Sunday, November 18, 2012
Is it time for the States to secede from the Union?
by Austin Petersen
When in the course of human events…
Citizens from thirty out of fifty states in America have filed for secession from the Union. President Barack Obama‘s petition website ranks Texas alone as having over 80,000 signatures. Petitions receiving more than 25,000 signatures qualify for an official response from the White House. The President is honor bound, but not legally required to make a statement to citizens who are demanding that they be allowed to break away and form separate sovereign republics.
When Benjamin Franklin first began diplomatic negotiations with the British before the War of Independence, he was undoubtedly on the side of the Loyalists. However, as a long train of abuses made it abundantly clear that there would be taxation without representation, self-written search warrants by soldiers and the endangerment of American trade via British Imperialism (If Britain were to declare war, all her colonies were at war as well), Franklin decided it was time to separate and declare Independence from King George III. He was one of the last of the founders to do so.
America was built on secession. After her successful break from Britain, The Union was established to “secure these rights among men.” The Constitution as it was written was a great compromise at a convention built on guile and intrigue amongst America’s founding fathers. The competing factions at that hall in Philadelphia ultimately sowed the seeds for the partisan divide in politics we have today. Federalists wanted a strong central government. Anti-Federalists wanted none of it. The Federalists won and the Anti-Federalists backstopped our liberties the best they could with a Bill of Rights. These United States were born. We successfully seceded.
There was secession again in 1860. When the many States of the South formed a compact, a Confederacy, to maintain certain economic liberties as well as the practice of chattel slavery. These Americans risked their lives for principles that were right and for some that were undoubtedly wrong. Ultimately because of their loss our nation became stronger in some ways and weaker in others. For the price of freeing the slaves, we slammed shut the door that would allow states to peacefully withdraw from a union they peacefully joined.
We do still honor the confederacy in this country. We do not honor those men because of slavery however. We honor them because of their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the spirit of Independence. President Barack Obama acknowledged this when he deliberately laid a wreath at the Confederate memorial at Arlington despite pleas from his supporters to cease. He rightfully understood that the events of that struggle were more than just one issue and that the 750,000 men who died did not do so in vain. There were real ideas at stake in this war and both sides had principles that were correct. Most of these principles would remain when the wartime Income Tax was declared unconstitutional and the US was placed on a gold standard for a short period.
Now, fresh on the heels of the presidents reelection comes the wave of citizens petitioning for their states to be independent. Doubtless many Americans are reeling from the expectations of tax increases on small business owners, the implementation costs of Obamacare and the long term effects of a $16 trillion dollar debt. Many of them are feeling desperate and without options to escape the crushing burden of taxation, debt and regulations inflicted on them by an uncaring federal government.
But, is it time to secede again?
But it is time to talk about what it means.
The topic of secession is not uncommon in DC socialite circles. It will often go to the American Civil War and whether or not States should be added or allowed to secede. As a test of the audience, I like to ask a simple question and gauge peoples responses. My question I ask is, “If the State of California decided to secede over federal drug raids or because they wanted gay marriage, would you advocate that we roll tank into Sacramento?” If they say no then I respond, “Then you’re a confederate.” And think about this: If Puerto Rico, which recently voted in favor of statehood, were to join the Union, and then four years later decide to leave; would you advocate we invade and kill the citizens of that island? Some people do suggest we respond with violence. Supporters of the President and his agenda have launched their own petitions asking that those who signed a secession petition be stripped of their citizenship. But why if you believe in Union do you suggest those who wish to leave be stripped of their rights? Are we to ship them off to Gitmo next?
Some secessionists point to the Declaration of Independence as their document that gives them claim to secession. The words are:
“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.”
This seems to give us the idea that we do have a right to alter or abolish our forms of government and I would agree in theory. However, one glaring problem with the Declaration is that it is not the law of the land. As a legal document, the Declaration only holds weight insofar as it created a temporary union to defeat Great Britain. It is not used today as a legal document or precedent other than a symbolic one. Citizens of the United States are descendants of the tradition of secession, but the formation of the Constitution created a system of positive law, rather than Natural Law that the framers instilled into the Declaration. America is not operating under the Articles of Confederation and thus the Declaration of Independence is not applicable in this case. If citizens were to write a new one however, that might be a different story.
But despite all of this, should we retain the right to alter our government or even abolish it? Undoubtedly yes. Thomas Paine once wrote “The parliament or the people of 1688, or of any other period, has no more right to dispose of the people of the present day, or to bind or to control them in any shape whatever, than the parliament or the people of the present day have to dispose of, bind or control those who are to live a hundred or a thousand years hence. Every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated. When man ceases to be, his power and his wants cease with him; and having no longer any participation in the concerns of this world, he has no longer any authority in directing who shall be its governors, or how its government shall be organized, or how administered.”
It is sensible to understand that men who died long ago cannot bind future generations permanently to a any set of laws or document. Lysander Spooner, abolitionist and entrepreneur illustrated it in this way: If a father builds a house for a family, can he compel them to live in it? If he plants a fruit tree for his children to eat one day, can he compel them to eat from it? Of course not. So then it must be understood that the citizens of the United States can not be compelled to toil forever under a constitution that is so obviously defunct in our modern era. Spooner went on to explain in his treatise “No Treason” that:
“The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. [This essay was written in 1869.] And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now.”
But if we are not to be governed under the constitution forever, what should be our guide going forward? Paine and Spooner are correct in that we can not forever be bound by one system of laws written by people long gone. We must be able to adapt to change. The question is; Are we stronger individually if we act as a Union, or would be stronger independently as sovereign republics?
The author of this piece believes that now is not the time for secession despite the many usurpations of our rights we are currently suffering. Having traveled from sea to shining sea of this great nation in the past few years has convinced me of the individual benefits that we receive as Americans to be able to travel freely from state to state. Growing up on a farm in Missouri, living in New York City for eight years and now in Washington D.C. for four, I have witnessed more beauty in one nation than could ever exist in any heaven dreamed of. To secede might mean to lose access to the wilds of New Hampshire should they shut us out. How tragic would be the loss of Texas, or California if they refused to recognize your citizenship from a neigboring state? Would we really want to see them shut down and turn their southern border into a militarized zone? Is that a vision of a peaceful future that we wish to leave for our children? We need less walls not more. Now it a time for unity and for us to resist tyranny, not retreat. The libertarian movement has a saying we like to repeat from the Latin: “Tu Ne Cede Malis sed contra audentior ito“. It means “Do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it.” The citizens of America have a duty not to shrink away from evil. We must proceed boldly against it.
Our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty. And though we have lost our way many times, we have also gained many rights and privileges as well including the abolition of chattel slavery and womens suffrage. From California, to New York City and everything in between, we the citizens of the United States are blessed to live in a free nation. If we have oppressive government then we should not shrink away from it in resignation. Don’t give up the fight for individual liberty and cede ground to the forced unionists who talk of liberty but demand ever increasing taxation. A quick look at the electoral map from the 2012 election shows that only a tiny portion of this country is blue, the red far outpaces them in terms of overall territory. You would cede ground to these tiny holdouts of progressivism?
You want to take your ball and go home and just give up on the rest of the nation? What about the liberties of those people in your neighboring states? Do they not deserve to be free of socialized medicine and confiscatory taxation? Will you not stand with your brothers in arms who are fighting the state through grassroots organization and peaceful democratic action? Is the fight for America truly over?
No friends. It’s not time to secede. It’s time to stand our ground and fight for this nation from the forces of corporatism, socialism and tyranny. It’s time to hold onto what we have and fight to make it more free for our posterity. As we are grateful to our ancestors, so will our descendants be if we give them a strong, unified nation built on the ideas of liberty and peace. It can only happen if we fight for it and work together across state lines. Even now, versions of the founders “Committees of Correspondence” exist on the Internet. The first American Patriots established the committees to develop communication networks devoted to keeping Patriots informed. At the time their only method was to send letters. FreedomWorks has established its own modern version through FreedomConnector, which allows local activists to connect and work together. Citizens in neighboring states can even come in and find their neighbors and help them in their campaigns and ballot initiatives.
Also, why leap immediately to secession when there is a much easier option and one less prone to bloodshed? A growing Nullification movement is budding in the United States today. The founders gave us a powerful tool to combat federal tyranny in the Tenth Amendment. The Amendment reads: “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.” This is a clear authority given to the States and individuals to claim rights that are not written in the Bill of Rights. The founders knew that it would be impossible to fully codify all the privileges and immunities granted by citizenship so they left us this powerful tool to fight back with. Already states Arizona, Idaho, Virginia and Utah have passed legislation that declares certain provisions of Obamacare null and void. The Governor of Idaho Butch Otter, even passed legislation that required Utah to sue the federal government if they are forced to buy health insurance. Look to the growth of the tenth amendment movement as a sign Americans are working to restore what was lost and that there is hope for the future.
Also individual citizens must begin to use more aggressively their right of jury nullification. Jury nullification is when a jury acquits a defendant who is technically guilty of a law, but who does not deserve punishment. It occurs when a verdict opposed to the judge’s instructions is handed down by citizen activists sitting on a jury. It has been used before and has experienced renewed energy in places like New Hampshire, where a jury recently acquitted a man for growing marijuana for medical uses. A single informed citizen sitting on a jury can have a more powerful effect than an entire house of legislators.
Tools such as jury nullification, the Tenth Amendment and our committees of correspondence are our modern weapons to fight tyranny without needless bloodshed, or the loss of our country as a whole. The time now is to fight and work together and to use these tools. It is not time to leave. We must stand and fight. We must proceed boldly against evil.
However, if things change for the worse and we are denied the right of redress of grievances…
I reserve the right to secede.