Archive for the ‘Secessation’ Category

Modern American Civil War   8 comments

Disclaimer — I am the descendant abolitionists and I have never lived in the American South. This is a thought experiment about today, not about the Civil War of 1861.

The American Civil War was, I submit, more about economics and culture than slavery. Slavery was a symptom of the divide between the two American nations. I use “nation” deliberately because you can form countries from multiple people groups, but it rarely works out well. Think the USSR, Iraq, Yugoslavia. The tensions that tear these countries apart are found in the differing cultural values of the peoples who are forced to live together. A tyrannical central authority can force coexistence only so long.

The civil divide we have in the United States in 2012 is more about economics and culture than it is about politics or bigotry. Let’s get real — 53% of the American electorate in 2008 elected Barack Obama to the White House. This is a post-racial country. Dislike of him in the White House has NOTHING to do with bigotry.

Although as a non-partisan I don’t like to see the world in Democrat versus Republican terms, the red and blue state map is a useful tool for understanding our cultural divide.

The South, the Midwest, Alaska and the Mountain states voted Republican. To say these people are conservatives is a bit of a stretch because the Republican Party platform is more representative of large corporate interests than conservative values, but the majority of conservatives probably voted with the Republicans this year or, in many cases, didn’t vote.

A more illustrative red-blue map is below — showing votes at the county level:

If you overlay this map on a regular map, you quickly see it’s a divide between urban and rural/suburban communities. It’s not a divide by the Mason-Dixon line. It’s not racially motivated. It’s culturally motivated. And what might be the cultural differences?

Go up to my post on the differences between conservatives and progressives and you’ll find a correlation. Far more urban dwellers are liberal progressives and rural/exurban dwellers tend to be conservative. It’s a worldview thing. If you live cheek-by-jowl with your neighbor, on crowded polluted lots where crime rates are high and you cannot grow you own food, you tend to see government and the services it provides as a good thing, a protector rather than an oppressor. If you live with some elbow room and clean air with low crime rates and a garden out back and you have to wait two hours for a cop to come from the nearest town, you tend to see government, with its rules and regulations as arbitrary and oppressive. The individualism and self-reliance of the “red” counties seems aggressive and out-of-control to the “blue” counties, while the red counties feel that the blue counties are interfering with essential liberties that are working just fine. If we were fine with leaving each other be, with each state deciding for itself how to operate within its own borders, there’d be no problem, but since the Civil War, the “national” government has insisted that one-size does indeed fit all and currently, the blue states see no problem with oppressing the denizens of the red states for what they see as “the public good”.

Secession is not the only way for us to go. A return to federalism would be a better choice. Unfortunately, as soon as we start this discussion someone brings up the Civil War and it turns from discussion to argument. The Civil War wasn’t about slavery and in the 21st century, the coming civil divide won’t be about slavery either. It’s about economy, it’s about culture and, more importantly, it’s about worldview.

And, for the record, the solution is federalism, not secession.

Revisionist History   Leave a comment

In my research, I came across more analysis of the secessionist movement, including this opinion piece by Walter E. Williams. All emphasis in the text are mine.

For decades, it has been obvious that there are irreconcilable differences between Americans who want to control the lives of others and those who wish to be left alone. Which is the more peaceful solution: Americans using the brute force of government to beat liberty-minded people into submission or simply parting company? In a marriage, where vows are ignored and broken, divorce is the most peaceful solution. Similarly, our constitutional and human rights have been increasingly violated by a government instituted to protect them. Americans who support constitutional abrogation have no intention of mending their ways.

Since Barack Obama’s re-election, hundreds of thousands of petitions for secession have reached the White House. Some people have argued that secession is unconstitutional, but there’s absolutely nothing in the Constitution that prohibits it. What stops secession is the prospect of brute force by a mighty federal government, as witnessed by the costly War of 1861. Let’s look at the secession issue.

At the 1787 constitutional convention, a proposal was made to allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, rejected it, saying: “A Union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”

On March 2, 1861, after seven states had seceded and two days before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Sen. James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin proposed a constitutional amendment that said, “No State or any part thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted into the Union, shall have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here’s my no-brainer question: Would there have been any point to offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional?

On the eve of the War of 1861, even unionist politicians saw secession as a right of states. Rep. Jacob M. Kunkel of Maryland said, “Any attempt to preserve the Union between the States of this Confederacy by force would be impractical, and destructive of republican liberty.”

The Northern Democratic and Republican parties favored allowing the South to secede in peace. Just about every major Northern newspaper editorialized in favor of the South’s right to secede. New York Tribune (Feb. 5, 1860): “If tyranny and despotism justified the Revolution of 1776, then we do not see why it would not justify the secession of Five Millions of Southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.” Detroit Free Press (Feb. 19, 1861): “An attempt to subjugate the seceded States, even if successful, could produce nothing but evil — evil unmitigated in character and appalling in content.” The New York Times (March 21, 1861): “There is growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go.”

There’s more evidence seen at the time our Constitution was ratified. The ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said that they held the right to resume powers delegated, should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution would have never been ratified if states thought that they could not maintain their sovereignty.

The War of 1861 settled the issue of secession through brute force that cost 600,000 American lives. Americans celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but H.L. Mencken correctly evaluated the speech, “It is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense.” Lincoln said that the soldiers sacrificed their lives “to the cause of self-determination — that government of the people, by the people, for the people should not perish from the earth.” Mencken says: “It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of people to govern themselves.”

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


Professor Williams has also written several books of history where it connects to economic issues.

Posted December 1, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in Government, politics, Secessation

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