A Dissenting Opinion on Secession Part III

February 12, 2010

PART 3 of 3

By Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., Ph.D., J.D.

(Editor’s Note: To be truly informed, one needs to know both sides of an argument.)

Moreover, a State bent on “secession” would have to adopt her alternative sound currency well before “secession” took place, because the State’s own operations and her private free market would have to be allowed ample time in which to introduce the new currency, to create a set of prices in the new currency for both public and private goods, to make average people comfortable with using the new currency in their day-to-day transactions, and to develop new private institutions such as deposit- and loan-banks dealing in the new currency. This process could not reasonably be expected to occur in the midst of a currency crisis exacerbated by the political crisis “secession” itself would cause.

It is useless to suggest (as doubtlessly some people nonetheless will) that a “seceding” State could set up her own “State bank”, similar to the institution North Dakota established long ago. True enough, if prudently managed, a “State bank”—or any private bank, for that matter—can operate with Federal Reserve Notes (and deposits solvable in such notes) as its currency, but only until a currency crisis breaks out. At that point, what could such a bank do—when the “soundness” of its own operations (which to some degree it can control) are inextricably tied to the “soundness” of the Federal Reserve’s currency (which it cannot control at all)—except be swept away with the rest of the economy in a tsunami of hyperinflation, or be buried under the rubble of a depression, or suffer both fates, one immediately after the other? And the “soundness” of the Federal Reserve Note (such as it is) being entirely within the hands of the Federal Reserve System and the other “usual suspects” in the fiat-currency racket, how could such a bank protect itself against such an eventuality, unless well before that eventuality occurred it had adopted an alternative, economically sound currency? Of course, once upon a time, this may have been only a long-term consideration. But the long term has always had a disquieting propensity for suddenly and unexpectedly showing up in the short term. And now, as to America’s monetary and banking systems, the long term has arrived, and with a vengeance.

b. A “seceding” State would have to hold the Power of the Sword, too, firmly within her own grasp, because upon the exercise of that power would depend all of her “homeland security”. For the principle the Second Amendment sets out—that “[a] well regulated Militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State”—would apply just as much to a wholly independent State as to a State still within the Union. Indeed, it probably would apply to a “seceding” State to an even greater degree—because, if rogue officials in the General Government did not acquiesce in “secession”, the “seceding” State could expect those officials to dispatch their armed agents to attempt to prove the impotence and futility of “secession” by enforcing the General Government’s laws directly against the State’s individual citizens, even within the State’s own territory, as if “secession” had never occurred.

The credibility of resistance against this kind of aggression, and therefore the extent to which officials within the General Government might be deterred from such a reckless course, would inevitably depend upon the extent of the “seceding” State’s actual preparedness and her citizens’ manifest will to defend themselves. Obviously, that the State had organized, armed, and disciplined almost her entire adult population in a Militia according to the old constitutional pattern would provide the most convincing evidence of all that the State “meant business” in a manner that could not be misinterpreted.

But, of course, as with the adoption of an alternative currency, the establishment—or as modern America’s Colonial forebears would have termed it, the “settling”—of “[a] well regulated Militia” could not be put off until the final confrontation between the “seceding” State and rogue officials in the General Government took place. To have any hope of serving as a credible deterrent, let alone a force capable of meaningful resistance should deterrence fail, the State’s Militia would have to be in place and fully functional well before “secession” occurred—indeed, even before “secession” were seriously considered. For, in the midst of the manifold crises arising out of “secession”, far too little time for calm reflection and careful preparation would be left in which to settle the Militia properly.

It is ridiculous to contend (as some people nonetheless will) that, “militia” being a term routinely demonized today by the big media and various subversive special-interest groups, the settling of a proper Militia along true constitutional lines is politically impossible at the present time, and therefore simply cannot be considered a practical condition precedent to “secession”. If so, then what is the likelihood that “secession” itself is politically possible today? Or will be tomorrow? Or will be at any time before revitalization of the Militia becomes politically possible? Is “secession” a term any less demonized and vilified than “militia”? And if “secession” without revitalization of the Militia is not possible at all (which common sense confirms), but revitalization of the Militia is not possible in the foreseeable future (which the nay-sayers contend), then what is the point of talking about “secession” until revitalization of the Militia somehow finally becomes possible?

C. Perhaps the conclusive argument along these lines against “secession” is that, if the absolutely necessary precondition for possibly successful “secession” did obtain—namely, that a State contemplating “secession” had first acquired firm control in her own hands of the Power of the Purse and the Power of the Sword—further talk of “secession” would almost surely abate, because it would become purposeless. For once a State had proven that adoption of an alternative currency and revitalization of her constitutional Militia were possible—and once the positive effects on that State’s ability to control her own economic and political destiny within the present constitutional system from such adoption and revitalization had appeared for all America to witness—then these reforms would rapidly spread from State to State across the country, until the reassertion of true federalism by the States and WE THE PEOPLE themselves became a fait accompli beyond the ability of rogue officials in the General Government even to challenge, let alone to reverse. (Of course, perhaps “secessionists” could then take some credit for this result, on the grounds that their agitation had caused patriots to study the matter and come to the conclusion that, before “secession” could ever be viable, and even to render “secession” irrelevant, the States had to reassert their control over the Powers of the Purse and the Sword.)

D. Finally, not a few proponents of “secession” contend that reasoning of the kind just presented is not to the point, because patriotic Americans now find themselves in what could be styled “a Declaration of Independence situation”, in which (as it were) “all constitutional bets are off”. In support of this argument, they emphasize the Declaration’s pronouncements that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e., men’s “certain unalienable Rights”], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness[;]
and that when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them [i.e., the People] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Now, no American—no thinking man or woman anywhere on earth—can doubt that these statements are indisputably correct: indeed, as the Declaration itself rightly characterizes them, “self-evident” “truths”. But the question remains whether they are as yet germane to America’s present political predicament.

True enough, rogue officials in the General Government (and, if the whole truth be told, in some of the States as well) have engaged and continue to engage in “a long train of abuses and usurpations, * * * evinc[ing] a design to reduce [the People] under absolute Despotism”. But, as bad as this thuggery has been, is, and threatens to be, it is not by itself conclusive evidence that America’s “Form of Government [has] become destructive” of the purposes for which WE THE PEOPLE originally instituted it.

For America’s “Form of Government” consists, not of the General Government alone, and not of the General Government and only some of the States, but instead of a federal system of government composed of the General Government, all of the States, and WE THE PEOPLE in their entirety, with THE PEOPLE themselves the executors of the highest degree of human sovereignty under “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”. So, until every component in this system has plainly “become[ ] destructive of the[ true] ends [of government]”, in a manner beyond human correction, no one can conclude with certainty that the “Form of Government” itself has irretrievably failed.
And as bad as America’s present plight may be, every component of her federal system has not failed. WE THE PEOPLE—or at least the tens and tens of millions of patriots among them throughout this country—have not engaged in or condoned rogue officialdom’s “long train of abuses and usurpations”. Many public officials in many of the States have not lent, and never would lend, their hands, their minds, or their hearts to “a[ny] design to reduce [the People] under absolute Despotism”. Even more to the point, every component of America’s federal system has not failed to provide a remedy for the present perils threatening this country, because every component of that system has not yet been fairly tried and put to the test.

Yes, the present-day Congress—and possibly the entirety of the General Government—may be political wastelands that cannot be reclaimed within the immediate future. But have WE THE PEOPLE in any single State single-mindedly organized themselves and demanded from their State legislators the adoption of an alternative currency and the revitalization of their own “well regulated Militia”? No! Have WE THE PEOPLE throughout the several States organized themselves and brought the full force of their collective talents, resources, and efforts to bear in just one or two “target” States for those purposes? No! So how can anyone reasonably condemn America’s whole “Form of Government”—as the rationalization for “secession” and the apology for all of the evils that any attempt at “secession” can be expected to entail—until those specific steps have been taken and proven unavailing?

Of course, it is not impossible that all such endeavors will fail, finally exposing popular self-government (at least in its American incarnation) as a snare and a delusion. At that point, those with a bent for political philosophy might turn to the wisdom of Augustine, who (as paraphrased by Thomas Aquinas) counseled that:

If the people have a sense of moderation and responsibility, and are most careful guardians of the common weal, it is right to enact a law allowing such a people to choose their own magistrates for the government of the commonwealth. But if, as time goes on, the same people become so corrupt as to sell their votes, and entrust the government to scoundrels and criminals, then the right of appointing their public officials is rightly forfeit to such a people; and the choice devolves to a few good men.

See De Libero Arbitrio Tres Libri, Book One, Chapter VI, §§ 45 and 46.

Yet, if patriotic Americans cannot muster the “few good men” required to convince a single State’s legislature to adopt an alternative currency and to revitalize her Militia, which are relatively simple tasks, where and when will Americans ever be able find a “few good men” to perform the far more difficult duty to which Augustine would assign them? No—if America cannot find such men now, she will never find them later on.

So, what must one conclude about “secession”? That it is an idea the time for which has not yet arrived—and the time for which need never arrive if Americans can perform the very political tasks that would be necessary for “secession” to be arguably viable at all. If Americans have an appetite for true reform now, they will do far better by directing their intellectual and other scarce resources towards the Constitution’s original “M&Ms”—sound money and “well regulated Militia”.

© 2010 Edwin Vieira, Jr. – All Rights Reserved