Texas governor Rick Perry has gone and done it, hasn’t he? He actually had the audacity to say that Texas just might “secede” from the union if enough Texans got fed up with the Federal Guvmit. And in saying this out loud, in public, Gov. Perry has caused a huge case of the vapors on the part of commentators and politicians, and the elite class of “the sensitive” nearly everywhere. His remarks, as they say, “raised eyebrows.”
As much fun as it is to watch genuine conniptions, this is merely another evidence of how ignorant Americans (of all classes, races, and economic and social backgrounds) have become regarding the nature of our union. More evidence of the fact that public school miseducation has washed our brains of nearly all useful knowledge.
Though it may not always be wise, secession is not unconstitutional or illegal or impossible. The right of secession is inherent in all voluntary “unions” (which is what we United States are — at least officially). None of the colonies — not one — would have entered the union if they had believed that secession was not an option, assuming they later judged it in their interest (read the debates on the Constitution that took place in each colony). Virginia passed this resolution in conjunction with their ratification of the Constitution: “the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be RESUMED BY THEM, whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”
New York and Rhode Island had similar statements attached to their resolutions. In doing this, these states were only putting in writing what everyone assumed. Given the particular form of our government (i.e. a compact between sovereign states) both nullification and secession were assumed to be the unalienable rights of each party to the compact.
Secession was a right acknowledged by every state prior to 1861. In fact, so unquestioned was this right that the New England states (one or more of them) threatened to secede from the United States five times prior to 1861. Initially, what the ten Southern states did in 1860-1 was viewed as their legal right.
In fact, in 1848, a young congressman from Illinois stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to argue in favor of the right of secession in regard to the Texas territory. He was quite eloquent in his denunciation of anyone who refused people the right of secession: “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right — a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.”
I think he overstates the case pretty severely here, but what do you expect? Overstating and misrepresenting things was as common a practice for Abraham Lincoln in 1848 as it was later in his political career. What is interesting is how zealous Lincoln was to defend the right of secession. It is an indication of how secession was viewed prior to 1861.
Now, however, everyone knows secession is unconstitutional, immoral, unpatriotic, unAmerican, etc. etc., so that when the governor says that he sees no reason why Texas couldn’t secede, even though he doesn’t see sufficient reason to do so now, everyone goes into “pity the poor ignorant hick” mode, rolling their eyes over another unlearned Southern politician who is willing to say anything to get votes.
But, in this case, Governor Perry is right. . . . Let the eye-rolling begin.
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