Does a state have the right to secede from the union? | Eastern North Carolina Now

   Publisher's Note: Diane Rufino has supplied us with a most interesting concept: Should individual states ever consider secession as a last resort to seek remedy?

   It is a rather long treatise on the subject so I have broken it into chapters. Enjoy. Knowledge is power.

Chapter One

    Last month I taught classes on the Constitution, Our Founding Fathers, Our Founding Principles, The Federal Court System, The Supreme Court, and Judicial Activism. I was struck by how many people want to learn such topics but just don't know where to go to be educated or how to trust that they will be taught the right stuff. But one question that came up almost every class period and by every group was this: "Do the states have the right to secede." Well, there were several people at the program who were instructors, and three of us being attorneys (me being the least experienced and especially with a background in patents). Each instructor who was asked the question gave a different answer. I didn't know, so that was my answer, although I explained what John Locke would have said and what the answer would be if you look at the Constitution as a Social Contract. I also know what our Founders would have said, as clearly written in the Declaration.

    So, seeing that people were generally interested in that question, I thought I would use that topic as the one I'd review here. Besides, the topic of secession is one that necessarily talks about States' rights and State sovereignty and those issues are very important right now, especially seeing that our government has become a runaway train.

    We declared our separation from Great Britain in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, which was an act of secession. We dissolved our bonds of government with the King and Parliament. "We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. -- And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

    But nowadays, when we think of secession, we think back to the Confederacy and the Civil War. We think of the decision to sever relations with fellow states. Currently, some think of such a decision not out of any animosity to fellow states, as it was prior to the Civil War, but as the only way to sever the relationship and dependency on the federal government.

    The Southern states seceded in 1860-61 essentially because of slavery. If it weren't for slavery, the bigger issue of States' rights wouldn't have asserted. Slavery was indeed an immoral and unjust institution. It is sad to think that people can treat fellow human beings as nothing more than property. But it was the bigger issue of State's rights that we must consider when we examine the Southern States' position with respect to secession and then the response by President Lincoln.

    Back in 1860, the states still remembered why they fought for their independence from Britain and why they joined together in a Union (as Ben Franklin advised, for mutual benefit - "Join or Die" ). They joined for security and on the basis that each state would be on equal footing. They would enjoy the protections and benefits of the Constitution - EQUALLY. The issue of slavery aside, the Southern States dissolved their association with the Northern States because the association had become hostile and had become destructive of the very reasons they joined together in the first place. They seceded for the same right of self-determination and self-government that our earlier Americans asserted for our independence from Great Britain.

    In Lincoln's mind, he was preserving the Union, but the reality is that he declared war - a bloody, costly war - on a people who peacefully, legally, and perhaps rightfully severed relations with a government that had become hostile to them and their interests, and no longer served them equally or fairly.

    I am a Northerner. And I don't apologize for reaching that conclusion about Lincoln's decision to invade the South. Growing up in the North, we were taught that Abraham Lincoln was the greatest President we ever had. He saved the Union and freed the slaves. We were taught that the South was wrong and brought the Civil War on themselves. We were taught that Lincoln was great because of his determination to preserve the Union at all costs. I did some research in preparing for this review, and I'm glad I did. I certainly learned a lot. I learned that much of what I was taught in school was wrong and really just the government's position on the subject. The adoption of Lincoln's stance on saving the Union and abolishing slavery is clearly the position the government wishes to emphasize with our children. I wish schools could be more intellectually honest and allow the full discussion on the issues involved in secession and the Civil War. I think it's a shame that children indoctrinated in the public school system are so ill-equipped to appreciate the values and principles on which our country and government are based and for the most part, end up going through their entire life remembering the limited "talking points" on history and social studies that they learn in school.

    In preparing to write this review, I shared what I learned with my husband, who is also a Northerner. Even after hours of discussion and debate, he still believes that Lincoln was justified in invading the South. He believes that slavery needed to be ended and if the South wasn't willing to do it, then the North had every reason to (under the Declaration of Independence). He respects Lincoln for having the courage to do that. In his mind, the ends justified the means.

    I guess you can say that we have a House divided at home now.

    Personally, when referring to matters of liberty and the Constitution, I find it offensive to hear people use terms such as "the ends justified the means." It simply means they don't value the rule of law as laid down by our Founders. FDR had this mentality. Lincoln had this mentality. Even Teddy Roosevelt had this mentality. And most of all, Barack Obama embraces this mentality. Those who wrote and adopted legislation to "punish" the states had this mentality. Those who now seek to target white Americans - "Rightwing Extremists" (under the Patriot Act and "See Something, Say Something" Act) - as those who pose the greatest danger to the country, rather than radical Islamists have this mentality. Those who praise Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground for killing innocent public servants and family men but condemn Timothy McVeigh as the worst domestic terrorist of all time have this mentality. Those who blame the rich for all the woes of the country and demand that they pay the bulk of taxes as their "patriotic duty" have this mentality. And even those, like NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who seek to deny clergy at the 9/11 ceremony because he doesn't believe a religious presence should be involved (separation of church and state?) have this mentality. Each instance perverts a fundamental principle of law upon which our country was founded. As Sarah Palin once asked: "How's that working out for you?"

    Martin Niemoller, a German Pastor who fell out of favor with Adolf Hitler and was imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp for several years, wrote:

   "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me."

    As my priest once said: "You can't cherry pick what you want to believe in or not. You have to stand up for the whole package." (He was talking about those who claim to be Christians but don't want to acknowledge that abortion and the destruction of a fetus is against God's law). Liberty is a "whole package." There are many elements to it and to pervert one aspect is to diminish its over-all worth.

    One day you'll wish you took the time to stand up for liberty, even in if it didn't concern you personally at the time.

    In this review, I'll talk about the various theories that come into play when we talk about secession, what our Founders thought about it, what Abraham Lincoln himself had to say, and finally, what the Supreme Court had to say. I think that will give us a lot to think about. Then we can move on to talk about current state sovereignty issues, such as healthcare, immigration, the Repeal Amendment, and current movements to repeal the 17th Amendment. Although I hope readers will appreciate the critical review of Lincoln's decision to invade the Southern Confederacy which I've attempted, perhaps moreso, I hope the review of secession in general will help them better focus on the issues involved in these bitterly-debated current topics, and even in many others (such as Agenda-21 and the UN Small Arms Treaty). I hope readers will have a better appreciation for these issues, including those of:

(i) States' Rights and State Sovereignty; and the need for a robust federalist system to curb the powers of the federal government;
(2) The right of people to limited government and limited intrusion into their lives and upon their liberties, including their right to property, AND
(3) The right of people to expect their states to stick up for their liberties and their property rights.

    I mention property rights specifically because our Founders have warned us that If we want to surrender our human liberties to our government, then letting it control our property is the surest way to do that. There is a reason that Jefferson included the 3 most fundamental liberties as co-equals: "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" (ie, "Property") in the charter of our free nation. A person can't enjoy Life without the rights to enjoy his property and other liberties. A person can't enjoy his property without his other liberty rights. And a person can't enjoy his Liberty if he can't enjoy his property and the right to live his life freely (without interfering with another's rights). Government doesn't need to take physical title to a person's property without rendering it useless or meaningless. Ronald Reagan spoke eloquently on this in his 1964 speech "A Time for Choosing." .

    QUESTION: Do you think a State has the right to secede from the Union?

    I ask this just to get you thinking of your personal position on the topic. While you are at it, reflect upon the reasons for or against it, as you believe them to be.

    QUESTION: Why do I believe a review of the topic of secession is important?

    To reflect upon what we, as a people and as a state, hold most near and dear, and what we are willing to tolerate from a federal government. We need to decide when enough is enough. We have to decide where to draw the line in the sand as to how much government intrusion in our lives is too much.

    To reflect how far we've lost touch with the appreciation of liberty that our founders and forefathers had. Remember how 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."

    To remind ourselves of the importance of the 10th Amendment. As South Carolina wrote in its Ordinance of Secession of Dec. 20, 1860: "By this (US) Constitution, certain duties were imposed upon the several States, and the exercise of certain of their powers was restrained, which implied their continued existence as sovereign States. But to remove all doubt, the 10th Amendment was added. 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."

    *** Remember this term "compact." South Carolina specifically referred to the Union as a "compact between the states." Remember this term "compact."

    Can we put off this discussion? I don't think so. I think if people can simply grasp the government's position on the Commerce Clause and healthcare (see the discussion of Wickard v. Filburn, later) alone and its intention to control and regulate people and their property, then they just might begin to understand the urgency and the Constitutional crisis we are in with respect to our government. And then to realize, as we here in North Carolina have had to do, that our own State has no intention of sticking up for its people - for individual liberty. The overwhelming number of people in North Carolina, across party lines, are skeptical of the of the healthcare bill (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act , or PPACA, or "Obamacare") and don't want the federal government telling them to buy its healthcare plan. Both houses of the NC Assembly passed a bill, very similar to Virginia's "Healthcare Freedom" Act, which would exempt North Carolinians from the federal healthcare bill, but NC Governor Beverly Perdue vetoed it. There were enough votes to over-ride the veto, but taking her cue from President Obama, Perdue called Democratic house members to the Governor's mansion the evening before the over-ride vote, and then miraculously, certain of those house members who had gone on record as saying that the federal healthcare bill is a "bad bill" and citizens needed to be protected from it and had in fact voted for the NC "Protect Healthcare" Bill (H.B. 2) switched their votes the following afternoon. If North Carolina had valued her sovereignty and would have been willing to stick up for its 10th Amendment powers, then Governor Perdue would have signed that bill with pleasure and in fact, would have been proud to do so.

    QUESTION: What if we don't stand up for Sovereignty and States' Rights NOW?

    There may come a time, soon, when people begin to seriously talk about secession... as a solution.

    We don't want to get to that point. Secession is a desperate act. A last resort. It can potentially lead us down the road to another bloody revolution.

    Before we even get to that point, however, we must know that conservative leaders will be targeted by the government as "Rightwing Extremists" (See report issued by Janet Napolitano and Homeland Security on April 7, 2009 entitled: "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment") AND our second amendment right to bear arms will likely be taken away because of the threat of domestic violence and an "imminent threat to the security of the nation." The President will no doubt cite Article IV, Section 4 for authority to do that.

    Article IV, Clause 4 reads: " The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

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