Likewise, Yale Constitutional Law professor Akhil Reed Amar, bases his entire argument against secession on the claim that the Constitutio bound the states to it under threat of force, when James Madison and other Federalists expressly assured the people of the ratifying states, that the Union would be strictly voluntary.
Hence your article was entirely misleading via the phrase “historians and law professors,” indicating that there was consensus among them on this issue.

Likewise, the article claims that “It has long been part of Texas folk mythology that because the state was once an independent republic, it has the option of seceding.”
This is not the only legal argument behind a right to secession: rather, the simple fact is that the states were each indeed originally sovereign nations unto themselves, as recognized under international law via the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783; however, various revisionists later claimed that the states formed themselves into a single nation: this began under the Jackson administration claiming that this occurred via the Declaration of Independence; meanwhile when this theory fell through, later revisionists claimed it happened via the US Constitution. However, neither group has been able to support their claims, by supplying proof that the sovereign people of each state manifested an actual intention to relinquish their respective state’s inernational sovereignty to the Union proper; on the contrary, all evidence concludes the opposite intent. In other words, the United States is only a single nation, according to revised history; meanwhile in reality, every state is a sovereign nation which may secede from the federal union at will.
As an honors legal-scholar, I have researched this issue for several years, and have come to the conclusion that every state was and must remain a fully sovereign nation under international law; this was sworn to the people of each state in order to induce ratificatino of the Constitution, and likewise they never manifested any adverse intent regarding it. It would behoove your publication to correct this: it’s a fact that over 300 presses were closed by the Lincoln Administration during the Civil War, while over 18,000 journalists were likewise imprisoned– all for simply statements concerning the legal basis of secession, such as those I made above. By writng erroneously in concurrence with the Lincoln Administration regarding the (il)legality of secession, your article’s pro-government stance reveals a bias which stands in cahoots with the governmnt against the institution of free speech and Freedom of the Press, as a resultant “Judas” lackey-medium of pro-government propoganda– rather than of objective truth and vigilance.”

avatar Scott May 2, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Interesting debate. My opinion is along the lines of those of who support States, or People, to choose their own destiny. Having been born and raised in Quebec, I had the opportunity to watch that debate front row. While in that case, I was opposed to separation- purely because the outcome would have been more Marxist/Marxian/ nonsense- the real reason it failed was because its supporters were not willing to “die” for their cause. Even if any of the referendums did produce the 50+1 threshold the separatists had set as the victory. Even if they would have met their criteria, there was no way that even 10% would “fight” to guarantee their victory. The Native Indians in Canada have done a far better job of asserting their rights, including defending by force their land, than any other “State” or People on this Continent since 1861. But that is changing.

I now live in Georgia and have for the last 16 years. Those who see where USA is headed, know instinctively and absolutely what lies ahead. All Empires crumble. !00% success rate. They crumble from within. Usually it is because the People no longer have the desire to fund their corrupt King/Emperor/Sultun/Government. There will not be a debate about this. There will be no Supreme Court decisions. The Empire is bankrupt. America is bankrupt. When all the People come to know this truth, that is the beginning of the end. It is/will come faster than you think.

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2009_10/search/sr632.htm
http://www.tenthamendmentcenter.com/

avatar ben May 2, 2009 at 10:51 pm

“People want results. The presumption throughout this whole thread, with scant factual proof, is that secession will mean a more responsive government as if the only thing that makes politics bad today is the sheer numeric scale of it. I believe the numbers game is the only true ruse behind dingbats who talk about secession; unable to convince anyone of their superior ideas politically, they’ve decided to redefine the rules of the game.”

Scant factual proof? You need PROOF that a government would be more responsive if it consisted of people whom you know? Amazing….

avatar Brian McCandliss May 3, 2009 at 12:11 am

Again, it doesn’t matter what the Founders and Framers said after the Constitution was ratified– it only matters what the people of each state manifested regarding the Contitution itself, since they were the sovereigns of each state, and only the express will of a state’s sovereign power, can relinquish that state’s national sovereignty.
Unless one can point to such an express manifestation of intent, then there is simply no argument that the states surrendered their respective sovereignty as separate nations: but that rather, each state simply condescended to form a federal republic of sovereign nations between them, under which each state by definition remains fully sovereign.

The main proponent today of “consolidation theory” is Yale Prof. Ahil Reed Amar, who writes that “In dramatic contrast to Article VII–whose unanimity rule that no state can bind another confirms the sovereignty of each state prior to 1787 –Article V does not permit a single state convention to modify the federal Constitution for itself. Moreover, it makes clear that a state may be bound by a federal constitutional amendment even if that state votes against the amendment in a properly convened state convention. And this rule is flatly inconsistent with the idea that states remain sovereign after joining the Constitution, even if they were sovereign before joining it. Thus, ratification of the Constitution itself marked the moment when previously sovereign states gave up their sovereignty and legal independence.”

Of course this is entirely non sequitur, since national sovereignty does not pertain to amending constitutions within a federal republic of sovereign nations, but rather to supreme rulership over the particular nation in question. As Vattel explains in The Law of Nations, sovereign nations (i.e. “states”) may unite themselves together by a perpetual federal union, while each yet remaining individual perfect nations. Indeed, Vattel wrote that “[t]hey will together constitute a federal republic: their joint deliberations will not impair the sovereignty of each member, though they may, in certain respects, put some restraint on the exercise of it, in virtue of voluntary engagements.”
This was the original context by which the states agreed to co-exist, under the Constitution—and accordingly, the Constitution nowhere manifests any relinquishment of sovereignty by any state. Rather, like the Articles of Confederation before it, all of the Constitution’s restrictions on state powers, were strictly voluntary (i.e. “delegated”) restraints of sovereign power by each state; and accordingly, the Constitution did not confer any federal power to coerce a state to obey its rulings through armed force (as would be the case if it formed a single nation.
However since each state’s sovereign people nowhere manifested any such intent to so consolidate themselves into one nation– and in fact manifested quite the opposite intention– then there can be no case for claiming that the United States is one single nation, but on the contrary is an illegal empire existing in occupation of many sovereign nations, under the false guise of a national republic.

avatar InfidelRobert May 3, 2009 at 12:32 am

When the USG collapses under its debt load and the world T-bond market races for the exits the US Dollar will follow in a downward hyperinflationary plunge. The American States that have commodity resources to underpin a new currency issue will have to assert their primary sovereignty and either secede or unilaterally declare the Union dissolved to avoid being panhandled by those destitute States that lack natural resources and Uncle Sam. As a wounded animal, the USG will not hesitate to “Shock and Awe” the Have States to force them to cough up the cookie jar. Thus it would behoove the Haves to invest in sophisticated air defense systems like the Russian S-300 SAM system. It looks like it might be a good time to be an arms dealer.

avatar Ken May 3, 2009 at 1:53 am

Related to the topic of getting out from under the heel of the federal monster, the state sovereignty movement is an empty gesture, a diversion.

We can do better than both of these, with not much more effort: each state can resolve to support a constitutional amendment to limit the spending power of the federal government (to say, a generous ten percent of GDP).

Done.

It will at the very least send a very serious message.

avatar Tony Kondaks May 3, 2009 at 10:06 am

“If Canada is divisible, so also is Quebec” — Pierre Trudeau.

Virginia voted to secede from the union in 1860 and the western section of Virginia, in response, voted to secede from Virginia. The former was unsuccessful; the latter successful (that’s why we have the state of West Virginia today).

Talk all you want about secession but don’t be surprised if and when it comes to pass that other entities, such as counties, avail themselves of the same right to self-determination.

avatar rhys May 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

I love this quote by Jefferson-

Resolved – that the several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principles of unlimited submission to their general government, but that by compact, under the style and title of a constitution for the United States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving each state to itself the residuary mass of right to their own self government. And that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.

Now to this compact each state acceded as a state and is an integral party, its co-states forming as to itself the other party, that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself since that would have made its discretion and not the constitution the measure of its powers. But that, as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge of itself as well of infractions as to the mode and measure of redress.

-Thomas Jefferson

While secession may be “illegal” it doesn’t violate anyone’s inalienable rights. And laws that restrict behavior that doesn’t violate anyone’s inalienable rights are not really laws at all.

Also, speaking of the War of Northern Agression, Lincoln’s attack on the South was completely unconstitutional because of Article IV, Section 4 – “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

Basically, The Federal Government must protect the States of the Union from invasion. Which means that, in order for the Federal Government to invade the Southern States, the Southern States must not be part of the Union. And if they were not part of the Union, then a Declaration of War would have been necessary. So either Southern secession was legal and Lincoln failed to get a Declaration of War, or Southern secession was illegal and the federal government violated Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution.

But really, what can the Federal government do if a State of the Union fails to perform on its Constitutional contract? You would think that non-performance by a State of the Union would not be punished with the killing of the State’s citizens, but by kicking the offending State out of the union. After all, if there is a benefit that accrues to the States of the Union from inclusion in the Union, then removing offending States from the Union should be punishment enough. But instead, the North punished the South by requiring them to remain in the Union. And the precedent the Federal government set will be used to punish us all. After all, slavery doesn’t work if the slaves are allowed to quit.

avatar icr May 3, 2009 at 11:55 am

Regardless of debates over the legality of de jure secession, it’s quite plausible that we might see de facto dissolution of the union in the fairly near future. As government is bankrupted in futile efforts to keep up with corporate welfare queens’ demand for subsidized inputs, and as Peak Oil drives gas toward $12/gallon, we are likely to see the regimes in Washington, Albany, Sacramento et al become increasingly what John Robb calls “hollow states.” The state legislature probably won’t forswear allegiance to Washington, and neither will city hall formally secede from the state. The television pageantry of government will continue, with the President smiling and giving speeches and signing bills with no real authority except on paper. But localities will increasingly be forced to take over the real functions of government as Washington’s and Sacramento’s ability to provide grants in aid becomes exhausted. And localities will increasingly become the final interpreters of central regulations, as the central governments’ resources for enforcing them are exhausted.-Kevin Carson

Right, but unless organized alternatives are created, this could leave much of the country under the effective control of Mexican drug “cartels”, MS-13 and the like.

avatar Kevinabt May 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

The least painful way to make secession happen would be to pass a constitutional amendment simply saying that any state or region may secede from the union by direct majority vote of the people of that state or region.

Not only would it be indisputably legal then, but it would also have the blessing of the rest of the non-seceding country and thus (hopefully) not lead to bloodshed.

That being said, count my vote here in Columbus Ohio for secession.

avatar Paul Bonneau May 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Sean S. has a problem with the notion that states can govern themselves after they secede. He writes, “Again, for those people living in it, it IS a deterrent. Whats the point of switching one group of inept people for another? A keen desire to wave the flag of one state apparatus? Thats even more irrational than your other comment.”

It’s not much of a debating tactic to simply call your debating opponent “irrational”. I of course said nothing about flag waving.

Anyway, there certainly is a point in this. The federal government is very bad. It’s hard to imagine any state government being nearly as bad; would Vermont invade Iraq, or throw a significant portion of its population in jail over drug use?

But even if a state was as bad, with 49 other states bailed out of the Union, or some lesser number, whatever it is, it gives a choice for people. They can migrate to the state that suits them. Socialists can move to a socialist state, freedom-lovers to a free state, or even an anarchist state.

That is theoretically possible right now (moving instead to another country), except it is much harder to move to a different country and have a chance to fit in – although some have done so, e.g. Fred Reed (notoriously). And there is no choice out there that is really free or anarchist. I think there might be one or a few states that might go that way in the former USA, if they could only free themselves from the dead hand of the federal government.

Bottom line, more choices, better choices, and easier for people to “vote with their feet”. Well worth doing.

“Bill writes, “Liberty isn’t normally granted…it’s taken.” There’s a lot of truth to that, but there are different ways to “take”. Going the non-cooperation route, as much as is possible, is probably less damaging to everyone than is declaring war against D.C.

As to Constitutional arguments, they are pretty pointless, since the Constitution is routinely trampled. The current union was actually a coup d’etat of the former union formed by the Articles of Confederation, which was supposed to last “in perpetuity” and how long did it last? A decade?

I think Spooner had it right. Constitutions clearly do not bind people, neither the ruling class nor anyone else. When people are ready to bail, they will bail. It needs only a large enough provocation for them to be motivated to do that. Destruction of the economy ought to do it.

avatar Patrick Henry May 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Some of the comments posted here seem to be from lawyers, at the least from armchair lawyers. That said, let us return to the document that started this grand experiment of a Constitutional Republic, The Declaration of Independence, a true secessionist document. Here are the majority of the first two paragraphs of that document, read it carefully, it is the blueprint for a modern day movement of secession from an overbearing, illegal and unconstitutional federal government.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security —

Very powerful words and ideas, they are not to be taken lightly or dismissed as out dated. So, in my humble opinion (and opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink) we are a secessionist nation. We have always had and will always continue to have the right to secede from any oppressive form of government, whether collectively or individually. To say otherwise would be a renouncement of the very documents our fore fathers risked ‘life and limb’ to establish and live under.

Maybe we should start by banning lawyers, as the Virginia colony once did. Just a thought.

On a lighter note.
What is the difference between a lawyer and a vampire bat?
One is a blood sucking parasite that preys on unsuspecting, innocent victims.
The other is a small furry winged mammal.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm

“Sean S. has a problem with the notion that states can govern themselves after they secede.”
That’s odd, they’re all set up to do just that– just as they were before they AC-ceded to the current union by ratifying the Constitution. They all have fully-functional state governments complete with executive, legislative and judicial branches– same as when they joined the Union; they can just pick up as before, except without any restrictions on their sovereign powers– so they can keep troops, coin money, regulate commerce etc. without all that damned federal meddling and interference under a no-account imperial government.

avatar Marc Linn May 3, 2009 at 5:09 pm

The whole “I’m leaving / You can’t leave” scenario gets played out countless times throughout history on a much smaller scale: the individual growing up and taking his / her place in the adult world.

In the increasingly rare healthy families, in which the parents have grown up emotionally as well as physically, this is accepted and even encouraged as the natural order of things. The dependency of childhood is gradually replaced by the autonomy and capabilities of adulthood.

But all too many times, the parents’ emotional damage — probably caused by their parents crippling their autonomy for similar reasons — results in a frantic resistance to the inevitable, the desire of “their” children to grow up.

I believe that if we as a species ever reach a point where the majority of us do in fact grow up with our various capabilities intact, our social structures will somewhat naturally reflect this. Problems resulting from global immaturity — such as wars, and the endless desire to control others, will become distant, if unpleasant, memories.

I am quite envious of any future generations fortunate enough to see this kind of shift. To anyone in that future who happens to be reading this, especially after learning of this dark era: yes, we really were a mess. We allowed our fears to rule us and we turned a great world into a wretched place. Hopefully you will do better!

Note: Wilhelm Reich, the controversial Austrian analyst and researcher, made me aware (through his writings) of the connection between our psychological problems and our dysfunctional societies. The Mass Psychology of Fascism bears most directly on this issue.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 3, 2009 at 6:56 pm

This isn’t about children leaving home, it’s about nations leaving a league– nothing more. The states were ALWAYS nations in a federal republic, not subordinate states of a greater nation– and it was only mass-suppression and violence that distorted history. We have make history square with the facts, and let them pull down Lincoln’s statute along with Hussein’s, as dictators who conquered sovereign nations under lying claim of lawful national authority over such, simply because the truth simply wouldn’t fulfill their desired ends.

avatar roy May 3, 2009 at 10:23 pm

the church left the roman gods,the protestants left the church,the english nobles left the crown,england left the catholic church,america left england,the south tried 2leave the north,the fed gouvt left the constitution, why should we not leave the fed gouvt

avatar Brian McCandliss May 4, 2009 at 12:28 am

Because secession is not “leaving,” but simply terminating delegations no longer desired by a sovereign state– a federal pink-slip, if you will, of the type not related to a Democratic presidential scandal.

avatar Sean S. May 4, 2009 at 10:34 am

“That’s odd, they’re all set up to do just that– just as they were before they AC-ceded to the current union by ratifying the Constitution. They all have fully-functional state governments complete with executive, legislative and judicial branches– same as when they joined the Union; they can just pick up as before, except without any restrictions on their sovereign powers– so they can keep troops, coin money, regulate commerce etc. without all that damned federal meddling and interference under a no-account imperial government.”

Yes, that would be fantastic. Why I can just imagine all the lovely by-products of 50 separate import-export regimes and currencies, as well as the hasty realization that the state governments don’t have the federal money to continue to pay any number of essential services. So that either means they start raising their own state taxes, or people on Medicare start dying off in hospice, the chronically mentally ill get booted out of their assisted living homes, the blind go without their disability check, and roads get full of potholes. I’m sure people will love the procedural freedom of living in the equivalent of an early 90′s Eastern bloc country.

Of course considering the bent of some of the posters on here, a world without the “nanny state” would be fantastic, which after all gets to the core of the matter. People only give two-cahoots about secession because they can’t convince enough people nation-wide to dislike the welfare-state we’ve constructed around us. Unable evidently, and unwilling, they’ve merely decided to change, again, the rules of the game.

avatar Kevin Carson May 4, 2009 at 11:34 am

Sean S.:

That’s remarkably uncharitable. It can probably be explained by your thorough absorption of the centralism = “progressive” and decentralism = “conservative” memes from dumbed-down, vanilla flavored mainstream American political culture.

But the fact that this whole discussion started with a post by Kirkpatrick Sale should be enough for even you to realize that decentralism is as much a left-wing as a right-wing tendency. Believe it or not, there are strains of the Left beyond Herbert Croly and Harold Wilson.

One reason I’d favor secession is an end to the federal drug war, and the fact that state and local jurisdictions would start seeing their own enforcement of drug laws as a cost rather than as a source of federal dollars via “interjurisdictional task forces.” Another reason is that it would break up the military-industrial and recruiting bases of Empire. It would put an end to American military power as the primary enforcer of corporate interests around the world. And it would put an end to the Copyright Nazi regime of the MPAA, RIAA and Bill Gates.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 5, 2009 at 2:18 am

Sean S.:
“People only give two-cahoots about secession because they can’t convince enough people nation-wide to dislike the welfare-state we’ve constructed around us. Unable evidently, and unwilling, they’ve merely decided to change, again, the rules of the game.”

Wrong. Sovereign states have the absolute power and right to join or withdraw from federal unions at any time. They never relinquished their sovereignty, nor was it ever compromised by force: in fact, the Civil War was waged precisely via the claim that the states were not sovereign nations unto themselves; and the war would have been impossible if their sovereignty were recognized. Sovereigny obviously cannot be legally compromised by illegal force, and therefore the states must therefore remain sovereign now as they were then.

avatar Sean S. May 5, 2009 at 2:40 am

“That’s remarkably uncharitable. It can probably be explained by your thorough absorption of the centralism = “progressive” and decentralism = “conservative” memes from dumbed-down, vanilla flavored mainstream American political culture. ”

Actually no, but nice try. Could many of these concepts be implemented on a smaller geographical scale? Certainly, and they already are in many other, smaller welfare states. But no one here is talking about implementing some sort of community-focused health-care program, or attempting a local housing program. No, people are talking about seceding mostly to avoid the heinous burden of Federal income taxes, random nonsense about the states rights, and an assorted sundry items that would not change if the geographical boundaries were to be redrawn.

As evidenced by my quoting Debord, of which you evidently missed, I probably know a fair more about “left-wing” thought than yourself. Enough to know that talk of changing politics by changing arbitrary boundaries is nonsense. Anyone can look at the litany of failed post-colonial states to realize that picking up your toys and going home does not ipso facto mean you’re independent from the world at large, nor any less a slave to it and its predominant economic system, nor the overwhelming political culture.

If you believe the “drug war” is going to be ended by secession than I have a bridge in San Fran to sell you; the idea that this would significantly change if states were to become independent is absurd; hell, the funding ratio would become probably more lopsided, as ‘law and order’ candidates won in Southern states. No doubt funding would simply be deprieved from other issues. Don’t underestimate the potential for things to get worse.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 5, 2009 at 9:51 am

Sean S.:
“No, people are talking about seceding mostly to avoid the heinous burden of Federal income taxes, random nonsense about the states rights, and an assorted sundry items that would not change if the geographical boundaries were to be redrawn.”

Yeah, that’s exactly what George III said about the colonies too. The difference is that the states are sovereign nations by law: and so their reasons for seceding are irrelevant, since it’s they’re choice not yours. The Republican myth about “secession being illegal” has long since been de-bunked, since nothing is illegal for a sovereign nation regarding its policy.

avatar Sean S. May 5, 2009 at 12:27 pm

“The difference is that the states are sovereign nations by law: and so their reasons for seceding are irrelevant, since it’s they’re choice not yours. ”

Actually it is my choice since I happen to live in this country, and happen to live in a state (South Carolina) that is too often the hotbed of this sort of madness. And so yes, their reasons for seceding are highly relevant. I’m not going to let a bunch of dingbats snooker where I work and live with a bunch of hoary old cliches about the Revolutionary War.

avatar Bill Meyer May 5, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Sean S. writes: “Actually it is my choice since I happen to live in this country, and happen to live in a state (South Carolina) that is too often the hotbed of this sort of madness.”

Sean, it’s also everyone else’s choice, too. I would caution against begging for the violent coercion of an even larger federal “massah” to keep the union together in order to protect you from your fellow “snookered dingbats”. If the feds are so desirable, you would think all would be tripping over themselves to join.

I’m curious – which hoary old cliches no longer apply in the constitution, bill of rights, and declaration of independence?

avatar Sean S. May 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm

“Sean, it’s also everyone else’s choice, too. I would caution against begging for the violent coercion of an even larger federal “massah” to keep the union together in order to protect you from your fellow “snookered dingbats”. If the feds are so desirable, you would think all would be tripping over themselves to join.”

I don’t know whats more ridiculous; misappropriating old slave terms or suggesting I’m for federal violence. And I’m unaware that anyone in recent years has run of an avowedly pro-secessionist platform on a state or local level and won, or has that a bloc has voted for such in any state legislature in recent memory. So until you can prove that everyone’s just dying to rip the whole contract up, the onus is on you. You can’t confuse irritation, or disagreement with present politics, as indicative of everyone wanting to storm the Bastille for secession.

“I’m curious – which hoary old cliches no longer apply in the constitution, bill of rights, and declaration of independence?”

Oh please. Simply ranting on about George the III and a bunch of misappropriated cliches from the Revolution does not make you the true blue defender of the Bill of Rights nor an expert on ConLaw.

avatar Bill Meyer May 5, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Re: Sean S.

Wasn’t implying you personally were for violent coercion Sean, but looking at the history of the Federal Government, that’s exactly what you can guarantee for any state wishing to peacefully leave the union. (Assuming the beast still has fight left in it)

Many folks who consider secession silly, ridiculous, beyond the pale, etc. are usually the same individuals bowing down to the cult of Lincoln, wanting their strongman Dem or Repub to “keep them safe” and “keep us together”. I don’t know where you come down on this, but I’ve had enough. It’s next to impossible to throw out a federal clown. Smaller more responsive local and regional governance is preferable, IMO.

I would also ask why any country would want to hang on to a state that DOESN’T want to be part of the union? (unless tyranny runs through its collective national veins) If a contract can be drawn up, it can be broken. Bless those who wish to stay in the union, AND those who wish to leave.

BTW, my tone is NOT RANTING….I’M NOT RANTING!!!!!!! ;-)

Sincerely,

Bill Meyer – resident of the scary-blue “People’s Republic of Oregon”, recovering from my government education.

avatar Kevin Carson May 5, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Sean S.: You yourself “evidently missed” the fact that the original post was written by somebody who hardly exemplifies Red State know-nothingism. Kirk Sale is about as far from the Palin/Joe the Plumber axis as you can get. But I don’t want to turn this into a more-Leftist-than-thou dickwaving contest, so I’ll just concede that academic postmodernism trumps the hippy-dippy granola stuff when it comes to left-wing street cred. Happy?

I wasn’t thinking so much of local welfare states, any more than I was thinking of local sweatshop economies patterned on Jack Abramoff’s Marianias Islands. I was thinking of Proudhonian agro-industrial communes, Kropotkinian/Borsodian decentralized production technology, community workshops a la Karl Hess and Colin Ward, neighborhood associations for mutual aid, and the like.

As for the drug war and all the rest of it, I think that issue dovetails with a point I raised earlier: that the question of secession may become moot, as de facto secession results from the hollowing out of central states. And local economies will be cut off from the state-corporate nexus and turn to relocalized and sustainable methods under pressure of necessity, as the rising cost of subsidized inputs (Peak Oil) and rising demand for them by corporate welfare queens results in a “fiscal crisis of the state.” Likewise the growing unenforceability of “intellectual property” means that corporate capitalism becomes unable to realize profit on a growing portion of use value. The profits of the software and entertainment industries, publishing, etc., will be gutted by the P2P revolution. The portion of the prices of goods made up of proprietary design, brand-name markup, and other forms of embedded rent on artificial property rights, will implode. In short, corporate capitalism is becoming unsustainable. And when it happens, local government will simply lack the resources for fighting the drug war, just as it will lack the resources to enforce zoning and licensing laws and suppress household microenterprise on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce.

When gasoline and diesel fuel are over $12/gallon, and major portions of the Interstate decay from lack of maintenance funds and are abandoned as unusable, as described by Jim Kunstler, economies will be relocalized under pressure of necessity. When the Whirlpool distribution chain dries up, the better-equipped garage workshops will be custom machining replacement parts to keep appliances running. When produce is snatched off the tables as fast as it appears at the farmers’ market, market gardeners will be expanding production as fast as they can cultivate new ground. The workshop hobbyists and market gardeners will be trading their services with neighborhood seamstresses, home microbakeries, and the like, through LETS systems. And fiscally exhausted local governments simply won’t be able to stop it, no matter how much the usual gang of Rotary Club yahoos vent their impotent rage.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 5, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Sean S. wrote:

“So until you can prove that everyone’s just dying to rip the whole contract up, the onus is on you.”

That’s not the issue, which you once miss entirely. The issue is about the right to secede– which current federal policy denies, illegally, to the tune of the deaths of over a quarter-million people whom the federal government killed for resisting its false claims of national authority… and threatens to do likewise to anyone who tries it again.

Now unless you condone the federal murder of innocents, YOU have the onus to show that the states aren’t sovereign nations by law, but are instead part of a larger sovereign nation as Lincoln’s party claimed… and still do.

So let’s see it.

avatar John Médaille May 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm
avatar Brian McCandliss May 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Actually I have to question the logic of those who use the term “sovereignty” simply to assert the 10th Amendment– like those in Oklahoma– since the 10th Amendment only allows states to appeal their claims to the US Supreme Court, and therefore is an issue of “state’s rights.”
Sovereignty, meanwhile, is what allows the state to overrule the Court if they believe it is in error– or if the case never comes before the court. Without sovereignty, states are always at the mercy of the federal government– which is then free to ignore the Constitution as it pleases. With sovereignty, however, a state can likewise do as it wills, as with any other sovereign state like England or France.

avatar Joshua May 6, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I believe that the secession movement is the ONLY way there will be peace in this land.
Our values are not the values of the elite, of the West Coast nor the East Coast.
New York and Hollywood and Chicago are NOT representative of our people nor our hopes for the future.
God bless the secession movement.

avatar Kirkpatrick Sale May 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

An extraordinary response, and for the most part intelligent and learned. I am grateful.
Now let’s get on to a little action and organizing: the front porch is the place to talk to friends and neighbors about what to do next. The time is ripe, never riper.
My website may be a help.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 7, 2009 at 2:21 pm

“Now let’s get on to a little action and organizing: the front porch is the place to talk to friends and neighbors about what to do next.”

This first requires accurate information, since people have to be on the same track. Currently, people think that the USA is a single nation, and that secession/sovereignty is therefore illegal– after all, St. Lincoln said so, and people believe whatever their government tells them; and if it does so by force, then they believe it even more.
Until the people choose to learn the truth– i.e. that each state is a sovereign nation by law, and that a federal republic is simply a voluntary association of them, like the UN– then the people will remain divided and opposed… just the way that the oligarchy wants them.

So we have to start by informing people– and challenging the hypocrites who perpetuate the falsehoods. Chief among these is Akhil Reed Amar at Yale University, who claims that even though Lincoln and the Republicans were wrong in their legal claims, they were “right where it counted,” since Amar claims that the Constitution formed the sovereign states into a single super-state.
This is an outright lie, and until they’re challenged then they remain unopposed. Accurate decisions require accurate information.

avatar John Médaille May 7, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Kirkpatrick, the best form of “direct action” in behalf of secession is to secede. Not politically, of course, because that is not possible at the moment. But it is possible to work on structures of local self-reliance: to grow one’s own food, to provide services to one’s neighbors in local exchange, to buy locally, to set up local currencies, etc.

I don’t think secession will come through a political process; rather, it will come from the absence of a political process. No matter how good the arguments for secession, no federal authority will recognize them. But the time is coming when nobody will recognize federal authority.

avatar roy May 8, 2009 at 12:14 am

said the free interprise system to the big gouvt fed”anything u can do i can do better,i can do anything better than u”that ncludes fixin roads,carin,4the poor,personel protection,n craeting an econmic system that provides the maxamim amount of wealth 4 the highest number of people of any system this planit has ever witnessed.secession would allow us 2do this the fed cannot

avatar InfidelRobert May 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Sean S> “So until you can prove that everyone’s just dying to rip the whole contract up, the onus is on you. You can’t confuse irritation, or disagreement with present politics, as indicative of everyone wanting to storm the Bastille for secession.”

Sir, the people you’re arguing against are not saying the majority want to secede. They are saying that secession is legal and can be done peacefully as was admitted by Chase in White v Texas. McCandliss has shown this to be true and sustains the onus.

Clifford Theis in an essay entitled “Secession Is in Our Future” writes:

“The US law of secession is thought to have been decided by the US Supreme Court in White v. Texas, following the Civil War. The actual matter to be decided was relatively insignificant. The Court used the occasion to issue a very broad decision. Chief Justice Chase, speaking for the Court, said,

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.

Notice that the second sentence appears to totally contradict the first sentence.

The first sentence I just quoted invokes words such as “perpetual,” and in so doing may create the impression that the Supreme Court decreed that no state could ever secede from the Union. But, on careful reading, the relationship between Texas and the other states of the Union is merely “as indissoluble as the union between the original States.” In other words, Texas, having been a nonoriginal state, has no greater right of secession than do the original states. As to how states might secede, the second sentence says, “through revolution or through consent of the States.”

As to why a state might secede, either through revolution or through consent, Chief Justice Chase presciently discusses the 9th and 10th Amendments to the US Constitution, which reserve to the states and to the people thereof all powers not expressly granted to the federal government, and that the design of the Union, implicit in the very name “United States,” is the preservation of the states as well as of the Union:

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 so-called United States of America ceases to exist when the political majority of the country attempts to rule the entire country as a nation instead of as a federal government. In such a circumstance, the “indestructible union of indestructible states” of which the Court speaks is already dissolved.”

http://mises.org/story/3427#part3

If what is happening is something other than the federal republic specified in the COUS, then there is no longer a federal union. We only kow-tow to Uncle to save our hides. He will kill us if we try to assert our freedom and sovereignty. So then, let us raise our cups of cheer and toast to Uncle’s poor health. May he perish quickly.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 10, 2009 at 12:53 am

InfidelRobert;
the point is that Chase was 100% wrong in Texas v. White, and this needs to be challenged before the Supreme Court in order to prove that every state remained sovereign under the Constitution, and did not form a single nation: this was made clear in Federalist No. 39 alone, wherein Madison expressly assured the people of the states that they would be “forming so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation“. A federal republic is even defined as a “perpetual conferacy” of sovereign nations– but not as an indissoluble one; and accordingly, there nothing in the Constitution (or anywhere else) about it being “indissoluble–” again, this was entirely a Republican revision.

If this can be challenged and overturned in the US Supreme Court based on the facts, then federal laws will be subject to nullification by state referendum.

avatar stevemcgee99 May 15, 2009 at 4:07 am

Secession is not a big deal. It will not lead to chaos, or ‘every man for himself’.

Just as it’s in the best interest of people to end associations that are no longer beneficial, it’s been in people’s interests to enter into new coalitions.

To say that secession is inherently bad is to assume that things never change, and that a decision in the past is infallible and must never be overturned.

avatar Brian McCandliss May 15, 2009 at 10:43 am

“Secession is not a big deal. It will not lead to chaos, or ‘every man for himself’.”

This was Lincoln’s ridiculous “Chicken-Little” argument for waging war against secession, i.e. saying that it would lead to “anarchy,” and other ridiculous notions that it would cause every party to secede whenever it lost a vote, no matter how petty.

It’s like Bill Clinton when he said “I could let you keep your money, but you wouldn’t spend it right.” Lincoln didn’t go to war over slavery, because they states didn’t secede over slavery: they seceded because Lincoln wouldn’t let them have slavery in the territories, but they couldn’t gain that by seceding either. So nothing changed, other than that the South would stop paying federal taxes.
So basically there we have it: the federal government exists not as a servant, but a master who demands tribute– no different from King George III.

avatar N. P. West July 22, 2009 at 5:07 pm

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Medaille. Here in Vermont those who support secession are largely on the Left yet back local economies, decentralization, and a “small is beautiful” philosophy. Maybe the best way to effectuate change is to continue using this strategy to undermine the big government-big business axis which dominates so many aspects of our lives. Who knows, maybe a coalition of conservative agrarians, distributists, and communitarians could work with progressive Greens to revitalize localism around the country. This might in turn neutralize the impulse for secessionism in certain quarters.

avatar manhuntzdog August 1, 2009 at 7:26 am

Hi,

I’m new here, just trying to find my way around this forum and also saying hello to everyone.

avatar Brian McCandliss August 1, 2009 at 11:21 am

The problem with the entire state sovereignty/secession discussion, is that everyone ignores the legal issue entirely, and simply assumes that the federal government will ALLOW it: they entirely IGNORE 4-year war AGAINST secession which left over a million dead (which would be TEN million in modern numbers), and the 148 years of federally-written history ever since.
Any discussion of secession, must first address the legal issue, and prove that secession is not illegal, and each state is popularly sovereign.

avatar jh August 12, 2009 at 1:02 am

I totally disagree with his main argument. I don’t think there is a Legal right to secede at all no matter how much many people wish it were there.

Still for such a ” localist” type blog I am sort of amazed no one follows this to the logical conclusion. What do you do with the people that don’t want to SECEDE.

This is not 1860. No doubt in 1860 one could over all over the South and not find one person that voted for Lincoln. Or one could go to the North and not find hardly anyone that voted for one of the more Southern folks. While it is tempting to talk about Red States versus Blue States that is not really the reality. Just look at the County by County maps. Heck you have often sometimes massive disvision in the same county. In Louisiana ( A very Red State) John McCain actually gained votes versus Bush in the 2008 election. Still it was not an replay of 1860. The final totals were Mccain 1,148,275 votes and Obama 782,989.

Lets say that in some alternative world Governor Perry of Texas says We ARE OUT OF HERE. Come down here and kill Texans to prevent us from leaving. We dare you!!

The question that amazingly goes unnoticed most of the time is what the New “President” of Texas and his supporters going to do to those that are not thrilled with this. Round them up? Put them in Jail? Confiscate their property and put them in exile? Execute then as traitors? Would “President Perry” follow the example of a former Governor that sent the military to terrorize German Texas Unionists? WHo is going to be in charge of resotring order in lets say more liberal Austin.Really for all this secession talk and people that like to talk about it I think they owe us a little explanation of how they intend that to work.

Shelby Foote made an excellent observation. Before the Civil War it was correct to say the United States “are”. After the Civil War people said the United States “is”. That is partly because both soliders from the North and South got out of their little towns and actually saw their country. They had a more of a sense of ownership over the entire thing. As Foote stated the Civil War basically made us from a “are” than a “is”.

If anything this outlook has become more dominate and is not going away

avatar Bill Meyer August 12, 2009 at 7:46 am

So JH disagrees with there being a legal right to secede. No doubt he’s in plentiful company in the land of the government-educated sheep. “Legal right” – defined as “my magic piece of paper says I own you”. No wonder we’re so screwed up…we collectively believe in myths and magic paper giving one set of folks ownership and control over others. No matter, what’s left of the republic is in trouble anyway due to demographics and currency debasement. It could get “interesting”.

avatar Kevin Carson August 12, 2009 at 11:15 am

jh: According to Madison in No. 39 of The Federalist, the states as sovereign entities, and specifically the separate peoples of those states as composing so many separate bodies politic, were the parties to the Constitution. Therefore the majority of the public in each state decided for the whole. We saw in the Whiskey Rebellion how Washington and Hamilton dealt with anti-federal dissent after ratification.

I think a majority of people in most states opposed the Federalist project in 1787-89, but because of property-weighted suffrage rules the ratifying conventions were packed with Federalists whose economic interests favored a stronger union. At any rate, it’s an absolute certainty that at least significant minorities opposed the Constitution in every state.

What’s more, the Federalists went beyond mere legality into coercing states where a majority had clearly opposed ratification. After Rhode Island initially voted against the Constitution, Congress threatened to impose punitive tariffs on the State. Finally, two years into Washington’s first administration, and threatened with the prospect of rotting merchant fleets, R.I. capitulated to blackmail and voted to join the Union.

avatar Harold Thomas August 21, 2009 at 7:02 am

“For example, that New York Times story on ‘Secessionist Talk’ declared that there has been “no serious argument since the Civil War [sic]on behalf of a legal basis for a state’s secession.” Completely wrong. In 1998 David Gordon brought together ten eminent scholars to offer as serious, not to mention academic, a set of arguments for secession (Secession, State,and Liberty) as there could be.”

The modern secession movement dates back even farther. Frank Bryan and Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley ran a series of debates in 1990-1991 on whether Vermont should consider secession as part of that state’s bicentennial observance. From those debates, a secessionist movement has emerged (Thomas Naylor’s Second Vermont Republic and the publication Vermont Commons).

avatar Kirkpatrick Sale August 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Harold Thomas: The performances in Vermont in the early 1990s were billed as debates, but were not entirely so, especially because Frank Bryan was not then, and is not now, a secessionist, and that was the side he was supposed to represent. And in any case that could not be called a “serious argument”; it was more like “what-if” game-playing.
And the Second Vermont Republic did NOT emerge from those “debates.” It was begun a decade later by Naylor and colleagues, stemming from other circumstances and ideas, and still exists as one of the stronger secessionist groups today (Vermontrepublic.net).

avatar CJ Foley September 6, 2009 at 1:03 am

It’s obvious that secession or something like it, is the only way to escape the Beltway Leviathan, our frankenstein monster. In theory, all House members could be replaced entirely at the 2010 election, and all senators and our current black god over a longer cycle. But that’s not going to happen. Gerrymandering and citizen inattention assure continuing election of the same zombies. Congressmen don’t write or read the bills they approve, leaving that to the 25-35 year old staff and various ‘helpful’ pressure groups. The elected are intent only on exercise of power, getting re-elected, and personal profits to maintain their place on the thrones. They are outraged that many folk were so awake at the townhalls, and if that trend continues, they will do all they can (direct and indirect) to derail us from changing the structure in some way. They are/will be helped by the various pressure groups who get federal money to maintain their power behind the thrones. These are the whole spectrum of political/economic groups (democrats, republicans, socialists, businesses, education, unions, ad nauseam, aligned to get funded by the taxpayer. But it’s not hopeless, more to come in another post

avatar CJ Foley September 6, 2009 at 1:43 am

Our current beltway government is peopled by ordinary humans who are subject to the same moral and intellectual weaknesses that we all have. It’s obvious that these weaknesses affect what they do on a day-to-day basis, same for us peons. Our Founders didn’t flinch from the reality, which is why we have/had 3 governing peer agencies, Congress, judiciary, and president. But that separation has been diluted by responses to external/internal events, plain evil intent, and lack of attention to detail. The Law of Unintended Results is real. This reality is not insuperable when the problems are small, since small problems get small address. But with a huge population and huge economy, the ‘ordinary’ problems are large, and they cannot be adequately addressed by a few hundred or thousand ‘governing’ humans (who may be unaware of their weakness, and will never admit their fallibility and sinful tendencies). So the solution is not to solve our current problems, but to cut the problems down to our size so they can be solved. Hello secession or something like it. There is an economy of size, so maybe 4 or 5 federated republics based perhaps on geographical contiguity would be best. 52 is too many independents, but would be suggested by libertarians. Another alternative is to continue to eat our locust leaves until the Beltway Cyclops arrives

avatar Kevin Carson September 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm

I’d scale it down a lot further than that, CJ Foley.

In just about any city with a population in or above the low tens of thousands, the local government is a showcase property of the local real estate industry.

In Fayetteville, Ark., three years ago Mayor Dan Coody (who’d been elected by the “green” faction, on a “smart growth” platform, to rein in the real estate interests) proposed a one cent sales tax to fund expansion of the overburdened sewer system. Now, the cause of the problem was the new housing developments and strip malls springing up all over the place, built primarily by billionaire real estate developer and Trump-wannabe Jim Lindsey. But Coody said the “only alternatives” were the sales tax or a 30% increase in sewer rates. That’s the way it works, see: he tells us what the “only alternatives” are, and we good little voters choose from what’s put on our plates. Increasing sewer hookup fees to cover the costs Lindsey and the other hogs at the trough were imposing on the system was never even considered.

The voters, convinced by Coody’s hint that “out-of-town” shoppers would bear much of the burden (it’s always easier to cheat a greedy man), voted for the tax.

Then, next year, sewer impact fees came up as a local ballot issue. You’ll never convince me the timing and the wording of the proposal weren’t a deliberate strategy of the real estate interests. Since the proposal came after the voters had already approved the sales tax, and not before, they were obviously likely to reject it as double taxation. And they’d have been a lot more likely to approve it if it had been proposed as a *replacement* for the sales tax they were already paying.

Now, the “progressive” element in Fayetteville have a better shot than anywhere else in NW Arkansas. In most other towns, whatever the good ol’ boys want just gets quietly passed without a peep of public debate. In Fayetteville, a college town with a large contingent of “back to the land” hippies who settled there in the ’70s, there is at least grass-roots organizing and heated debate over everything–before the good ol’ boys win. And Coody was the fair-haired boy of the “progressives,” put forth as David to the Chamber of Commerce’s Goliath. His election was the closest thing to a victory the “progressive” and “green” coalition was or will be ever likely to see. And in the end, he was just another greenwashed good ol’ boy.

At the level of NW Arkansas as a whole, the Washington-Benton County area (with a population of several hundred thousand) has an organization called the Northwest Arkansas Council. It’s a nominally private shadow government, made up of representatives of local corporate powerhouses like Wal-Mart, Tyson, J.B. Hunt (and of course the above-mentioned Jim Lindsey), along with ex officio representatives of local governments and the University. It’s primary purpose, civic-minded lot that they are, is to promote the building of regional “infrastructure” for “economic growth,” and all kinds of other “government-business partnership” (IOW, line up at the trough, corporate welfare piggies!). I think there’s a similar organization in just about every metropolitan area in the country of the same size or larger.

For decades, regional elites had attempted to railroad through a regional airport to serve their interests, only to have it fail when it came up for a vote. In 1990, the NWA Council changed its strategy. Like a filthy sneak-thief skulking about under cover of darkness, it quietly lobbied five city and two country governments to create a regional airport authority. You’d expect such an authority to be the topic of extensive public debate, considering that under state law such authorities have power to condemn land and levy taxes, and are immortal corporations so long as any two member governments remain parties to them. You’d expect wrong. The seven local governments, under secret pressure from the REAL GOVERNMENT of Northwest Arkansas, voted to create the authority as an “emergency ordinance”–without any prior notice, multiple readings, or chance for public debate. The Northwest Arkansas Council, in partnership with the NWA Regional Airport Authority, immediately began a campaign to suppress opposition. “Leadership Fayetteville,” an elite annual seminar in the city Chamber of Commerce, devoted its primary focus to how to combat the “anti-growth” faction that had “hijacked” Fayetteville. Shortly after, under pressure from local movers and shakers, a popular radio DJ and the editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times were fired (they’d both been active proponents of a public vote on the airport issue). In the end, the airport was railroaded through. We now have a regional airport at Highfill, serving the interests of Tyson, Wal-Mart and J.B. Hunt.

God damn the people who did this to us. God damn them to hell.

And so it goes. Democracy doesn’t work, at least not above the level of face-to-face direct democracy. The problem is, regardless of how formally democratic the system of representation is, no matter how “progressive” the controls on campaign finance (or even public financing), government is by its nature a centralized machine whose day-to-day operations must be carried out by a few people. And by the nature of things, there will be a close affinity between them and similar elites running the corporate economic system, and other centralized institutional networks like the big charitable foundations and universities. By the nature of things, the average person has only limited energy and attention to devote to public issues, and to keeping an eye on those engaged in public business. The average person, by necessity, will always devote the overwhelming share of his energy and attention to work, family, and friends. But for the insiders actually running the large institutions, the politics and policies of those institutions ARE their work and friends. So the insiders, and the small circles of wealthy outsiders whose pecuniary interests depend most heavily subsidies and protections, will always have an advantage in time, energy, attention, information, and agenda control. Democracy is and must be a sham, because the public’s attention will always be the first to wander.

At the national level, Obama is probably the closest thing to a “progressive” president ever likely to be elected–a sort of national Dan Coody, in fact. A friend of Alinsky and “community organizer,” he came across last year as a sort of Jerry Brown knockoff, the outside-the-box alternative to Hillary Clinton (who was almost a parody of establishment managerial liberalism). And what has he done?

He’s pursued a Wall Street bailout policy that’s a direct continuation of Paulson’s version of TARP, based on the uber-Hamiltonian project of using taxpayer money to (at least partially) reinflate the value of the plutocracy’s investment assets.

He’s pushed through a “stimulus” whose primary goal is to restore the suicidal and pathological economic model of running overbuilt industry at full capacity (when can only be done, given its present capacity, through consumer debt and planned obsolescence–the latter extending to actually paying people, via the latest “Cash for [insert name of subsidized industry here]” program, to throw stuff away and replace it. Well, THAT’s certainly a sustainable economic model. Should work out great, as long as the government can afford to run a $2 trillion deficit indefinitely.

He’s designed a “progressive” healthcare reform whose overall paramaters were fixed at the beginning by the insurance and pharma industries.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins February 9, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I live in a state that almost seceded from the union to get out from under the federal fugitive slave act, so I know the issue is not all about the right to hold people in slavery. But, there are two weaknesses.

First, while the original 13 colonies might have a claim to secession, most of the remaining states were formed from national territory in accordance with the prescription of the federal constitution. So, outside of the union, they have no right to exist at all. In fact, the original inhabitants signed treaties with The United States. If the United States no longer has jurisdiction, they can legally take it all back. The rental income would be much more lucrative than running a few casinos. Practically, they might have difficulty enforcing their writ, but there was something said here about whether secession is legal. Not for 37 states it isn’t.

Texas? True, Texas did enter the union as an independent state, by treaty. However, unless the treaty contained a provision authorizing it to secede, it waived that right. It was awfully anxious to affiliate at the time. Its government was semi-bankrupt, it was in constant danger of being retaken by Mexico, In fact, The United States fought a war to establish the boundaries of Texas at the Rio Grande, so, no, its too late for them to secede either. Possibly the Hawaiian monarchy has a claim to a come-back, but nobody else in Hawaii does. They are either there by permission of the Queen, or of the United States.

Virginia and Tennessee were both proved to be hypocrites about secession. First, the state government said “We don’t like what the feds are doing, we secede,” then they tell western Virginia and eastern Tennessee “we took a vote and you have to abide by the majority.” Yeah? What about y’all abiding by the outcome of the federal election. If you can secede, we can secede. It was never a war between the states, as Clement Vallandigham and Newton Knight demonstrated. My great great grandfather was Lt. Colonel of the 11th Tennessee Cavalry — United States Army.

Also, as far as constitutional legality goes, after the war, the Fourteenth Amendment established something called “citizens of the United States,” and that pretty well closes off secession too, along with a few other clauses. That amendment would not have been passed except in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and neither would the 13th or 15th, but praise God we were put through what we had to be put through to adopt them all. Read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

Now, as for practicality, everyone with half a brain knew in 1861 that the southern states couldn’t simply go their separate ways peacefully. We would be continuing to fight each other over every inch of westward expansion. Best to just get it over with. One of Lincoln’s problems was that farmers in the midwest weren’t going to stick with the war effort if he couldn’t open up the Mississippi River for them to ship their grain to market by barge. The railroads were gouging them. That is one reason the union army had to clear the Mississippi, taking New Orleans and Vicksburg, even faster than it had to take Richmond. Fortunately, its more competent generals were out west, although the best of the lot, George Thomas of Virginia, was not put into command nearly as early as he should have.

There is no state in this union which could function as an independent entity without living on sufferance of its neighbors, or going to war with them. Can you imagine Illinois and Missouri going to war against New Orleans, and telling everybody in between “you’re either with us or against us”? Tolls at every state line on the Union Pacific Railway? It’s a sweet pathetic fantasy, it might be a way to let some steam off, but it ain’t going to happen.

At best, secession might begin a revolt against federal tyranny which, if it rolled all across the country, could be the vehicle for reconstructing the entire nation. Only, none of us can be confident that what emerges would be any more to our liking. Whatever we end up with, its all of us or none of us.

avatar Brian McCandliss February 9, 2010 at 11:35 pm

“Now, as for practicality, everyone with half a brain knew in 1861 that the southern states couldn’t simply go their separate ways peacefully.”

I agree; if you only have half a brain you’d think that.
However anyone with a WHOLE brain, would know that each state was fully sovereign unto itself ever since 1783– and that NEVER changed by any law.

Half-wits like Lincoln might believe that sovereignty was conjoined like Siamese twins simply because they were part of a “union” of some sort when it they became sovereign, and that “they declared independence from Great Britain, not from each other”– which made absolutely ZERO sense, since the colonies HAD no national dependence on each other to begin with– and they likewise declared themselves each to be sovereign states, each with the power to declare wars, conduct treaties, and “do all of those other things with independent states may by right do.”

So Lincoln just pulled this “perpetual nation” out of thin air, and jailed anyone who told the truth– i.e. he created an empire of lies, just like any fascist dictator.

New states were likewise sovereign, since they were recognized as equal to the ORIGINAL states; and states only need to be recognized by EXISTING sovereign states, in order to become sovereign themselves.
American state sovereignty is based on the inalienable right of self-government– NOT on title to real-estate; otherwise the colonies are still the property of Great Britain.

Finally, the “Civil War” didn’t change anything, since it was based on the claim that the states were ALWAYS part of the same nation; so if they were each sovereign nations unto themselves, then so they REMAIN. One can’t say that the war was authorized by rebellion against “the nation,” but then say that it was a nation because the Union won AFTERWARD– that’s a contradiction AND a lie.

So today, we live under an empire that was created by a LIE from 140 years ago– and we continue to LIVE that lie every day.

It’s time to END THE LIE.
THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE.

avatar Brian McCandliss February 9, 2010 at 11:55 pm

John Médaille said:

“Kirkpatrick, the best form of ‘direct action’ in behalf of secession is to secede. Not politically, of course, because that is not possible at the moment.”

It certainly is, as proven in Iran– when Twitter and video-phone proved mightier than the sword.

Likewise, gone are the days when a bearded baboon-president can spout a few lines of gibberish about “fourscore and seven years” etc., and invade sovereign nations without a peep of protest, since he ALSO jails anyone who speaks out against him for “helping a rebellion.”

No, today the fed can’t get away with using force, without first presenting proof of their authority; and they HAVE no proof of legal authority against any state, since they HAVE no legal authority.

avatar Kevin Carson February 10, 2010 at 1:35 am

Siarlys Jenkins: The fact that the people of a territory start functioning as a sovereign body politic under the supervision or with the approval of another power doesn’t necessarily contradict their absolute sovereignty. Occupied Germany was reduced to something like “territorial” status under Allied control after WWII, and Iraq was treated similarly under a provisional government. Yet they are legally regarded as fully sovereign today. Under U.S. law, a new state is recognized as fully equal to the original 13 in every sense, when it effectively ratifies the Constitution and is admitted to the Union. Since the nature of the sovereignty of the original 13 is not explicitly specified, there’s nothing inherently self-contradictory about a federal league of independent sovereigns “midwiving” a new equal sovereign body politic (on a previously stateless territory) into their membership.

avatar Brian McCandliss February 10, 2010 at 2:17 am

Siarlys Jenkins said:

“First, while the original 13 colonies might have a claim to secession, most of the remaining states were formed from national territory in accordance with the prescription of the federal constitution. So, outside of the union, they have no right to exist at all.”

It doesn’t work that way. Once a state is recognized as equal by other sovereign states, it becomes likewise sovereign in its own right: for example, the 13 colonies only became sovereign states, because they were recognized as such by the sovereign states of Britain and France; and likewise, each NEW American state was recognized by the original 13, as an equal to themselves.
So there’s no way to say that new states are any less sovereign than the original 13. Anyone who says otherwise, simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about– and that includes one Abe Lincoln.

avatar Kevin Carson February 10, 2010 at 2:33 am

Brian: John Adams argued that the colonies were sovereign, independent states from the time of their founding. Under the terms of their several charters, they all bore allegiance to the king–but only to his natural person rather than ex officio as king of Great Britain. He held his crown, in each separate colony, by that colony’s own sovereign act, and under the terms of its charter. So the colonies were actually independent bodies politic, related to each other in the same way that England and Scotland did before the Act of Union.

Some tories put forth the fact that Parliament’s choice of William and Mary held good in the colonies, as proof that the colonies were subordinate to Britain. But Adams argued that the colonies accepted W & M in James II’s stead of their own sovereign will. BTW, there’s some justice to that contention, since the New Englanders overthrew Governor Andros before news ever reached them of William’s invasion.

avatar Brian McCandliss February 10, 2010 at 2:51 am

I won’t argue hearsay regarding what some Founder or other allegedly claimed- it’s irrelevant. The Declaration of Independence for all 13 states is clear that the states are each sovereign, free and independent by mutual recognition.

To wit:

“We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”

So as far as they were concerned, they were each completely self-ruling from that time onward.

avatar Kevin Carson February 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Sure. I just think there’s a case to be made that they were independent before then, as well, and that the main real change at “independence” was becoming republics and ending their ties of amity to GB.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins February 11, 2010 at 10:54 pm

McCandliss, you’re hopping from one side of your brain to the other without thinking about the distinction.

You cite a statement I made about the PRACTICALITY of secession, then proceed with a tirade about its LEGALITY. There is a difference. If the Confederacy had won the Civil War, secession would have been practically accomplished even if technically illegal, and if secession was constitutionally sound, it would not be rendered one whit more practical in the face of a federal conquest.

The PRACTICAL point was that if an independent sovereign state at the mouth of the Mississippi River cut off or infringed trade by farmers upstream, there would be a war to settle the difference. There are many other practical, geographic considerations of a similar nature. They will trump all the high-flown philosophical rhetoric of any number of dime-store John C. Calhouns. Our state boundaries can only be maintained and adhered to within a union.

Now before you think trashing Abraham Lincoln will make your point, don’t forget who stuffed a sock in Calhoun’s mouth: the Great Democrat, none other than General Andrew Jackson, who announced “The United States is a government, not a league,” and practically twisted Calhoun’s arm with his toast “Our federal union, it must be preserved.” South Carolina almost always wanted to secede, because it wanted out from under the guarantee of “a republican form of government.” The majority of the “white” population didn’t qualify for the franchise until after the Civil War, and nobody who owned less than 20 slaves could serve in the upper house of the legislature. Damned aristocrats.

No state admitted to the union after the original 13 was recognized by discrete action of the previously existing sovereign states. Each was recognized by an act of the federal congress, which also had to approve its constitution. No matter how you may try to twist words, history is real, what’s done is done, and there is no going back to undo it.

Kevin Carson’s analogy to Germany doesn’t hold water either. Germany was neither annexed by conquest, nor did it petition for annexation, nor was it created of whole cloth out of unsettled national territory. It was occupied for a time until the objectives of the war were well established, then returned to a sovereignty it had never merged into any other entity. Now, whether it can secede from the European Union, might be an interesting question, but it depends in part on the nature of the compact creating said union.

avatar Jake Elas February 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Those interested in this topic may want to look at the daily post SecessionNews.com, begun last July in the midst of this discussion.

avatar Brian McCandliss February 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Jenkins,

I am QUITE familiar with all of your fallacies that you mentioned, thank you very much, and I’ve dispatched them many times; so consider yourself another notch, another expended round and another emptied chamber.

You clearly don’t even know secession– which is legal– from REBELLION, which is NOT; also Jackson was just as deluded as Lincoln, making claims which likewise went against historical fact. On the contrary, Lincoln was PLAGIARIZING Jackson in his First Inaugural speech, having used Jackson’s 1832 Proclamation-speech as one of only three writers– the others being similar charlatans of Daniel Webster and Joseph Story.

Likewise, it doesn’t MATTER if each new state was recognized by “discrete action” or not; after all, the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 was a joint action among various states including Britain and France.

Likewise, a “federal action” to admit a new state into the Union, still requires recognition of such via the MAJORITY of existing states, va their respective federal delegates– but that’s going by the book: in reality, the people of each new state, have the same right to self-government, as the existing states: i.e. by virtue of the democratic right of self-government claimed by the original 13. This power did NOT accrue to simply whatever doof held title to the real-estate, otherwise they’d still be ruled by the British Crown.

As for history: the Republicans waged the War Between the States, under the claim that it was a CIVIL war– i.e. between the citizens of a single sovereign state; and while the victor of any war is entitled to force his opinion on the vanquished, he is NOT the arbiter of historical FACT: and International Law and national sovereignty is determined ONLY the facts of the matter.

In short, one cannot conquer sovereign nations, under a claim of CIVIL war, simply because they happen to WIN: simply forcing a nation to admit legal subordination at gunpoint, doesn’t make TRUE under international law– any more than armed robby is a “gift.”

So before you find fault with my arguments, you might want to try getting your FACTS straight.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins February 12, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Mr. McCandliss, you have Humpty-Dumpty’s way with words: “When I use a word, it means exactly what I choose it to mean.” That is, practically, a truism, for the person speaking; nobody can stop you from spouting words in that manner, but it makes meaningful communication or persuasion almost impossible. I’m glad to know that no Jacksonian Democrat, nor free-soil Republican, will find favor with you. That should limit the popularity of your rebellion — since to date you have no state to lead into secession.

avatar Brian McCandliss February 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Glad to saee that you take no issue with the facts of my statements– by which standard you must be taken to agree with them.

As for the rest: my purpose is not to “lead,” but simply but to inform.

avatar Brian McCandliss February 13, 2010 at 7:05 pm

P.S. You still haven’t learned the meaning of “rebellion–” which cannot apply to sovereign states– which they all are, by any consistent reading and construction of international law.

And here, the law is determined by the original intentions of the People of the respective individual states themselves– which was ALWAYS to declare and retain their idividual soveriegnty, not throw it away to create a single massive empire.

Your pragmatism is likewis Machiavellian at best, claiming that the sword defeats all law and logic; I think you’ll find little future with that base mentality– Vikings and Mongols are things of the past.

avatar custom pins July 5, 2010 at 1:18 am

I agree with yuou, Mr. McCandliss. “So it’s no surprise that a lot of people have completely misunderstood it, and that the nerve in their knees often impels them to declare it illegal and unconstitutional”

My point Exactly

avatar Brian McCandliss July 6, 2010 at 12:18 am

More like it’s no surprise, that the trained parrots spout back what our regime has steadily repeated to them since the 1830′s: i.e. that the U.S. Constitution is a national document over subordinate states, rather than a federal document among sovereign ones.

And the most truly bird-brained of them, will even claim that “duh, Da Civil War taught dem whose wuz right, DAAWK!”
Of course, this simply means that not only do they admit that the USA is an imperial dictatorship of abysmally bloody origin, but that they proudly and arrogantly brag about it, thinking that this is the way it SHOULD be. There’s simply no reasoning with such brain-dead acolytes of the almighty state, and the infinite wisdom of benevolent dictators (thus the fawning worship of Lincoln); by their logic, Hitler’s invasion of Poland was “The European Civil War…” or that the Holocaust “settled” the issue of which is the one true faith.

avatar nick ai jordan jumpman pro October 27, 2010 at 6:27 am

More like it’s no surprise, that the trained parrots spout back what our regime has steadily repeated to them since the 1830′s: i.e. that the U.S. Constitution is a national document over subordinate states, rather than a federal document among sovereign ones.

avatar nick ai jordan jumpman pro October 27, 2010 at 7:10 am

ictated to and mishandled by a central government that has, over the last few decades, proven itself to be undemocratic, unresponsive, corrupt, inept, and unduly intrusive, at times unlawful and unconstitutional, and essentially unable to govern at the geographic and populational scale to which we have grown.

avatar Gene Callahan October 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm

” The Declaration of Independence for all 13 states is clear that the states are each sovereign, free and independent by mutual recognition.”

And it is just as clear that signing the Constitution ended that independence.

avatar B. Williams September 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Sigh…

Here at the bottom of the comments, I am seeing a LOT of ignorance about the situation concerning secession. Allow me to present a Union reenactor’s view of “secesh”…

First, let me point out that secession argument came about when the Fire-Eaters in Congress (circa-1850) started grumbling about the Compromise of said year. At least, the one that brought about the Civil War, or as we Unionists call it, the War of Southern Insurrection. And when it DID happen, it didn’t happen because of anything that the government did. The reason? Abe Lincoln got elected. Gee, under that kind of rationale half the nation should have seceded when Barack Obama got elected for the simple fact that he’s a social democrat of the most left variety and we don’t like his policies. And by the way, half the nation would have seceded under this rationale on Nov. 5, 2008.

What rubbish. The South might have a legitimate argument if the Federal government had ACTUALLY done something unconstitutional. But at the time they seceded, the Feds actually HADN’T done anything antagonizing. And let’s not forget that up until about 1860, the South had pretty much dictated policy to the North. John Calhoun and his ilk had monopolized power for the South for nearly fifty years until the North got wise and pushed back. American imperialism (aka Manifest Destiny)? Spread nation-wide, particularly strong in the Deep South. Why? More room for slavery to expand.

And yes, I’m bringing slavery into this discussion. The causes of the Civil War are incomprehensible unless the issue of slavery is taken into account. States’ rights was nothing more than a smokescreen under which was the economic interests and power in Congress of several thousand slave-holding land-owners. The rights of the common man would never have been taken away if they had bothered to check the power of the plantation owners, but instead they bought the states’ rights drug and were seduced into insurrection. It’s well and good (and NOBLE) to want to protect one’s home and property, but such a thing hinges on the respect of law. The whole argument for secession was curb-stomped by Daniel Webster in his Second Reply to Hayne. And if we are to consider ourselves a nation of Men, “endowed by their Creator with certain, inalienable Rights, that among those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, then our nation cannot and could not allow slavery to continue. It undermines our entire rationale of being who we are. Our nation and slavery were incompatible, and the issues would have eventually come to a head in some other form or fashion within a decade or so anyway.

As a man who loves his country and his state, and as a reenactor doing honor to the memory of his ancestors who fought for both sides, for the love of GOD, people, don’t talk about secession unless the Feds begin to occupy our cities for no good reason. What matters more is our homes, our families, and our honor. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes our forefathers killed each other over.

avatar Cin November 14, 2012 at 4:05 am

“Ultimately, the War Between the States resolved the Constitution’s meaning for any states that entered the Union after 1865, with no delusions about the contractual understanding of the parties. Thus, 15 states from Alaska to Colorado to Washington entered in the full understanding that this was the view of the Union. Moreover, the enactment of the 14th Amendment strengthened the view that the Constitution is a compact between “the people” and the federal government. The amendment affirms the power of the states to make their own laws, but those laws cannot “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

There remains a separate guarantee that runs from the federal government directly to each American citizen. Indeed, it was after the Civil War that the notion of being “American” became widely accepted. People now identified themselves as Americans and Virginians. While the South had a plausible legal claim in the 19th century, there is no plausible argument in the 21st century. That argument was answered by Lincoln on July 4, 1861, and more decisively at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.”

avatar Chaotician November 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm

People,

May I propose that these dis-United States of America must with decorum and good will separate into self chosen geographical states for self governance in conformance with the will of the people. That these new sovereign states do freely separate and abide by the will and law to facilitate the separation and for a period of at least 10 years and no more than 40 years agree to join defense and support during any military assaults against any former sate of the United Sates of America. Further, we urge those adjoining states where the majority of the peoples within substantially agree with the majorities of the peoples in the adjoining states to combine into greater economic unions and a centralized governance of the combined states for greater efficiency and uniformity of law. Using this basis, we propose the following state combinations: all western states west of a north/south line 31 miles east of the center of Denver Colorado. All states north of the Mason-Dixon line of demarcation of Slavery and east of the Minnesota & Dakotas borders. The Confederate States east of the Mississippi. The plains states from the Dakotas to Texas. Let these general demarcations be used as staring points for forming these new confederations of States based on the majority choices of each areas peoples not limited by state borders including the free choices of our great cities to separately determine their own fates. Let the sovereign Native American peoples also choose their destiny, the peoples of Utah and Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, Indiana and Florida too! A reconciliation process to exchange peoples and property between the newly constituted states must be provided and support for new lives included. The new federation of the dis-United States along with the provinces of Canada, and the Latin American states will provide a sound basis for new freedoms for the peoples of North America.

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