Increasingly, we read of dissolving the “political bands” which have connected people to a larger state entity. Last week Scots voted on the issue of disbanding from the United Kingdom—as it turns out not so united. A slight majority agreed to hang in there. Here in these divided States American citizens again express their right to alter or abolish big government becoming destructive to our unalienable rights: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Secession is not necessarily a hostile action. In fact, our Founders declared that we are entitled to “separate and equal station” by the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”—but respectfully they cited the “repeated injuries and usurpations” against them by the King of Great Britain. They didn’t want to fight him, they simply made an appeal “in the Name, and by Authority of the good people of these Colonies” that they “of Right ought to be Free and Independent States”—just leave us alone. After winning a war pressed by the King, they wrote a Constitution intended to codify that right.
It’s important to remember that during the months of debate in the States about the proposed constitution, many people were fearful of authorizing a large central, potentially powerful federal government. They had just painfully gotten rid of one. Only after Congress proposed 12 amendments—called the Bill of Rights—did State citizens agree to join the United States. Ten Amendments were ratified in late 1791.
Yet, even these assurances of limited government and liberty for all, did not prevent expanding federal power and intrusions into our lives—ultimately, in the 1860s some States used destructive force against others expressing their right to be free and independent. As Ron Paul has written, since that time “Washington has done everything that the framers tried to prevent….”
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that many United States’ citizens favor secession. About the same number of Americans polled (53 percent) as Scottish voters—hardly an overwhelming majority— oppose secession. Not surprising, disparities by regions exist. More than one-third of those polled in Southwestern States support being free of federal control, while only 19 percent of New Englanders would be free of big government.
Of course, polls only reflect views of a limited number of people and results vary depending on questions asked. In the Reuters poll the question was: “Do you support or oppose the idea of your state peacefully withdrawing from the United States of America and the federal government?”
In my opinion, this issue involves two separate questions. Secession of individual States would not necessarily result in “withdrawing” their connections. In the 1860s thirteen Southern States affirmed their sovereignty and declared independence from the federalized system. But they formed a self-sufficient confederacy. This gave them the solidarity to resist threats and, temporarily, military forces sent against them by Northern States.
The primary question remains: what to do about a large, oppressive centralized government? I doubt that our peaceful, commercial union would be threatened by secession of various States. Of course, it would threaten the politically powerful people in Washington. It could deprive them from their source of power—other people’s money—that they fear most.