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The State of Secession

June 28, 2010

Our first guest post comes from William Miller, founder of Secession News, a daily news-feed of secession related stories and commentary. He also maintains Secession University, an online resource for secession related material.–Editor

Partly due to the efforts of the 2009 version of “Let a Thousand Nations Bloom,” I started a small service, SecessionNews.com, described by some as a “Drudge Report” of secession. For a year now, I have reviewed each day’s relevant and significant (at least, in my opinion) secession-related articles and news reports. In doing so, I have read well over 1,000 online articles and posted excerpts from more than 500 of those that I believed would be of value and benefit to anyone interested in the topic.

With a year’s worth of reading articles and thousands of their related comments, I have acquired some instinct as to the mood of the country on the idea of seceding from an all-too-intrusive and abusive federal government. Therefore, after a year of being fully immersed in the subject, I offer my modest view on the current state of secession in these not-so-united States of America.

Before getting to the meat of it, I’ll say it straight away: It has not been a good year for the notion of secession. One might think that due to the calamity of the current socialist movement in Washington, the public would be clamoring for workable solutions—say, withdrawing from such government—but so far, the public reaction has been more consternation than action.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some very positive and noteworthy developments. Chief among them are the slate of secessionist candidates running for statewide offices in Vermont. While we must wait until November to gauge the support of Vermonters for an independent and free Vermont, it would be an upset of major proportions should any of them win. [Our hope is that they at least make a respectable run of it.]

Another positive development of significance has been the advancement of secession scholarship by the likes of Russell Longcore (DumpDC.com) and Timothy Baldwin (LibertyDefenseLeague.com). Their thoughtful insights and prolific writing on the subject have lifted the level of discourse and advanced the cause with common sense and logic. If you spend much time at all pursuing the blogs where discussions of secession are crackling, you often will find little common sense or logic; therefore, the frequent reflective opines from Longcore and Baldwin become noteworthy. That is not to say, however, that a number of others have not written thoughtfully and well on the subject, too.

On the national stage, economist and modern thinker Walter Williams did speak favorably of secession to a huge radio audience when he filled in for Rush Limbaugh a month or so ago. While many like me hold the reasoned opinions of Williams in higher esteem than Limbaugh’s, he doesn’t have the same cachet, doesn’t garner the same attention, so his refreshing comments went largely unnoticed by the media.

The same can be said for Judge Andrew Napolitano’s fearless defense of both secession and nullification on his Fox Business show as well as when he fills in for Glenn Beck. Unfortunately, the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity are much too comfortable with their preeminence to risk the blowback that secessionist talk would bring. And that, my friends, epitomizes the current state of secession in these un-united States: It’s just much too hot of an issue for the politically timid to handle. Talk of withdrawing from the Compact in the presence of politicians and media elites is akin to raising the Confederate battle flag at an NAACP meeting.

This makes it quite significant that, while not directly secession-related, the idea of nullification has experienced such a truly remarkable rise in acceptance—and application. A growing number of states are now in various stages of approving state sovereignty bills, effectively nullifying a number of federal encroachments, including ObamaCare, medical marijuana, federal gun laws, and the REAL ID Act. The implication of this movement cannot be overstated, since it re-legitimizes the long-forgotten sovereign authority of the states. Public approval of something that, until recently, could have been equated to “heresy” means nullification could very well be the first step to the public’s acceptance of its first cousin, secession, as another valid option to blunt an abusive federal government. The public need not be convinced of the necessity of full withdrawal from the Union, mind you. Just the threat of it might be all that’s needed.

Perhaps my pessimistic view is clouded by the contrast I routinely see with secessionist movements bubbling up in one foreign country after another. This past year has seen many areas outside the United States openly debate and consider the option of seceding. Currently, nearly 50 developed and undeveloped countries throughout the world have active secessionist movements, and surprisingly, in the most substantial cases, the United States government generally supports those wanting to secede.

The most amazing contrast exists between the attitudes of the citizenry in third-world and first-world countries. The concept of withdrawing from an oppressive government is accepted by the public in the less developed countries, whereas the “sophisticated” public here in the United States deems secession to be unconstitutional at best and even treasonous by many, demanding that the people remain shackled to their government, no matter how tyrannical it may become.

Yet many Americans feel increasingly oppressed by their government, as witnessed by their ongoing gatherings of protest, waving their “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. One of these rallies brought on perhaps the most earthshaking event of the past year, when some in the crowd began shouting “Secede,” and Texas Governor Rick Perry responded, “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

At first, one might think this was a positive development for the idea of secession—a governor supposedly egging on his state to secede. But in reality, the reaction to Perry’s words turned out to be a setback for the public’s acceptance of this most sovereign right. First, the governor didn’t call for secession, and actually praised the Union, saying, “There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it.” Granted, he did seem to accept the right of Texas to secede (a momentous statement for a governor to make), even though he didn’t actually say that secession was an absolute right.

This rather innocuous statement resulted in a tsunami of negative reaction that still resonates today. Virtually every article related to Governor Perry mentioned something akin to, “Governor Perry called for secession during….” The result of this overreaction was to strike fear into any and all politicians whenever the subject of withdrawing from the Union was broached. It’s as if secession is now the new “third rail” of politics, never to be mentioned, much less supported.

The problem with secession in this country is the widespread ignorance of the public on the right to secede. This fact was reinforced just the other day when a Rasmussen poll reported that only 18 percent of the public believed a state had the right to secede. A year ago, according to a Zogby poll, one-third of the public believed a state had that right. It wasn’t that they were asked if their state should secede, just if they had the right to do so—a very disappointing indictment of the American education system.

Here in Charleston, where I write these words only a few blocks from where South Carolina seceded in 1860, great fear gripped the city’s timid and weak leadership this year when it came to proposals for memorializing the sesquicentennial of perhaps the most significant event in this city’s history—approving the Ordinance of Secession. It all began when a group wanted to establish a memorial to that event and to those that signed the ordinance, but no official could be found with the courage to back the idea.

Yet, the top contender for the biggest disappointment of the year is the Tea Party movement. These good folks are sincere, but they have misplaced ideas as to the best solution for tyrannical government. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that sending “better” politicians into the quagmire of corruption called Washington will solve our problems. Not only do they shun workable solutions such as nullification and secession, but they actively disparage such Founder-like efforts. An example of such can be found on the Austin Tea Party website where they proudly proclaim, “We do not support secession.”

Despite such negative developments, I do remain positive about the outlook for the coming year. As the nullification movement gains strength, we may benefit from their coattails. As the public becomes more aware of the sovereign rights and authority of our states, they could also become more accepting of the sovereign right of a state to withdraw from a Compact that has been repeatedly violated by the federal government.

Those who are already in the ranks of the sovereign-rights advocates can help advance the cause of secession. It is simple, only takes a few minutes of time, and could actually be great fun. Here’s how: When you finish reading an article supporting or rejecting the idea of secession, become a part of the conversation. Endorse the informed. Correct the clueless. If enough of us do this, the public just might become aware of the duty that their state has to reject an abusive and tyrannical government. Perhaps then, next year’s report on “The State of Secession” will have a few more victories to celebrate.

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7 Comments
  1. June 28, 2010 4:59 pm

    I will have to respectfully disagree. Unless our educational system is a complete failure, then they would have learned about the civil war and the right to secede. I would go so far that I think most people know that while there is a ‘right to secede’ they know that they do not have the right to exercise it, as evidenced by the american civil war. Abraham lincoln fought a war to prevent secession, and I will even argue that if any state tried to secede today– it will be met with resistance, violent if need be.

    • Prudence Paine permalink
      June 28, 2010 7:55 pm

      Nils: You are arguing that before we can exercise a right, we must be granted the right to exercise it? By very definition, a right remains a right–even when an oppressive government attempts to prevent the exercise of said right.

      We do have the right to secede, and the well-educated know that we do have the right to exercise it, as evidenced by the Revolutionary War.

      As far as violence is concerned, it seems far-fetched and unnecessary in the modern age of no-fault divorce. At worst, we’d be tied up in court for decades over alimony and division of property.

    • Bill Miller permalink
      June 29, 2010 2:26 pm

      Nils, Prudence is right, but I thought I would add to her well framed response to your comment.

      First a rather minor point; Abraham Lincoln did not fight a war to prevent secession—it had already occurred. Lincoln fought to force those seceded states back into a Union of which they did not want to belong.

      Also, staying with the Lincoln theme, Lincoln’s genius was in provoking the South to appear to be aggressive warmongers when they “fired the first shot” on Fort Sumter. While it was really a harmless little affair since the South did not kill or even seriously wound anyone, Lincoln was able to rally public and world opinion against the perceived wrongs of those seceded states. It is therefore my opinion that tanks rolling into a free Vermont, like Sumter, would do more to galvanize other states and world opinion against the regime and ultimately secure a seceded state’s independence.

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