by Timothy Baldwin
In 1776, the American colonies determined that they had a natural right to secede from Great Britain, based upon the purpose of society and government. In addition, those brilliant and courageous leaders of each colony understood the political science of when tyranny begins/freedom ends. As a result, these Higher Laws of nature provided the most effective remedy against tyranny: independence and secession.
In Chris Wyvill’s book, “The Secession From Parliament Vindicated,” he points out that the right to secession and the determination of whether tyranny existed belong to each body-politic and to them alone. He says,
“[I]t would still be necessary that the more fatal evils of the league [between Parliament and the Crown] alluded to, should be guarded against, by allowing the Minority their Power of Appeal by SECESSION. For even in the most improved state of the Constitution, it would be impossible wholly and at all times to exclude Corruption and honest Infatuation…
“In any state of the Constitution, therefore, whether pure or depraved, SECESSION MUST BE ALLOWABLE. It is the appeal of a minority…And in this case, as in that of the Royal Appeal by Dissolution, the PEOPLE are the UMPIRE to whom the Appeal is made. It is a measure consonant with the principles of the Constitution; and it may be absolutely necessary, as the only possibly Preventive of Ruin.”
Reflective of the Declaration of Independence, this passage expresses the notion that people have a right to be free from tyranny. Now, the U.S. Constitution does not define tyranny, nor does it define freedom. Neither did Great Britain’s constitution in 1775 define the same. These are concepts outside the pact of the constitution and are based upon natural law. They inherently carry with them the right of a state/body-politic to govern themselves pursuant to principles of freedom and to avoid a tyrannous reign. So, what is “tyranny” and are the United States undergoing tyranny, in lesser or greater degree?
Vieira seems to suggest that the U.S. is not experiencing tyranny because, as he states, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution declares that the federal government is to provide for the common defense and general welfare and thus, as long as the federal government is trying to do that, it is not tyrannical. He states in his article:
“As [the U.S. Constitution’s] Preamble attests, the Constitution requires that the General Government ‘provide for the common defence’ and ‘promote the general Welfare’ in all of its actions—and if it tries to do so in good faith, then, by definition, those acts are not ‘tyranny’, notwithstanding that (as is almost always the case) even the most scrupulous regard for ‘the common defence’ and ‘the general Welfare’ cannot be expected to leave everyone in the country equally safe and well off.”
As a way of defining tyranny, and thus, deterministically deciding whether or not the states have a basis to secede (based upon natural law), Vieira comes to his conclusion of, there is no basis, by quoting John Locke’s description of tyranny:
“Tyranny is the exercise of Power beyond Right, which no Body can have a Right to. And this is making use of Power any one has in his hands; not for the good of those, who are under it, but for his own private separate Advantage.”
Apparently, according to Vieira, as long as the government is executing laws, regulations, restrictions, mandates, etc., in the name of “doing good,” then such a regime and such acts are not tyrannous, regardless of effect. This maxim (“so long as they are intending to do good…”) is a practice and notion rejected by American jurists and bodies-politic, as reflected in the Declaration of Independence.
In addition to Vieira’s flawed definition of tyranny, I must point out the fallible implication made by Vieira regarding this conclusion, and that is: as long as the federal government has “good intent,” no state has a right to secede through the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence because the federal government’s “good intent” would deny the State’s natural right to secede as there would be “no tyranny;” and if there is no tyranny, there is no natural right to secede.
This conclusion is, once again, very dangerous to the American ideal of freedom as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, because as long as the federal government declares its “good intent,” then no matter how objectively destructive the results are from the rule of the federal government, the states are bound to stay within the union because there would be no natural right to secede.
The practical effect: if a state attempted to secede based upon the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the dissenting states and federal government simply ask the question: “does the federal government have ‘good intent/faith’?” Their answer: “Why of course the federal government has good faith!…Oh sure, things are not perfect, but we are trying to make things good for you, we promise…We even pinky swear to you.” Consequently, they would reject that a natural right existed; declare war on that seceding state; and force that state back into the union by whatever means necessary, just as Great Britain attempted to do with the seceding colonies.
But as will be seen in the next article, Vieira’s conclusions are not only wrong, but the definition of tyranny he explains is completely incorrect.
 Christopher Wyvill, The Secession From Parliament Vindicated, 2nd edition, (York, L. Lund, Little-Stonegate, 1799), 9-11.
 Dr. Edwin Vieira, “Thoughts on Part Twelve of ‘A Concurring Opinion’,” NewsWithViews (April 8, 2010), found at http://www.newswithviews.com/Vieira/edwin221.htm.