Patterico's Pontifications

5/2/2014

Wisconsin to Vote on Whether They Have the Right to Secede

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:31 pm

They do, of course, and need not vote on the question for it to be resolved in favor of the power being recognized. It’s OK; everyone is so horribly frightened by the prospect that anyone might think they actually believe in this power, that you can rest assured that no significant group of people is actually going to exercise it.

Wisconsin is not going to secede from the union.

This, despite the fact that at the Sixth Congressional Republican Caucus in the northeastern part of the state, delegates in April passed a resolution reaffirming Wisconsin’s right to secede from the union should it choose to do so. The measure passed through the GOP convention’s Resolution Committee last week, and is set to be voted on (up or down) at the Republican State Convention this weekend.

But since the measure passed the caucus, Wisconsin Republicans of even the most Tea Party-ish, states’ rights variety have been quickly distancing themselves from it.

“This has been totally blown out of proportion,” said Michael Murphy, vice chairman of the 4th District Republican Party and a former chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a Ron Paul-affiliated outlet. “This is one sentence in one resolution out of 23 that were passed, it is one tag line out of a larger resolution discussing state sovereignty. At no point are we going to the convention and debate that we want to secede from the union, even though some paint that as the case.”

I have received no small measure of joy lately in discussing the right to secession, in part because the thought offers some no doubt illusory possibility of escape from the horrible situation we find ourselves in . . . and in part from knowing that my position will tweak the very sort of non-thinkers who like to argue by labeling rather than reasoning and thinking. (NE-O-CON-FED-ER-ATE!) Anyway, if the right to secede seems doubtful to you, now is as good a time as any to address it. I will turn over the microphone to that well-known Neoconfederate racist, Walter Williams:

Thomas Jefferson in his First Inaugural Address said, “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left to combat it.” Fifteen years later, after the New England Federalists attempted to secede, Jefferson said, “If any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation … to a continuance in the union …. I have no hesitation in saying, ‘Let us separate.’”

At Virginia’s ratification convention, the delegates said, “The powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.” In Federalist Paper 39, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, cleared up what “the people” meant, saying the proposed Constitution would be subject to ratification by the people, “not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong.” In a word, states were sovereign; the federal government was a creation, an agent, a servant of the states.

On the eve of the War of 1861, even unionist politicians saw secession as a right of states. Maryland Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel said, “Any attempt to preserve the Union between the States of this Confederacy by force would be impractical, and destructive of republican liberty.” The northern Democratic and Republican parties favored allowing the South to secede in peace.

Just about every major Northern newspaper editorialized in favor of the South’s right to secede. New York Tribune (Feb. 5, 1860): “If tyranny and despotism justified the Revolution of 1776, then we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.” Detroit Free Press (Feb. 19, 1861): “An attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in character and appalling in content.” The New York Times (March 21, 1861): “There is growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go.” [Thomas] DiLorenzo cites other editorials expressing identical sentiments.

Don’t be so scared of asserting rights that the Founding Fathers understood were rights that belonged to the people. Even if the Labelers want to use it to call you “fringe.” The Founding Fathers were “fringe” too. But they were right.

43 Responses to “Wisconsin to Vote on Whether They Have the Right to Secede”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. Pansies, do it.

    gary gulrud (e2cef3)

  3. If at first you don’t secede…

    Gazzer (17a0f5)

  4. Youpers will want to do it next. Bunch of copycats.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  5. The only possible problem I see is the Packers might have to play only home games.

    gary gulrud (e2cef3)

  6. Just about every major Northern newspaper editorialized in favor of the South’s right to secede. New York Tribune (Feb. 5, 1860): “If tyranny and despotism justified the Revolution of 1776, then we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.” Detroit Free Press (Feb. 19, 1861): “An attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in character and appalling in content.” The New York Times (March 21, 1861): “There is growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go.” [Thomas] DiLorenzo cites other editorials expressing identical sentiments.

    Fort Sumter changed everything.

    Michael Ejercito (becea5)

  7. That citation of Federalist 39 is thoroughly out of context and consequently utterly deceptive.
    Look at all of what Madison wrote there:

    “On examining the first relation, it appears, on one hand, that the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of the people of America, given by deputies elected for the special purpose; but, on the other, that this assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a NATIONAL, but a FEDERAL act.”

    In no way does that establish the Constitution as a compact among the States.
    It only declares that the ratification of the Constitution will be done by the PEOPLE on a FEDERAL basis rather than a NATIONAL basis.
    The States are relevant, but only as SERVANTS of the PEOPLE, and not as agents in and of themselves, a completely absurd concept, utterly at odds with the concept of government specified in the Declaration of Independence, and utterly at odds with the RIGHTS of the PEOPLE.

    The true intent of that entire paper can instead be found in this:

    “From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a mixed character, presenting at least as many FEDERAL as NATIONAL features.”

    And this:

    “If we try the Constitution by its last relation to the authority by which amendments are to be made, we find it neither wholly NATIONAL nor wholly FEDERAL.”

    Culminating in this:

    “The proposed Constitution, therefore, is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.”

    Of course his entire citation could be utterly refuted merely by this strategically excised selection from the same paper:

    “It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it;”

    “Clearly,” the Constitution must be derived exclusively from the People, with the relevance of the States and their rulers dismissed out of hand. Of course having already proven otherwise that would be as dishonest as Walter Williams claiming the reverse, in spite of his lack of Neoconfederate racism.

    As for citing Jefferson, who despised the Constitution to begin with, and the divided parties at the time of the Civil War in support of such a declaration, that is even less convincing than poorly redacting and deliberately misrepresenting Madison.

    Sam (e8f1ad)

  8. L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N. has different plans for the Tri-State Area.

    nk (9faaca)

  9. Well, in 1861 Virginia didn’t secede till Lincoln called for 75,000 new federal troops to invade the Confederate states and compel them to remain in the Union by force of arms. Consequently, Virginians who had just voted to accept the end of slavery and to remain in the Union were outraged by Lincoln’s bellicose threats and immediately reversed their previous decision and voted to join the rebellion. It was Lincoln’s worst nightmare.

    Additionally, Lincoln’s resort to force is why Robert E Lee declined the offer to head the Union army. He wouldn’t fight against fellow Virginians, but he would fight to resist invaders. Maybe history will repeat itself if Obama threatens to invade Wisconsin he could find himself with an ugly little Constitutional crisis on his hands.

    ropelight (031e3e)

  10. they can’t secede til i get my pikachu ass to house on the rock in winter when it’s all christmassy

    otherwise i have to get one of them passport thingies like how gisele bundchen does it

    god bless america

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  11. Sam,

    Your arguments are hardly the slam dunk you portray them as being. I note that you did not at all address the statement from the Virginia Ratification Convention, which I consider the most convincing of all. If Virginia expressly retained the right to secede, as it appears it did, then the Constitution necessarily reserved that power to every other state.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  12. The Declaration has a list of complaints. Read them again. Think about Waco, Ruby Ridge, Kelo takings and civil asset forfeiture. Other examples will no doubt occur to you.

    Richard Aubrey (0605ef)

  13. We are all secesh now. :-)

    Ken (92f263)

  14. Well then, let us examine that Virginia ratification more completely:

    “We the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the general assembly, and now met in convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon, Do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia, declare and make known,”

    That is the opening of the clause.
    Pretty straightforward boilerplate material, but note how it makes clear that the entire statement and action of ratifying the Constitution is on behalf of the PEOPLE, and not of the STATE.

    “that the powers granted under the constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression,”

    There is the section cited, but what is really saying?
    Little more than a reiteration of:
    “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.”
    That is not an expression of secession, but rebellion and independence.

    This however is where it gets relevant:

    “and that every power not granted thereby, remains with them and at their will; and therefore no right, of any denomination, can be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by the congress, by the senate or house of representatives acting in any capacity, by the president or any department, or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the constitution for those purposes;”

    Wait . . . isn’t that just the 9th and 10th Amendments?
    Why yes, yes it is. Hmmm . . .

    “and that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States.”

    And wait, isn’t that just a portion of the 1st Amendment?
    Why, yes – that is exactly what that is.

    So rather than some reservation of unilateral secession we have merely a reiteration of the principle of forming and separating from government expressed in the Declaration of Independence, plus an assertion of the 9th and 10th Amendments, with a partial expression of the 1st Amendment.
    In fact if we go to more of that statement:

    “With these impressions, with a solemn appeal to the Searcher of Hearts for the purity of our intentions, and under the conviction that whatsoever imperfections may exist in the constitution ought rather to be examined in the mode prescribed therein, than to bring the Union into danger by delay, with a hope of obtaining amendments, previous to the ratification:”

    It becomes even more clear that secession is not the intent but rather asserting a desire for a Bill of Rights.
    Further, when it comes to the specific grantor and reclaimer of the powers in question, it is clear that it is the PEOPLE of Virginia delegating and reserving the right of reclamation, and not the STATE of Virginia.

    So that section now being thoroughly reviewed we once again see selective quotation being used to give a very skewed interpretation of the source material.
    Not only is the dunk slammed, but the 3-pointer is nothing but net.

    Sam (e8f1ad)

  15. Oh, I forgot:

    By citing the Virginia Ratification exclusively, you suggest that such an additional statement by one party is automatically defining and binding on all parties.
    That is like suggesting that say, one of Justice Thomas’ routine concurrences that also call for overturning the last vestiges of the Slaughterhouse Cases and their effect on the application of the 14th Amendment is effective on the entire decision.
    Since he has to continue making them I would have to expect that is not the case, and yet here such a principle is being asserted to establish secession as a fully applicable, indeed explicitly expressed, part of the Constitution.

    Sam (e8f1ad)

  16. The same inalienable right Virginia exercised when it voluntarily joined with other independent states to form the union (and expressly retained) is exactly the same inalienable right Virginia exercised when it voluntarily withdrew from the union: the right of self-determination.

    ropelight (4d873a)

  17. The same inalienable right Virginia exercised when it voluntarily joined with other independent states to form the union (and expressly retained) is exactly the same inalienable right Virginia exercised when it voluntarily withdrew from the union: the right of self-determination.

    It then used its self-determination to join a Confederacy that was at war with the U.S..

    Michael Ejercito (becea5)

  18. “…It is to be the assent and ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a NATIONAL, but a FEDERAL act.”

    In no way does that establish the Constitution as a compact among the States.

    Your analysis is flawed. In fact, a FEDERAL act in the context of the times meant a FEDERATION of States. That would be contrasted with a NATIONAL act, which would have been one by the NATION — the people collectively. A nation was considered a group of people.

    Chuck Bartowski (ad54b9)

  19. #17, no, Virginia then determined to resist an invading army.

    ropelight (4d873a)

  20. We are the Tea Party movement. [Note from ed.: This guy is not actually a Tea Partier] Our goals:
    1. Take back the country, because we refuse to be associated with it so long as that black, foreign-born, socialist Muslim is living in the White House.
    2. Return to the values and tenets of our Founding Fathers. If they wanted Civil Rights Acts in America, why did so many own slaves? If they believed that women and ethnic minorities should be able to vote, then why didn’t they include these rights in their final draft of the U.S. Constitution?
    3. Destroy “ObamaCare”, because the government has no business regulating the private health care insurance industry. And because the government has no right to kill grandma. That’s the job of your HMO or PPO. And by the way, keep your filthy hands off my Medicare coverage!
    4. Create a smaller government, because the feds have no business telling Americans what do to … unless you’re gay, or you need an abortion, or you wish to obtain contraceptives.
    5. Demonstrate our support for the health and well-being of women … by greatly reducing affordable access to breast cancer screenings and other preventative health care resources, … by defining rape and any ensuing pregnancy as an “act of God”, … by defunding programs dealing with domestic violence against women, … and by requiring women to “spread them” and provide a womb with a view for Uncle Sam.
    6. Deny the impact of human activity on climate change. Because everyone knows that if global warming is real, it’s simply “God’s will”.
    7. Make Christianity the official religion and English the official language of the United States, because native English-speaking, Christian folks are the only truly patriotic Americans.
    8. Destroy labor unions, because besides the 40-hour work week, paid vacation time, workers’ compensation, sick days, overtime pay, regulations regarding workplace health and safety conditions, health benefits, pension plans, etc. … what have they ever done for the typical American wage earner?
    9. Stop spending so much money! Except when we need to invade another country that pisses us off. Or if it’s done to support programs and policies that help to further our own political agendas.
    10. Reduce the deficit … at the same time that we’re gonna give kickbacks to the lobbyists and huge tax breaks to all of those corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals that helped to finance our little “party”.
    11. Embrace an economic scorched earth policy approach to reducing the national debt. Because if Congress refuses to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, we’ll do everything in our power to destroy the economic viability of the nation. Negotiation and compromise is not in our repertoire — It’s our way or the highway.
    12. To demonstrate our commitment to our sacred U.S. Constitution, we strive to eliminate those Amendments that conflict with our ideology and simply ignore other sections that we find inconvenient to honor.
    13. To demonstrate our patriotic love for this nation, we propose to secede from the Union.
    14. And if you won’t let us attain our goals by electing us to office … well, we can always resort to “Second Amendment remedies”.
    Any questions?

    labman57 (79c23c)

  21. “Your analysis is flawed. In fact, a FEDERAL act in the context of the times meant a FEDERATION of States. That would be contrasted with a NATIONAL act, which would have been one by the NATION — the people collectively. A nation was considered a group of people.”

    Except you are still only referring to a section of the entire paragraph, and ignoring the context of the entire section, along with the theme of the entire essay.
    That is the same error in the linked essay – taking a section which discusses the overall concept in a limited manner and projecting that as the conclusion in despite of the clear summary provided by the author.

    As such, I am not wrong at all.
    While the Constitution is both FEDERAL and NATIONAL, the source of all power, within the individual STATES and for the NATIONAL authority, remains the PEOPLE, as it must if LIBERTY is to exist.

    Sam (e8f1ad)

  22. By citing the Virginia Ratification exclusively, you suggest that such an additional statement by one party is automatically defining and binding on all parties.

    How is a freedom “binding”? It is “held” or “enjoyed.” Freedoms do not “bind.” So yes, a freedom and right enjoyed or held by the People of one State necessarily is held by al, in the absence of language in the document limiting that freedom to the People of Virginia only.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  23. 1. Take back the country, because we refuse to be associated with it so long as that black, foreign-born, socialist Muslim is living in the White House.

    LOL! You are no tea party member. Pathetic.

    felipe (098e97)

  24. I see Labman is here to give the left wing bigot’s view of those that dare to disagree with them.

    6 Linned Race Runner (f11072)

  25. “How is a freedom “binding”? It is “held” or “enjoyed.” Freedoms do not “bind.” So yes, a freedom and right enjoyed or held by the People of one State necessarily is held by al, in the absence of language in the document limiting that freedom to the People of Virginia only.”

    It is not the freedom that is binding but rather the declaration.
    Colorado has declared the “freedom” to buy marijuana. Is California now bound to accept transactions in marijuana? (Though they do flirt with passing their own law regarding such.)
    Several States have declared people are “freedom” to marry people of the same sex. Are other States now bound to permit the marriage of people of the same sex?
    And what of “right” to work versus unions? Which State laws get to trump the laws of other States here?

    So no, just because the unilateral declaration in question concerns a “freedom” or “right” in no way causes it to trump an essential aspect of the very federalism you are attempting to promote.
    The People of each State have the right to determine what additional rights their State will acknowledge, without being obligated by the declarations of other States.

    Sam (e8f1ad)

  26. Why is this “sovereign right of secession” inherent in the national subdivisions we name states?

    What is there in the definition of a U.S. state that enables 51% of its population to coerce the rest?

    Why not in parts of states, or groups of states?

    What if all residents of the 23 southern counties of Florida (and no one else) vote to secede, and that is 51% of the whole? Would that bind the residents of the northern panhandle?

    What if 51% of the residents of Staten Island vote for secession? Do they have such a right?

    What if 75% of the residents of New England votes for secession en bloc – but only 49% in New Hampshire? Is New Hampshire bound by the regional vote?

    Who passes on the validity of a declaration of secession? What form is valid? A majority vote of a quorum of the state legislature? Or an absolute majority vote of a specially elected convention, ratified by a general referendum? Who passes on the legitimacy of the election of the legislature, or the convention? If is the Federal government… a right which may be exercised only at the discretion of another is no right at all. If only the state itself, then the civil order in a state may be overthrown in a moment by a transient or fraudulent majority.

    There is no question that states have certain unalienable attributes of sovereignty. There is also no question that they lack other attributes of sovereignty which are permanently given to the Federal government.

    Rich Rostrom (00fcaf)

  27. The sovereign states are not now and never were subdivisions. The states created the federal government. It’s their servant, not their master.

    ropelight (4d873a)

  28. Oh, and while Walter Williams is not a neo-Confederate or racist, a large part of his gig is pandering to them. Just like the Jews who pander to Israel haters. There are plenty of distortions and several outright lies in the quoted paragraph.

    Don’t let the likes of Williams (or, heaven help us, DiLorenzo) lead you off into fever-swamps.

    Rich Rostrom (00fcaf)

  29. @Sam:

    “That is not an expression of secession, but rebellion and independence.”

    Uhh you know what independence means right? To declare separation from another. What does secession mean? A state declaring secession from another larger state.

    “So rather than some reservation of unilateral secession we have merely a reiteration of the principle of forming and separating from government expressed in the Declaration of Independence, plus an assertion of the 9th and 10th Amendments, with a partial expression of the 1st Amendment.”

    Yes, and all of that together means reserving the power of secession.

    “It becomes even more clear that secession is not the intent but rather asserting a desire for a Bill of Rights.”

    No its both.

    “Further, when it comes to the specific grantor and reclaimer of the powers in question, it is clear that it is the PEOPLE of Virginia delegating and reserving the right of reclamation, and not the STATE of Virginia.”

    And this is where you don’t understand: The people DELEGATE that power to the state. The people ALWAYS have the power- via voting- to secede. That power is usually expressed in a current political boundary- aka a state. Since that power was NOT delegated to the Federal government, it remains with the people, or the state if they choose to delegate it- and many have. If a state votes to secede- that’s because the people have delegated that power to them.

    Remember, each state was considered an independent state- in fact the Treaty of Paris recognized them individually. The Federal Government is an agent of the state- empowered to do certain acts delegated them by the states (which were originally delegated to the states by their people).

    “Not only is the dunk slammed, but the 3-pointer is nothing but net.”

    That’s what is playing in your mind. In reality, it was an air ball.

    Patrick Henry, the 2nd (168cd8)

  30. @ Rich Rostrom

    “Why is this “sovereign right of secession” inherent in the national subdivisions we name states?”

    Because that’s the way the system was set up.

    “What is there in the definition of a U.S. state that enables 51% of its population to coerce the rest?”

    Because that’s the way the system was set up.

    “Why not in parts of states, or groups of states?”

    It could be, but that was already addressed in the Constitution.

    “What if all residents of the 23 southern counties of Florida (and no one else) vote to secede, and that is 51% of the whole? Would that bind the residents of the northern panhandle?”

    Yes- that’s the best way we have of organizing our system.

    “What if 51% of the residents of Staten Island vote for secession? Do they have such a right?”

    Yes, they do, but its already been restricted by the Constitution.

    “What if 75% of the residents of New England votes for secession en bloc – but only 49% in New Hampshire? Is New Hampshire bound by the regional vote?”

    No, only those states who decided to secede.

    “Who passes on the validity of a declaration of secession? What form is valid? A majority vote of a quorum of the state legislature? Or an absolute majority vote of a specially elected convention, ratified by a general referendum? Who passes on the legitimacy of the election of the legislature, or the convention? If is the Federal government… a right which may be exercised only at the discretion of another is no right at all. If only the state itself, then the civil order in a state may be overthrown in a moment by a transient or fraudulent majority.”

    Its up to the state itself. And yes, it could be the very last thing- and that’s a problem- but overall its the best system we have.

    “There is no question that states have certain unalienable attributes of sovereignty. There is also no question that they lack other attributes of sovereignty which are permanently given to the Federal government.”

    Actually, there is a question about whether ANYTHING is permanently given to the government. And the answer to that question is no, there isn’t.

    “There are plenty of distortions and several outright lies in the quoted paragraph”

    Why don’t you point them out to us? Because they doesn’t’ seem to be any of that.

    Patrick Henry, the 2nd (168cd8)

  31. Oh goodness gracious and my stars and garters what will we do?

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

  32. Patrick Henry, the 2nd – Sam seems adept at confusing himself with polysyllabic profundity.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  33. @daleyrocks

    No, just enlightening myself with what Madison actually said about the matter:

    “It crushes “nullification” and must hasten the abandonment of “Secession.” But this dodges the blow by confounding the claim to secede at will, with the right of seceding from intolerable oppression. The former answers itself, being a violation, without cause, of a faith solemnly pledged. The latter is another name only for revolution, about which there is no theoretic controversy.”

    If it makes you happy though, I will admit to not being as eloquent as Madison was.

    @Patrick Henry

    I do indeed know what secession means.
    I also know what rebellion means.
    As above, so did Madison.

    In reality, Madison blew you off the court 2 centuries ago.

    Sam (e8f1ad)

  34. Sam, you’re late to the party. On 3/20/13 Patterico posted on Troll TimB’s infestation of Tom Woods’ blog with the same sort of disinformation you spew. Woods addresses Madison’s objections in his FAQ in response to TimB’s trolling: Internet Derangement Syndrome Strikes Again

    “James Madison spoke against the idea of nullification.”

    More sophisticated opponents think they have a trump card in James Madison’s statements in 1830 to the effect that he never intended, in the Virginia Resolutions or at any other time, to suggest that a state could resist the enforcement of an unconstitutional law. Anyone who holds that he did indeed call for such a thing has merely misunderstood him. He was saying only that the states had the right to get together to protest unconstitutional laws.

    This claim falls flat. In 1830 Madison did indeed say such a thing, and pretended he had never meant what everyone at the time had taken him to mean. Madison’s claim was greeted with skepticism. People rightly demanded to know: if that was all you meant, why even bother drafting such an inane and feckless resolution in the first place? Why go to the trouble of passing solemn resolutions urging that the states had a right that absolutely no one denied? And for heaven’s sake, when numerous states disputed your position, why in the Report of 1800 did you not only not clarify yourself, but you actually persisted in the very view you now deny and which everyone attributed to you at the time? Madison biographer Kevin Gutzman (see James Madison and the Making of America, St. Martin’s, 2012) dismantled this toothless interpretation of Madison’s Virginia Resolutions in “A Troublesome Legacy: James Madison and ‘The Principles of ’98,’” Journal of the Early Republic 15 (1995): 569-89. Judge Abel Upshur likewise made quick work of this view in An Exposition of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798, excerpted in my book.

    The elder Madison, in his zeal to separate nullification from Jefferson’s legacy, tried denying that Jefferson had included the dreaded word in his draft of the Kentucky Resolutions. Madison had seen the draft himself, so he either knew this statement was false or was suffering from the effects of advanced age. When a copy of the original Kentucky Resolutions in Jefferson’s own handwriting turned up, complete with the word “nullification,” Madison was forced to retreat.

    In summary, then, (1) the other state legislatures understood Madison in 1798 as saying precisely what Madison later tried to deny he had said; (2) Madison did not correct this alleged misunderstanding when he had the chance to in the Report of 1800 or at any other time during those years; and (3) the text of the Virginia Resolutions clearly indicates that each state was “duty bound” to maintain its constitutional liberties within its “respective” territory, and hence Madison did indeed contemplate action by a single state (rather than by all the states jointly), as supporters and opponents alike took him to be saying at the time.

    ropelight (53c8ca)

  35. On the other hand, the constitution which preceded our Constitution, “The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” quite clearly state, more than once, that “the Union shall be perpetual.”

    David Pittelli (b77425)

  36. And that notion is conspicuously absent in the current Constitution.

    ropelight (53c8ca)

  37. 29 @Patrick Henry, the 2nd
    @Sam:

    “So rather than some reservation of unilateral secession we have merely a reiteration of the principle of forming and separating from government expressed in the Declaration of Independence, plus an assertion of the 9th and 10th Amendments, with a partial expression of the 1st Amendment.”

    Yes, and all of that together means reserving the power of secession.

    No. It is a restatement of the moral right of revolution asserted in the Declaration of Independence. That is, the natural right of the people to break laws and overturn government when they are oppressive. That, by definition, cannot be a legal right binding anyone. Otherwise, no government anywhere could ever exercise any power or enforce any law on any person who objected.

    Rich Rostrom (2ccb22)

  38. 30. @Patrick Henry, the 2nd
    @ Rich Rostrom:

    Who passes on the validity of a declaration of secession?”

    Its up to the state itself.

    So if a gang of Mexican narcos seized the statehouse in Phoenix and forced the Arizona legislature to pass a secession resolution at gunpoint, that would be legally binding on the U.S.? The U.S. would have no more legal right to intervene than in the case of a revolution in Rwanda or a coup d’état in Costa Rica? Nor any obligation to the now former U.S. citizens living there?

    “There are plenty of distortions and several outright lies in the quoted paragraph”

    Why don’t you point them out to us? Because they doesn’t’ seem to be any of that.

    Well, here’s one. “The northern Democratic and Republican parties favored allowing the South to secede in peace.” This is a flat-out lie. Neither the Republican Party nor the real Democratic Party (as opposed to the pro-slavery splinter which nominated Breckinridge) ever took any such position.

    The leader of the Democrats was Sen. Stephen Douglas – and he stated flatly “I am in favor of … hanging any man who takes up arms against [the Constitution].” When Lincoln called for 75,000 men to put down rebellion, Douglas told him he should call for 200,000. The list of prominent Democrats who led the rush to the colors in 1861 includes Ben Butler of Massachusetts, Dan Sickles of New York, John McClernand of Illinois, and George McClellan. The handful of Doughfaces like Jesse Bright and Fernando Wood didn’t speak for the party, anymore than ultra-abolitionists like Wendell Phillips spoke for the Republican Party when they professed to welcome slave-state secession. (Phillips was booed off the platform.)

    If this broad consensus for the legality of secession existed, why did Democrat President James Buchanan refuse to recognize secession? Why did he refuse to evacuate Fort Sumter? (It was on the advice of Attorney General Edwin Stanton, a Democrat, who told him it would be treason.)

    Even the “Breckenridge Democrats” did not dare to assert a right of unilateral state secession during the 1860 campaign; when questioned about it, Breckenridge dodged and evaded.

    “Just about every major Northern newspaper editorialized in favor of the South’s right to secede.”

    This is another lie (unless Williams has a very creative definition of ‘major’). He cites Greeley – but Greeley did not endorse a legal right of secession, then or ever. At that time, he was ready to yield to a “southern revolution” like 1776 rather than fight a bloody war. (A few months later, he was the noisiest “Forward to Richmond!” man in the country.)

    Other Northern newspapers took similar positions at that time. But I doubt if it was a majority, and I very much doubt that Williams or anyone else can find more than a handful that said that secession was a legal right.

    Williams and his ilk make Lincoln out to be the most charismatic and hypnotic demagogue that ever existed; somehow, in the space of a few weeks, Lincoln converted this alleged consensus for accepting secession into a near-universal will to defeat secession, which hundreds of thousands of men willingly upheld with their blood.

    One can believe in Lincoln the Magical Mindbender. Or one can accept the mountains of historical evidence which show that nearly all Northerners, most Border state men, and even a substantial minority of Southerners denied any legal right of state secession.

    Rich Rostrom (4c8b26)

  39. Here are a few of Abraham Lincoln’s words from his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861:

    Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

    Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

    I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause—as cheerfully to one section as to another.

    ropelight (7769d0)

  40. 7 score and 13 years ago Abraham Lincoln made the case for a perpetual union, and to this day it’s the most clever presentation of the specious argument yet. (Emphasis added in bold to indicate weak, flawed, or hypocritical arguments)

    It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

    I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

    Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it—break it, so to speak—but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

    Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was “to form a more perfect Union.”

    But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

    It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

    I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

    In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.

    ropelight (7769d0)

  41. ropelight (7769d0) — 5/6/2014 @ 11:06 am:

    thinks he is being clever by quoting Lincoln’s First Inaugural.

    In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority.

    Which it was.

    The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.

    Large armed bodies of “secessionists” attacked and seized “property and places belonging to the Government”, and, by their pretended political authority, prevented “collect[ion of] the duties and imposts”. Lincoln therefore used force.

    Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object.

    Lincoln made no appointments of outsiders to Federal offices in Southern states.

    Rich Rostrom (06e025)

  42. Not clever, just accurate.

    ropelight (7769d0)

  43. The legality of secession has remained in dispute for over 225 years because clarity can’t be convincingly extracted from the historical record. That’s because had the Federalist advocates of perpetual union made their intentions known, the 1789 Constitution would never have been ratified. Consequently, fully convinced the ends justified their subterfuge, the Federalists dissembled, and left us the majority of the written records.

    (Incidentally, it’s also why we find prominent Founders, like Madison, talking out of both sides of their mouths depending on the occasion and on the audience they were attempting to sway. And by extension, it’s also why partisans on both sides of the issue who myopically rely on surviving contemporaneous accounts end up chasing their tails.)

    Secession is one of the unresolved major fault lines running through our Union of sovereign states, and over 150 years ago it took an exceptionally bloody and divisive war to temporarily set the issue aside, however secession remains an active option and could again divide the nation if the federal government continues to usurp the rights and responsibilities of the states and of the people.

    Since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal followed by the assassination of John F Kennedy the federal government’s role has become evermore that of a demanding master harshly ruling over the people instead of their obedient and faithful servant. If federal oppression continues the issue of secession will soon again rise to the surface, shake the foundations of our nation, and set the date for our inevitable rendezvous with destiny.

    ropelight (66d267)


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