Secession: Are We Free To Go?
Is all the recent talk of secession mere sour grapes over the election, or perhaps something deeper? Currently there are active petitions in support of secession for all 50 states, with Texas taking the lead in number of signatures. Texas has well over the number of signatures needed to generate a response from the administration, and while I wouldn't hold my breath on Texas actually seceding, I believe these petitions raise a lot of worthwhile questions about the nature of our union.
Is it treasonous to want to secede from the United States? Many think the question of secession was settled by our Civil War. On the contrary; the principles of self-governance and voluntary association are at the core of our founding. Clearly Thomas Jefferson believed secession was proper, albeit as a last resort. Writing to William Giles in 1825, he concluded that states:
"should separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left, are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers."
Keep in mind that the first and third paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence expressly contemplate the dissolution of a political union when the underlying government becomes tyrannical.
Do we have a "government without limitation of powers" yet? The Federal government kept the Union together through violence and force in the Civil War, but did might really make right?
Secession is a deeply American principle. This country was born through secession. Some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those "traitors" became our country's greatest patriots.
There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents. That is what our Revolutionary War was all about and today our own federal government is vastly overstepping its constitutional bounds with no signs of reform. In fact, the recent election only further entrenched the status quo. If the possibility of secession is completely off the table there is nothing to stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties and no recourse for those who are sick and tired of it.
Consider the ballot measures that passed in Colorado and Washington state regarding marijuana laws. The people in those states have clearly indicated that they are ready to try something different where drug policy is concerned, yet they will still face a tremendous threat from the federal government. In California, the Feds have been arresting peaceful medical marijuana users and raiding dispensaries that state and local governments have sanctioned. This shouldn't happen in a free country.
It remains to be seen what will happen in states that are refusing to comply with the deeply unpopular mandates of Obamacare by not setting up healthcare exchanges. It appears the Federal government will not respect those decisions either.
In a free country, governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. When the people have very clearly withdrawn their consent for a law, the discussion should be over. If the Feds refuse to accept that and continue to run roughshod over the people, at what point do we acknowledge that that is not freedom anymore? At what point should the people dissolve the political bands which have connected them with an increasingly tyrannical and oppressive federal government? And if people or states are not free to leave the United States as a last resort, can they really think of themselves as free?
If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free.