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What do people not get about the term "Union?"

The United States of America is a Union, not a loose confederacy of states. We tried such a structure with the Articles of Confederation that preceded the Constitution, and it did not work.

Can we step over the orange thingy for a little chat about the primacy of the Union and the impossibility of "secession"?

As a Union, the United States of America is "one nation, indivisible." "We, the People" are all the individuals that compose that nation—including every individual in every state. The individuals and the states are parts of this indivisible whole, and no part can exist outside the whole to which it belongs. This was the consequence of joining the Union, which is to say, merging into the indissoluble whole that is the American People.

Therefore, no state or group of states can dissolve the Union by "seceding." That was the principle under which Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War. The Confederate states never "seceded" because it simply was impossible to do so. They just had to be pummeled into recognizing that fact, and then they had to resume the roles they had tried to leave behind. Even Antonin Scalia, the favorite Supreme Court justice of every "conservative," has said that if the Civil War proved anything, it was that there is no right to secession.

On the other hand, no state or group of states can "give permission" for any other state or states to "secede." It is just as impossible for a part of a whole to let other parts leave as it is for parts to leave the whole on their own initiative. And for the same reason, neither can the Federal Government—a group delegated by the People, and therefore only a part of the People—"give permission" for parts of the whole to "secede."

The only way for states to gain the right to "secede" would be to hold a new Constitutional Convention and have the whole American People produce a new Constitution that specifically rejects the notion that there is such a thing as the American People, and either returns the relations among states to something like the loose confederation that failed prior to the Constitution, or simply gives up the notion of federation altogether, leaving fifty independent sovereign states where once there was only one.

And what would be the consequence of either path? Think a few steps down the road. Yes, that's right. War among the states. Why? Because there would be no power to adjudicate conflicts. The edges of comity were getting frayed under the Articles of Confederation after only six years. Could we last that long today, when minor disagreements can be escalated into major flare-up almost instantly through electronic media?

We have lived 150 years without serious conflict among the states. It seems unthinkable that the states would ever take up arms against one another again. But what would there be to stop it if there were no federal courts to decide competing claims among the states?

This is why Lincoln's cause was saving the Union first, and settling the slavery question second. Without the Union, no problem—neither slavery nor anything else—would ever be settled.

Now I know that the idea of freeing ourselves from our misguided and unenlightened fellow citizens is very tempting. But we cannot do so without destroying the Union. And it is only the Union that protects each and every one of us from being drawn into conflicts among the states.

The trade-off for these benefits is that the less enlightened must be constantly pushed by the more enlightened to be more just, whether they wish to or not. And the more enlightened must be constantly exasperated by the foot-dragging of the less enlightened—a frustrating way to live for both sides, but much better than being continually at war.

Those who are clamoring for secession are not enlightened enough to understand the legacy they want to reject. Their cries are just another manifestation of the stupidity (and superannuated anti-federalism) that finds its natural expression in today's Republican party.

But the rest of us? We should know better. We should not give in to the understandable but wicked temptation to cut the knuckle-draggers loose. It's uncharitable, because who will be left to prompt them to lead better lives? And it's self-destructive, because once left to their own devices, their stunted sense of justice will soon lead them to turn against the very people who gave them what they so much wanted: the "freedom" to live miserably.

The Union still endures, still protects, still enables justice to spread. It remains the historical model on which all true self-government, government by the People, is based.

Though we must suffer each day to live alongside the unenlightened among the People, let us bear that sacrifice steadfastly rather than relinquish the treasure of the Union to the uncomprehending and selfish hordes.

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Comment Preferences

  •  From Wiki on secession (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neuroptimalian, annecros

    The United States Supreme Court ruled unilateral secession unconstitutional while commenting that revolution or consent of the states could lead to a successful secession.

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:21:52 PM PST

  •  Your central claim (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is clearly rejected by the Constitution.  Congress can, with a state's permission, change its boundaries, a power that has in fact  been exercised with monotonous regularity.  It can alienate territory to another country.  We did this recently, for example, to clear up consequences of the Rio Grand's meandering.  Thus, unambigously, Congress can relocate the boundary of Mississippi, with their agreement, to a one square foot tile in the capital rotunda, and bid them bon voyage.

    Of course, if one were to do such a thing, one would need clear up a few minor details, such as division of the national debt.  And for the gentleman on an earlier post who wanted to make sure that they did not get nuclear weapons, you really really ought to look up where the country's core nuclear weapon manufacturing facilities are located.

    I am not impressed by the idea of partitioning the country. I would rather leave those interesting times to the realm of fiction.  

    We can have change for the better.

    by phillies on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 02:25:23 PM PST

    •  Neither location of boundaries nor (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radical simplicity

      extent of land mass have anything to do with the issue of secession.

      The legalistic trick you suggest would certainly be opposed by some of the citizens of the state in question, who, being currently citizens of the United States of America, could sue for injunction against being deprived of their federal citizenship.

      Even if they entire citizenry of that state were unanimously in favor of the trick, a neighboring state could sue on the grounds that independent sovereign status for the other state would have serious economic, political, social, and practical consequences for the neighboring states.

      And the whole thing would end up at the Supreme Court, which would have to render a decision, as it has not until now, about whether agreed secession was Constitutional.

      I'd bet they turn that idea down.

      •  I keep thinking about seceded states regretting (0+ / 0-)

        that choice and begging to rejoin. Then being turned down for being unpatriotic asses they might become the 'illegals' they are so pissed about because without the support of the entire country and union of states they would not have funds to build infrastructure, fight against incursions and generally rebuild after disasters. It is in  our union that we are greater then our parts.

        What is so stupid about this whole issue is that a teeny weeny percentage is throwing a childish temper tantrum and showing off thier lack of patriotism and hatred for a real democracy.  At issue is thier right to be self centered yet supported by the rest of us. That includes all these CEOs and Willard who want to rake in the dough while using everyone else to pay for what supports them doing so and leaving less and less for others for what they take from the planet that belongs to all of us without compensation or thought for the destruction they leave. All so they can die with the biggest pile and pass it downto thier children who never worked at all in any way to earn it... the workers did the work not the vampires.

        Heck the tea baggers would be livid at losing thier social security and medicare.

        How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

        by boophus on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 09:33:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  there is an argument since TX joined as a (0+ / 0-)

    republic, it retained the right to sever its association with the other states.  Argument is popular in Wingerville

  •  Roaches check in, but they don't check out. (0+ / 0-)

    In that case I'd advise Puerto Rico to think long and hard about whether they want to walk through the doors of Hotel California.  It's apparently already too late for Alaska and Hawaii to undo the mistake they made in 1959.

    I'm also glad to see a good argument in favor of the re-prohibition of divorce, because after all THERE.IS.NO.DIVORCE.PERIOD.  Calvinism and perseverance of the saints, y'know.

  •  Not one state (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    207wickedgood, rwsab

    is going to attempt to secede from the Union. This petition nonsense is just that, nonsense, a kind of acting out. So Obama won? Well, watch me while I hold my breath and turn blue.

    These are the same people who stockpile food and ammo for the coming holocaust. They are not well, you know.

    I live in the deep south. I have not heard one word from anyone locally about secession or petitions. I don't think anyone around here has even heard about all this nonsense.  Saw something in the Charlotte Observer about it, but even there, my guess is people read it in the same way they read about Obama's birth certificate and all that dust up.

    I am not saying that there are no looneys in Charlotte, but they are like the strangely dressed fellow I used to see on a street corner in New York, who muttered to himself. They are sad.

    I am about thirty miles south of Charlotte, in a more rural area. Our local newspaper only comes out once a week. In summer the big story is usually about some guy growing a giant cabbage and winning a prize for it.

    That's serious business. I knew the guy who won, one year. A sweet old man who took his gardening seriously. He worked at my company, and everyone passed the paper around the office. We were all  so proud of his accomplishment. And why not? There is something nice about growing the biggest cabbage in the county.

    Secession? Nuh, uh. We got better things to do around here.

    Facts matter. Joe Biden

    by kpardue on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 03:35:07 PM PST

  •  Let's see.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've discussed this in the context of the civil war, but to focus on what was the view before then...

    James Madison:

     A rightful secession requires the consent of the others or an abuse of the compact absolving the seceding party from the obligations imposed by it.
    Andrew Jackson:
      ...each State having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute jointly with the other States a single nation, cannot from that period possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation, and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation because it would be a solecism to contend that any part of a nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any offense. Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right, is confounding the meaning of terms, and can only be done through gross error, or to deceive those who are willing to assert a right, but would pause before they made a revolution, or incur the penalties consequent upon a failure.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

    by mole333 on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 03:38:57 PM PST

  •  Let them vote first (0+ / 0-)

    If a state actually voted -- by democratic majority -- to secede, then we could have these interesting constitutional discussions and arguments.

    The fact that 20,000 people, who do not even need to live in that state, have clicked to add their names to some petition doesn't mean any state really wants to leave. It's rather like deciding foreign policy by having people "like" a Facebook page. That's not how the republic is constituted.

  •  You value the Union more than I do. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Nobody's going anywhere. Relax.


    by raincrow on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 05:58:36 PM PST

  •  Two points: (0+ / 0-)

    First, it would not require a Constitutional Convention to allow one or more states to secede, but it would require following the steps in Article IV, Section 3 of the present Constitution in making an Act of Secession approved by the Congress and by the legislature(s) of the state(s) concerned.

    Second, there are elements of our constitution that disunite us from the get-go: The existence of sovereign states. The Electoral College. The Senate. The 10th Amendment. All of these things resulted from the 18th Century belief that independence from England could not be achieved or protected unless all of the colonies united, but the slave-holding colonies insisted on individual sovereignty in order to prevent a central government from emancipating their slaves. Even after the Civil War, those protections continued and resulted in decades of apartheid. And even today, state sovereignty protects mostly southern wrongheadedness from being corrected by the national government.

    I would always have preferred to be a citizen of the United State of America, and in fact, I still would. But this (unlike secession) would require a complete constitutional reboot.

    •  I don't see how Art. 4 Sec. 3 applies (0+ / 0-)

      to secession. It only allows for fashioning new states, not for letting current states go.

      The transformations allowed by this article would never allow the citizens of the United States living in any state to lose their federal citizenship; they would simply transfer their state allegiance to a new or combined state.

      •  It has never been tried, oddly enough (0+ / 0-)

        but to me, there isn't much question that “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States” would allow any possible kind of change. (Note for example that several small portions of modern-day Alberta and Saskatchewan previously were part of the US.)

        As for citizenship, obviously US citizens would remain US citizens, and the laws of the excised territory would have to deal with the issue of whether US citizens were allowed to stay there or were to be given the right of citizenship in the new chunk of land or not. But, once the territory was no longer US territory, that wouldn't be an issue for our Congress to resolve.

        As for property rights, that would indeed be complicated, but I think that personal property would remain unchanged, and US property would have to be dealt with as part of the enabling act.

        And, don't forget that even if Article 4 weren't sufficient, the Constitution can be amended without end (theoretically).

  •  Now wait a minute..... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    canyonrat, Utahrd

    El Paso has a petition going to secede from Texas and join New Mexico.

    Texas would lose 1 Electoral Vote, New Mexico would gain 1 Electoral Vote.

    Not all secession petitions are bad.

  •  Dallas Cowboys fans would be illegal aliens. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MasterKey, Simian

    You talk about it like it's a bad thing

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