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If At First You Don't Secede
By Richard Girard
" It is my hope that as the Negro plunges deeper into the quest for freedom and justice he will plunge even deeper into the philosophy of non-violence. The Negro all over the South must come to the point that he can say to his white brother: 'We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we will not obey your evil laws. We will soon wear you down by pure capacity to suffer.'"
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929--68), U.S. clergyman, civil rights leader. Letter, October 28, 1957.
The most common mistake that people make on the subject of rights is that they mistake freedom or liberty for license, i.e., permission to do whatever they want.
We don't talk much in this country about morality in political decision making any more, we speak much more about expediency. And because of this, we have fallen into the bad habit of believing that just because we want something, that action is justified morally.
This is the reasoning of a spoiled child. And on the subject of secession, the pro-secession forces are--at least from my perspective--motivated by the selfishness of a six year-old brat; giving high taxes, government programs they disagree with, and Barack Obama's re-election as the reason for their desire to leave our union.
For myself, the sentiment expressed about secession by Thomas Jefferson (in an 1809 letter to the Connecticut [Democratic-]Republicans) is still the final word on the subject today:
"A spirit which should...countenance the advocates for a dissolution of the Union and for setting in hostile array one portion of our citizens against another...would prove indeed that it is high time for every friend to his country, in a firm and decided manner, to express his sentiments of the measures which government has adopted to avert the impending evils, unhesitatingly to pledge himself for the support of the laws, liberties and independence of his country; and...to resolve that for the preservation of the Union, the support and enforcement of the laws, and for the resistance and repulsion of every enemy, they will hold themselves in readiness and put at stake if necessary their lives and fortunes on the pledge of their sacred honor." (The Complete Writings of Thomas Jefferson; Memorial Edition; volume 16: page 365; 1904.)
We have people in this country (especially in Texas) who still believe that all that is required for their state to secede from the Union is an Ordinance of Secession. Dear Texas: I know your school textbooks have been rewritten to give you a very skewed view of American History and the Constitution, but this matter was settled by force of arms in 1865 when the Confederacy (including Texas) was forced back into the Union and affirmed by the Supreme Court in White v. Texas in 1868.
Almost three years ago I wrote an article for OpEdNews (April 19, 2010) called "The Children of Cain." It was intended as a rebuke for those on the right, as well as a warning to those of us on the left, against the use of violence to achieve change in this country.
In that article, I more fully developed my argument against those who believe secession is a part of the rights retained by the individual states under the Tenth Amendment. I have postulated--and I have yet to be seriously challenged in my theory--that the only lawful, Constitutional manner by which a state may leave the Union is by the process of a Constitutional Amendment. If they continue in their mad delusion concerning the Tenth Amendment, I would remind them of the threat that Andrew Jackson made against South Carolina when it passed its Ordinance of Nullification in 1831: that if they actually attempt to secede, President Obama should follow the example of Abraham Lincoln, and send the American military against that state. I oppose the death penalty under almost every circumstance, but in the event of an armed insurrection, I feel the President would be justified to order--after a drumhead court-martial--the hanging of secessionist leaders from every tree and light pole between that state's capitol and its largest port (or the state border for inland states), just as President Jackson threatened to do to the leaders of the Secessionist movement in South Carolina in 1831. If Andrew Jackson had done that in 1831-32, I do not believe there would have been a Civil War thirty years later.
States have neither the power nor the authority to secede from the Union in such a simplistic, illegal, and immoral manner. If a state wishes to leave the Union, it must ask the permission of the other states through a Constitutional Amendment, and 3/4 of those states must agree to allow the State in question to secede. This is the moral as well as the legal conclusion that I draw from Chief Justice Marshall's binding legal opinion in McCullough v. Maryland, supported by President Jackson's reasoning in his letter to the authors of South Carolina's Ordinance of Nullification in 1831, and the Supreme Court's Texas v. White, et al.; (74 U.S. 700,702) 1868. (It should be noted that Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase missed using Chief Justice Marshall's opinion in McCullough v. Maryland to support his position when writing the majority opinion in Texas v. White .)