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Does a State have the right to secede?
08-20-2013, 03:03 PM (This post was last modified: 08-20-2013 03:06 PM by wsanto.)
Post: #1
Does a State have the right to secede?
Lincoln faced this question upon winning the White House. Does a State have the right to secede from the Union and under what circumstances? It was a potent question on the IMDB "Lincoln" discussion board. I assume that we are a bit more biased about the answer on this site but I would like to hear the opinions of you all.

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08-20-2013, 03:13 PM
Post: #2
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
OK, Wild Bill, let 'er rip!
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08-20-2013, 04:44 PM
Post: #3
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
According to Texas v. White, no they don't. Before that, the Constitution was silent. It neither prohibited nor allowed it.

Lincoln's points on secession are clear, and in my opinion, valid.

Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this.[

Also

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

And further

Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinins and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

Seems pretty clear to me.

Best
Rob

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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08-20-2013, 05:03 PM
Post: #4
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
(08-20-2013 04:44 PM)Rob Wick Wrote:  And further

Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinins and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or despotism. Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I agreed with everything accept this last part.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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08-20-2013, 05:03 PM
Post: #5
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
In Texas v. White, the United States Supreme Court ruled unilateral secession unconstitutional, while commenting that revolution or consent of the states could lead to a successful secession.

The Declaration of Independence states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—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.

The right of revolution expressed in the Declaration was immediately followed with the observation that long-practiced injustice is tolerated until sustained assaults on the rights of the entire people have accumulated enough force to oppress them; then they may defend themselves.

Historian Maury Klein describes the contemporary debate: "Was the Republic a unified nation in which the individual states had merged their sovereign rights and identities forever, or was it a federation of sovereign states joined together for specific purposes from which they could withdraw at any time?"

Patrick Henry adamantly opposed adopting the Constitution because he interpreted its language to replace the sovereignty of the individual states

President James Buchanan gave a different voice—one much more accommodating to the views of the secessionists and the 'slave' states—in the midst of the pre-War secession crisis. In his final State of the Union address to Congress, on December 3, 1860, he acknowledged his view that the South, "after having first used all peaceful and constitutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union"; but he also drew his apocalyptic vision of the results to be expected from secession.

That was for arguments sake. My personal opinion is:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

" Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the American Government take care of him; better take a closer look at the American Indian." - Henry Ford
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08-20-2013, 05:14 PM
Post: #6
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
The Constitution is silent on the issue. Therefore, one can make the case that is an 'implied right' sort of like the 'right to privacy' which legalized abortion.
That said, unless you have control of a couple of nuclear weapons, you won't have much of a chance to make your case.
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08-20-2013, 05:50 PM
Post: #7
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
Was the American Revolution "constitutional"? If so, the South or any other region or state had a similar right to secede. If not then it was illegal or unconstitutional. Remember, he great seal of the Confederacy was of George Washington on his horse. All the South did was assert its inalienable rights to its state sovereignty. Their fault was, that unlike the Rebels of the American Revolution, they lost the war. Texas v. White is a mere Yankee cover-up after the fact. New York, Rhode Island and Virginia approved of the Constitution with the reservation that they could secede if at any time the new compact violated their state rights. The real question is was the Constitution "constitutional" or an illegal revision and then replacement of the Articles of Confederation.

Now, for those of you who are unaware, i.e., most of you, I have refused to renew my membership to the Surratt Society and I have pledged to Roger Norton that I would stay out of these debates. This is my last statement on this or any other matter. I do not care what the rest of you think, although I support your right to think and say it. Just do it without me, please. Thank you.
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08-20-2013, 06:06 PM
Post: #8
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
You are right Bill. History is written by the victors.

Children do not learn that the Revolutionary War was a Civil War. English against English. Just as the Civil War (if the South had won), would have been called the second Revolutionary War for Independence; as was often their claim.

" Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the American Government take care of him; better take a closer look at the American Indian." - Henry Ford
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08-20-2013, 06:23 PM
Post: #9
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
(08-20-2013 05:50 PM)Wild Bill Wrote:  This is my last statement on this or any other matter. I do not care what the rest of you think, although I support your right to think and say it. Just do it without me, please. Thank you.

I really hope you rethink this Bill. I know I'm not the only one here that enjoys your views and has benefited from your vast knowledge of American history.

"There are few subjects that ignite more casual, uninformed bigotry and condescension from elites in this nation more than Dixie - Jonah Goldberg"
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08-20-2013, 06:30 PM (This post was last modified: 08-20-2013 06:30 PM by Rob Wick.)
Post: #10
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
Brooks Simpson, one of the smarter academic historians and bloggers out there today, has this to say about the topic.

Best
Rob

https://cwcrossroads.wordpress.com/2012/...continued/

Abraham Lincoln in the only man, dead or alive, with whom I could have spent five years without one hour of boredom.
--Ida M. Tarbell

I want the respect of intelligent men, but I will choose for myself the intelligent.
--Carl Sandburg
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08-20-2013, 07:15 PM
Post: #11
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
(08-20-2013 05:50 PM)Wild Bill Wrote:  Now, for those of you who are unaware, i.e., most of you, I have refused to renew my membership to the Surratt Society and I have pledged to Roger Norton that I would stay out of these debates. This is my last statement on this or any other matter. I do not care what the rest of you think, although I support your right to think and say it. Just do it without me, please. Thank you.

Sorry to read that Bill. While I sometimes disagree with you, you always make me think, and I usually learn something. Plus I like your dry sense of humor.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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08-20-2013, 07:43 PM
Post: #12
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
(08-20-2013 06:23 PM)J. Beckert Wrote:  
(08-20-2013 05:50 PM)Wild Bill Wrote:  This is my last statement on this or any other matter. I do not care what the rest of you think, although I support your right to think and say it. Just do it without me, please. Thank you.

I really hope you rethink this Bill. I know I'm not the only one here that enjoys your views and has benefited from your vast knowledge of American history.

I will be sorry to see you go, Wild Bill. You will be missed ...
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08-20-2013, 08:36 PM
Post: #13
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
Rob quoted some choice, wise words from the man who is supposed to be the subject of this board, Abraham Lincoln.

So it is strange that we are having a discussion on a Lincoln board about the validity of secession. I would direct people who believe in the "right of secession," or at least view it as an open question, to read Lincoln's writings/speeches on the subject. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln are available on the internet (as well as in hard copy form). Another excellent source for an understanding of the subject is Harry Jaffa's A New Birth of Freedom, which contains a very intense but ultimately rewarding analysis of the issue from the perspective of a political philosopher.

As an aside, it's inspiring to see how two great historian-philosophers, one still with us (Jaffa) and one recently departed (William Lee Miller) could love and admire Lincoln as much as they did, given their differing political pedigrees: Jaffa being a conservative Republican who wrote speeches for Barry Goldwater, and Miller a progressive Democrat who wrote speeches for Adlai Stevenson! Cool

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08-20-2013, 10:51 PM
Post: #14
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
(08-20-2013 05:50 PM)Wild Bill Wrote:  . New York, Rhode Island and Virginia approved of the Constitution with the reservation that they could secede if at any time the new compact violated their state rights. The real question is was the Constitution "constitutional" or an illegal revision and then replacement of the Articles of Confederation.

Now, for those of you who are unaware, i.e., most of you, I have refused to renew my membership to the Surratt Society and I have pledged to Roger Norton that I would stay out of these debates. This is my last statement on this or any other matter. I do not care what the rest of you think, although I support your right to think and say it. Just do it without me, please. Thank you.
Bill,please come back to us and rejoin the debate. You have the supreme virtue of making us think and question our own assumptions.

As secession and civil war were the supreme crises of the life of Abraham Lincoln, there is no better place than our forum to discuss them. Without these issues would anyone other than historical screwballs like ourselves know anything about Abraham Lincoln?

I believe from a purely constitutional perspective any of the original 13 states plus Texas had the constitutional right to secede from the Union. As Bill Richter pointed out 3 states explicitly conditioned their ratification of the constitution to the assertion they could secede if the experiment went wrong. Unlike a regular constitutional amendment whose terms are binding on all states if a 2/3 majority of each House and 3/4 of the state legislatures ratify it, none of the original states was subject to the constitution and part of the United States under the constitution unless it ratified the constitution.

By analogy the independent Republic of Texas which joined the Union in 1845 falls into this category.

I believe that no state-35-which were territories of the United States-prior to their admission to the Union-can qualify under this criteria as states legally able to secede from the Union as their territorial status was created by the United States. Failure to be admitted to the Union would have left them as territories and they still would have been subject to the constitution.

Now I must confess I don't know how the 2 remaining states which were never territories,the original states or an independent nation just prior to their admission fall under this system. Maine with the constitutionally prescribed permission of its parent Massachusetts was admitted to the Union in 1820. The northwestern counties of Virginia refused to accept secession from the Union in 1861 and eventually under Lincoln's sponsorship became the state of West Virginia.

It is one of the nifty ironies of history that Abraham Lincoln encouraged the secession of West Virginia -from the state of Virginia-without the consent as required by the US constitution of the parent state. Has Virginia ever given its consent to West Virginia's existence?

Sen Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a very pompous senator indeed, was known to wander around with a copy of the US constitution in his pocket. If I met him I would asked him "Is West Virginia Legal?"

Now I have discussed merely the legality of secession and its morality,wisdom or ramifications which are totally independent of its legality,deserve a separate post.
Tom
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08-21-2013, 05:30 AM
Post: #15
RE: Does a State have the right to secede?
Bill--

I Do hope you rethink this....you will most certainly be missed! You are the political expert on the Forum.... we definitely NEED your input here!

"The Past is a foreign country...they do things differently there" - L. P. Hartley
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