OPINION – Critics of the secession petitions currently circulating in all 50 states are correct about a couple of things.
First of all, the timing of these petitions on the heels of a closely fought election seems like a bad case of sour grapes. Secondly, any serious movement toward secession from the U.S. would originate in the state legislatures and would not simply beg permission from the White House.
However, these two points don’t excuse the blatant misinformation and widespread misconceptions regarding the principle of secession.
The very word “secession” has long been considered outside the boundaries of approved opinion. The political left tries to equate the word with a desire to dodge nationalized health care while the political right claims secession is merely the battle cry of disgruntled pot smokers. But the facts and the historical record show these assertions to be laughably false.
Secession played a key role in the birth of America by providing a valid remedy for the people to remove themselves from an unjust or tyrannical government.
The Declaration of Independence states, “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.”
Think about it, what hundreds of millions of Americans celebrate every Fourth of July is an independence rooted in secession.
Predictably, the tyrannical government of King George sought to prevent the peaceable departure of the colonists through brute force. When the Treaty of Paris ending the War for Independence was signed in 1783, each individual state was named separately in the treaty.
This is a crucial point that illustrates that the 13 original states had not become some indistinguishable conglomerate, but retained their individual identities and powers while maintaining the sovereignty of their respective people.
Critics often claim that secession is unconstitutional, but no mention of the word is found anywhere within the text of the Constitution. In fact, during the Philadelphia convention of 1787, a suggestion was made to add language allowing the federal government to prevent any state from leaving the union.
James Madison, widely regarded as the father of the Constitution, shot down this idea saying, “A Union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”
Madison’s words were prophetic considering what occurred during Abraham Lincoln’s War of Involuntary Union in 1861. Like King George before him, Lincoln sought to forcibly prevent the secession of the southern states. He maintained that, somehow, the Union preceded the individual states and was therefore superior to them.
Historian Tom Woods deflates Lincoln’s fallacy by noting, “we are evidently instead supposed to believe that first there is a marriage, and the marriage in turn creates the bride and groom.” Since the states, acting on behalf of the people, created the Union, they logically must have preceded it. The creator is superior to the creation, but Lincoln thought otherwise and invaded the South to prevent their states from leaving the Union.
Remember, the states entered the union voluntarily. Nowhere did the state ratifying conventions of the Constitution allude to the idea that they were entering into a suicide pact of an involuntary perpetual union.
Nineteenth Century abolitionist Lysander Spooner offered this pointed assessment: “The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.”
“No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this; or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased; for a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave.”
The act of formally parting ways with a government that has ceased to act in its proper role should undertaken as only as a peaceful last resort. But as our national government increasingly refuses to recognize or abide by any limits on its power, we may want to think twice before eliminating the word “secession” from our vocabulary.
After all, America wouldn’t have become a free nation without it.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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