How many times have we asserted our individual liberties, with respect to government?
Only once, in 1787 (and then in the state ratifying conventions). The English have done it many times (beginning with the Magna Carta in 1215 to the English Bill of Rights, 1689). Each time they were granted greater liberties and government was limited. Maybe Americans should give that some thought.
How many times have the States asserted their liberties with respect to a central or federal government?
Twice. The American Revolution & the Civil War. The colonies were established as sovereign entities. They soon adopted constitutions and established themselves as independent, sovereign states (almost as 13 independent countries in the New World). The Southern States were stripped of sovereign power after the Civil War, and in punishing them, all of the States eventually lost the one thing that was valued most of all in our Founding - their independence. The trend since has been to strip them further of their rights and power. Rather than the autonomous States who carried such weight and power in the design and planning of our nation, they are now little more than a uniform group of states, subservient to the federal (now a "national"?) government because of the massive growth and concentration of power and beholden to it for funding. In short, the states have grown weaker... infinitely weaker. And this erodes a very important foundation for our individual liberties - "federalism."
I remember one discussion I was having regarding the 14th Amendment and how it has been used to neuter the States in the 20th century. The 14th Amendment, a Civil Rights amendment, was intended to put the full force of federal law on the Southern States to give the freed slaves the full rights and privileges of citizenship. Today, it is used to strip the states of the power of regulating in many areas it had traditionally been allowed to regulate (especially under its Police Powers - the power to regulate for the health, safety, welfare, and morality of its people) - including in the area of education (prayer and morality out of school), religion (separation of church and state), association, abortion, sodomy, and criminal rights. As the gentleman explained: "The States can't be trusted." The gentleman I was having the discussion with feels the 14th Amendment was and continues to be an important amendment. (I believe it has outlived its purpose). As the gentleman explained: "The States can't be trusted." My response was: "The federal government can't be trusted but no one is trying to limit its power with an amendment !!"
The Civil War, which Lincoln touted as a "new birth of freedom" was actually the beginning of our demise. We lost much of our liberty. For with the Civil War, this country destroyed the very foundation upon which our country could most effectively curb tyranny - the right of states to remain sovereign, free, strong, and independent states... to retain those powers, so numerous and indefinite, "which extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and property of the People, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State." (James Madison, Federalist No. 45) This was our Tenth Amendment. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the era of big, centralized government was ushered in.
Who makes those decisions now as to which areas a State can regulate?
Those decisions are usually made (often with strong-arm tactics) by a Constitutionally-abusive president such as FDR or Obama - those blinded by the need for socialist policies. Or they could be made by the nine members of the Supreme Court - 4 or 5 of whom have no allegiance to the words and spirit of the Constitution. (See Wickard v. Filburn, which will be discussed later)
I think it's important for a people every hundred years or so to put themselves in the position that the feudal barons were in back in 1215 when they forced King John to sign the Magna Carta and especially to put themselves in the position that our founding colonies were in when they were standing up for their liberties and trying to establish that perfect formula to protect those liberties with respect to government that historically would always tend to become tyrannical and destructive of the ends for which it was established. The gradual encroachment on human liberties over the years has been staggering and we've sat back and allowed it to happen. How many colonists do you think would have let that happen? The British asserted their rights in 1215, then in 1628 (Petition of Right), then in 1679 (Habeas Corpus Act), and then in 1689 (English Bill of Rights). Each time they exercised their voice, the King or Parliament drafted a document limiting the powers of government. Each of the documents listed above are a recognition of individual liberty and a promise to limit government with respect to the rights held by the people. We have the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and to this day, because of the progressive and socialist nature of government and the progressive nature of the federal courts, we really have no idea what our actual rights are with respect to government. This should never be tolerated.
Let us remember the days when the colonists wouldn't even tolerate a very minor tax on tea. As James Madison said: "The people of the United States owe their independence and their very liberty to the wisdom of protesting against a minute tax on tea and recognizing the underlying oppression in that tax."
And those days, the States were responsive to their people. When the people rallied and protested over the Stamp Act and the small tax on tea, as violating their natural rights, the States, one by one, in Convention, called for a declaration of independence from Britain. Since when did the States become the very puppets of a government that was supposed to "serve" them? Since when did the States become willing puppets of a government that disregards their very sovereignty? It's no wonder that the bully in DC continues to be one.
Before examining the question of whether a state has the right to secede from the Union, consider these quotes:
"The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want, and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals. No principle, that is possible to be named, can be more self-evidently false than this or more self-evidently fatal to all political freedom. Yet it triumphed in the field, and is now assumed to be established. If it really be established, the number of slaves, instead of having been diminished by the war, has been greatly increased... For a man, thus subjected to a government that he does not want, is a slave. And there is no difference, in principle - but only in degree - between political and chattel slavery. The former, no less than the latter, denies a man's ownership of himself and the products of his labor; and asserts that other men may own him, and dispose of him and his property, for their uses, and at their pleasure." - Lysander Spooner (Nineteenth-Century lawyer, abolitionist, entrepreneur)
"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 chose to withdraw its name from the contract, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so..."
-- Alex de Tocqueville, Democracy In America
" Could our Founding Fathers have ever forbade the right of secession, or ever dreamed of secession as illegitimate, when it was precisely their own righteous secession, the escape from British abuse which literally forged the steely bonds of their cause - those which actually bound our Founding Patriots together when they mutually pledged to each other 'our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor'?" --- Thomas Paine, June 25, 2009, in his article "The Truth About Session"
"If the Declaration of Independence justifies the secession from the British empire of 3,000,000 of colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of 5,000,000 of Southerners from the Federal Union in 1861." -- New York Tribune, December 17, 1860
"The American people, North and South, went into the [Civil] War as citizens of their respective states, they came out as subjects ... What they lost they have never gotten back." -- H.L. Mencken
"If there be a principle that ought not to be questioned within the United States, it is that every man has a right to abolish an old government and establish a new one. This principle is not only recorded in every public archive, written in every American heart, and sealed with the blood of American martyrs, but is the only lawful tenure by which the United States hold their existence as a nation." --- James Madison
"To deny this right [of secession] would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases, a right to determine how they are governed." -- William Rawle, the author of the leading constitutional-law treatise of the early-nineteenth century, A View of the Constitution of the United States (1825)
To be continued in Future Chapters
Diane Rufino has her own blog For Love of God and Country. Come and visit her. She'd love your company.