State Secession: The Redress of Grievances

Secession is much in the thoughts and on the lips of many Americans today. We all witnessed “tea parties” on April 15th across the nation as people expressed their disgust with government and confiscatory taxation. On that day, Texas Governor Rick Perry actually made comments in favor of Texas secession. He was widely derided by the national media.

Look back at the plight of the American colonies in the 18th century. They experienced heavy taxation and ever-increasing regulation from King George. Their individual rights as English citizens were trampled or ignored. In individual colonies, small minorities of colonial citizens banded together to seek independence from England.  Only after repeated abuses from the King, and repeated entreaties to the King went unheard, did the colonies band together and secede, each colony declaring that it was a sovereign nation.

All through the first 60 years of the 19th century, state secession was a recurring topic. During the Andrew Jackson presidency in 1832, South Carolina advanced the concept of nullification, stating that it had the right to nullify high Federal tariffs, and that it also had the right to secede from the Union. Jackson fought and won this battle over nullification and secession.

But secession reared its head again in the late 1861 when the eleven Southern states did secede and form the Confederate States of America, a sovereign nation.

In each instance, patriots sought peaceful and legal means to resolve their differences.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he wrote that “they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” He wrote that “Governments long established should not be changed for light or transient causes,” but that they had a “duty to throw off such government.” Much of the remainder of the document was the listing of the tyrannical acts of the King, and the actions of the colonies to gain a remedy. Then he says that “Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” Finally, Jefferson summarizes by asserting that each state is, and by right ought to be, free and independent states.

In the coming days, some American state may actually give secession some serious thought. Along that line, I make the following observations.

State legislatures that intend to give serious debate and credence to the idea of secession from the United States of America must not do so lightly. Rick Perry of Texas was not serious about a new Republic of Texas. He was simply delighting a crowd with rhetoric and applause lines. His words simply kept his name in the headlines for a few days of free publicity.

A State that is serious about secession will likely begin by creating a “paper trail” showing all of the “petitions” they have made to Washington that were answered by repeated injury. They will make additional petitions with the expectation that additional injuries will ensue. This should not be a difficult task, but merely a time-consuming one.

Then, when the citizens of that State can bear no more Federal tyranny, secession and state sovereignty may appear to be the logical choice.

But I believe that the weight of the potential negative consequences of a state secession will prevent any state from actually seceding from the Union.  I do not believe that there is any one American state that will ever secede from the Union. I do not believe that that brand of courage exists anywhere in America.

I do believe that the Federal government could collapse, and then from that collapse could emerge sovereign states. But that eventuality is radically different than the 1776 or 1861 secession.

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