11 Articles On Secession

11 Articles On Secession In The US


The Secession Tradition In America

Donald W. Livingston
Nov 16, 2012

The United Nations Charter asserts the self-determination of peoples as a fundamental human right. From this, there has developed a lively debate among international jurists about whether the right of self-determination includes a right of legitimate secession.1 But while the concept of legitimate secession is being explored in the world at large, it forms no part of contemporary American political discourse. There was a time, however, when talk about secession was a part of American politics. Indeed, the very concept of secession and self-determination of peoples, in the form being discussed today, is largely an American invention. It is no exaggeration to say that the unique contribution of the eighteenth-century American Enlightenment to political thought is not federalism but the principle that a people, under certain conditions, have a moral right to secede from an established political authority and to govern themselves. In what follows I would like to sketch out this all-but-forgotten American political tradition.

The English verb “to secede” comes from the Latin “sece-dere,” meaning any act of withdrawal. The exclusively political connotations that govern the term today are peculiarly American, and do not appear in English until the early nineteenth century.2 Prior to then, one could speak of the soul seceding from the body; or of seceding from one room of a building to another; or of seceding from any sort of human fellowship. The latter is how “secession” was defined in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary in the mid-eighteenth century. But Johnson did not capture the Scottish use of the term.

The Church of Scotland split in 1733. Those who left called themselves “seceders” and the resulting Church the “Secession Church.” The Church went by this name for more than a century, during which time it split again, but was reunited in 1829 under the disarming name of the “United Secession Church.” The seceding self-governing religious community paved the way for the seceding self-governing political community and the term as we understand it today. One of the first to use the term in this new and exclusively political way was Thomas Jefferson, who, in 1825, retrospectively described the colonies as having seceded from the British Union.3

The word “secession,” for us, not only has exclusively political connotations, it is a term that marks out a peculiarly modern political act. But this is not obvious, for it might be thought that as long as there have been large-scale political regimes, peoples have sought to withdraw from them. It could be said that the Israelites seceded from Egypt, or that Melos unsuccessfully sought to secede from the Athenian League. We can, of course, speak in this way, but the concept of secession, as understood in contemporary political discourse, is more specific in its meaning. Secession, for us, presupposes the background of the modern state, and this sort ofstate is only about two centuries old. So secession is not just anykind of political action; it is the withdrawal of a people from a modern state under the moral principle of the right of self-government, and such that the separation requires the territorial dismemberment of that state. The Israelites and Melots were not separating from a modern state, and their withdrawal would not have resulted in the territorial dismemberment of such a state.

The modern state has been theorized in such a way as to entail a strong presumption against secession. It has been said that the sovereignty of a modern state cannot be divided, and that sovereignty is co-extensive with territory. There has been no difficulty in allowing that a modern state can expand its territory and sovereignty, but it cannot allow itself to be dismembered by a supposed right of a people to self-government. Anyone who takes secession seriously as a possibility is necessarily throwing into question the legitimacy of the modem state.

At the time of William the Conqueror, Europe was composed of thousands of independent political units; today there are only a few dozen. This massive centralization and consolidation was accomplished mainly by conquest. The result was that dukedoms, margraviates, small republics, principalities, free cities, and baronies, (not to mention peoples speaking different languages, having different cultures and religions, and pursuing different visions of the human good) were crushed together into the modern state. This state was inherently unstable. A solution was theorized by Hobbes, who postulated a sovereign office whose task was to establish a rule of law which allowed individuals to pursue their own power and glory in that domain in which the law is silent. In time, a modern state came to be seen as an association to protect the rights of individuals, and this added a stronger presumption against secession, because any right of a people to secede could only be the aggregate right of a set of individuals. But if one set could secede, any other set or subset — down to one individual — could secede. An acknowledged right of secession would mean the unravelling of the modern state.

But to affirm a right of secession is not to say that secession is morally justified under any conditions, but only that there can be conditions under which it is justified, and even then there might be reasons for not exercising the right. But those philosophers who first theorized the modern state (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Hegel) do not so much as raise the question of whether such conditions are possible. Their main task is to understand and legitimate the modern state; the problem of secession simply never occurs to them. And political philosophers since have followed in their steps. John Rawls, for instance, dismisses the possibility of secession without argument.4 Secessionist discontent, though a pressing fact of contemporary political life, is the most under-theorized concept in political philosophy. Political scientists and international jurisprudence have taken up the question, but philosophers have not. There is only one book length study by a philosopher on the question of whether secession is ever morally legitimate.5

One indication of this under-theorized character of secession is its being confused with revolution. Three conceptions of revolution have dominated in modern political speech. The first derives from the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This is revolution as restoration, and its image is the revolution of a wheel. According to eighteenth-century English Whiggism, the Glorious Revolution was a bloodless restoration of a liberty-loving Protestant regime from the attempted usurpations of the Catholic James II. The second form is Lockean revolution. Here a sovereign people recall the powers they have delegated to a government that has violated its trust in protecting life, liberty, and property. The government is overthrown and a new government instituted. The third form is Jacobin revolution. This is not Lockean revolution for the sake of preserving property but an attempt to subvert and to totally transform an entire social and political order in accord with an egalitarian philosophical theory. A Lockean revolution leaves the social order intact, whereas Jacobin revolution aims at a root-and-branch transformation. Marxian revolution is Jacobin, as are many other forms of contemporary political criticism. Gloria Steinem once said that to talk about reforms for women is one thing, to talk about the total transformation of society is feminism. So conceived, feminism is a species of Jacobin revolution.

Secession is quite distinct from these dominant conceptions of revolution. All presuppose the theory of sovereignty internal to the modern state and the prohibition against dismembering its territory. Secession is not revolution in the sense of eighteenth-century Whiggism because it is not the restoration of anything. It is the dismemberment of a modern state in the name of self-governmerit. Nor is it Lockean revolution. A seceding people does not necessarily claim that a government has violated its trust. And even if the claim is made, there is no attempt to overthrow the government and replace it with a better one. Indeed, a seceding people may even think that the government is not especially unjust. What they seek, however, is to be left alone to govern themselves as they see fit. Finally, secession is not Jacobin revolution because it does not seek to totally transform the social and political order. Indeed, it seeks to preserve its social order through secession and self-government.

We may, of course, continue to call secession “revolution” if we like, but the danger is that there will be a tendency to confuse it with the dominant meanings of revolution. A seceding people may indeed be said to be in a state of revolt in so far as they resist being coerced back into an established modern state, but this sort of revolt is quite different from revolution. And the moral considerations that would legitimate such resistance are categorically different from that which would legitimate revolution in the above senses, all of which seek, for different reasons, to overthrow an established regime. A seceding people is happy leaving the existing regime exactly as it is. It seeks only to limit its territorial jurisdiction. This, of course, is a serious matter, but it is not revolution in any of the traditional senses. Its name is secession.

Nowhere is the under-theorized character of secession and the confusion that results from failure to distinguish it from revolution more evident than in the habit of describing the conflict with Britain and the North American colonies as the “American Revolution.” It is true that there were whiggish themes from the ideology of 1688 about restoring the rights of Englishmen, and there were Lockean themes about self-government. But the act of the British colonists in America was an act of secession. It was neither whiggish, nor Lockean, nor Jacobin revolution. The colonists did not seek to overthrow the British government. Commons, Lords, and Crown were to remain exactly as before. Indeed, many of the colonial leaders, such as Adams and Hamilton, admired the British constitution and government, and sought to imitate its best features. They wished simply to limit its jurisdiction over the territory they occupied. They wished to be let alone.

Much has been made of the influence the Lockean idiom of self-government had on the Founders. But it is important to realize that, though Locke allows the overthrow of a corrupt regime, he does not allow secession in the form of dismembering the territory of a modern state. And for citizens of a regime who have given their express consent, he does not even allow the right to exit, much less the right to carry territory with them.6 There is every reason to believe that Locke, like the “friends of America” (Burke, Pitt, Shelburne, Barre), would have supported reforms on behalf of the Americans, but would have stopped short of secession.

The case is quite otherwise with David Hume, who supported “complete independence for the colonies as early as 1768, before the idea had occurred to most Americans. In this he stood virtually alone among major British thinkers. The Edinburgh literati were overwhelming in their support for strong measures against the Americans. Hume, however, staunchly defended secession of the colonies from 1768 until his death on 25 August 1776, five days after the Declaration of Independence was published in Edinburgh’s Caledonian Mercury. To the disappointment of his “oldest and dearest friend,” Baron Mure, who had asked him to write a letter on behalf of the county of Renfrewshire advocating military measures against the Americans, Hume wrote: “I am an American in my Principles, and wish we would let them alone to govern or misgovern themselves as they think proper.”7

In this statement, Hume put into words, for the first time, an ideology of “Americanism,” the thought that there are political principles specifically American. What were those principles? They were free trade and the corporate liberty of a people to govern themselves. Hume argued that if the ports of America were open to free trade, it would result in only a trifling temporary loss of revenue, and would, in the long run, benefit British commerce.

Let us, therefore, lay aside all Anger; shake hands, and part Friends. Or if we retain any anger, let it only be against ourselves for our past Folly; and against that wicked Madman Pitt; who has reduced us to our present Condition.8

This Humean notion of Americanism that acknowledges the right of a self-governing people to secede is framed in the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is primarily a document justifying secession, but it has been thoroughly corrupted by Lincoln’s reading of it and the ritualistic repetition and expansion of that reading. The Lincoln tradition reads the Declaration as affirming a metaphysical doctrine of individual rights (all men are created equal) and takes this to be the fundamental symbol of the American regime, trumping all other symbols, including the symbol of moral excellence internal to those inherited moral communities protected by the reserved powers of the states under the Tenth Amendment. Indeed, this tradition holds that the Declaration of Independence is superior to the Constitution itself, for being mere positive law, the Constitution can always be trumped by the “higher” metaphysical law of equality.

The Constitution of the United States was founded as a federative compact between the states, marking out the authority of a central government, having enumerated powers delegated to it by sovereign states which reserved for themselves the vast domain of unenumerated powers. By an act of philosophical alchemy, the Lincoln tradition has transmuted this essentially federative document into a consolidated nationalist regime having as its telos the instantiation of an abstract metaphysical proposition about equality. Such a proposition, in so far as it is taken seriously, must give rise to endless antinomic interpretations, and being metaphysical, these interpretations must stand in ultimate and implacable opposition. In this vision, the reserved powers of the states vanish, and the states themselves are transformed into resources for and administrative units of a nationalist political project “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” So well established has this inversion become that Mortimer Adler could write a book on the Constitution using for the title not the words of the Constitution, but those of the Lincolnian Declaration: “We Hold These Truths. . . .”9

Lincoln’s vision of a consolidated nationalism in pursuit of an antinomic doctrine of equality had its roots in the French Revolution, which sought to unify the decentralized traditional order of France into a consolidated nationalism in pursuit of the rights of man. But Lincoln’s vision was also forward looking. By the 1830s, the forces of nationalism and industrialism were sweeping Europe, and had begun to have an impact on an industrial North all too eager to compete on the world stage with the empires of Europe. For this project, centralization and consolidation were necessary. Lincoln’s vision of consolidating the states into a nationalist regime was of a piece with that of Garibaldi in Italy, Bismarck in Germany, Lenin in Russia, and the general consolidating, industrializing, and imperializing forces on the move in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

But the Declaration was published before the forces of industrialism and nationalism had appeared. Rhetorically, the document is a lawyer’s brief designed to justify breaking the “bands” that had tied one people politically to another. And the people in question were not (as Story, Webster, and Lincoln would claim) the American people in the mass, but the peoples of the former colonies now declared to be separate and independent states but united in their resolve to resist coercion back into the British empire. Overall, the Declaration is an argument designed to justify the secession of the new self-proclaimed American states from the British state. The rights asserted are not the rights of individuals in a continental nationalist political society, but the corporate right of the “people” of the several states to govern themselves. And the equality mentioned is the equality of the people of the separate states, now grown to maturity, to take their place among the nations of the world; in a word, that the people of Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, etc., are equal to the people of Holland or France or Britain, and are to be recognized as such.

The Declaration, then, is a document justifying the territorial dismemberment of a modern state in the name of the moral right of a people to self-government. It is not primarily an argument for individual rights, but rather an argument for the corporate rights of distinct moral and political societies. This theme of corporate liberty shaped the first constitution Americans made for themselves, the Articles of Confederation, which styled itself a “league of friendship” between sovereign states. No mention was made of individual rights, as the Articles had no authority to enforce them. Individual rights, of course, were very important to Americans, but what those rights were and how they were to be protected were the prerogatives of the states and were clearly specified in their respective Constitutions.

The new Constitution, ratified in 1789, delegated enumerated powers to a central government whose laws would be supreme on matters of foreign treaties, defense, and regulation of foreign and interstate commerce. The Bill of Rights was added not as a massive grant of power to the central government to enable it to police supposed violations of individuals’ rights by the states (as it is corruptly interpreted today), but primarily to protect the moral and political societies of the states from the inevitable tendency of the central government to engross more power than had been granted to it. The capstone and meaning of the Bill of Rights is the Tenth Amendment, which affirms the sovereignty of the states in declaring the powers of the central government to be enumerated and “delegated.”

The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the first political meaning of “secession” in the secession of the southern states from the American Union. The Australian Constitution was formed with the American experience of federation and secession in mind.10 And contemporary attempts to frame a theory of secession often return to the secession of the southern states as the primal scene in which the modern concept first appears and from which theorizing takes its bearings. But the term secession in this exclusively political and modern sense is used much earlier. Throughout the antebellum period secession was used, North and South, to describe a moral and legal action available to an American state. In this American speech, the modern concept of the right of a people to self-determination and the right of secession is theorized for the first time and publicly explored. This act, as we have seen, was spiritualized by Hume into what he called an American principle, namely the right of a people “to govern or misgovern themselves as they think proper.” Neither Hume nor the Americans, at this time, used the term secession in its exclusively political and modern sense. But by the early nineteenth century, Americans were describing the break with Britain as secession, and they began to raise the question of the conditions under which an American state could legally secede. But speech and theorizing about secession as the last moral and legal right available to an American state and the vibrant federal life it made possible abruptly ended with the defeat of the Confederacy and the triumph of a consolidated nationalist Union that began the adventure of empire building in competition with the European empires. During this period of “manifest destiny,” “the big stick,” and empire building, few in America, or Europe, would be interested in thinking about the self-determination of peoples or the right of secession.

Thought about secession and self-determination did not occur again until Woodrow Wilson brought the issue before the League of Nations. The results were not always happy, but the agenda stuck. It was revived after World War II in the United Nations, and is the primary form under which the self-determination of peoples is discussed in the world today. The concept of legitimate secession, first framed and explored by Americans, is very much alive and is throwing into question the modern consolidated Leviathan. United States government policy, however, unhappily has been on the side of the status quo. The government of the United States has resisted every secession movement in the world since World War II, and was among the last to recognize the seceding states of the Soviet Union.

One reason why Americans have difficulty even thinking about secession is that since 1865, they have been taught and have come to believe the triumphant Unionist theory of their own constitutional order. According to that theory, the break with England threw the colonists into a state of nature from which they spontaneously formed the political society of the American people in the aggregate. This body was sovereign and created a central government. This government, in turn, authorized the formation of thirteen state governments as administrative units through which the sovereign will could be best expressed. In this view, an American state never possessed the attributes of sovereignty and so could not legally secede from the Union any more than a county could legally secede from a state. The classic formulation of the nationalist theory was given by Justice Story in the 1830s; it was eloquently defended by Webster and was established in the world with a writ of fire and sword by Lincoln.11 Despite this distinguished pedigree, however, the theory is not only false, but spectacularly so.

The main error of the Unionist theory is the claim that the states were never sovereign. Each state, however, declared its sovereignty and independence from Britain on its own, and during the war each engaged in acts of sovereignty. After the war, each state was recognized by name as sovereign by the British government. These sovereign states formed the Articles of Confederation in which, again, the sovereignty of each was asserted and mutually recognized. Although the Articles of Confederation were supposed to be perpetual and could not be changed without unanimous consent, a number of states nonetheless sought to dissolve the Union. It was agreed (though not unanimously, since Rhode Island vetoed the Convention) that if nine states seceded and ratified the proposed constitution, a new Union would obtain between the nine seceding states. This was done, and by an act of secession the Union was dissolved leaving North Carolina, Virginia, Rhode Island, and New York to form a new union or to remain separate and independent states. Eventually, though reluctantly, all four entered. But Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island declared in their ordinances of ratification that, being sovereign states, they individually reserved the right to secede, and they asserted this right for the other states. This did not have to be asserted, since everyone knew that secession was an action available to an American state.12 If, at the time of ratification, Lincoln’s theory had been stated that the states were not and had never been sovereign, and that once in the Union a state could not leave, there would have been no Union.

It has been said that the constitution of the Soviet Union was the first to recognize explicitly the legal right of secession in a modern state. Strictly speaking this is true. Article 17 of the Soviet Constitution declares that “the right freely to secede from the U.S.S.R. is reserved to every Union republic.” A right of secession was not written into the U.S. Constitution, but the authority of the Constitution consists solely in acts of ratification by sovereign states. In writing into their ordinances of ratification the right to withdraw those powers delegated to the central government, Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island may be said to have framed a right of secession in the constitutional compact. Marxist jurists from the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations took the lead in the international forum in arguing for secession as a moral and legal right.13Much of this was hypocrisy at the service of Soviet policy, but it was no more hypocritical than Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that presents the conflict of 1861-65 as an earth-shaking war to make the world safe for self-government, when he was engaged in a total war aimed at the civilian population of the South, and designed to suppress their efforts at self-government. The irony is complete when we consider that the Soviets eventually did allow the secession of states (something that caused nervous tremors in the Bush administration). Perhaps over time, as sometimes happens, the Soviets were partially converted by their own hypocrisy.

From the very first, secession was conceived as the last check an American state had to an abuse of those enumerated powers that had been delegated out of its sovereignty to the central government. From its beginning until 1865, secession was invoked by every section of the Union. And the section that first and most often raised the threat of secession was not the South but New England. Secession was threatened over the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the embargo of 1807-09, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. New Englanders refused to send troops in the second war with England, and seriously considered forming a New England Confederacy at the Hartford Convention in 1815.14 From the 1830s until 1861, New England abolitionists argued strongly for secession of the northern states from the Union. The following resolutions were passed by the American Anti-Slavery Society: “Resolved, that secession from the United States Government is the duty of every Abolitionist. . . .” And Resolved, “That the Abolitionists of this country should make it one of the primary objects of this agitation to dissolve the American Union.”15

One of the early studies of the Constitution was A View of the Constitution, published in 1825 by William Rawle, a Federalist who was a leader of the Pennsylvania bar and had twice been offered the position of district attorney by George Washington, but had refused for personal reasons. Rawle raised the issue of whether a state could form a hereditary monarchy. He answered that since the people of a state are sovereign, they could, but the state would have to secede from the Union, since the Constitution guarantees to each state a republican form of government. He then laid out the formal conditions under which a state could unilaterally and legally secede from the Union.16 Rawle’s work on the Constitution was widely respected, and was used as a textbook at West Point from 1825-1840.

In 1840, Abel Upshur, a distinguished Virginia jurist and Secretary of State under Tyler, published A Brief Enquiry into the True Nature and Character of our Federal Government. This was an unanswerable criticism of Judge Joseph Story’s theory of federalism in Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833). Story systematically inverted the received opinion that the Constitution is a compact between sovereign states creating a central government and delegating to it only enumerated powers. Story argued that sovereignty is vested in the American people in aggregate, that the states had never been sovereign, and that in fact it was the central government that had created the states. The inversion was breathtaking, and it was this aggressive nationalist theory that Webster (who began his career as a compact theorist and as a New England secessionist) would popularize by his eloquence, and that Lincoln would seek to establish by war. Upshur has no difficulty in demolishing it as a historical theory of the Constitution. He sees clearly where a centralized and consolidated regime in the vast territory of America, with its heterogeneous interests and cultures, must eventually lead; namely, to the destruction of the states as the only,constitutional protection for those substantial moral communities, local attachments, and particularities in which virtue has its source and where alone it can be tested and lived out. In subverting Story’s inversion and by re-establishing the traditional theory that the Constitution is a compact between the states, Upshur had occasion to argue that an American state could legally secede from the Union.

Foreign writers who had studied the Constitution concluded that a state could secede from the compact. Tocqueville wrote:

The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and in uniting together they have not forfeited their nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people. If one of the States chooses to withdraw from the compact, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so, and the Federal Government would have no means of maintaining its claims directly either by force or right.17

Lord Brougham, in his magisterial, multi-volume study of constitutions published in 1849, considered the Constitution as a compact from which a state could secede:

There is not, as with us, a government only and its subjects to be regarded; but a number of Governments, of States having each a separate and substantive, and even independent existence originally thirteen, now six and twenty and each having a legislature of its own, with laws differing from those of the other States. It is plainly impossible to consider the Constitution which professes to govern this Union, this Federacy of States, as any thing other than a treaty.18

He accordingly refers to the Union as the “Great League.” And Dr. Mackay, another English scholar of the Constitution, writing in the mid-nineteenth century, observed that

The Federal Government exists on sufferance only. Any state may at any time constitutionally withdraw from the Union and thus virtually dissolve it. It was not certainly created with the idea that the states, or several of them, would desire a separation; but whenever they choose to do it, they have no obstacle in the Constitution.19

During the 1850s, this Great League was coming apart, and a movement arose among prominent national and state leaders in the mid-Atlantic states to form what was called a “Central Confederacy.” This new Union would be composed of such states as Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. This section constituted the conservative core of the Union, it was argued, and had interests different from the radicals of New England and the Gulf states. The formation of a Central Confederacy could prevent war and could serve as a rallying point around which the disaffected states of the deep South could one day return should they secede.20 It is interesting that the proponents of the new Union showed little interest in including the New England states. Perhaps part of the reason was disgust over the long hibstory of secession movements that had arisen in that region.

The mayor of New York, Fernando Wood, and others argued that if New York state seceded, the city should secede from the state and declare itself a free city. The mayor declared,

As a free city, with but nominal duty on imports, the local Government could be supported without taxation upon her people. Thus we could live free from taxes, and have cheap goods nearly duty free.21

Right up to the firing on Fort Sumter, many abolitionists in the North, having long argued for northern secession, were prepared to allow the South peacefully to secede. This was the position in New York of the Douglass Monthly,22 printed by Frederick Douglass, and of Horace Greeley, editor of the Republican New York Tribune, who declared 23 February 1861, after the Confederacy was formed,

We have repeatedly said … that the great principle embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, is sound and just; and that if the slave States, the cotton States, or the gulf States only, choose to form an independent nation, They have a clear moral right to do so. Whenever it shall be clear that the great body of Southern people have become conclusively alienated from the Union, and anxious to escape from it, we will do our best to forward their views.23

And John Quincy Adams, though a staunch unionist, declared in 1839, in a speech celebrating the Jubilee of the Constitution,

The indissoluble link of union between the people of the several states of this confederated nation is, after all, not in the right but in the heart. If the day should ever come (may Heaven avert it!) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interests shall fester into hatred, the bands of political associations will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; and far better will it be for the people of the disunited states to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect Union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the center.24

Four years after this speech, the former President would sign a document with other New England leaders declaring that annexation of Texas would mean the dissolution of the Union.

Pondering the secessionist movements in New England, Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816 with characteristic liberality: “If any state in the Union will declare that it prefers separation . . . to a continuance in union … I have no hesitation in saying, ‘let us separate.’”25 On the eve of the War Between the States, the majority of northerners appeared to have believed either that a state could legally secede or that one should acquiesce in peaceful de facto secession. How northern opinion quickly changed sufficiently to support invasion is a complicated story that cannot be told here, but it would contain the following themes.

First and most crucial was Lincoln’s early decision to make war against the southern states should they secede. In 1856, he had told southerners who asserted their right to secede:

We won’t let you. With the purse and sword, the army and navy and treasury in our hands and at our command, you couldn’t do it.26

President James Buchanan, who preceded Lincoln, had declared that the central government had no authority to coerce a seceding state, but Lincoln stated privately that he would retake the forts Buchanan had allowed to pass back to state control. In the first draft of his first inaugural address, Lincoln was prepared to make this intention public: “All the power at my disposal will be used to reclaim the public property and places that have fallen.”27 Lincoln refused to negotiate with Confederate commissioners to pay for federal property and to establish a trade treaty, and he, thus, encouraged the public impression that the Confederates were lawless aggressors who had stolen federal property and threatened invasion of the North.

Second, the ineptitude of southern leaders, and their bellicose speech and policies (such as allowing themselves to be lured into firing on Ft. Sumter), played into Lincoln’s hands by inflaming northern nationalism.

Third was the venality of northern commercial classes, who were happy to have the South to fund some three-quarters of the federal revenue, but were unwilling to allow a low-tariff zone on their southern border. The economic differences between North and South were stark. By 1860, agriculture still accounted for some seventy-five percent of American exports and most all of it came from the South. Trading on an unprotected world market, the South required a policy of free trade. The North, having just industrialized, was guided by a vision of a vast continental market for manufacturing, which required a policy of prohibitive tariffs. For three decades, southerners had complained about the injustice of tariffs protecting northern manufactures, because the tariffs resulted not only in a drain of wealth from the South to the North but also because southern trading partners, whose manufactures became prohibitively high for exchange for southern staples, were forced to find staples elsewhere. Once the northern industrial section got control of Congress, the average rate on goods subject to duties rose from the 1860 rate of 18.84 percent to a spectacular high of 46.56 percent in 1865. The tariff did not drop below 40 percent until World War I, except for two years when it was 38 percent. After the war, it rose again under Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover.28 This brutal and unjust policy dealt a crippling blow to the southern agricultural export trade, which was vastly greater than what northern markets could absorb.

Interstate commerce regulations passed late in the nineteenth century discriminated against southern manufacturing by, among other things, fixing rail rates and steel prices so that goods manufactured in the South would not be able to undercut northern manufactures.29 These were not abolished until the 1940s when the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. The National Banking Acts of 1863, 1864, and 1865 created a new national currency, secured by the public debt, and drove state bank notes out of circulation. Once the central government and its national banks had the authority to control the money supply, the financial destruction of American federalism was complete. This revolution in finance discouraged the formation of banks in farming communities and worked to transfer bank funds from agriculture to industry. As historian Robert Sharkey wrote,

Human ingenuity would have had difficulty in contriving a more perfect engine for class and sectional exploitation: creditors finally obtaining the upper hand as opposed to debtors, and the developed East holding the whip over the undeveloped West and South.30

All of this turned out to be much worse than what John C. Calhoun predicted would happen if the American federation of republics was transmuted into a consolidated nationalism dominated by a northern industrial class.

The brief constitutional history I have sketched that views secession as part of the checks and balances system of American federalism is unknown to most Americans. The reason is that we have come to believe the absurd nationalist theory of the Constitution propounded by Story and Webster and used by Lincoln to legitimate invasion of the South. Lincoln said he had taken an oath to preserve the Union, but he was mistaken. He had taken not an oath to preserve the Union, but rather an oath to preserve the Constitution, and the Constitution did not in 1861, and does not now, prohibit the secession of an American state.

The consolidated nationalism that Story, Webster, and Lincoln put forth as the Constitution was not the Constitution they had inherited. That instrument was a compact between sovereign states creating a central government having only enumerated powers. The instrument they put forth was an imagined and constitution at the service of an emerging industrial class. In this view, the states were reduced to little more than counties in a nationalist regime, and the central government emerged as unlimited in power if supported by a majority. Such a government could not only interfere with slavery by taxing it out of existence, it could do much else besides. Tariffs to protect northern industry had drained the South of wealth for over than thirty years. Further, the South was the source of most of the federal revenue, and this was exploited by a northern majority for improving its infrastructure. The South had generally been opposed to internal improvements, claiming that such powers had never been granted to the central government, and it was thought that if such powers were assumed, a scene of endless patronage and corruption would ensue without parallel in history.

Southern colonies had seceded from Britain because they refused to be a source of revenue for a consolidated British empire centered in London. That act was still vivid in the historical memory of southerners (for example, “Lighthorse” Harry Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee, was a Revolutionary War hero and a friend of George Washington). As such, southerners in 1861 were not prepared to be a source of revenue for a northern industrial version of a consolidated empire centered in Washington. Indeed, the very idea of Washington as the “capital” came after the failure of the war for southern independence. In the antebellum period, Washington was generally thought of as the “seat” of the central government, as when one speaks of a town being the seat of the county government, or of Strasbourg and New York as the seats, respectively, of the European Union, and the United Nations. Washington was the seat of a central government having only enumerated powers; it was not the capital of anything.

Likewise it is wrong to describe the conflict of 1861-1865 as the “Civil War.” The exemplar of a civil war is the English Civil War. That war was a struggle, within a modern state, by two factions (Crown and Parliament) for control of the same government. But the federation of American states was not itself a modern state any more than the European Union is a modern state. Its central government had only enumerated powers delegated to it by the sovereign states. But Virginia, New York, etc., were modern states, each of which contained the presumption against the secession of its parts. And the struggle that occurred was not between two factions seeking control of the same government. Rather, it was between one group of states exercising their federative power to withdraw from the federation and govern themselves, and another group of states seeking to conquer and govern them. The Great Seal of the Confederacy bears an equestrian statue of George Washington, the symbol of secession from the British empire. Just as the break with Britain was not a revolution but an act of secession, so the break with the North was not an act of treason issuing in civil war, but an act of secession issuing in conquest by the North. That both conflicts are frequently misdescribed points again to the under-theorized character of secession.

But there is another difference between the conflicts. During the American Revolution, the American colonies could appeal only to a moral argument to legitimate secession. Having more or less governed themselves for more than a century, and having acquired the character of a people, they claimed that they had acquired a title to full self-government. But the colonies were not and never had been recognized as sovereign states, either by others or even by themselves. At the time of the Civil War, however, the southern states had been and still were sovereign states, and so they could mount not only a moral argument but a legal one as well. And it was the legal argument they primarily insisted upon. Each state used the same legal form to secede from the Union that it had used to enter, namely, ratification in a convention of the people. In some cases, the decisions of these conventions were put to referenda. Of those southerners who were opposed to secession, including Robert E. Lee, the great majority of them recognized the legitimacy of the conventions and supported their states, to which, under the compact theory of the Constitution, they owed their primary allegiance.

With the orderly, legal secession of the southern states, the American genius for self-government reached its highest moral expression. Here was something unprecedented in history; a vast continental empire of republics torn by sectional, economic, and moral conflicts seeking to settle its differences not by war, but by peaceful secession of eleven contiguous republics, legitimated by the consent of the people. This was the very thing that, in 1840, John Quincy Adams said might be necessary in the future, and which the American commitment to self-government of peoples would legitimate, rather than a Union held together by bayonets. It was this also that President Buchanan had in mind when, although opposed to secession, he declared that the central government had no authority to coerce a seceding state. The same doctrine was asserted by Madison and Hamilton in the Federalist. Lincoln, however, like George III, was determined on coercion, but unlike the latter, he was also prepared to launch total war against the civilian population of the South to achieve the goal of a consolidated nationalism.

With Lincoln, then, a radical break occurs between the older Americanism that was grounded in the natural rights of substantial moral communities to govern themselves and a new Americanism grounded in the centralization and consolidation of power, and like the French Revolution, dedicated to an egalitarian doctrine of individualism. This doctrine, wherever it has been applied in the world, has required the destruction of independent social authorities and moral communities and the massive consolidation of power needed to achieve such destruction. Lincoln was a man of his age, and it was an age of unashamed empire building and of the coercion of independent political societies into consolidated unions. What Bismarck was accomplishing in Germany with a policy of “blood and iron,” and what Lenin would accomplish in Russia, Lincoln had accomplished in America. Lincoln did not preserve an organic indivisible union from destruction because he did not inherit one; rather, like Bismarck, he created one.

Why did the southern states secede? This is a question best answered by examining closely the Constitution of the Confederacy, which bears not only the imprint of the southern conception of self-government but also their grievances against the North. Though there is no space to do that here, a few points are worth making. Southerners were loyal to the Constitution of the Founders. What they objected to was the northern interpretation of it which sought, by an act of philosophical alchemy, to transmute it from a compact between sovereign states creating a central government with enumerated powers to a consolidated nationalism with a central government having unlimited powers.

The Confederate Preamble makes clear that the parties to the compact are the people of the states and not the people of the confederacy in the aggregate. And each state is said to retain “its sovereign and independent character.” In the Federal Constitution, the initiative to amend can come from either Congress or the states. The Confederate Constitution vests this power only in the states. Southerners considered secession a legal right available to a state under the Federal Constitution conceived as a compact between sovereign states. But they purposely did not put a right to secession in their own constitution because to do so would imply a change and would play into the hands of those northerners who held that secession was treason. However, the right of a confederate state to secede was thought to be self-evidently contained in the declaration that the states retain their sovereignty and independence.

A central government in a federative system cannot be unduly oppressive if its revenue is carefully restricted by consensus of the states, or by something approaching consensus. One of the main grievances against the northern conception of the consolidated Union was that the central government would become an uncontrollable center of patronage and corruption that would subvert the independent moral and political life of the states. The hated protective tariffs on imports were prohibited. Export tariffs, however, were allowed if passed by a two-thirds majority. Funding for internal improvements was severely restricted. With few exceptions, Congress could appropriate money only by a two-thirds majority or by a majority upon a request by the President.

As in the Federal Constitution, slavery was recognized. The Confederate Constitution outlawed the slave trade, but, unlike the Federal policy, required Congress to pass legislation that would enforce the law. Current American policy refused to cooperate with the British and French in allowing American ships to be boarded, and so the slave trade continued into South America under American flags up to the conflict of 1861-65. Jefferson Davis’s first veto was over a bill that would allow the sale of slaves captured by the Confederate Navy. The Confederate Constitution allowed non-slaveholding states to join the Confederation, and left it up to the individual states whether they would abolish slavery. Many nations in the Indian Territory had treaties with the Confederates, and fought for it on the promise of creating a sovereign Indian state.

The central reforms enacted by the Confederate Constitution, which Lord Acton greatly admired, were designed to protect and strengthen the substantial moral and political communities of the states, and to limit the power of the central government by reducing its revenue, restricting its power to spend, and making it difficult to pass legislation for special interest groups.31

Just as their ancestors two generations earlier, acting as citizens of sovereign states, had seceded from the Articles of Confederation (even though the Articles were styled as “a perpetual union” and could not be legally changed without unanimous consent) in order to form a “more perfect union” (a union requiring only nine states), so eleven contiguous southern states sought to form a more perfect union, one grounded in the preservation of independent moral and political communities, their union by consent, and the right of secession.

From a philosophical point of view, the Confederate Constitution may be viewed as the highest expression of the adventure in self-government begun by the American colonists in 1776. That adventure began with an assertion of the right of substantial moral and political societies to self-government, and this right was secured by an act of secession. The Americans, in their most speculative moments, imagined a legal world, a rule of law, in which this right would be recognized.

The sort of consolidationism which the British had sought to impose on their North American possessions had been going on in Europe for centuries and is still going on. Of the thousands of independent territorial units that existed in Europe at the dawn of the modern era, only a few dozen remain, and there is an attempt to consolidate most of these into a European Union. The ideologies that have sought to legitimate these consolidations have usually been in the name of the individual. Liberals favor consolidation of power to secure the liberty of the individual, and Marxists have favored it in order to secure the equality of the individual and to build an egalitarian society. But both of these forms of consolidationism have been at the expense of substantial moral communities and traditional forms of life. Indeed, Enlightenment Liberalism and Marxism, in their different ways, have been the most destructive forces in history in respect to traditional moral communities. Some of this change has brought benefits with it and has been accepted, but much of it has been oppressive. In that case, a constitutional right of secession of one of the recognized political units in the union would provide a check against oppression, and an exit should the check fail. Although intimated in early American experience and strongly implied in the Constitution of 1787, the first constitution in history to recognize both the advantages of large political unions and to provide a remedy for their abuse in secession was the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

With the collapse of European imperialism and the revival in theUnited Nations of the Wilsonian doctrine of the self-determination of peoples (which is itself merely a later expression of the secessionist doctrine of the Declaration of Independence), the consolidated leviathans of the modern world no longer have the legitimacy they once had. Secession movements are strong where identifiable political units remain, such as Quebec in Canada, the Scots in Britain, and the Basques in Spain. Experience has shown that secession does not lead to anarchy, as Lincoln insisted it would. Norway peacefully seceded from Sweden (1905), as did Singapore from Malaysia (1965). Likewise, the secession of Quebec from Canada should not lead to chaos or war.

Secession can no longer be dismissed a priori as proponents of the modern state have done. And it certainly cannot be dismissed out of hand in the case of federal unions such as Canada, the U.S., Britain, Brazil, and Germany, all of which have political units with the administrative machinery and skills for self-government. The recognition of a legal right of such units to secede, established at the formation of a union of vast scale (such as the Confederate Constitution recognized), would tend to preserve distinct cultures and ways of life, make the operation of such unions more just, and, if necessary, their dissolution more orderly and humane.

The debate over the European Union today resembles the debate of 1787-89 between the Federalists and Antifederalists, the latter of which feared that the Constitution would end in a consolidated nationalism, and the former who assured them that such could never happen. One hopes that this will not degenerate into something like the shouting match between southerners who claimed that the Constitution was not a consolidated regime and northern unionists who declared that it was and always had been. But it could. One already hears from the left the claim that the European Union is an instrument for achieving human rights and that the powers surrendered to the Union cannot be recalled. This was exactly Lincoln’s doctrine. Unless the right of secession is thought through and faced squarely, one can imagine Europe re-enacting the melancholy history of the United States with a minority of states seeking to secede from a Union that has become oppressive in a way they could not have imagined, and a powerful majority prepared to coerce them back into the Union in the name of the “last best hope on earth” for protecting human rights.

The moral grandeur of Lincoln is rooted in the myth that he made a war on the South to abolish slavery. This is, at most, a Platonic noble lie designed to legitimate the Unionist regime. Lincoln thought that slavery was immoral, but so did Robert E. Lee. And Lee, at his own expense, freed the slaves he had inherited, through marriage, from the family of George Washington. Only around fifteen percent of southerners even owned slaves, and the great majority of these had holdings of one to six. Jefferson Davis was an enlightened slave holder who said that once the Confederacy gained its independence, it would mean the end of slavery. The Confederate Cabinet agreed to abolish slavery within five years after the cessation of hostilities in exchange for recognition by Britain and France. Southerners were not fighting to preserve slavery, but simply and solely because they were being invaded. And the North certainly did not invade to abolish slavery.

Nor should this be surprising considering the Negrophobia that prevailed everywhere in the North. It was assumed by the vast majority of Americans, North and South, that America was a white European polity, and that the Indian and African populations were not — and were never to be — full participants in that polity. For example, blacks were excluded from the western territories. Oregon became a state in 1859, and its constitution, which was passed by a vote of eight to one, declared that

No free negro, or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall ever come, reside, or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contract, or maintain any suit therein; and the legislative assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public officers of all such free negroes and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ or harbour them therein.32

The constitution of Indiana contained the same prohibition. Lincoln’s state of Illinois prohibited the entrance of Africans unless they could post a bond of $1,000. Free Africans in northern states were severely regulated. The following regulation is from the Illinois revised statutes of 1833:

If any person or persons shall permit or suffer any . . . servant or servants of colour, to the number of three or more, to assemble in his, her, or their out-house, yard, or shed, for the purpose of dancing or revelling, either by night or by day, the person or persons so offending shall forfeit and pay a fine of twenty dollars.

And it was the duty of all “coroners, sheriffs, judges, and justices of the peace” who learned of such assemblages to commit the “servants-to the jail of the county, and on view of proof thereof, order each and every such .. . servant to be whipped, not exceeding thirty-nine stripes on his or her back.”33

Emancipation laws in the antebellum North were designed to rid the North of its African population. They typically declared that the children of slaves born after a certain date would, upon reaching a certain age, be emancipated. This meant that adult slaves were not freed and that families could be sold South before children reached the age of emancipation. Emancipation led to a reduction of the African population in the North, not to an increase, as it did in the South. Lincoln’s own solution to the race problem was mass colonization of Africans, and he proposed securing land in Africa and elsewhere for the purpose. Even abolitionists were careful to point out that it was not the slave they loved but the slaveholder they hated, and that emancipation did not at all mean social and political equality with whites.

Slavery was more secure in 1860 than it had ever been. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott decision, had declared that Africans were not citizens; and Congress approved a constitutional amendment that would take the regulation of slavery forever out of the hands of the central government. Lincoln said that he had no authority and no inclination to interfere with slavery in the states where it was legal. He could tolerate slavery as a means of controlling what nearly everyone saw to be an exotic and alien population. What he could not tolerate was a dissolution of the Union, loss of revenue from the South, and a low-tariff zone on his southern border. This was the consistent thread running through Lincoln’s policy from 1860-1865. He would not recognize the conventions of the people of the southern states, and he would not negotiate with their commissioners. He would go to war immediately to coerce the states of the deep South back into the Union. And it was this act that Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas could not tolerate. They had been opposed to the radicalism of the deep South, and their legislatures had voted firmly to stay within the Union. But they would not answer Lincoln’s call for troops to coerce a state into the Union; this they considered not only unconstitutional, but immoral. And in this they were correct. But so strong is the Lincoln myth and so interwoven with American self-identity that Americans have never been able to confront the stark immorality and barbarism of Lincoln’s decision to invade the South and to pursue total war against its civilian population.

To this we may add that the modern prejudice against secession has also served to occlude the immorality of the invasion. Here was a union of sovereign states only seventy years old. These states had originally asserted their sovereignty in acts of secession from the British empire, and the Union itself had been formed by an act of secession from the Articles of Confederation. Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island reserved the right to secede in their ordinances ratifying the Constitution, and secession was a part of public discourse in all sections throughout the antebellum period. This union, through conquest, purchase, and annexation, had, in fifty years, swollen to some ten times its original size. The Republic of Texas, having seceded from Mexico, had been in the Union only fifteen years. Secession is destabilizing in that it suddenly produces new majorities and new minorities. But annexation is destabilizing in exactly the same way. Rapid expansion led to rapidly shifting majorities and minorities and to conflicts of great and important interests.

By 1860, a choice lay open between either re-negotiating the compact between the states in order to form more perfect unions, as John Quincy Adams counseled should happen, or a powerful section would have to conquer the whole and reconstruct it into its own image, subordinating all else to its own interests. Everything in the older American tradition of the self-government of peoples points to the former path. Lincoln chose the latter path, and in doing so was in step with the nineteenth- and twentieth-century trend of industrial society to consolidationism. Southerners, at great sacrifice, sought to defend that older American notion of self-government, a notion which was pushed to the margins of American consciousness after the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox. But it has not been extinguished, and has greater purchase in the world today than ever before as the consolidated leviathans of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are being called into question. The Russian invasion of Chechenya is widely regarded as barbarous, but the Russians have a better title to rule Chechenya than Lincoln had to coerce eleven contiguous American states into the Union.

This broader experience enables us to take a fresh look at the morality of Lincoln’s decision. It has been said that, although the Union was originally conceived as a compact between sovereign states entailing a right to secession, it evolved into the notion of an indivisible, organic Union from which secession was impossible. This notion, however, was late in arriving, and was not universally received by 1860. Southerners obviously did not believe it, nor did many northerners. There was tremendous opposition to Lincoln’s invasion of the South. To maintain power, he was forced to suspend the writ of habeas corpus throughout the North for the duration of the war, netting tens of thousands of political prisoners. Some 300 opposition newspapers were closed down. Democratic candidates, critical of the war, were arrested by the military, and the military was used to secure Republican victories at the polls, including Lincoln’s election in 1864.34

But the barbarism of suppressing eleven contiguous American states in 1861 can best be brought out by a thought experiment. Today, unlike 1861, everyone has taken the pledge of allegiance affirming an organic union. (It is significant that the origin of the pledge is to be found in the loyalty oaths Confederates were required to take to regain citizenship.) Suppose that California, over a dispute with the central government about immigration, affirmative action, abortion, or some other issue, should, in a legally held convention of the people of the state, claim sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment and withdraw those powers it had delegated to the central government and withdraw from the Union. California is an economic giant. Its population is larger than that of twenty-two American states. Suppose, then, that other states, originally pro-Union, should see it in their interest to enter into a confederacy with California, and that eventually eleven contiguous states should form a western confederacy and send commissioners to Washington to negotiate payment for federal property and to establish a treaty. Would the eastern states be justified in launching an aggressive war to “save the Union”? Perhaps it would be thought that a show of force would cause people to rethink. But if it became clear that the people, at great sacrifice, were determined to gain their independence, could a policy of war aimed now at the civilian population be morally justified merely to preserve the Union?

Or, to vary the thought experiment, northern abolitionists had argued since the 1830s that the northern states should secede from the Union. Secession movements had arisen off and on in New England since 1803. Suppose now that a few New England states seceded over slavery, the tariff issue, and national expenditures for internal improvements. Other states, reluctantly, might find it in their interest to join this union so that by the time Lincoln entered Washington in 1861 he would find himself confronted with the secession of northern states and President of a southern-dominated United States, a Union that would include the eleven states of the Confederacy and most certainly Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and perhaps others. Would we expect Lincoln to ignore the commissioners of this Northern Confederacy and launch a war to “save the Union?” Would we be celebrating, under his leadership, Stonewall Jackson’s scorched-earth march to the sea, the burning of Boston, and the surrender of Grant to Lee at Scranton, Pennsylvania?

None of this, of course, would have happened. First, it is unlikely that southerners, who had long argued that the Constitution is a compact between sovereign states entailing a right to secede, would have perceived northern secession as treason. Second, the Republican party was a purely sectional party openly hostile to southern interests. And Lincoln, as its leader, was the first and only sectional president in American history. He had received only thirty-nine percent of the popular vote, and had no support outside the North. His goal from first to last was to advance the political agenda of the Republican party, which could be called the New York-Chicago industrial axis. The sectional goal of the Republican party was openly asserted by its most eloquent leaders. Wendell Phillips declared:

It is just what we have attempted to bring about. It is the first sectional party ever organized in this country. It does not know its own face, and calls itself national; but it is not national — it is sectional. The Republican Party is a Party of the North pledged against the South.35

Charles Adams has shown that the Republican agenda could not tolerate a low-tariff zone to the south, and that the North had become accustomed to the South’s funding the bulk of the federal revenue through its export trade.36 And it was just this horror of what an economically independent South would mean to northern industrial interests that Charles Bancroft, writing in 1874, presented as the justification for invading the South:

While so gigantic a war was an immense evil; to allow the right of peaceable secession would have been ruin to the enterprise and thrift of the industrious laborer, and keen eyed business man of the North. It would have been the greatest calamity of the age. War was less to be feared.37

A million-and-a-half people were killed, wounded, or missing in the war. The defense of protective tariffs has seldom been so ferocious, or so crude.

Lincoln’s conservative statesmanlike posture about preserving an indivisible union cannot be taken seriously. Not only did he not inherit such a union, the only union he was interested in preserving was a union which was dominated by northern industrial ambition. And it was exactly this that Lincoln, and the Republican party, after his death, accomplished.

But Lincoln also had a philosophical argument for making war on the southern states that brings out the prejudice against secession that is internal to the idea of a modern state. In a message to Congress on 4 July 1861, Lincoln justified his choice of war over a negotiated settlement that allowed the southern states to form their own union:

This issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man, the question, whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy — a government of the people, by the same people — can, or cannot, maintain its territorial integrity, against its own domestic foes. … It forces us to ask: “Is there, in all republics, this inherent, and fatal weakness? Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?”38

Here we have the familiar argument that a modern state cannot allow territorial dismemberment by secession. This was, of course, the same argument that was used by George III to coerce the American colonies. But Lincoln had in mind not just any sort of modern state (which could include monarchy) but a modern republican state. Being founded in liberty, such states are more liable to dissolution. Thus, the war that is beginning is a dramatic struggle to see whether a modern republican state is really possible. The same theme would be sounded in the Gettysburg Address. If secession is allowed, anarchy follows. As Lincoln put it elsewhere, if a state can secede, then the county of a state can secede, and a part of that county can secede, etc. And, if the American experiment in self-government fails, the world must revert back to monarchy.

There are a number of confusions here. First, the government of the United States in 1861 was not the government of a modern state. Rather, it was a central government of a federative union of states. It was endowed with only enumerated powers and these were delegated to it by sovereign states. The central government was the agent of those states, and the states were the principals in the federative compact. The states themselves were modern states; they had asserted this status in the Declaration of Independence, and had been recognized by the world as such. As modern states, they contained the usual legal prohibition against secession. A county cannot legally secede from an American state, but there is no such prohibition against a state exercising its federative power and withdrawing from the Union.

To describe, as Lincoln did, Virginia and the other southern states as “domestic foes” threatening self-government and to be suppressed by war is not only a spectacular absurdity, it also reveals a hubristic impiety and moral blindness. The first self-governing assembly in the western hemisphere was founded in Virginia. More great statesmen and jurists had come from Virginia than any other state. The leadership of Virginia was crucial in winning the war with Britain, during the period of the Articles of Confederation, and in forming the Union. In her ordinance of ratification, Virginia as a sovereign state, asserted the right to secede, and affirmed this right for every other state. The man often called the “father of the Constitution,” James Madison, always described the Constitution as being a compact between sovereign states. In 1830, Madison could say that it was still not certain that the Union would work. By 1861, it was clear that the Union, as a voluntary association of independent political societies, had failed.

What would the great Virginians, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, George Mason, John Randolph, John Taylor, and “Lighthorse” Harry Lee have done? They all supported the Union, believed the Constitution was a compact between the states, and were Virginians first. So when the states of the deep South discussed secession, Virginia called a convention of the people to decide the question, and the convention voted firmly to stay in the Union. It was only after Lincoln had decided on war and called for troops that the convention reconvened and voted to secede. Madison had said in the Federalistthat the central government could not coerce a state. To be sure that the will of the people was expressed, the judgment of the convention was put to the people of Virginia, who supported secession by a margin of five to one. Tennessee was also pro-Union, but, in a referendum of the voters, decided to secede by a margin of two to one after Lincoln’s decision to wage war. The pro-Union states of North Carolina and Arkansas seceded for the same reason.

To treat, as Lincoln did, the peoples of entire states who had engaged in deliberate and legal acts of self-government as common criminals and as “domestic foes” aroused deep emotions of resentment and injustice that could be felt only by an American who had received with his mother’s milk the principle, framed in the Declaration of Independence, of the self-government of independent moral and political societies. As the case of Robert E. Lee makes clear, this feeling of resentment had nothing to do with slavery, an institution he thought was on its way to oblivion. It was this deeply felt American resentment that enabled the entire South, 85 percent of whom did not own slaves, to mobilize and to make spectacular sacrifices to keep out an invading army, the government of which was intent on destroying, and did destroy, the corporate liberty of their political societies. It was this sense of state honor that Hamilton had in mind when he said in theFederalist that the central government could never make war against an American state, and which he again asserted again before the New York State convention: “To coerce a state would be one of the maddest projects ever devised. No state would ever suffer itself to be used as the instrument of coercing another.” One cannot imagine the great Virginians of his time disagreeing.

Herman Melville, who had a good eye for the hypocrisy of northern industrial unionism, wrote:

Who looks at Lee must think of Washington
In pain must think and hide the thought
So deep with grievous meaning is it fraught.39

To this conservative and backward-looking image, we should add the forward-looking and “progressive” image: he who looks at Lincoln has seen the consolidationists Bismarck and Lenin.

So Lincoln’s inversion of the original American conception of self-government must itself be inverted. As H.L. Mencken cynically observed of the Gettysburg Address, it was not the Union forces that were fighting for government of the people, by the people, and for the people (a phrase Lincoln borrowed from Webster), but the people of the southern states. And the war was not a dramatic contest to see whether a modern republican state was possible. Virginia and the rest of the southern states were stable, self-governing modern republics whose citizens were loyal and well skilled in the art of self-government. If not conquered, there is every reason to think they would have lasted indefinitely.

All of them were, in fact, conquered, and self-government was destroyed. Virginia was divided and her western counties made into the new state of West Virginia. What Lincoln had presented as the absurdity of allowing a state to secede, namely that counties of that state could also secede, was legitimate after all, provided that it served northern industrial interests. After Lee had surrendered, and unionist governments had been formed in each southern state, and the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery had been ratified by the southern states, they suddenly found themselves, by an arbitrary and unconstitutional act of Congress, expelled from the union and declared “conquered provinces.”

The argument of Lincoln and the Republican party that secession was unthinkable because the Union was indivisible now appeared as the self-serving hypocrisy it was. States could not secede from the Union, but they could be expelled, or more precisely, obliterated. It was during this period of “Reconstruction” that the Fourteenth Amendment was floated. This amendment, since the 1950s, has been manipulated by the Supreme Court to affect a vast transfer of power from the states to the central government, making it virtually impossible for the states to maintain those independent substantial moral communities protected by the powers reserved in the Tenth Amendment. It is fitting that this amendment, which had a corrupt and illegal origin in Congress, was never ratified by the states, and is, thus, not a part of the Constitution! It was simply declared by Congress to have been enacted, something Congress had no authority to do.40 This shows just how far some Americans had wandered from the original conception of self-government.

The conflict of 1861-1865 was not, as Lincoln said it was, a struggle to see if a modern republican state could survive, but a struggle to see if a vast union of federative republics could survive without the consolidation and consequent destruction of independent moral life that a dominant faction will inevitably seek to impose on the rest. The American experience suggests that it is unlikely, but it must be admitted that our experience with such vast-scale federations is limited, so the question is still open. Since there are obvious advantages to federative unions, the only remedy is to acknowledge a legal right of secession for republics joining the federation. The American failure to achieve a genuine federalism of self-governing moral communities must stand as a challenge to the European Union. It was in recognition of this challenge that Nobel laureate James Buchanan has urged that a right of secession be written into the constitution of the European Union. With the benefit of over a century of experience, the Constitution of the Confederate States of America as an instrument of federalism appears well ahead of its time.

The brief constitutional history I have sketched that views secession as part of the checks and balance system of American federalism is completely unknown to most Americans. The reason is that we have come to believe the nationalist theory of the origin of the Constitution that Lincoln used to legitimate coercing the southern states back into the Union. Plato taught that the guardians of the republic may have to tell a noble lie about its origins. Whether the nationalist theory is a noble lie or an ignoble lie I shall not say. My point is that it is false. It has been said that the War of 1861-1865 decided once and for all the question of whether an American state could secede. But this is only another way of saying that might makes right, a principle that cannot sit well with the American doctrine of government by consent. The great Scottish philosopher David Hume taught a deeper truth; namely, that political authority is founded not on power but on opinion. A change in opinion at a strategic point can transform, in time, an entire political order.

To give an example, America began as a highly decentralized regime of independent moral and political communities jealous of their liberty. These political societies created a central government as their agent and endowed it with enumerated powers. This government was only a speck on the political landscape and its presence was scarcely felt in everyday life. From 1865 to 1965 it underwent a transformation, emerging as the most consolidated and centralized military and financial power in history. Moral and political societies with a life of their own independent of regulation and control by the central government (especially the Supreme Court) are today virtually impossible. By contrast, Canada began as a highly centralized regime under monarchy and has developed into a decentralized regime in which secession as a means of protecting independent moral and political life is part of public debate. There is a tradition in Canada that this change was due in part to Judah Benjamin, the former Secretary of State of the Confederate States of America who, after the war, fled to England and became a distinguished barrister. In a number of cases before the Imperial Parliament, he argued successfully for measures that gave the Provinces more autonomy, thereby setting Canadian federalism on the path to decentralization.41 Asserting the right to secede, Quebec has already secured rights making it virtually an independent country, thereby making secession perhaps unnecessary.

Let me close with this question. If Hume is right that the authority of government is founded on opinion, and if acceptance of the absurd nationalist theory of the origin of the Constitution advanced by Story, Webster, and Lincoln could serve to legitimate the spectacular change from a decentralized federalism to a consolidated imperial nationalism, what would happen if Americans were taught and came to believe the truth about their own constitutional history?


1 Lee Buchheit, Secession: The Legitimacy of Self-Determination (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1978). This book is an excellent discussion of the debate over whether a right of secession can be recognized in international law.

The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), the articles on “secede” and “secession.”

3 Ibid.

4 Allen Buchanan discusses Rawls on secession in Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce: From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 5-6.

5 Ibid.

6 John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, Peter Laslett, ed. (London: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 349.

7 David Hume, The Letters of David Hume, John Y.T. Greig, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), vol. 2, pp. 302-3.

8 Ibid., pp. 300-1. Pitt had sought to establish a mercantile empire of managed trade which Hume thought required constant war for its maintenance and an increase in the public debt. For an in-depth study of Hume on secession and America, see my Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

9 Mortimer Adler, We Hold These Truths: Understanding the Ideas and Ideals of the Constitution (New York: MacMillan, 1987).

10 Gregory Craven, Secession: The Ultimate States Right (Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1986).

11 Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Little, Brown, 1851), vol. 1, bk. 3, chap. 3. Also, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, 1903), vol. 6, pp. 196-221.

12 The best defense of the thesis that the states were sovereign and that secession was a right available to an American state is to be found in Albert Taylor Bledsoe’s Is Davis a Traitor, or Was Secession a Constitutional Right Previous to the War of 1861? (Charleston, S.C: Fletcher and Fletcher, [1866] 1995). This was reprinted by Fletcher and Fletcher, Charleston, S.C, 1995. The first systematic refutation of Story’s thesis that the states were never sovereign was given by Abel Upshur, a distinguished Virginia jurist and Secretary of State under Tyler, in A Brief Enquiry into the True Nature and Character of our Federal Government, Being a Review of judge Story’s Commentaries (Petersburg, Va.: E. and J.C. Ruffin, 1840). On the sovereignty of the states, see also C.H. Van Tyne, “Sovereignty in the American Revolution: An Historical Study,” American Historical Review 12 (April, 1907): 529-45.

13 Buchheit, Secession, The Legitimacy of Self-Determination, pp. 100ff.

14 See Documents Relating to New-England Federalism, 1800-1815, Henry Adams, ed. (New York: B. Franklin, 1905). This contains John Quincy Adams’s narrative of the Hartford Convention and other New England secession movements.

15 Quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor? p. 149.

16 William Rawle, A View of the Constitution (Philadelphia: H.C. Carey and I. Lea, 1825), see especially the last chapter, “Of the Union.”

17 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Henry Reeve, trans. (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House), vol. 1, chap. 18, p. 381.

18 Henry Lord Brougham, Political Philosophy, 2nd ed. (London, 1849), vol. 3, p. 336.

19 Quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor? p. 155.

20 William C. Wright, The Secession Movement in the Middle Atlantic States (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1973).

21 Quoted in ibid., pp. 177-78.

22 Ibid., p. 199.

23 Quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor? p. 146.

24 John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the Constitution (New York: Samuel Coleman, 1839), pp. 66-69.

25 Thomas Jefferson, letter to W. Crawford, 20 June 1816, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Bergh, ed. (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association of the United States, 1905), vol. 15, p. 27.

26 Quoted in Ludwell Johnson, Division and Reunion: America 1848-1877 (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1978), pp. 76-77, emphasis added.

27 Ibid., p. 77.

28 Ibid., pp. 109-10.

29 C Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South 1877-1913 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971), chap. 11, “The Colonial Economy.”

30 Johnson, Division and Reunion, pp. 113-15, and quotation from p. 115.

31 Ibid., pp. 72-73; see also Selected Writings of Lord Acton, J. Rufus Fears, ed. (Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Classics, 1985), pp. 216-79 and 361-67.

32 Quoted in Tol. P. Shaffner, The War in America (London: Hamilton, Adams, 1862), pp. 337-38.

33 Ibid., pp. 339-40.

34 Johnson, Division and Reunion, pp. 123-28. See also Ann Norton’s excellent book Alternative Americas(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986). For studies of Lincoln as a gnostic figure, see M. E. Bradford, “Dividing the House: The Gnosticism of Lincoln’s Rhetoric,” Modern Age 23 (1979): 10-24; ibid., “The Lincoln Legacy: A Long View,” Modern Age 24 (1980): 355-63; ibid., A Better Guide than Reason: Studies in the American Revolution (LaSalle, Ill.: Sherwood Sugden, 1979), pp. 29-57 and pp. 185-203; and ibid., The Reactionary Imperative (Peru, Ill.: Sherwood Sugden, 1990), pp. 219-27.

35 Quoted in Bledsoe, Is Davis a Traitor? p. 250.

36 Charles Adams, For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization (New York: Madison Books, 1993), pp. 323-37.

37 Charles Bancroft, The Footprints of Time: A Complete Analysis of Our American System of Government(Burlington, Iowa: R.T. Root, 1877), p. 646.

38 Abraham Lincoln, Speeches and Writings, Don E. Fehrenbacher, ed., 2 vols. (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1989), p. 250.

39 Herman Melville, “Lee in the Capitol,” in Battle-Pieces (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1972), p. 232.

40 Forrest McDonald, “Was the Fourteenth Amendment Constitutionally Adopted?” The Georgia Journal of Southern Legal History 1, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 1991): 1-20.

41 Claudius O. Johnson, “Did Judah P. Benjamin Plant the States Rights Doctrine in the Interpretation of the British North America Act?” The Canadian Bar Review 15, no. 3 (September 1967): 454-77.


The Globalist Federal Government Seceded From America

Saman Mohammadi

Nov 16, 2012

“Our country has already been taken over. I want to secede back to the Republic, back to our nation. The new world order has taken over. We’re not fighting just some corrupt politicians and it’s a little political issue. We have serious, hardcore authoritarians, Ron Paul called them yesterday authoritarian psychopaths, in control. We know what tyranny is historically. This is the worst case of it I’ve ever seen. And it’s growing and coming to fruition very, very quickly.” – Alex Jones, “Talk Show Host Calls For Second American Revolution!” November 15, 2012.

“As over a million Americans express their disenfranchisement with the federal government by supporting a secessionist movement that has spread like wildfire, it is time to call for a new declaration of independence and a new commitment to restore the Republic in the face of an enemy that has subverted America from within.” – Paul Joseph Watson, “Ron Paul: The Founders Believed in Secession,” November 15, 2012.

“We are going to force the issue with the globalists, because here’s the key. We’re not seceding from the federal government. We are recognizing and declaring what is self-evident that the federal government has been hijacked by foreign banking cartels.” – Alex Jones, “TRANSCRIPT: Alex Jones – Secede from the New World Order,” November 15, 2012.

Since when did self-determination become a dirty word? Isn’t this the slogan that America fights for abroad? Why, then, does the U.S. government deny this principle at home? Why is the federal government more interested in the self-determination of Iraqis, Afghans, and Syrians than of Americans?

A government that denies its own basic principles and laws does not deserve to be listened to and followed. Secession from such a poisonous government is a moral and spiritual duty.

Alex Jones is on the right side of history by calling for secession from the bankster-hijacked federal government. He is standing up for America and for freedom-loving people worldwide.

The current oligarchical owners of the U.S. government forfeited their claim to rule the American people when they murdered three thousand innocent Americans on September 11, 2001, and then proceeded to destroy the laws and freedoms of the United States by hyping the fake terrorist threat. They seceded from America on that day. The rightful response is to secede from these savages, counterfeiters, aggressors, and liars.

Secession is not an act of treason, it is one of many peaceful political solutions to problems that have been long in the making. The states can rebuilt the American economy by seceding from the corrupt federal reserve system that stole the federal government from the American people in 1913. They should create their own currencies and issue their own credit to their citizens and businesses since the federal reserve and federal government aren’t doing it.

The federal government can honestly fix economic injustices by either abolishing the corrupt federal reserve system or nationalizing it and reclaiming the right to issue money from the transnational private banking cartel. If this does not happen, then the states have a right and a responsibility to their citizens to secede from a collapsing and morally bankrupt banking system.

The Dollar is dead. The era of private central banking is finished. Public banking is the future. Gold and silver is the future. Honest money is the future. If the federal government will not get on the right side of history then the states must.

If the question is asked, why secede? Give this answer: why obey? The hijacked federal government is proposing austerity and war. It is intellectually, morally, financially, spiritually, and politically bankrupt. Here is an excerpt from the Infowars article, “Why The States Must Secede To Save America”:

“While Americans are being told to brace for tax hikes, spending cuts and a myriad of other austerity measures, the Federal Reserve has been sending trillions of dollars to foreign banks.

The federal government is supposed to represent the states, but it doesn’t, it represents the interests of the political and banking elite who themselves have no allegiance whatsoever to America.”

The age of treason is not over, but there is a new age of global political awakening in which corrupt political leaders and international financial fraudsters are getting the biggest wake up call in history. Humanity wants to be free. The sick perverts who rule England, America, and other nations must step down from office and face the legal consequences of their actions.

The transition to a new age of freedom won’t be easy. But liberty must be fought for in every generation. In our time, the greatest freedom to be won is the freedom of the mind. Totalitarian ideologies such as political Islamism, Zionism, and Counter-Terrorism have deprived nations in the East and the West of this sacred freedom which is the source of all others.

As socially conscious and politically aware global citizens, it is our duty to destroy these totalitarian ideologies and liberate the individual from the prison of systematic government brainwashing. Our demand is clear: The brainwashing of all humans by all governments must end.

We are not mental subjects of governments, but creative children of God, and God has no official state ideology. Governments of the world must recognize this divine demand and stop using the media as a tool to instill propaganda into the minds of their citizens. That is the way of the past. It is a dead way. We live in a different time now, a time of spiritual evolution.

There are creative and peaceful remedies to government brainwashing and mass mind control. The global alternative media is the key to saving liberty because the free access to information is critical if we want to form our own opinions.

In his farewell speech in Congress, Dr. Ron Paul said, “The internet will provide the alternative to the government/media complex that controls the news and most political propaganda.” He also said that the growth in popularity of homeschooling will lead to new thinking, new ideas, and new reforms. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

It is self-evident that our freedoms have been severely limited and the apparent prosperity we still have, is nothing more than leftover wealth from a previous time.  This fictitious wealth based on debt and benefits from a false trust in our currency and credit, will play havoc with our society when the bills come due.  This means that the full consequence of our lost liberties is yet to be felt.

But that illusion is now ending.  Reversing a downward spiral depends on accepting a new approach.

Expect the rapidly expanding homeschooling movement to play a significant role in the revolutionary reforms needed to build a free society with Constitutional protections. We cannot expect a Federal government controlled school system to provide the intellectual ammunition to combat the dangerous growth of government that threatens our liberties.

Government schools are about indoctrination, and “sheep-herding,” as the genius and poet Ezra Pound described it.

Totalitarian governments treat the mass of people as sheep to be brainwashed, robbed, and slaughtered.

The history of the totalitarian states in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union proved that totalitarianism is the death of the soul and the annihilation of the individual.

Individuals in America have a moral and spiritual duty to mentally secede from a war-possessed totalitarian government that is only interested in enslaving, killing, robbing, lying, spying, and cheating. It is the right and honourable course. I stand with them, and with all humans who want to mentally and spiritually secede from oppressive governments.

“Reboot the Republic. . .Reinstall the Declaration of Independence.” – Alex Jones.

Saman Mohammadi is the writer and editor at The Excavator


GOP Governors Distance Themselves From Secession Movement

Joe Wolverton, II, J.D

New American
Nov 16, 2012

Ron Paul “feels the same now” about the right of secession as he did when he addressed the issue in a video message posted to YouTube in 2009. That’s the comment made by Rachel Mills, a spokeswoman for the retiring congressman as quoted in U.S. News.

The number of petitions for secession uploaded to the White House’s “We, the People” website continues to increase, as do the signatures on those already posted.

The “We, the People” program includes a “create a petition” tab on the White House website. The explanation of the site claims that “if a petition gets enough support,” — more than 25,000 signatures within 30 days — the “White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”

As we reported earlier in the week, citizens of dozens of states submitted petitions to leave the United States, citing the “long train of abuses” committed by the federal government and the right to “dissolve the political bands that have connected” them to the union as set out in the Declaration of Independence.

At the time of publication of this article, a petition on behalf of each of the 50 states has been added to the website, several of which have exceeded the 25,000 threshold that the White House claims will trigger an official response.

The White House has not commented on the petitions.

Although he argued that such was a possibility in 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry has since renounced secession, announcing through a spokeswoman that he favors keeping the union intact.

In a statement released to the Dallas Morning News, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier wrote:

Gov. Perry believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it. But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government. Now more than ever our country needs strong leadership from states like Texas, that are making tough decisions to live within their means, keep taxes low and provide opportunities to job creators so their citizens can provide for their families and prosper. We cannot allow Washington’s tax and spend, one-size-fits-all mindset to jeopardize our children’s future, undermine our personal liberties and drive our nation down a dangerous path to greater dependence of government.

Other Republican governors have followed Perry’s anti-secessionist suit. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called the petition filed by citizens of the Bayou State “silly.”

As reported by BayouBuzz, Jindal dismissed the petition, telling NOLA.com, “We are proud to be part of the greatest country in the history of the world. Whatever our political differences, we are American first.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, also a Republican, commented Tuesday about the secession petition submitted by Tennesseans, saying, “I don’t think that’s a valid option for Tennessee. I don’t think we’ll be seceding.”

Then, fresh off an announcement that his state would not be participating in the state healthcare exchanges required by ObamaCare, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley came out on Tuesday and said through a spokesman, “Governor Bentley believes in one nation under God. While there is frustration with the federal government, Governor Bentley believes that states can be great laboratories of change.”

Finally, the online Huffington Post quotes Nikki Haley, the Republican Governor of South Carolina saying, “Didn’t we try that once before? I love this country. I’m going to fight for this country. I’m going to do everything I can for this country, and this country is going to be great.”

South Carolina did try seceding once before. On Christmas Eve, 1860, the people and the legislature of the Palmetto Stateadopted a resolution filed eight years earlier approving the state’s separation from the union.

In that document, South Carolina pointed to the “frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States” as justification for its departure. Then, citing the Declaration of Independence (as do the recent petitions), the document declares, “Whenever any ‘form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.’”

The declaration then goes on to rehearse the history of the formation of the union in 1787, arguing that South Carolina retained her sovereign right of self-defense should the federal government ever violate the compact entered into in Philadelphia in 1787. It argued:

In 1787, Deputies were appointed by the States to revise the Articles of Confederation, and on 17th September, 1787, these Deputies recommended for the adoption of the States, the Articles of Union, known as the Constitution of the United States.

The parties to whom this Constitution was submitted, were the several sovereign States; they were to agree or disagree, and when nine of them agreed the compact was to take effect among those concurring; and the General Government, as the common agent, was then invested with their authority.

If only nine of the thirteen States had concurred, the other four would have remained as they then were– separate, sovereign States, independent of any of the provisions of the Constitution. In fact, two of the States did not accede to the Constitutionuntil long after it had gone into operation among the other eleven; and during that interval, they each exercised the functions of an independent nation.

By this Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several States, and the exercise of certain of their powers was restrained, which necessarily implied their continued existence as sovereign States. But to remove all doubt, an amendmentwas added, which declared that 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. On the 23d May , 1788, South Carolina, by a Convention of her People, passed an Ordinance assenting to this Constitution, and afterwards altered her own Constitution, to conform herself to the obligations she had undertaken.

Thus was established, by compact between the States, a Government with definite objects and powers, limited to the express words of the grant. This limitation left the whole remaining mass of power subject to the clause reserving it to the States or to the people, and rendered unnecessary any specification of reserved rights.

Constitutionally speaking, secession is an allowable response to federal overreaching. There is, however, a simpler, less drastic remedy. Nullification.

Simply stated, nullification is a concept of legal statutory construction that endows each state with the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal measure that a state deems unconstitutional. Nullification is founded on the assertion that the sovereign states formed the union, and as creators of the compact, they hold ultimate authority as to the limits of the power of the central government to enact laws that are applicable to the states and the citizens thereof.

If the people will not allow deviance from the terms of the compact, then legislators at last will be disabused of their commonly perceived illusion that the people can be easily lulled into a lethargic stupor rendering them unwilling and eventually unable to withstand the steady herding of our nation into the corrals of despotism.

Finally, of all the legal verities and moral virtues of nullification, there is one that sits at the pinnacle of them all. Nullification, as defined by Jefferson and Madison and as being proposed and practiced by contemporary Americans, is a fail-safe protection of popular sovereignty and limited government. This is so because the keys to these restraints are held by the people.

A growing number of concerned citizens of this Republic are no longer willing to recur to Congress to repeal unconstitutional laws or to file legal complaints in the hope that the courts will strike down offensive measures. They understand that while perhaps commendable, these tactics are futile and offer no guarantee of the restoration of constitutionally ensured freedom. They refuse to wait on this or that president, this or that congressman, or this or that political party to acknowledge their pleas for relief from federal oppression. Instead, they unashamedly will assume their right and their duty to derail the “long train of abuses and usurpations” and “provide new Guards for their future security” — the states and themselves.


Americans Must Withdraw from The Corrupt, Hijacked Federal Gov’t


Nov 16, 2012

Radio host Alex Jones today called for a second American Revolution led by states who would secede from the federal government and reconstitute the Republic under the terms of the Declaration of Independence, bill of rights and constitution.


Why The States Must Secede To Save America

Declaration of Independence 2.0: Restoring the Republic

Prison Planet.com

November 15, 2012

Why The States Must Secede To Save America

Radio host Alex Jones today called for a second American Revolution led by states who would secede from the federal government and reconstitute the Republic under the terms of the Declaration of Independence, bill of rights and constitution.

The call for Americans to rally behind a restoration of the Republic and the bill of rights comes on the back of a burgeoning secessionist movement that has swept the country with residents from all 50 states submitting petitions to the White House calling for states to withdraw from the union and form their own independent governments. The petitions have received a combined number of signatures totaling over a million.

During his nationwide broadcast today, Jones laid out the battle plan for secession, emphasizing that states must first secede from the federal government, which has gone rogue, and then use the terms of the Declaration of Independence to restore the Republic, not create a new country.

Jones stressed that he was calling for a cultural restoration in the spirit of the bill of rights – a newly unified America under the Constitution – and not a violent overthrow, noting that it was the states that created the Constitution and the federal government in the first place.

Jones noted that the only course to restoring liberty was clear – “To follow the founding document of the Republic, the Declaration of Independence, wherein it is clearly stated that it is the right and the duty of the American people, when their government becomes destructive and tyrannical, to abolish and reconstitute it in a form that protects our liberties.”

“We are not calling for secession to form new separate countries, we are calling for secession because the states created the Constitution, bill of rights and federal government, and the federal government itself has been hijacked by foreign special interests – mainly banking cartels,” said Jones.

“I am calling for people to be educated about how we can secede to restore the Republic,” said Jones, warning that the media was attempting to characterize the entire movement as a plot to bring down America when in fact America has already been captured and taken over by the political and financial elite.

“This is the states putting their foot down and saying we are going to reconstitute the federal government under the bill of rights and constitution, we’re going to kick out the bureaucrats, the lobbyists, the foreign criminals, and the Federal Reserve who have taken over,” explained Jones.

The radio host also put the call out for Congressman Ron Paul to head up such a movement and utilize his vast network of grass roots liberty-loving activists to lead the charge, as well as using his contacts in each state to begin the process of secession in the legislature.

Harvard constitutional law scholar and adviser to Ron Paul, Edwin Viera appeared on the syndicated radio broadcast and agreed with Alex Jones’ constitutional battle plan, with the declaration of independence as the centerpiece of legal authority.

Ron Paul’s former congressional chief of staff and founder of the Von Mises institute, Lew Rockwell also appeared on the special broadcast and concurred with Jones’ strategy that now is the time to launch our offensive and restore the republic.

The right of the people to reconstitute their government if it becomes oppressive and onerous is clearly outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, 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.”

Preamble, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

In the aftermath of petitions from all 50 states to secede being posted on the White House website and signed by over a million Americans, the secessionist movement has been portrayed as anti-American, unpatriotic and even treasonous. In reality, as Ron Paul has emphasized, it is as American as apple pie and George Washington.

The most popular petition out of all 50 that have been posted on the White House website applies to Texas and reads as follows;

“The US continues to suffer economic difficulties stemming from the federal government’s neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending. The citizens of the US suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect it’s citizens’ standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.”

The call for states to secede from the union, one now backed by over a million Americans, is part of a wider disenfranchisement with how the country has been infested and hijacked by a crony political elite and the principles of the founders decimated.

As over a million Americans express their disenfranchisement with the federal government by supporting a secessionist movement that has spread like wildfire, it is time to call for a new declaration of independence and a new commitment to restore the Republic in the face of an enemy that has subverted America from within.

The United States government has been seized by domestic and foreign banking cartels. This fact is so transparently obvious that talking heads on CNBC now laugh about it.

While Americans are being told to brace for tax hikes, spending cuts and a myriad of other austerity measures, the Federal Reserve has been sending trillions of dollars to foreign banks.

The federal government is supposed to represent the states, but it doesn’t, it represents the interests of the political and banking elite who themselves have no allegiance whatsoever to America.

Infowars is calling on patriots to start a movement to draft Ron Paul as the head of a brand new effort to restore the Republic, restore the bill of rights and opt out of the counterfeit America the banking elite has subverted and fashioned to serve their own interests.

The establishment media is already demonizing the secessionist movement as a rag-tag group of fringe kooks and paranoid racists, when in reality as the Daily Caller uncovered, it is comprised of former Marines, parents, business owners and ordinary mechanics.

Meanwhile, Obama supporters and other statists have called on the government to punish those putting their signatures to the secession petitions by having them stripped of their citizenship, deported and exiled.

It’s time to re-assert the narrative on secession and put it in its proper context, which is not an infantile reaction to the fact that Barack Obama won the election, but an expression of extreme uneasiness at the direction in which the country is heading, a widespread discontent that has been ongoing for long before Obama even took office, and a new commitment calling on states to nullify unconstitutional laws and regulations and secede from the increasingly tyrannical federal government.

Watch Ron Paul’s farewell speech below in which he skewers authoritarianism in all its forms and captures the true spirit of liberty which should drive the movement to secede from the federal government and reconstitute America under the Declaration of Independence.


Ron Paul: The Founders Believed in Secession

“Secession is what we did when we left England, it was a wonderful thing”

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
November 15, 2012

Congressman Ron Paul reacted to the secessionist movement sweeping America today by reminding people that the United States seceded from the British empire, while slamming those who suggested their fellow Americans should be deported merely for talking about the idea.

In the aftermath of petitions from all 50 states to secede being posted on the White House website and signed by over a million Americans, the secessionist movement has been portrayed as anti-American, unpatriotic and even treasonous. In reality, as Ron Paul has emphasized, it is as American as apple pie and George Washington.

Paul updated his thoughts on secession during an appearance on C-Span today, noting how “The founders believed in it, there’s no prohibition in the Constitution against secession,” adding that the union was voluntary and therefore secession was also voluntary under the tenth amendment.

“They want to put them on a list that they’re committing treason, put them in prison or throw them out of the country – what about the First Amendment,” asked Paul in response to calls by some on the left to have pro-secessionists deported.

“The principle of secession is very important, not so much for the purpose of seceding, but the purpose of saying to the federal government ‘if you mistreat us that’s what we might consider’,” said Paul, noting that New England talked about secession in the early 19th century and was not condemned for doing so.

Paul explained that the principle was really about states nullifying laws that were anathema to the Constitution.

“Nullification is the same thing – what if states could nullify the law? Look how wonderful it would have been to solve the problem of Obamacare if the states could just nullify the thing and get out of it, so nullification and secession should always be there,” said Paul.

“Secession is what we did when we left England, it was a wonderful thing,” said Paul, adding that there were no complaints when eastern European nations seceded from the Communist bloc.”

Paul concluded by condemning the hysteria generated by those in opposition to people merely for talking about secession and noted that if secession and nullification had been on the table, the federal government would not have grown to its current bloated size.

The most popular petition out of all 50 that have been posted on the White House website applies to Texas and reads as follows;

“The US continues to suffer economic difficulties stemming from the federal government’s neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending. The citizens of the US suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect it’s citizens’ standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.”

The call for states to secede from the union, one now backed by over a million Americans, is part of a wider disenfranchisement with how the country has been infested and hijacked by a crony political elite and the principles of the founders decimated.

As over a million Americans express their disenfranchisement with the federal government by supporting a secessionist movement that has spread like wildfire, it is time to call for a new declaration of independence and a new commitment to restore the Republic in the face of an enemy that has subverted America from within.

The United States government has been seized by domestic and foreign banking cartels. This fact is so transparently obvious that talking heads on CNBC now laugh about it.

While Americans are being told to brace for tax hikes, spending cuts and a myriad of other austerity measures, the Federal Reserve has been sending trillions of dollars to foreign banks.

We are not calling for the states to opt out of the union, we are calling on them to opt out and secede from the new world order power monopoly that is busy destroying everything that was ever good about America.

The federal government is supposed to represent the states, but it doesn’t, it represents the interests of the political and banking elite who themselves have no allegiance whatsoever to America.

Infowars is calling on patriots to start a movement to draft Ron Paul as the head of a brand new effort to restore the Republic, restore the bill of rights and opt out of the counterfeit America the banking elite has subverted and fashioned to serve their own interests.

The establishment media is already demonizing the secessionist movement as a rag-tag group of fringe kooks and paranoid racists, when in reality as the Daily Caller uncovered, it is comprised of former Marines, parents, business owners and ordinary mechanics.

Meanwhile, Obama supporters and other statists have called on the government to punish those putting their signatures to the secession petitions by having them stripped of their citizenship, deported and exiled.

It’s time to re-assert the narrative on secession and put it in its proper context, which is not an infantile reaction to the fact that Barack Obama won the election, but an expression of extreme uneasiness at the direction in which the country is heading, a widespread discontent that has been ongoing for long before Obama even took office, and a new commitment calling on states to nullify unconstitutional laws and regulations.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, 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.”

Preamble, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.


What Does It Mean that Residents in All 50 States Have Filed Petitions to Secede?


November 15, 2012

Secession:  Exploding Movement, Tempest In a Teapot … Or Something Else?

A lot of attention is being given to the fact that residents in all 50 states have filed petitions to secedefrom the United States.

Daily Caller reports:

By 6:00 a.m. EST Wednesday, more than 675,000 digital signatures appeared on 69 separate secession petitions covering all 50 states, according to a Daily Caller analysis of requests lodged with the White House’s “We the People” online petition system.


Petitions from AlabamaFloridaGeorgiaLouisianaNorth CarolinaTennessee andTexas residents have accrued at least 25,000 signatures, the number the Obama administration says it will reward with a staff review of online proposals. (RELATEDWill Texas secede? Petition triggers White House review)

The Texas petition leads all others by a wide margin.


States whose active petitions have not yet reached the 25,000 signature threshold include AlaskaArkansasArizonaCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareHawaii,IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasKentuckyMaineMarylandMassachusetts,MichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontanaNebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth DakotaOhioOklahoma,OregonPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaUtahVermont,VirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsin and Wyoming.


Fourteen states are represented by at least two competing petitions. The extra efforts from two states — Missouri and South Carolina — would add enough petitions to warrant reviews by the Obama administration if they were combined into petitions launched earlier.

Other states with multiple efforts include AlaskaCaliforniaGeorgiaIllinoisKansas,New YorkOhioOklahomaPennsylvaniaUtahVirginia and Wisconsin.

As Google notes, web searches for the term “secession” are being run in a number of states:

What Does It Mean that Residents in All 50 States Have Filed Petitions to Secede? Map

Conservatives – such as Judge Napolitano and Ron Paul –  say that the states have the right to secede.  And Texas governor Rick Perry said that Texas has a right to secede (although he counsels against it at the current time).

On the other hand, most liberals say that the Civil War ended the state’s right to secede.    Huffington Post is covering the wave of secession petitions … to ridicule them.

Daily Kos suggests that “secessionists can secede by renouncing their citizenship“.

As the Daily Caller notes, liberals have launched their own counter-petitions:

In a … nose-thumbing aimed at Texas’ conservative majority, progressives from the liberal state capital of Austin responded Monday with a petition to secede from their state if Texas as a whole should decide to leave the Union.

Late Tuesday a second group of Texans, this one from Houston, lodged their own White House petition. Secession-minded Texans, they wrote, “are mentally deficient and [we] do not want them representing us. We would like more education in our state to eradicate their disease.”


A group from El Paso, too, wants no part of an independent Texas. “Allow the city of El Paso to secede from the state of Texas,” their petition reads. “El Paso is tired of being a second class city within Texas.”

Yahoo News argues that the petitions are meaningless:

The petitions are little more than symbolic—and nothing new. Similar petitions were filed after the 2004 and 2008 elections.

Libertarian website Lew Rockwell argues in a piece by Ryan McMaken that nothing will come of the current secession attempts, but that the principle is important:

I have no illusions about this latest secession petition phenomenon. Nothing will directly come of this, and the people who are behind it are mostly people who would be singing “God Bless America” at the tops of their lungs had Mitt Romney been elected. On the other hand, it sure has a lot of people talking about secession, which shows that the idea of it remains an important part of the American political consciousness.


The Declaration makes a simple argument:

  1. Humans have rights from the Creator.
  2. Governments exist to secure those rights (a debatable assertion but we’ll roll with it).
  3. When the government fails to secure those rights, we can ditch it and start our own government.

That’s pretty much all it says. If you thought that was true in 1776, when tax rates were 1% and there was no such thing as a the EPA or the FBI or the IRS, why is it not true now? Because we’re so much more free now? And, no, the Declaration did not say that the government is free to violate rights as long as people get to vote on it.

The Declaration establishes that there’s no such thing as treason, and a free government requires the assumption of just secession. Lysander Spooner explains[:]

Thus the whole Revolution [of 1775–1783] turned upon, asserted, and, in theory, established, the right of each and every man, at his discretion, to release himself from the support of the government under which he had lived. And this principle was asserted, not as a right peculiar to themselves, or to that time, or as applicable only to the government then existing; but as a universal right of all men, at all times, and under all circumstances.

Ron Paul says that states have the right so secede … and predicts they will do so when the dollar collapses:

My take has been the same for many years … I believe that America – like the Soviet Union – may break up when corruption and tyranny lead to the break down of basic systems.

And see this and this.


Joe Wright
Activist Post

The White House website has been bombarded with petitions that have mushroomed to 34 states moving to secede. The first petition came in from Louisiana the day after Obama’s re-election, and since then a chorus of others have issued their grievances.

Now, under White House rules stated in its “We the People” program, if 25,000 people sign on by December 7th, a response must be issued. Just a few days after submitting, that number has been reached by the petitions from Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia — with Texas closing in on 90,000.

Here is the current list of state totals:

  1. Alaska (5,306)Alabama (24,721)
  2. Arizona (16,016)
  3. Arkansas (17,667)
  4. California (8,772)
  5. Colorado (16,879)
  6. Delaware (5,896)
  7. Florida (21,129)
  8. Georgia (25,578)
  9. Indiana (15,807)
  10. Kansas (5,396)
  11. Kentucky (14,596)
  12. Louisiana (31.544)
  13. Michigan (15,241)
  14. Mississippi (14,432)
  15. Missouri (15,036)
  16. Montana (10,856)
  17. Nebraska (4,469)
  18. Nevada (7,677)
  19. New Jersey (11,299)
  20. New York (6,110)
  21. North Carolina (23,715)
  22. North Dakota (9,626)
  23. Ohio (5,187)
  24. Oklahoma 6,559)
  25. Oregon (11,819)
  26. Pennsylvania (5,499)
  27. South Carolina (18,416)
  28. South Dakota (4,046)
  29. Tennessee (24,270)
  30. Texas (88,913)
  31. Utah (3,844)
  32. West Virginia (4,660)
  33. Wyoming (6,225)

Will the White House respond, or ignore the will of the people as it routinely does on the issues that matter most? One Florida resident is making national news; former Navy serviceman, Philip Hoezel, who turned his flag upside down in protest on Veterans Day.

While his neighbors berated him for the blasphemy, and for “hurting a lot of people’s feelings;” as a Navy man he would know that the traditional significance of the upside-down flag is to indicate a ship in its final moments of severe distress before it sinks — a ship of state, for instance. It is a form of peaceful protest that is increasing in numbers and is a statement as symbolic as these petitions.


3 Myths About Secession

Ryan W. McMaken
Lew Rockwell Blog
November 14, 2012

I have no illusions about this latest secession petition phenomenon. Nothing will directly come of this, and the people who are behind it are mostly people who would be singing “God Bless America” at the tops of their lungs had Mitt Romney been elected. On the other hand, it sure has a lot of people talking about secession, which shows that the idea of it remains an important part of the American political consciousness.

But, in response, most of the comments coming from political hacks display a deep, deep ignorance of the history of secession and the Constitutional realities behind it.

In response, I thought I’d list some retorts to the basic myths which most of the anti-secession screeds are intent on perpetuating.

1. The Constitution does not prohibit secession. The legal argument boils down to this: 1. The Constitution does not mention secession. In any way. 2. The Tenth Amendment says: “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.” Now, I don’t have a Ph.D. in logic, but even I can figure out that if something is not mentioned, then, according to the 10th Amendment, it isn’t prohibited to the states. In fact is is the opposite of prohibited. Now, I know that the Supreme Court says no secession allowed, which means the federal government has declared that you can’t escape the federal government. Gee, that’s no shocker. So sure, if you believe that the federal government should be the last word on what the federal government can and cannot do, then that’s fine. Just don’t pretend that we have constitutional government. If the federal government gets to decide what the Constitution says, then the Constitution is nothing more than a suggestion box for the feds.

2. The Civil War did not “settle” the issue. Well, it settled the issue in the way that I settled the matter of ownership of that Steve Garvey baseball card when I beat up that other kid and took it. (OK, that never happened, but you get my point.) Secession was never settled beyond the federal government’s assertion that it has the right to kill people who try to exercise their rights protected by the Tenth Amendment.

3. Secession is treason/unAmerican/craaaazy/for slavers only. Prior to the confederacy, there were some slaveowners who got together and seceded from their government. They were called Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. If you’re opposed to the secession of 1776, then that’s fine, you might be consistent on this issue, but if you’re one of these right-wing pundits who thinks the Declaration of Independence should be read aloud every July 4, and then says that secession is nutso, you might try actually reading that document you profess to love.

The Declaration makes a simple argument:
1. Humans have rights from the Creator
2. Governments exist to secure those rights (a debatable assertion but we’ll roll with it.)
3. When the government fails to secure those rights, we can ditch it and start our own government.

That’s pretty much all it says. If you thought that was true in 1776, when tax rates were 1% and there was not such thing as a the EPA or the FBI or the IRS, why is it not true now? Because we’re so much more free now? And no, the Declaration did not say that the government is free to violate rights as long as people get to vote on it.

The Declaration establishes that there’s no such thing as treason, and a free government requires the assumption of just secession. Lysander Spooner explains (in No Treason #1):

Thus the whole Revolution [of 1775-1783] turned upon, asserted, and, in theory, established, the right of each and every man, at his discretion, to release himself from the support of the government under which he had lived. And this principle was asserted, not as a right peculiar to themselves, or to that time, or as applicable only to the government then existing; but as a universal right of all men, at all times, and under all circumstances.


Citizens from 34 States Petition the White House to Secede from the U.S.

Adan Salazar
Prison Planet.com
November 13, 2012

Citizens from 14 additional states have opened up petitions on the White House’s “We the People” petition submission site – the government’s “new, easy way for Americans to make their voice heard in our government” – asking to allow “peaceful withdrawal” from the continental United States, a staggering increase from the 20 states reported yesterday.

Citizens from 34 States Petition the White House to Secede from the U.S. foundingfathers2

Concerned citizens from the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming, to name a few, now all have petitions inching their way towards the signature threshold of 25,000 on the government site. If the petitions reach the threshold, they will require a response from the Obama administration.

After enough signatures are garnered, members from all major policy offices “will help determine which policy office in the White House or federal agency should review and respond to petitions and ensure that petition responses are posted as quickly as possible.”

So far, two states, Texas and Louisiana, have reached their required signature thresholds and will require responses. Florida’s petition should reach the threshold by the end of the day.

Here’s the latest list of states and signature counts as of writing this. Some citizens in a few states have opened up multiple petitions for the same state.

  1. Alaska (2,814)
  2. Alabama (19,718)
  3. Arizona (11,642)
  4. Arkansas (14,384)
  5. California (5,444)
  6. Colorado (14,111)
  7. Delaware (4,532)
  8. Florida (21,129)
  9. Georgia (19,802), Georgia (9,457)
  10. Indiana (12,938)
  11. Kansas (2,786)
  12. Kentucky (12,319)
  13. Louisiana (28,741)
  14. Michigan (12,868)
  15. Mississippi (12,355)
  16. Missouri (14,033), Missouri (11,065)
  17. Montana (9,634)
  18. Nebraska (1,879)
  19. Nevada (5,941)
  20. New Jersey (9,961)
  21. New York (3,974), New York (11,084)
  22. North Carolina (18,601)
  23. North Dakota (8,633)
  24. Ohio (1,010), Ohio (5,357)
  25. Oklahoma (3,681), Oklahoma (11,013)
  26. Oregon (10,158)
  27. Pennsylvania (2,420), Pennsylvania (7,624)
  28. S.C. (15,045), South Carolina (10,948)
  29. South Dakota (1,372)
  30. Tennessee (19,030)
  31. Texas (70,791)
  32. Utah (626), Utah (4,028)
  33. West Virginia (1,530)
  34. Wyoming (4,069)

Most of the petitions cite phrases straight out of the founding fathers’ Declaration of Independence, which states, “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.”

Alaska’s petition asks for a “free election” to allow citizens of Alaska to decide if they “should be a free and Independent Nation.”

It was suspected that petitions were only being submitted by states from the original confederacy, which could potentially indicate racism towards Obama; however, the support of various other states in the nation has helped quash that theory.

Not everyone’s on board with the idea. One person put up a petition asking for signatures to support thedeportation of everyone that signed the previous secession petitions. Another asked the U.S. to strip the citizenship of those who signed petitions and to “exile them.”

According to the site’s FAQ section, anyone with a valid e-mail address and age “13 or older can create or sign an online petition seeking a federal government action on a range of issues. Then it’s up to the petition creator and signers to build support for the petition by gathering more signatures.”

Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver, told the Washington Times that petitions of this nature won’t be taken seriously by the president or the administration and are little more than grandiose gestures illustrating the discontent of voters. “It’s hard to see this as anything other than sour grapes,” Mr. Masket told the Washington Times via e-mail. “These petitions have no legal power and no president would ever agree to them. It’s a way to register dissent with the way the majority of the country voted last week, but it’s little beyond that.”

The White House will still have to come up with some type of response for petitions that reached the 25,000 mark but they don’t give a specific time frame for when a response should be expected.


Restoring America Starts with Secession


Nov 17, 2012

Restoration of the republic through secession goes viral.


Alex Details His Battle Plan to Restore The Republic


Nov 17, 2012

Alex breaks down the exploding secession movement and how important it is that States exercise their rights.


Ron Paul Defends Growing Secession Movement

Retiring Congressman notes principle is “deeply American”

Steve Watson
Nov 19, 2012

Ron Paul Defends Growing Secession Movement Paul 2012 0da49 150 image 1024w

In his weekly update, released today, Congressman Ron Paul defends those who have signed petitions in all 50 states advocating secession from the federal government, referring to the principle as “deeply American”.

Echoing comments he made back in 2009, Paul notes “This country was born through secession. Some thought it was treasonous to secede from England, but those “traitors” became our country’s greatest patriots.”

“…the principles of self-government and voluntary association are at the core of our founding….There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents.” the Congressman adds.

Explaining that the recent election only served to further entrench the political status quo, Paul urges “…our own federal government is vastly overstepping its constitutional bounds with no signs of reform.” He reminds Americans that “the first and third paragraph of the Declaration of Independence expressly contemplate the dissolution of a political union when the underlying government becomes tyrannical.”

Though he says he is not holding his breath that any state will actually secede, the congressman stresses that “If the possibility of secession is completely off the table there is nothing to stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties, and no recourse for those who are sick and tired of it.”

“If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government they cannot truly be considered free.” Paul adds.

Listen to the congressman’s comments on secession in full below.

In a separate development, Paul announced in an interview with The Hill Sunday that although he is retiring from Congress, he has no intention of scaling back his speaking schedule and his ongoing campaign for liberty.

“I’m excited about spending more time on college campuses, not less. College campuses will still be on my agenda. That’s where the action is.” Paul said.

As we noted last week, several detractors have claimed that American citizens who signed the secession petitions are effectively advocating a new civil war, and can rightfully be stripped of their firearms.

Some even argued that any American advocating secession should be stripped of their citizenship and deported.

As we described at length in our editorial, Secessionists do not want to be part of a separate country, they wish to use the terms of the Declaration of Independence to peacefully reconstitute through the states and restore the Republic.


Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, andPrisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.


Adrian Hodder

Dan and Sheila Gendron, Contributors
Activist Post

As of Nov. 15th, 2012, all 50 states had petitions in place to secede from the “Union”. Some of the alternative news media have jumped on the wagon, vying for first place to lead the charge.

Fighting the system to “fix” (or resurrect) it, is the same as fighting over who gets the tenderloin steak off a dead and rotting cow. For many of you I am sure this will be an extremely radical statement. But if that system led us to the morass of greed and evil in which we are today, wouldn’t it be better to step aside while it collapses and help lead society toward a better paradigm, based more on caring about others than about squeezing the last penny out of some useless consumer product?

Just what is “the system”?

The system is an interlocked, interdependent, inter-cooperative combine of societal control. These systems work their tentacles into all facets of society, including:

  • Government – all levels, state, county and municipal, federal, U.N., etc.
  • Banking – IMF and Federal Reserve on down.
  • Education – all levels, kindergarten through graduate school.
  • Corporations – releasing people from responsibility.
  • Pop Culture – TV, pop music, news media.

Contrary to what you may think, these institutions are not there to serve you. They serve only themselves.


The education system is designed to program you with societal lies and put you in a situation that will deeply program the insecurities that will be exploited by the corporations and governments in your later life. If you don’t know why so many schools and so many scholars could be bent to the dark side, it is really not difficult to understand. It all has to do with money.

If you pride yourself as an “academic” (someone who has gone to college – gone to school most of their lives – and doesn’t stop because they keep getting rewarded for being such excellent repeaters), someone has to pay the tab for this to be possible for you. How is it done? It is done mostly with grants. These are used by corporations and governments to give the academic seal of approval to the governmental or corporate baloney.

Let’s say I’m a pharmaceutical company and I want research done on my particular drug so that I gain government approval. I, as the corporation, get to decide who gets this research grant. Savvy academics know how to make themselves desirable to government grants and corporate payoffs.

The academics need only write “white papers” on the benefits of a particular drug (or the need for homeland security or global warming issues, etc.) and grant money will flow in their direction. So the academic merry-go-round goes, spewing baloney as truth with the academic seal of approval.

The elementary and secondary (high) school system is just as filled with baloney as the college level, but gives the students a good background and training in how to accept and repeat the baloney while getting them used to taking orders from the “authorities” and being good little compliant “citizens” (read: consumer slaves). That system also makes sure the good instincts – like asking thoughtful questions – are turned into insecurities for being different than everyone else.


Government is a euphemism for “our gang”. The government operates no differently than the Mafia or any common street gang. If you are an aficionado of Monty Python you may have seen one of their more popular sketches with the “Facotti Brothers”. Soaked with sarcasm and irony, the two brothers visit an army base and try to shake it down for protection money. One of the brothers says to the colonel, “You got a lot of really nice tanks here, Colonel. It’d be a shame if something happened to them.”

This, in a nutshell, is how all governments work – state, county, municipal, federal, world (the U.N. and the soon-coming “one world government”) – they all have the same racket. That racket is harvesting money from their “human resources” under the guise of “serving them”.

I recently read an article about an Englishman who bought a piece of rural land in what the English call the north country and got himself some cows, goats, chickens, solar power, built himself a small home and was an excellent model of self-sufficiency. He was contacted by the Borough Council and was told that he must return to his suburban London home, enroll his children in school, pay his pole tax, get himself and his family inoculated, reconnect to the grid, buy his food at the grocery store, etc. – even though he had achieved 100% self-sufficiency – or risk jail. It was just “their gang’s” way of saying “we need our piece or something gets broken”.

Those of us who have seen beyond the veil understand that empty euphemisms like “for the betterment of society”, “for society as a whole” and, last but not least, “for the children” (by far their favorite), are used to hold you into society.

Years ago, our daughter, who never had a social security number, went to get a passport. She told us that the people at the passport office actually seemed scared of her because she did not have a SSN. What on earth could possibly be frightening about not having an SSN at 18 years old? Truth is, the only thing frightening is how you are conditioned to respond to it, not the condition whatsoever.

In order for governments to maintain their hegemony, they absolutely need servile, docile taxpayers. Without that they no longer exist. Like the Mafia needs people paying them for their protection, the government needs your compliance!

At least the Mafia has a rule…they don’t involve “civilians” in their business. That is, unless you borrow money from a loan shark, rent one of their prostitutes or make a bet with them, you are pretty much “hands-off” to them. But the government claims you the moment you flow out of the “river of the womb” (investigate what Jordan Maxwell says about a birth certificate being like the birthing of a boat and why Admiralty law is the de facto law of this country. Note the gold fringed flag of the seas).

It’s all about taking back your sovereign rights. No government or system gives you those rights. They must be claimed and accepted on a daily basis by you, personally.


The primary directive of a corporation is to extract their pound of flesh from their “human resources” at hand in the most cost-effective way.

When you consider that the “raison d’etre” of a corporation is to obtain the most profits for the corporation as possible, it makes sense for them to cut every corner, pay every employee as little as possible, squeeze every penny from the consumers by making a cheaper – albeit lower quality – product. What the corporation – by definition – needs not consider is, “is this the right thing to do, the ethical or positive thing to do?”

Efficiency is how they euphemistically describe this penny pinching money grubbing. The sterile inhospitable décor of a Wal-mart is a stunning example of corporate efficiency. Psychologists, psychiatrists and human relations experts are the directors of this environment. Their job is to find the most efficient ways to exploit all the insecurities you have had hard-wired into you by the advertising gurus and, like a combine tearing through a wheat field, harvest all the “edible fruit” it can.

If you have never seen the documentary film, The High Cost of Low Prices it is a real window into the corporate world. It shows the worker abuse, anti-union activities, lack of health care and (this is rich) Wal-mart instructing its employees on how they can also collect welfare, WIC, food stamps, etc. to augment their lack of a living wage. All ways to keep you in the grasp of the system.

Sadly, the only reason that I have had to ever set foot in a Wal-Mart was because the other grocery and retail establishments to whom I would have gladly paid higher prices, had been put out of business by Wal-mart.

Suffice to say, big business/corporations do not have your best interests at heart. Whenever posed with a choice, choose a small, local business to spend your dollars with. The goal for all American workers is for us to be like good Wal-Mart employees, making less than a paycheck you can live on, and dependent on the government hand-outs to make up the difference. Can you say “slavery”?

Here’s someone with a clear understanding:


The Banking system, if you really look at it, is the greatest scam ever. In a nutshell, the Federal Reserve creates money (electronic credits, really) out of thin air – just on their own “say so” – and then sells it to the governments at interest. The money to pay the interest is also created out of thin air and is also sold at interest, so that they system’s cycle never ends.

There are plenty of places on the Internet that explain this in detail. We recommend watching at least the economic section in the movie, Zeitgeist: Addendum by Peter Joseph, and our article, The Economic Illusion Laid Bare. 

Pop Culture

Pop Culture is broadly defined as our entertainment – TV, movies, radio, music, magazines – all designed to maintain the consumerist lifestyle. Any doubt of this at all and you need only to pick up a copy of Mother Earth News and see how utterly commercial even they have become.

These institutions are also employed to exploit the deep-seated insecurities we have had hard-wired into us from education, government, corporations, et al. Some things they do are very subtle, like the 29.9 flicker rate standard on a TV that is designed to put your brain into a mid-theta state.

The theta state is the one in which the subconscious mind is most vulnerable to suggestion. It is possible to watch a TV show or movie, fall deeply into a theta state without knowing it and then, exploiting the natural rhythms of your mind, they can implant, word-by-word, buried within the dialogue, a particular set of “programming” – that is, mental programming. Have you ever wondered why they call it “PROGRAMMING”?

Nothing goes across the mainstream media news outlets that isn’t sanitized and specifically constructed to bring about the desired result. The CIA has had case officers working all major media outfits long before 9/11. This is even admitted by our government.

If you were aware that watching TV some number of hours a day literally changes your mind and removes your free will, would you really watch it? Sadly for many of us, life without our favorite TV show would be just too unbearable. But if reading this has woken you up – TURN YOUR ********* TV OFF!!! It does not serve you. It serves others who do not have your best interests at heart.

Even Sesame Street (especially Sesame Street) is used to start the training early. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order said, “Give me a child for for his first seven years and I’ll give you the man.”

If you feel uncomfortable about disconnecting yourself from “the system”, remember TPTB have conditioned you to feel uncomfortable about thinking these kinds of thoughts.

If you choose the freedom of self-reliance, it’s perfectly normal to feel even scared. If you think all your thoughts are yours, please re-read this and try to form a clear thought process. For some of you I know it will be a new experience, but once you can see that the system is designed to make you into a “good worker (slave)/consumer” and nothing more, you should understand their need to keep you in the system, and how good it is to be out.

Every part of the system is in existence because you agree to be a part of it, you agree to accept that it has power. Don’t give it power by fighting against it. Our intention – we believe that our intentions create our realities – is to help you to extract yourself from being someone else’s “human resource” – and become your own resource.

Read other articles by Dan and Sheila HERE

Dan & Sheila are the authors of Surviving Survivalism – How to Avoid Survivalism Culture Shock, and hosts of the free podcast, Still Surviving with Dan & Sheila. For questions about space in their Intentional Survivalist Community or other survivalist issues, they can be reached at surviving@lavabit.com.


SARTRE, Contributor
Activist Post

All the buzz in the aftermath of the last election is that secession is in the air. Despite the improbable prospects that the globalists that control the federal government would allow the upstart masses to leave the dominion of Disunion States, it is promising that the country builds critical mass for dissolution. Secession in this day is not your call to arms in the defense of home.

“Honest Abe’s” version of despotism caused many politicians to “Wave the bloody shirt”, but today’s crop of brave leaders just asks you to sign a petition to beg for a cordial severance. Just imagine the response from the unprincipled governmental career class. The re-education FEMA facilities are ready to become today’s “Camp Douglas” detention centers.

The League of the South list Ten Reasons For Secession and offers this assessment. “What is behind this increasing support for secession and independence? Perhaps the answer is this: hard reality has finally trumped the myth of a sacred, indivisible union. In other words, many citizens are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall, and the message is alarming.”

Notwithstanding, the sentiments of the Old South, the contemporary motivation to reject the arrogant and oppressive dictates of the central government is taking hold for a myriad of reasons.

One of the stronger reasons appears in the article, Pluralism Leaves No Other Option – LIBERTY Demands Secession.

It is absolutely crucial to view the concept of America not as a country, and certainly not as a government. The uniqueness in the notion of the 1776 revolution lies within the shot heard round the world. Equity – adjudication of the inadequate common law, supplant natural law with chancery courts. ‘Equity follows the law’ is the claim, but the practice is that the law becomes arbitrary, that which men desire.

Secession is the moral course. Yes, you will reply that the government will never allow such a wild proposal. Surely, you would be correct, the nature of the federal system is to control people, and would not give up the power to dominate citizens. But, that evaluation does not dispel the validity of the ethical case. So much for the prospect of Liberty in a free society.

Set aside the fear of federal retribution and coercive retaliation. Is it justified to seek dissolution of the failed empire that has long ago buried the essence of a constitutional republic? The great departed Joseph Sobran inSecession, Anyone?, urges you to search your conscience and be true to your immortal soul.

A few readers think I’m writing with tongue in cheek when I propose secession. Well, though I see the humor of it, I’m not exactly joking. I know it’s unlikely to happen, for the time being, but the idea has value as a thought-experiment. It can help free our minds of the illusion that the present political status quo was, and is, ‘inevitable.’

How would such a movement proceed? The essay, Representation, Secession and Taxation, illustrates unbearable circumstances and practical steps to ratchet up populace pressure.

As discontent rises and practical solutions evaporate, that dirty historic sentiment begins to bubble to the surface, SECESSION. Russell D. Longcore provides a standard, when secession is a vital and justified option that many would accept.

Secession should be solemnly deliberated by the elected representatives and the state citizens. Secession should be initiated at the moment that any state reaches the point at which it will no longer accept the despotic tyranny and laws coming from the US Federal Government in Washington, DC. Or, secession should be initiated upon a collapse of the Dollar, or the imposition by Washington DC of martial law in the event of social upheaval.

The initiative, Petitions to secede are filed for 23 states since election, as previously reported by the Washington Times explains the procedure.

The White House may have to take the requests seriously. According to the website, any petition receiving 25,000 online ‘signatures’ on the ‘We the People’ page within 30 days of posting will receive a review by the appropriate executive department and a response from a White House staffer.

As of Monday, the Texas petition had already exceeded the 25,000-signature threshold, and the Louisiana petition was fast approaching the cutoff with more than 18,000 signatures. Most of the petitions were posted online Nov. 10, which means they have until Dec. 10 to qualify for a response.

A further update appears on U.S. Citizens In Over 40 States File Petitions For Secession, which also lists the states and the proposed response. “The Obama administration explains on the website, “If a petition meets the signature goal within the designated period, the White House will respond to that petition in a timely fashion.”

Finally, the Daily Caller raises attention from the state of Texas.

The Texas petition leads all others by a wide margin. Shortly before 9:00 a.m. EST Wednesday, it had attracted 94,700 signatures. But a spokesperson for Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday afternoon that he does not support the idea of his state striking out on its own.

‘Gov. Perry believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it. But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government,’ according to a statement from the governor’s office.

A backlash Monday night saw requests filed with the White House to strip citizenship rights from Americans who signed petitions to help states secede.

This last implication, suggesting that any citizen that petitions for secession to the federal government should be stripped of citizenship, essentially supports the case why beleaguered and ostracized proponents of a nation of laws, as opposed to a banana republic of the rule of men, deserves a peaceful severing of ties. Read closer the real intentions of the global fascists: Anti-secession forces fight back with White House deportation petitions.

“Mr. President,” reads one, “please sign an executive order such that each American citizen who signed a petition from any state to secede from the USA shall have their citizenship stripped and be peacefully deported.”

This “so called” peaceful deportment is basically the separation sought, when the destination for exile is the very state that seeks secession. Each individual state retains their sovereignty and every citizen is endowed with intrinsic natural rights.

The fault with petitions to the federal government for the privilege of exercising your own inherent rights is absurd. State governors need to demonstrate the leadership to rally their legislatures to employ their legitimate dominion in the face of federal government tyranny.

Force, bribery and unlawful court decisions are the tools used by the central government to intimidate, cajole and dictate their formula of oppression. Mr. Sobran’s questioning the inevitability for acceptance of federal authoritarianism, rests on your fortitude and character of exercising your basic human rights.

Secession from tyrannical government is a moral imperative.

Any illusion that the Obama administration would willingly bend to the will of the people from a sovereign state escapes normal thought, however, in the face of stark repression, only consistency with valuing the sanctity of life and human rights, allows for principled stands on high moral ground.

Governments fall, while a consensual nation state can still survive. With the destruction of an accepted traditionalistic national identity, time-honored heritage becomes the target of dictatorial “do gooders” who facilitate subjugation of independent self-governing states.

The disease of false patriotism in a corrupt and imperial empire is destroying the lives and moral character of the multitude. Decent citizens need to proceed with advocacy on secession with more action than signing a petition. They must confront the domination out of Washington directly. They must lobby their state legislatures to reject federal intrusion. Also, they must pressure their governors to resist and fight back the coercion from central governance.

When the oppressed masses realize that the welfare state is actually a Chicago-style detention camp intended with their demise, the prospects for a ground swell for secession would explode. The context of justifiable rebellion starts in Texas as stated in Politico account, Secession petition leader: Obama’s baked.

‘I am completely aware that Election Day was a catalyzing moment, but I do not believe that the underpinnings of this are solely about Barack Obama,’ Texas Nationalist Movement President Daniel Miller told POLITICO. ‘This cake has been baking for a long time — it’s the Obama administration that put the candles on the cake and lit it for us.’

Blowing out the candles of federal absolutism is the imperative of our age. Secession is not a dirty word, but is an indispensable solution. Dissolving the union of the suppressed, under the auspices of the subverted elite, is the path to social freedom and human liberty. Non-violent civil disobedience needs to be the personal task of every citizen that believes in the origin of the country. A majority is not necessary to endorse and adopt this strategy in order to achieve a peaceable social revolution. A core element of activists and dedicated compatriots can change the world. Fear of internment is minuscule to everlasting captivity.

Original article archived here  with additional images

SARTRE is the pen name of James Hall, a reformed, former political operative. This pundit’s formal instruction in History, Philosophy and Political Science served as training for activism, on the staff of several politicians and in many campaigns. A believer in authentic Public Service, independent business interests were pursued in the private sector. Speculation in markets, and international business investments, allowed for extensive travel and a world view for commerce.  SARTRE is the publisher of BREAKING ALL THE RULES. Contact batr@batr.org



The Second American Revolution is Up to You

Prison Planet.com
November 17, 2012

On Thursday’s worldwide syndicated broadcast, radio host Alex Jones called for all Americans to take heed that our country has been captured and conquered by the political and financial elite and foreign banking interests.

“We are not calling for secession to form new separate countries, we are calling for secession because the states created the Constitution, bill of rights and federal government, and the federal government itself has been hijacked by foreign special interests – mainly banking cartels,” said Jones.

“I am calling for people to be educated about how we can secede to restore the Republic.”

Fresh on the heels of the hundreds of thousands of signed petitions submitted to the White House “We The People” website asking for peaceful withdrawal from the United States, Alex put out the call to rally behind a restoration of the Republic and the Bill of Rights and Constitution, under its original terms, and a new issuance of the Declaration of Independence – a second American revolution, where states would be freed from the international interests that have usurped the country.

Alex has issued the call for Congressman Ron Paul to lead the charge and new rebellion at the state level, utilizing the tremendous momentum gathered during his recent presidential campaign, as well as using his contacts in each state to begin the process of secession in the legislature.

Below are the articles and videos we’ve posted in the past few days – further galvanized by Ron Paul’s recent farewell address – dedicated to the notion of liberty through secession, the unalienable rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the absolute imperative nature of our message during these dire times.

Why The States Must Secede To Save America

TRANSCRIPT: Alex Jones – Secede from the New World Order

Impeach Obama Petition Reaches Threshold For Official Response

Secession Proponents Do Not Want A Civil War; And No, They Cannot Be Stripped Of Their Firearms

Ron Paul Warns About Perils of War as Middle East Tilts Toward Ultimate Conflagration

Ron Paul: The Founders Believed in Secession

Ron Paul: Secession Is an American Principle

Impeach Obama Petition Reaches Threshold For Official Response

In His Final Speech Ron Paul Warns Of “Continuous March Toward Fascism”

Obama Supporters Call For Secessionists to be Deported

Secession Proponents Do Not Want A Civil War; And No, They Cannot Be Stripped Of Their Firearms


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