Recently, a petition was created by a Louisiana man requesting that Louisiana be allowed to secede from the Union. According to the rules on the White House website, any petition that receives over 25,000 votes will get a response. Within days the petition had more than 12,000 signatures. Then suddenly other petitions having similar requests for secession began to appear, and as of writing this article, petitions for secession have reached more than 20 states.
What I find to be disturbing is the connotation that secession has, the feelings it brings up, and the old ideas that continue to give rise to amoral behavior. When Southern States seceded from the Union to protect and preserve their way of life, i.e. slavery, it was with the intention of preserving amorality, inequality, and evil, because if ever there could qualify something as truly evil, slavery is that act.
Secession vs. Revolution: How they differ
Most of these petitions, like the original tend to use the language of the founding fathers to bolster their intent to secede. Specifically a line in our Declaration of Independence is used over and over again:
“…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…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
It seems when people with hate in their core need a reason to justify it, they look first to community around them, and if that doesn’t solve their dilemma, they look further back, to the founding fathers. Typically, they take the words of the Constitution or Declaration, and distort it, conform it to their situation, to whatever fits their particular hate, giving them reason and an ability to present evidence in support of their assertions.
In this case, the words of Jefferson have been bastardized into something that has nothing to do with its original intent. So let’s first talk about the Declaration of Independence, what its intent was, and what its message was all about.
“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.”
When Jefferson wrote these words, it was clear in the intent to mean a few specific things:
- The Declaration is the last straw, it is meant to be the end, a response to repeated abuse. This is meant to be civil insurrection.
- The inflection in Jefferson’s words show this was not taken lightly, there was no other choice.
- When he refers to Nature’s Laws, he is speaking of liberty, the natural state of humanity.
“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.”
Again, this is the natural state of humanity, that liberty is absolute, and that when Government abuses this state, then action must be taken.
“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.”
Jefferson’s intent is to make it clear that Governments are powerless if they have no one to govern, and that when any such government seeks to become destructive, they can and should be abolished. But much more can be derived from Jefferson’s words here if the rest of the document is taken into context. Jefferson is again strictly speaking to liberty, and that which protects liberty, safety and happiness, because it is through safety that liberty can be guaranteed and happiness that it is most protected. When Jefferson is pushing the point across, it is to state that people just want to be free to live, be safe and happy, and any such government that is unable to guarantee this, should be replaced to protect those ideals.
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
And now we come to the most important part of this document thus far, and the part that is either left out, or manipulated to one’s own agenda. You see Jefferson makes his intent absolutely clear because he states that men have long since suffered at the hands of bad governments, and that this per se does not manifest reason to revolt alone. That indeed men not only suffer evil, but that they should suffer evil as long as evil can be suffered. This is meant to state that bad things happen, people do evil things all the time, revolution should not be taken lightly. He specifically states that just because a government does something you consider evil, does not give you the right to revolution, indeed causes considered light and transient, those you might not perceive as moral.
Again his words specifically bolster the notion that only when liberty is at stake, and only as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted, should you throw off such a government and replace it.
The rest of the document goes into detail the crimes of which the King of Great Britain is being accused of:
There is a long list, of which those are some of the things contained therein. Jefferson also details occurrences when free citizens are taken into arms and forced to insurrect against their own people, or execute friends, and fellow citizens in the name of barbarism and absolute cruelty. He then goes on to explain that when petitions to the government for redress of grievance go ignored, and injury, and death continue to be repeated, that it is to be assumed that these are the acts of a tyrant, and not someone fit to lead free people. Again Jefferson states that liberty is the key here. In everything it is paramount, and only when those who would seek freedom as their right as a person, and find at every opportunity to take away liberty, a government, a tyrant with arbitrarily vicious intent, should that government be tossed asunder in favor of new government.
So the words of the Declaration of Independence are clear: in times of great despotism, dissolution of liberty, and arbitrary law, and injustice, the power of the governed to throw off such government is absolute.
But none of that applies here, nothing in those words can be used to grant secession from the Union, furthermore, secession itself is amoral because it negates the liberties of the governed by dividing its parts up into slices of society, decreeing some to be something, and others to be something else. The foundation of liberty is not fueled by inequality, inequality that is created by separation.
There is quite a difference between secession and revolution. Revolutions have been described as a criminal conspiracy by which a small group of individuals through murder, rape, torture, any means necessary, remove a government and replace it with their own. Although it is hard to imagine that a free people could look back at history and see our own American Revolution in such a light, the possibility is certainly true. There was definitely murder, probably rape, and certainly torture, however perspective plays a vital role in this, because for the colonists all of these things happened prior to the start of the revolution, and the revolution did not change them, at least not until it was over. So from the perspective of the victors, revolution was necessity.
There are three types of revolutions that have dominated modern political motivations. The first type of revolution is one of a restorative nature, one in which a people believe their liberties have been usurped, and they must remove those usurpers in favor of new government. The second is one in which the people have given government power to protect their lives, and liberty, and to grant to their posterity the same. When this type of government fails to hold up to these ideals, it is overthrown. This is referred to as right of revolution, or Lockean revolution, after John Locke. And the third type of revolution can be referred to as Jacobin, because the Jacobin club was instrumental and ultimately responsible for the development of the French Revolution.
Jacobinism is about transformation, both politically and socially, to form a new government built on the egalitarian philosophy. Marxism, feminism, the civil rights movement, marriage equality, all of these are in a real sense movements toward that philosophy. All three of these philosophies presuppose a modern concept of sovereignty.
Secessionists are not attempting to restore government, in fact, secession is about dismemberment to the contrary, in favor of self-governance. Secession is also not Lockean in nature because there is almost never a reason to believe that the government for which they are seceding from has in some way violated their trust. But even if such a thing were true, secessionists do not attempt to overthrow said government, only demand sovereignty. And last, secessionists have no interest in necessarily changing or transforming the political or social structure of their government, only separating themselves from it.
So it is clear to see based on the examples given that the use of the Declaration of independence, as a source for moral legality in favor of secession is an incorrect one. For not only does it specifically state that revolution is the duty of those citizens, but only in cases where it is absolutely necessary to do so. In the Two Treatises of Government, Locke describes necessity as being absolute only when a majority is affected. Thus a man who feels unjustly treated by his government has no right to overthrow such a government, and only when its effects are felt by a majority of people can such action be taken.
Because Locke believed that liberty was the natural right of people, to protect that right, revolution was obligation, and ultimately a safeguard against tyranny. Locke’s influence can be felt in the words of the Declaration of Independence, and Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to John Trumble: “Bacon, Locke and Newton I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical & Moral sciences"
When Samuel Adams wrote in an effort to gain support for the rebellion, it was the words of John Locke he used from Two Treatises. So with respect to the American Revolution, it was Lockean revolution, the principles for which our founding fathers based their claims. After all, there are many who suffer greatly, under far worse dictators, and yet they do not revolt and toss aside their subjugators. It is possible they themselves have not come to the same conclusions as Locke did, that all men are created equal, that life, liberty, and property are rights and not privileges. It is possible that even if few feel as he did, they do not favor the support of others, and as Locke has written, revolution is not necessary.
The Legality of Secession
As I have shown, revolution as supported by the principles of the founding fathers as well as the evidence in documentation left behind show that it is the only legal remedy to tyranny. And that is important to state, that it is tyranny alone that grants citizens the right to take back that which has been taken away, unjustly of course. Secession on the other hand having to be shown as not a revolution, and not wholly based on libertarianism, is not so legally sound a course of action. For one, precedence is on the side of the government here. When Lincoln took action against the confederacy he set permanently for this nation the notion that secession was not tolerable, and illegal, and that war was necessary to reassemble the Union as a whole.
Second, in Texas vs. White, 1869, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Texas was legally a state and could not have seceded from the Union because the Constitution did not permit states to unilaterally secede from The United States and that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were "absolutely null. (legally void)” This case dealt with whether Texas was legally obligated to pay back war bonds to those who supported the confederacy, under this ruling no state could have legally seceded from the Union, and doing so was a criminal act.
Chief Justice Salmon Chase wrote that necessity had brought the colonists to perpetual unity, and that their constitution declared that Unity to be a more “Perfect Union.” It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?
What Chase was describing was the idea that these people had come together to form a perpetual union of states, and by that if it is perfect as the constitution suggests, than nothing as such can break it apart. Because of this whenever a state is added to this Union, by contract, it accepts the perpetual notion of a Perfect Union, and becomes part therein. What is solid, can never be broken, and so at issue here: Texas, was the notion that even if Texas called itself confederate in nature, it was wrong to do so because it had no legal standing, and neither did any other state which joined in such action.
Because of this, no state has the right to be anything but part of the United States.
This then brings us back to the notion of revolution because as I have pointed out, although revolution is legal, secession is not.
When is Revolution Necessary?
It is hard to imagine that anyone would be disenfranchised with an election enough to request secession, but that seems to be the only real reason for this nonsense, and it is nonsense. First, this talk of secession proceeded the election. Second, it was started in red states, those states that identify themselves as conservative in nature, southern states. Third and probably the most important, none of this seemed centered around detracting rights. No one has said that they woke up the morning after the election and found their hands had been shackled, their property had been fenced, or their neighbors had been murdered.
Remember revolution being the only legally sound option available must be weighed carefully to establish justification. There is no legal remedy to “sour grapes” that allows one to throw off their government. We are a nation founded on the principles of republicanism and representative democracy. When you lose an election, you persevere to get your message out to more of the electorate. You run for office yourself, not happy with those who have thus far been elected. You do not start wars, murder, rape, or torture. You do not incite others to commit acts of violence or engage in activity that further pushes us to institute laws that protect the population from the sort.
Investments in criminal disobedience are the primary reason for the destruction of libertarian ideals under a civil population. That is, those who remain civil must be protected from those who do not, and it is through laws that such protections are made. People see laws as a way for government to subjugate under their will a population, which is furthest from the truth. Governments that do not support liberties have no reason to commit to paper laws of any kind, since tyranny is the dictation of usually a sole individual, whose whimsy may favor cruelty one moment and compassion the next, but never forget for why this is so: that compassion under cruelty begets languor and inaction, the tools of tyranny.
Governments that commit to paper laws, do so to protect from harm those whose intentions are to be civil at all times, from those who intentions are not.
Now very few people can argue that the American government always does the right thing. In fact, many would argue they often do the wrong thing, however we still have a constitution, people are still free to speak, and write of what they want, and if civil, allowed to petition the government with grievances. No one can claim that after the election all guns were banned, or all churches were burned, and no one can claim that the following day anything of significance were any different than the day before, exception being a few new elected officials were selected, and the day of the week changed from Tuesday to Wednesday.
So under these circumstances revolution being the only legal remedy, is unnecessary.
When Racism drives policy
It’s difficult to believe that secession would be a notion entertained by anyone, considering the connotation it has with slavery, but here we are discussing this nonsense, and so I must discuss racism. Most people would have you believe that racism no longer exists in this country. Conservative author Ann Coulter has written in her book “Mugged” that: “whenever the Democrats are in trouble, they accuse Republicans of 'racism.' For decades, the Left has been putting on a play with themselves as heroes in an ongoing civil rights movement – which they were mostly absent from at the time. Long after pervasive racial discrimination ended, they kept pretending America was being run by the Klan and that liberals were black America's only protectors.”
Unfortunately for Coulter she misses the mark here because her accusation that racism is merely character assassination against conservatives only holds true so long as conservatives maintain an anti-racist attitude. However, when we examine attitudes in Southern states we still find that these states hold racial bias. It is by no small measure that all Southern states voted for Mitt Romney and not the black guy, and we should take this as an indication of personal as well as political policy in those states. It is very difficult to suggest that racial motivation has nothing to do with electoral choice, after all Samuel L. Jackson has stated, he voted for the black guy, because he was also black, so then why could we not assume the same is also true of whites?
We must assume that people despite the color of their skin make choices for their own reasons, and although they are entitled to vote purely by ethnicity, it speaks volumes to the kind of attitudes one holds on to, especially in the South where racism and slavery have predominately existed since the inception of this country. So I find Ms. Coulter’s words disingenuous in nature, considering how her party votes, and where her parties majority of votes come from. It is hard to argue your view that racism does not exist when your own party accepts a majority of its votes from those who support its existence.
We only need to look at those elected officials to know the kinds of people that elect them. And in states where Tea Party officials have been elected, we find mostly racist white men, whose dominance over their views has left for example family values pushed aside in favor of political favor. It is there for example that females are more likely to be single mothers. It is also more likely that these places will also have racially divided sections like the segregated places of old, but mostly due to self-segregation, blacks wanting to be away from whites, that this happens. So in places like this, it is of no surprise that these white males elect to office those people who support their agenda, while females too busy working and supporting their children and blacks too disenfranchised with their environment, refuse to take part in the electoral process. This however, leaves open the ability for those with an agenda a way to achieve their goal.
It must not be forgotten that slavery, until the 13th amendment was ratified, was perfectly legal in this country. We must also not forget that although it may have been tolerated throughout the North in some parts, its predominance in the South cannot be denied, and that eleven states whose intention was to condone slavery as biblically permitted, seceded from the rest of the Country with the intent on continuing to support their infrastructure with slave labor. Slavery is by its very nature the worst criminal act, because it is by its nature the antithesis of liberty. If liberty as I have suggested is the natural state of humanity, than any attempt to detract it, is evil in nature. Those who would have preferred death to slavery attest to the power of liberty, and its consequential relation to life. The two are synonymous, and one without the other is meaningless, as Patrick Henry famously stated: "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!"
There seems to be little that can be done to change the attitudes of men, however time changes everything, for it is the only human institution for which escape is impossible and as a consequence, death is certain. That being said, given enough time, attitudes change because people change, as the old die off, and the young begin anew, less of the old world is left to torment the young, and the ignorance of old can die off without mourning, and we can begin to heal as a nation.
It does seem as though attitudes have changed quite a lot from the 60’s during the civil rights movement, after all we did elect the first black president, and then re-elect him, an amazing accomplishment. However, there does seem to be those who continue to push bad ideas, and incite others to act upon their hate, and in spite of them, we soldier on with listful promise, and a mission to fight those things we see as amoral, and ultimately harmful to society.
Only The Losers
It seems that society has changed quite a bit over time. Throughout history battles have been waged between two sides ending with one side victorious and the other side not so lucky: And to the victors, go the spoils. As humans became more civil, dropped our swords in favor of quills and parchment, we began to debate our issues in a non-violent way that resulted again in one side being victorious, but the other side being a little more lucky, surviving to fight another day. And it is in this civil notion that we elect our political system. We vote for which ever side we want to win, and the majority convinced by one argument over the other declares victory. And for a long time, this has been the way we run this country.
However with the rise of egalitarianism philosophies, something else has forced its way into the minds of some, the principle of fairness, and although I myself subscribe to this notion generally, it has no place in contestation, because by its nature its unfair, hence one side wins, while the other side loses. This has pervasively found itself filtering through our sporting events now for some time, and children are mostly taught now that “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, its how you played.” And although this does have some value, its not in contestation that its value can be best realized. After all, someone still has to win and someone still has to lose.
What’s striking isn’t that we teach our children this notion, but that adults have begun to believe it as well. And in a political system, such an idiom has no place. Such a thing has given rise to the “sour grapes” mentality that has swept over this nation, unsatisfied with an outcome, they are unwilling to accept and move on, instead fighting back, and even suggesting kiddie-like responses that make us look like a nation of imbeciles. “My candidate lost, so I’m moving to Canada,” or “The black guy won again, its time to secede.” These sound a little familiar, oh because I have heard them before: “You took my dolly, I’m telling mommy!” or “I wanted chocolate, not vanilla, I’m going to hold my breath!” Seem familiar? Maybe because those individuals who have suggested secession as a means to justify their dissatisfaction are feeling nostalgic, seeking a more innocent time, when everything could be settled on the school yard, or in a game of hopscotch.
Lest we forget the connection of secession to slavery, and racism, we are doomed to repeat our failures. Even if those imbeciles suggesting secession do so without racial bias, the lessons we have learned preclude us from taking such action, and that our reasonability as civil beings must outweigh and resist our intent to dispute each other through violence. Those who have elected to take part in the electoral process should remember the lesson inherent in it: that violence is unnecessary to establish change. So for those people who stood in line, waited patiently to see if their candidate was victorious and soured afterward at the prospect of a loss, remember, that so long as there is a process you can make a difference, maybe not all the time, but sometimes.
It is those who do not elect to participate and complain after the fact that we should fear the most, not because they have any assemblance of forcing change, but that they are not actually interested in change, at least not a kind that anyone with civil intent would consider worthy. And so for these people their only interest is condemnation, dissent, and incitement.
The only true act of terrorism on this country that will ever be victorious is one in which we throw away our constitution, and it is the only act of terrorism that we can inflict upon ourselves.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln