Monday, July 26, 2010

How NOT to Secede

So, if you look over there on the right, and down a little, you'll see that one of the web sites I frequent is In fact, it's one of my favorite sites and I read it almost daily. Reader beware: there's quite a mixed bag of fun things to find, there. I don't endorse everything!

In any case, I was interested to find this article by Michael Rozeff on LewRockwell today, because Michael addresses some of the same themes I did in my post of a few days ago on local resistance to Washington, D.C.

In the spirit of moving the conversation along a little further, I'd like to quibble with Mr. Rozeff on a particular point in his argument. I do have a specific reason to differ with him on this point, which I hope will be made clear. Michael states:

We the People created the Constitution through state legislatures. That is a quasi-legal path to undoing the Constitution and thus breaking up the United States.

My disagreement with Michael is on this point. He is incorrect that We the People created the Constitutions through state legislatures -- we created the Constitution through state conventions. The state legislatures sent delegates to the constitutional convention to amend the articles of confederation -- the state conventions ratified (and thus created) the Constitution. This may sound like pedantry, but I think it is not. In fact, it was of prime importance at the time of the greatest conflict in our country's history -- the War for Southern Independence.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th President of the United States with <40% of the popular vote, without a single electoral vote from the southern states, and on an explicitly sectional platform odious to their interests, southern states sought relief in the form of secession. They did not do so, though, through acts of the state legislatures; they did so through the sovereign acts of their respective people acting through convention called specifically for that purpose. This was for a particular reason -- in order that the articles of secession be enacted by the same sovereign authority of the people of the respective states that had acceded to the U.S. Constitution. The same sovereign authority that in the case of Virginia had adopted the U.S. Constitution with the following words:

That the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them, whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will, etc., etc.

The men of the South in 1860-1861 were schooled in U.S. history. They knew that a mere act of the legislature could not undo a sovereign act of the people. In order to resume the powers they had delegated to the federal government, they needed to appeal once again to the people's sovereignty. This they did, and the rest is history. In the words of President Jefferson Davis, though, "A question settled by violence, or in disregard of law, must remain unsettled forever.”

Unless of course we attempted to settle it once again. Anyone know how to call a state convention?


Dave Linton said...

Well said. Thanks Jason.

Dave Linton said...

Looks like the Virginia Legislature called the Convention. I suspect the same would have to be done in Missouri. Probably something in the state constitution.

JWC said...

Dave, you are correct. Thanks for the plug on facebook!

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