The Sunday Question: Secession Today

Many people argue that the constitutionality of secession for Americans was settled by the American Civil War. Others point to court decisions (and not just Texas v. White) as evidence of this.

Does that mean that secession is impossible today? Or that there’s no procedure for it? I note that southern nationalist groups are rather quiet on how they would go about seeking the separate nationality they propose to secure, although their spiritual ancestors spent a lot of time detailing process and procedure (not much of which was followed in 1860-61, but I digress).

Here’s a recent example of a discussion about separatism:

Clearly I think there’s a procedure for secession as a constitutional process … but that such a process would have to begin with the ratification of an amendment outlining the process. I’ve always wondered why separatists don’t follow that procedure.

Share your thoughts.


62 thoughts on “The Sunday Question: Secession Today

  1. The Lamp September 27, 2015 / 12:39 pm

    If LOSer Pat Hines is so keen on seceding then he needs to give up his military pension. And the rest of them need to stop driving on highways, getting mail service, no more medicaid or SS checks either.

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 27, 2015 / 12:48 pm

      Pat Hines makes my job so much easier. He’s a male Connie Chastain.

      • The Lamp September 27, 2015 / 2:29 pm

        Both Hines and Hill are off their gourd.

        Hines is very much like the Connie for the LOSers, while Hill babbles racist overly dramatic cheerleading nonsense at his half witted followers all day, much like “red shirt Susie”.
        They must all be following the same lunatic fringe guide book…

        • bob carey September 27, 2015 / 6:12 pm

          I think that Hill is a con man charlatan who plays on the fears of his uninformed under-educated followers. On the LOS website I’ve noticed that all the funds and donations seem to funnel through him, i suspect that he has a comfortable life style. He is not stupid and he knows that any secession movement which would utilize the means provided in the US Constitution would expose his greatest weakness, which is the lack of any sizable following. Once exposed his theories and rhetoric would not stand up to the scrutiny of the great majority of the American people.

          • The Lamp September 27, 2015 / 6:23 pm

            I agree, he has a Charles Manson quality to him. Crazy-ass and conman all rolled into one.

  2. Jimmy Dick September 27, 2015 / 12:59 pm

    The people of a state could choose to leave the US via voting to secede and then seeking permission from the federal government to do so. They would need consent from the rest of the people of the US via their representatives in Congress to leave the union. I do not think it will happen because there are no states with a strong enough group of people that want secession to happen in existence. While there are plenty of people ready to bitch about government, that does not necessarily translate into secession.

    For secession to be a reality there were need to be a majority of people within a state that would desire to leave the union. The exact opposite is in place. There is a majority of people within all states that do not want to leave the union. Unlike 1860/61 when a minority rammed secession through seven states, the people have far more activity in the political sphere. The media would be a major factor as well as there is a far greater media presence than in the past.

    Finally, the real issue is that those who would want to secede cannot agree on why to secede or what to do if they actually did secede. The racists would want an exclusionary government (which eliminates the possibility of secession in the first place) while others would want to put various types of government into place. The bickering among those groups would shatter any attempt to create a coalition strong enough to sustain a real secessionist movement.

    Let’s face it, there is nothing on the same scale as slavery was prior to the Civil War to sustain a secessionist movement. Not even religion meets the criteria.

  3. Pat Young September 27, 2015 / 4:58 pm

    Obviously there are extraconstitutional means to achieve secession. Gain a prominet and powerful military sponsor like Russia.

  4. The Lamp September 27, 2015 / 5:08 pm

    Here are the LOSers planning their rebel army so they can secede with pointy objects…

    • bob carey September 27, 2015 / 5:47 pm

      Can you imagine this group on a forced march with Stonewall’s Foot Cavalry. They wouldn’t make it a half-mile. Their supply wagon would be filled with kegs of beer.

      • The Lamp September 27, 2015 / 6:24 pm

        This photo needs to be captioned:
        “Point us to the nearest Old Country Buffet and nobody gets hurt”

      • Jimmy Dick September 27, 2015 / 7:16 pm

        The wrong side of 50 for almost all of them.

    • Rblee22468 September 27, 2015 / 8:03 pm

      The Federal Government is terrified!

      • The Lamp September 27, 2015 / 10:34 pm

        So it the old Country Buffet!

  5. Noma September 27, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    “Many people argue that the constitutionality of secession for Americans was settled by the American Civil War. Others point to court decisions (and not just Texas v. White) as evidence of this.” I’m interested, what are the other court decisions — besides Texas v. White– which bear on the constitutionality of secession?

  6. Rblee22468 September 27, 2015 / 8:07 pm

    I think the majority of secession movements are used for two things:

    1) Retirement accounts for the people who run them. (Mike Hill)

    2) Direct mail lists. That’s pretty much all the secession petitions are good for.

    I don’t think there’s much sincerity at all when it comes to secession, and there’s almost zilch political support.

    • The Lamp September 27, 2015 / 10:35 pm

      It’s where misfits can find other misfits to mumble with about their racist ideas.

      • Jimmy Dick September 28, 2015 / 10:07 am

        I thought those were Dunford, Chastain, and Purvis’s blogs?

        • The Lamp September 28, 2015 / 5:44 pm

          It’s like one big happy family…

  7. Rosieo September 28, 2015 / 8:17 am

    The Civil War’s secession movement was begun and propagated by the rich and powerful.

    Without such leadership, perhaps one way it could happen again is if the rest of the U.S. wanted with great passion to get rid of a swatch of land wherein reside chronic complainers and outlaws who won’t pay their taxes.

    So, if all the guys in the photo above took over ground around a Country Buffet somewhere with a brewery nearby and chased loyal citizens out, and made such an unpleasant, contrary ruckus for years and years, then some future generation could get up a referendum to expel the land and its residents from the U.S.

    This would be sort of a lazy person’s Civil War. The rebels wouldn’t have to fight. They could just Be.

    There would be great support in the USA for a border fence…..

  8. Rblee22468 September 28, 2015 / 10:20 am

    I really do wish we could get secessionists to talk about this. They will avoid deep discussion of secession like the Plague. One of the things I’ve always found fascinating about the first failed secession was the stand-off at Fort Sumter. Let’s suppose a political movement for secession succeeds, do they now march into Fort Rucker and evict the Feds? Come on, we didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

    One major difference in the first armed Rebellion and the theorized Neo-Rebellion is that in the case of the former, both North and South were for the most part comparably armed. What is Mike Hill going to do with his AR-15’s against a Federal Government armed with missiles, tanks, jets, aircraft carriers, satellites, drones, etc.. I hate to pee on Mike’s cornflakes, but he’s just hanging on to a pipe dream. That’s the real reason people like Mike don’t engage in any real discussions on secession, they are devoid of any answers to difficult scenarios like that. What they do have in great abundance is bravado and rhetoric, but that won’t secure them their White ethnostate.

    • Connie Chastain September 28, 2015 / 11:12 pm

      Talk about what, DeStroy? I’m a secessionist of the Declaration-of-Independence variety. What would you like to know?

  9. Anders September 29, 2015 / 2:30 pm

    In the many discussions that have considered the constitutionality of secession, I have never once seen anyone who is able to point to the part of U.S. Constitution where secession is prohibited. Never once. As for the junior high school taunts regarding the physical condition of those in the photograph, I would be very, very surprised indeed, if everyone who opposes the right of secession is an Iron-Man triathlete.

    • Jimmy Dick September 29, 2015 / 7:33 pm

      What part to look at? ALL OF IT. You have to look at the whole thing in the context of its creation. I know, that damn C word that angers so many people who don’t understand it. The men who wrote the Constitution did so with the idea in mind that secession was not to be considered. At the ratification convention in Virginia Patrick Henry, who opposed its ratification, brought up the fact (and I stress the point) that once the people of a state ratified the Constitution they could not leave the union they were joining. There was no provision for leaving the Union, only in joining it.

      So to refute your question, show me the part of the Constitution that allows the people of a state to secede. The totality of the Constitution has been pointed out many times regarding secession. Akhil Reed Amar points this out in his excellent work on the Constitution, America’s Constitution. He is not alone.

      The Union is not a compact. That was perfectly clear to many people except those who wanted to leave the Union and even then they knew it wasn’t a compact. They just insisted upon it because it was the only way they could justify their treason. The SCOTUS had ruled on three occasions that the US was not a compact and they just ignored it because those decisions didn’t fit into what they wanted. Unfortunately, those traitors got a lot of good people killed thanks to their childish tantrum.

      • Connie Chastain September 30, 2015 / 1:05 pm

        Yup, brilliant men, those founders, who fought a bloody war to get out from under a tyrant on the basis that it is the people’s right to alter or abolish their government, and then create a government they could not alter or abolish. Brilliant; and now we have a horrible monstrosity in DC, one of the most corrupt institutions on the face of the earth — makes George III’s tyrannies look like walks in the park — and the people are imprisoned here forever. New name for the USA — the Hotel California… The People can check out any time they like but they can never leave.

        • Brooks D. Simpson October 5, 2015 / 7:46 pm

          What a crock … exceeded only by its ignorance.

          The framers founded a government they could not alter? Ever heard of the amendment process? Indeed, it was the fear of white southerners that the document would be amended to remove their desire to hold human beings as property that caused them to bolt.

          Imprisoned here forever? Goodness, girl, just try to leave. We won’t stop you. Prove me wrong. Leave. Right. Now.

        • Jimmy Dick October 6, 2015 / 7:29 am

          Finally, we see something you know even less about than the Civil War. The American Revolution was fought over many issues. One of the main issues was taxation without representation. Right up until July 2nd, 1776 the choice was to stay in the British empire. It was only the constant refusal of Parliament to alter the existing government and its relationship with the American colonies that finally forced the colonists to make the leap into the dark.

          You also keep displaying modern political ideology in your ravings which really indicate your view of the past is directly influenced by your view of the present. Let’s face it, you just do not like being a minority and want to change that so you are the majority again. How about this instead? Open up your mind and let some fresh thought in. See why others desire something you don’t. You might learn something that way.

          This nation was set up so that the people could make their choices on the direction the country would go based on a majority. The majority have spoken. You just don’t like it. It was fine when you were part of the majority, but when that changed you found yourself on the wrong side. Now you say the process is wrong? It was perfectly fine when you were the majority wasn’t it?

          As a former slave said in 1865 to his former owner, “The bottom rail is on top now.”

    • Bob Huddleston October 4, 2015 / 2:50 pm

      The ultimate flaw often posted here is the idea that unilateral secession was legal. A lot of folk believed that in 1860-61 and quite a few seem to believe that today.

      The problem in 1860 was that even more folk did not think unilateral secession was legal. And when the slave states decided to forgo negotiations and attack Fort Sumter, those in the free states and the border-slave states who had questions about the legality were converted to protecting the Union.

      There is not much point in arguing about the legality here – it is done constantly and without much light or many conversions. The important thing to remember is that the Constitution is silent on the right of secession, neither explicitly authorizing nor prohibiting secession.

      And when the slave states chose to not only unilaterally attempt secession, but also to attack the United States flag, they erred seriously in underestimating the resolve of the majority of Americans to maintain a Union.

      “In order to obtain this military advantage of dubious worth, the Confederacy voluntarily accepted the role of aggressor, preparing to open fire, if necessary, on the American flag, on a fortress charged with deep symbolic meaning, and on a soldier who had become a national hero. It would have been difficulty to devise a strategy better calculated to arouse and unite the divided, irresolute North. The primary significance of the southern attack on Fort Sumter is not that it started the Civil War, but rather that it started the war in such a manner as to give the cause of the Union an eruptive force which it might not otherwise have been slow to acquire.”

      David M. Potter with Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, p. 582.

    • Ned B October 5, 2015 / 9:45 pm

      I wonder if this Anders fellow has ever participated in or read a discussion that considered the constitutionality of secession; because in the many such discussions that I have participated in, the part of the U.S. Constitution where secession is prohibited gets pointed out repeatedly.

      • Brooks D. Simpson October 5, 2015 / 9:48 pm

        “Anders” (or, according to his e-mail handle, “Lord and Lover”) is one of Chastain’s trolls from Springfield, Virginia (or thereabouts). I wanted to see who would figure it out first, and I think Jimmy did so. It’s Anders/Austin/Caldwell/whatever. This time, his entertainment value proved to be short-lived.

        • Jimmy Dick October 6, 2015 / 7:36 am

          He’s a one trick pony that says the same thing every time about secession. The standard line, “It isn’t in the Constitution so it must be legal,” fails every time because he conveniently ignores the opposite value. When you show the primary sources to him he just ignores them and repeats himself like a broken record. At that point you know who you are dealing with.

          He has been making the same claim for several years and has failed every single time.

    • bob carey October 6, 2015 / 8:05 am

      I can only speak for myself and you are right I am fat and age 61. The big difference between myself and those LOSer’s pictured is that I am not advocating a secessionist movement based on tiny militia type cells who may be called upon to actually fight someday. Those people are a joke and they deserve ridicule.

  10. Anders September 29, 2015 / 9:37 pm

    1. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution which prohibits secession. Absolutely nothing. If there was, you would immediately point to it. But it just isn’t there. So the men who wrote the Constitution clearly wrote it with the idea that secession was a natural political right of the states. Otherwise they would have prohibited it, like the many other acts that were (and still are), prohibited to the states under Article I, section 10.

    2. Context? That’s easy. The context was that the Constitution was created when the states seceded from the union which existed under the Articles of Confederation, thereby firmly establishing, by precedent, secession as not only a natural right, but as a positive legal right as well. Akhil Amar describes it thus:

    “In effect, the very act of constitution amounted to a MASS SECESSION from the old, confederated united states”

    3. Compact? In its act of ratification, Massachusetts, long before the Supreme Court even existed, explicitly declared the Constitution is a compact:

    “…the People of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts…of entering into an explicit & solemn COMPACT with each other by assenting to & ratifying a New Constitution”

    4. The United States was created by and through the VOLUNTARY act of sovereign states agreeing to unify for specific purposes. It was never intended to be governed by the principles of the Sicilian Mafia.

    5. Secession today is impossible. Secession in fifty years in inevitable.

    • Jimmy Dick September 30, 2015 / 5:08 am

      Number one is easy to reject because if they wanted secession to be possible they would have put it in the Constitution. They did not because they did not want it possible. What you state goes against what they desired and created.

      SCOTUS had three rulings which rejected the compact theory. They were Chisholm v. Georgia, Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, and McCulloch v. Maryland. It is not a compact, never was, and I hope we never change the form to a compact.

      As for the 4 and 5, that is purely your opinion which I do not share. They sound like a big WAH to me.

  11. bob carey September 30, 2015 / 5:38 am

    We the People of the United States,in order to form a more perfect Union. This statement from the Preamble of the Constitution makes it clear that they were not seceding from the Articles of Confederation. The people, not the states, were restructuring the National Government. I would argue that the Union has been in place since the Declaration and the ” More Perfect Union” has been in place since 1788. The Congress of the Confederation,on Sept. 28, 1787 submitted the New Constitution for ratification. Once ratified the Confederation ceased to exist. This was not secession.

  12. Anders September 30, 2015 / 8:42 am

    At least we agree that there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution which prohibits secession. And it logically follows that if secession was intended to be illegal, there would have been a prohibition against it. Also as I said, well before the Supreme Court was even created, Massachusetts explicitly declared the Constitution to be a compact in its very act of ratification, demonstrating, beyond any doubt, that the Constitution is a compact and always has been. Not a single case you reference alters that fact in even the slightest degree. As for point 5, I have no quarrel if you think the present union will survive another 50 years, we simply disagree. But are you really saying that the states did not voluntarily join the new union?

    Moving on. As Amar noted, the states undoubtedly, and quite obviously, seceded from the AoC, otherwise, they would still be operating under it. And despite the fact that the required ninth ratification (New Hampshire) took place in June of 1788, the more perfect union has not been in place since 1788. The new government under the constitution did not commence its proceedings until March 4th, 1789. Lastly, it was the states, and certainly not the people, that created (not “restructured”) the new union. The reason we know that it was the states, and not the people, that created the union by ratifying the Constitution is because the Constitution explicitly says so:

    “The ratification of the conventions of nine STATES, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution BETWEEN THE STATES so ratifying the same.”

    Please note that the Constitution, as its language explicitly declares, is an agreement (compact) “BETWEEN THE STATES” that ratified. Again, “between the states”, not, I repeat not, “between the people”.

    • Jimmy Dick September 30, 2015 / 10:10 am

      Wrong. The deal is between the people and the national government, not the states. If you can’t read the preamble and see We the People then you are being foolish. SCOTUS ruled on this as I explained before. This is not a compact. The conventions were of the people of the states through their representatives. So in the end, your bogus idea of secession rests on your desire, not in US Constitutional law.

      Second, It is not going to happen. The government is working. You may not like it, but that’s tough.

    • Jimmy Dick September 30, 2015 / 10:11 am

      By the way, it was quite clear in the ratification process that secession was not allowed. Stop lying about that point.

  13. Anders September 30, 2015 / 11:25 am

    1. It has evidently eluded you that the OFFICIAL and LEGAL name of our country is “The United STATES of America”, not, repeat not, “The United People” of America. Under the Constitution, it is the STATES that are united, not the people. Just like the OFFICIAL and LEGAL openly declares.

    2. How is it possible that you are able to completely ignore the language of Article VII, which explicitly proclaims that the Constitution was established “BETWEEN THE STATES so ratifying”?

    3. The ratification process firmly, clearly, and irrefutably established the right of secession. In point of fact, and as Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar openly acknowledges, the states seceded from the AoC in order to adopt the Constitution. It is therefore very, very obvious that secession was firmly established as a political and constitutional right of the states.

    4. Below is a link to an online Thesaurus. Please note that a synonym for “secession” is “separation”. Please also note that the colonies explicitly separated, or seceded, from Great Britain according to the Declaration of Independence. That act of secession was actually the first to establish the precedent that secession is a political right of the states

    5. SCOTUS have never, repeat never, ruled on whether or not the Constitution is a compact. Never.

    6. You seem to have the very peculiar idea that the states need a grant of authority from the federal government to act. You have it exactly backwards. It is the federal government which needs a grant of authority to act. I will have James Madison explain it to you:

    ““The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are FEW and DEFINED. Those which are to remain in the State governments are NUMEROUS and INDEFINITE.”

    Did you get that? The power to secede is an indefinite power reserved to the states.

    7. The country is in a state if chaos, and cannot possibly survive another fifty years. The idea of America as a “perpetual union” is laughable.

    8. It is very obvious you feel the force of these arguments, and correspondingly, that you sense the extreme weakness of your position. That explains the angry rhetoric in your reply, no doubt.

    • Jimmy Dick September 30, 2015 / 3:46 pm

      I’m tired of arguing with dumbasses. You secede, I go back in the US Army, pick up a machine gun and don’t take prisoners.

      • Michael Rodgers September 30, 2015 / 5:17 pm

        Don’t shoot the adverbs.

        • Anders September 30, 2015 / 9:14 pm

          Indeed. And make sure the graphs are not utterly and completely backwards. Lol.

          • Michael Rodgers October 4, 2015 / 6:04 pm

            Anders, my graph is like totally clear as it is, though, if you have trouble understanding it, perhaps turning your head to the left or the graph to the right will help you.

          • Al Mackey October 6, 2015 / 7:26 am

            The troll can’t understand the graph because he’s not smart enough to look to see the locations of the origins of each axis, then look at the values on each axis and analyze the graph based on that.

          • Brooks D. Simpson October 6, 2015 / 8:17 am

            He was always diligent and arrogant in his ignorance.

    • Jimmy Dick September 30, 2015 / 7:15 pm

      I find it very funny that you are trying to use Amar’s book to validate secession when the entire chapter does the exact opposite. Your cherry picking doesn’t surprise me in the least. Neither does your ignorance, Caldwell. You ignore the facts and repeat the same old crap.

      Eric Foner’s course on the Civil War and Reconstruction began today. I suggest you take it, but you won’t because you are too skeered to learn anything. Now go back to your rock like the worm you are.

      • Anders September 30, 2015 / 8:54 pm

        If you are directing your hateful vitriol toward me Dick, it’s right back at ya pal. Amar plainly stated that the states seceded from the AoC in order to adopt the Constitution, and your wild-eyed rants cannot change that fact.

        • Jimmy Dick October 1, 2015 / 7:27 am

          Then why did he say the exact opposite of your claim in both his book and his online courses via Coursera? You do know he has two courses on the Constitution on Coursera don’t you?

  14. Anders September 30, 2015 / 5:23 pm

    I too, am weary of arguing with dumbasses. And do you really think you frighten anyone? I’m openly laughing at you.

  15. Nancy September 30, 2015 / 6:27 pm

    United States Constitution. Article I, Section 10:

    1: No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

    2: No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

    3: No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

    Since thirteen States did enter into a Confederation, granted Letters of Marque and Reprisal, coined Money, etc. etc., the word SECESSION is hardly necessary. After seceding, those thirteen States did everything that Article I, Section 10 forbids. These actions were patently illegal, against the U.S. Constitution.
    How could this be any plainer?

  16. Anders September 30, 2015 / 9:17 pm

    It could not, in point of fact, be any plainer. In the entirety of that lengthy and exhaustive list of prohibitions against the states contained in Article I, section 10, there is not so much as a single word, nay, even a single letter which prohibits a state from seceding.

    • Jimmy Dick October 1, 2015 / 7:26 am

      Same broken record as always. Don’t forget that Foner’s class began yesterday. I am sure you won’t be in it because you are too skeered to learn….or just too ignorant to try. Your loss either way.

      • Anders October 1, 2015 / 11:35 am

        Same angry rhetoric, same uncontrollable rage, same volley of empty childish insults, same temper tantrums. And still unable to point to a clause in the Constitution prohibiting secession.

        • Brooks D. Simpson October 15, 2015 / 12:04 pm

          Note, first, that this poster calls himself/herself “OFFICIALlordandlover.” Really.

          Second, note that to poster posts from the same area as our favorite Confederate heritage sock puppet.

          Over at Backsass, Connie Chastain whines about this practice all the time, and yet here is her little pet doing exactly the same thing. Heritage hypocrisy strikes again.

          The only substance offered in the post has already been addressed. The first sentence is a perfect description of the poster’s own posting behavior, as well as that of his patroness in Pensacola. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

      • Anders October 1, 2015 / 11:37 am

        Same wild-eyed rants, same uncontrollable rage, same empty, childish insults. And still utterly unable to point to a clause in the Constitution which prohibits secession.

        • Brooks D. Simpson October 15, 2015 / 12:00 pm

          Do you like repeating yourself and your self-characterization? So be it. See you, Connie’s favorite sock puppet.

  17. Rblee22468 October 1, 2015 / 6:36 am

    It’s not worth the time to argue over the last “secession” because in the eyes of the law, it never happened. It is futile to try and convince someone who believes it was legal that it wasn’t. People like that will grasp at any straw they can find as evidence of why you are wrong. Am I to believe that secession was and is legal because Connie Chastain says so, when the highest court in our land ruled otherwise?

  18. Bob Huddleston October 4, 2015 / 2:45 pm

    George Washington on the states versus the union:

    “I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation, without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a manner, as the authority of the different state governments extends over the several states. To be fearful of vesting Congress, constituted as that body is, with ample authorities for national purposes, appears to me to be the very climax of popular absurdity and madness.”

    George Washington to John Jay, 15 August 1786

    “What stronger evidence can be given of the want of energy in our government
    than these disorders? If there exists not a power to check them, what security has a man of life, liberty, or property? To you, I am sure I need not add aught on this subject, the consequences of a lax or inefficient government, are too obvious to be dwelt on. Thirteen sovereignties pulling against each other, and all tugging at the federal head, will soon bring ruin to the whole; whereas a liberal, and energetic Constitution, well guarded and closely watched, to prevent encroachments, might restore us to that degree of respectability and consequence, to which we had a fair claim, and the brightest prospect of attaining…”

    George Washington to James Madison November 5, 1786

    “In all our deliberations on this subject we kept steadily in our view, that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds [at the constitutional convention] led each State in the convention to be less rigid on points of
    inferior magnitude…the constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.”

    George Washington to the Continental Congress September 17, 1787

    I have read (although don’t pin me down because I can’t quote it) one of his biographers remarking that in 1775 George Washington considered himself to be a Virginian. But by the late 1780s he routinely called himself “an American” rather than a Virginian. Like his fellow Virginian, Winfield Scott, George Washington would have opposed secession.

    • Michael Rodgers October 4, 2015 / 6:13 pm

      Indeed, in his farewell address, President George Washington explained clearly, “To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

      “All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

      “However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

      • bob carey October 5, 2015 / 4:52 am

        I think the last quotation is a perfect description of the lobby system which is entrenched in D.C. today. I am amazed how smart Washington was.

  19. Al Mackey October 4, 2015 / 9:20 pm

    Well, as usual, the troll has no conception of what he’s talking about or what he’s reading. Certainly the Constitution prohibits secession. The Supremacy Clause guarantees that no state can claim any part of the Constitution or any US Law or treaty don’t apply to it. Therefore no state can claim that the entire US Constitution, all US Laws, and all treaties the US ratified don’t apply to it. Article I gives the power of determining the makeup of the Union to the US Government, not to individual states, therefore no state can claim they are not part of the Union.

    Also, he apparently doesn’t know what the phrase, “in effect” means. Professor Amar wrote, “the text and act of constitution envisioned a possible dissolution of the old union, with nine or more states going one way while a minority of free and independent sovereign states veered off. In effect, the very act of constitution amounted to a mass secession from the old, confederated united states.” [Akhil Reed Amar, “America’s Constitution: A Biography,” p. 29] He doesn’t say it was a secession. When he says, “IN EFFECT” “it AMOUNTED TO” a mass secession, he is using a literary device much like a metaphor. In any event, it doesn’t matter anyway. Even if Professor Amar actually said the states seceded from the Articles of Confederation it would have no bearing on whether or not a state can unilaterally secede under the Constitution. As Professor Amar writes, “Although states would enter the Constitution as true sovereigns, they would not remain so after ratification. The formation of a ‘more perfect Union’ would itself end each state’s sovereign status and would prohibit future unilateral secession, in plain contrast to the decidedly less-than-perfect union under the Articles.” [Ibid., p. 33]

    Professor Amar also deals with the “compact” red herring. “One notable Preamble word marking the metamorphosis was ‘Constitution.’ Not a ‘league,’ however firm; not a ‘confederacy’ or a ‘confederation’; not a compact among ‘sovereign’ states–all these high-profile and legally freighted words from the Articles were conspicuously absent from the Preamble and every other operative part of the Constitution. The new text proposed a fundamentally different legal framework. Henceforth America would have a written ‘Constitution’ deriving from a continental people, unmistakably styled after earlier state prototypes, like the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. As these state constitutions, exalted texts in confederate America, had exemplified state-based popular sovereignty under the Articles, so now a new United States Constitution–the new supreme law of the land–would shape a new continental nation whose sovereign would be a truly continental people.” [Ibid.]

    Professor Amar not only invokes the Supremacy Clause to show unilateral secession to be unconstitutional, but he also uses Articles V and VII to show states could not unilaterally secede. “Articles VII and V conspicuously contrasted the rules for constitutional ratification with the rules for subsequent constitutional amendment–a contrast that made it plain that the new Constitution spelled the end of state sovereignty for all states that might choose to join.” [Ibid., p. 34] He tells us that a state, as a sovereign entity ratifying the Constitution under Article VII, would be compelled to accept any amendment it didn’t support that was ratified by 3/4 of the states in the Union and therefore after ratification was no longer a sovereign entity. Hence Kentucky and Delaware, which had refused to ratify the 13th Amendment, lost legal slavery against their wills because they were not sovereign states. “Simply put,” Professor Amar writes, “Article VII recognized the sovereign right (or at least the sovereign power) of different states in a flawed confederacy to go their separate ways; but Articles V and VI extinguished the right and power of unilateral secession for each state populace that joined the Constitution’s new, more perfect union, thereby merging itself into the continental sovereignty of the American people.” [Ibid., pp. 34-35]

    This is settled law, and only crackpots, ignorant people, and idiots argue that unilateral secession would be legal under the US Constitution.

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