No Secession, No Legitimacy!

Many Republicans, having discovered that Bush’s policies are tyrannical, are making noises about wanting out of the fascist state that they were cheering on a few months ago. While we may wonder why it took the trivial matter of having people who have the letter D appended to their names on news reports executing Bush’s policies to open their eyes, we must welcome the fact that they are dimly becoming aware of how thoroughly their leaders had betrayed their country and are looking for ways to undo the damage these leaders wrought.

Some Republicans have even endorsed secession! This is keeping with American tradition that started the first time the idealogical ancestors of the Republican party – the Federalists – lost an election for the Presidency. In that case the merchants of New England threatened secession since Tomas Jefferson’s policies of trade embargoes with foreign markets were crippling them. Since then threats of seccession have been a regular part of the political landscape.

Often the threats of secession are not taken seriously… usually the benefits of leaving the union are not sufficiently great to attract many supporters, and thus the powers-that-be can ignore the movements completely.

Today, though, the Democrats and political leadership are reacting in horror at the reemergence of threat American phenomenon – their dreams of social engineering will go up in smoke if the masses have the option to escape! And many people who should know better are agreeing with them.

People make three arguments against secession:
1)That it is illegal
2)That it is immoral
3)That it is unwise

Let us examine these arguments.


The toughest argument is on the question of legality. Personally, I don’t care a whit about the legality of secession: if secession is moral, then any law banning it should be disobeyed, and if it is immoral, than its legal permissibility is irrelevant. However, let us consider the law. For a more in-depth analysis, see the Mises Institute’s review of U.S. Law on the matter.

U.S. law concerning secession is actually quite ambiguous, and we can blame the Federalists for this. The problem is that the federalists, while paying lip service to the idea of government by consent, attempted to craft a government that was not constrained by a need for consent. The U.S. Constitution is thus schizophrenic, nominally limiting the Federal Government to settling disputes between states and in administering foreign policy, while permitting it to levy taxes and to control state governments.

The reason for the schizophrenia is quite straightforward. The U.S. War of Independence (when the American colonies seceded from England) created economic ruin; the Continental Congress printed money to pay for the war, and this led to terrible inflation. The Congress also borrowed heavily to finance the war. In Massachusetts, the merchants who owned much of this debt, insisted on paying farmers in debased Continental dollars and supported ruinous taxes that came down on the farmers to repay this debt. The result was Shay’s Rebellion, when veterans of the original War of Independence took up arms against the Massachusetts Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Militia refused to take up arms against the veterans, in fact, many joined Captain Shay’s Regulators. This rebellion, put down by an army of mercenaries hired by some of the wealthiest merchants, terrified the cabal of founding fathers who would one day term themselves Federalists. It started in motion a thought process that led to their hijacking of the meeting to revise the Articles of Confederation – so that they could promote a different scheme: a central government that had the means to levy taxes on its own and one which could put down tax revolts without having to depend on unreliable state militias. Their scheme worked fairly well, when Pennsylvania farmers rebelled against George Washington’s unconstitutional taxes, George Washington was able to attack, invade and subdue Pennsylvania by force fairly easily.

From its inception the U.S. Constitution was viewed with suspicion. The so-called Federalist papers were really an attempt to rebut the editorials written by concerned citizens who foresaw the dangers of a strong central government that could impose its will by force on the states.

As Stephen Kinsella pointed out, in several conventions debating ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the proponents did claim that the U.S. Constitution permitted secession. In several states, the ratification was approved only when coupled with a stipulating that the state in question reserved the right to secede. The U.S. government accepted these conditional ratifications as being acceptable ratifications. This fact implies that the states did have the power to secede. But, when one looks in the Constitution, not only is there no mention of a right to secede, there is really no mechanism in place for a state to exit the Union. There is a clause permitting the U.S. government to make war on territories within the U.S. that are in “rebellion”, but nothing regarding a legitimate withdrawal of any territory from U.S. jurisdiction. Any secession that is not accepted by the Federal Government will, by definition, be a rebellion. Thus I conclude that the authors of the Constitution did not really support secession but merely were lying in order to fool people into voting to ratify the U.S. Constitution. This may be shocking to some, but the founding fathers did have a large number of professional politicians in their ranks, and shockingly, politicians have been known on occasion to lie.


If the U.S. Constitution was ratified only because of such fraudulent misrepresentations by its supporters, one could argue that the U.S. Constitution is not legitimately ratified at all, and thus it has no legal force. But this is really missing the point: the U.S. Constitution has no legitimacy now. Lysander Spooner explained why over a century ago:

“The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. And the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not even attempt to bind them. That is to say, the instrument does not purport to be an agreement between any body but “the people” then existing; nor does it, either expressly or impliedly, assert any right, power, or disposition, on their part, to bind anybody but themselves.”

Lysander Spooner, the Constitution of No Authority.

This is a moral argument, which questions how a group of men who have been dead for well over 100 years can obligate us to submit to any political order. It cuts to the question of consent. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson claimed that a government derived its power from the consent of the people. But what form of consent is being given? If I refuse to consent to the U.S. government, I go to jail, or even risk getting killed! How can people give consent if they are not permitted to withhold it? If they were to be permitted to withhold it, what form would such a withholding take?

A refusal to consent to government would necessarily require people to stop obeying the government’s edicts, to ignore its laws and live by laws of their own devising – in other words by seceding

Thus, to freely consent to government, people must also be free to declare their independence and secede from the state which claims their allegiance A government that claims legitimacy by declaring it has the consent of the governed must permit secession, or its whole claim of consent is nothing more than an empty marketing slogan, like ‘compassionate conservatism’ or ‘ownership society’.

Nor does the state get to dictate on what terms consent can be legitimately withheld. A right can be exercised for the most weighty or spurious reasons. I, for example, have the right to speak my mind. I can speak profoundly on important topics, or exercise this right to sing the most frivolous of songs. How I exercise this right, why I exercise it is irrelevant. If the U.S. government claims it governs only because the people consent to it, it must permit secession for any reason, even if it is as frivolous as Texas declaring its independence because it rained on Thursday.

Is Secession a Good Idea?

So having established that the legal case is contradictory and that the moral case is pro-secession, we are left with the question of the wisdom of secession Is secession a good idea?

To me the answer is an unequivocal “yes”. Prosperity and peace flows from economic cooperation and political independence. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not capable of being as oppressive as the United States Government Weak governments face the real possibility of losing their population if their laws become too onerous. They face tax competition that drives their tax rates low. They cannot commandeer the resources needed to wage destructive war. In short, the smaller the territory and population a government controls, the more impotent and harmless the government is.

Today, the U.S. Federal Government is wrecking the U.S. economy and plundering the wealth of the people. If faced with secession, it would either end its depredations or watch helplessly as it was reduced to controlling a few enclaves, paying its employees with increasingly worthless paper money as described in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

Many of the grievances cited by Thomas Jefferson and his companions in the Declaration of Independence can also be said to apply to the U.S. Federal Government

How does the United States Government compare to the Federal Government
Grievances from 1776 Grievances from 2008
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

These grievances essentially boil down the the King interfering with local legislatures to prevent them from passing laws that the local inhabitants wanted.

Of course, the Federal Government does that now: the people of numerous states have voted to legalize marijuana possession. The Federal Government has refused to permit this. Numerous states have proposed to reduce the drinking age, and the Federal Government has opposed this.

The Federal Government does not have to disband state legislatures like the King did; rather it merely threatens to withhold highway, educational, law-enforcement or medical funding.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. As bad as King George was, the Federal Government is worse. It has made it impossible for people to legally come here and to work.

It was the influx of people eager to build new lives, who had the initiative to move to a new country that helped make the U.S. one of the most prosperous and pleasant places to live.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
This is actually one area where I know of no usurpations. The Federal Government, as far as I know, does not interfere with the appointment of judges in state court systems
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their substance. the alphabet soup of Federal agencies that interfere with all sorts of local matters are legion. We have the EPA, DOE, ATF, DOD, HUD, FEMA, OSHA, DEA etc etc ad nauseam. These people make our lives a living hell, prohibiting people from earning their livelihoods, imposing expensive regulations, interfering with the attempts by people to enjoy their property.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. The United States Army is the most dangerous army in the world, based on its sheer firepower. While it is true that state legislatures don’t protest the existence of this vast force that is a dangerous threat to our liberties, they do not consent to it, and stand helplessly by while the military consumes vast resources that leave the people poorer and less able to care for themselves.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power. The United States military is rapidly becoming a law unto itself. Particularly troubling is the use of military jails to hold “enemy combatants”, people – including citizens of the United States – who have been arrested and then transferred to military custody. Particularly galling is the attempt by the former president and the federal legislature to remove detainees held by the military from the jurisdiction of the courts
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: The Berne treaty on copyrights, the UN directives on disarmament, the creation of the ICC are all examples of the U.S. government making the citizenry subject to laws over which they have no control or representation, laws that are frequently crafted by those who benefit from them.
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: The United States military now consumes nearly 5% of GDP. This is equal to 50% of world military spending. This arsenal is paid for by taxes levied off of the American people. This military spending has been used to prop up mass-murderers, Islamic terrorists, Communist agitators, suicide bombers, the firestorming of cities empty of military personnel and packed with civilian refugees.

The militarized branches of the Department of Homeland Security, groups like the ATF, TSA and the ICE routinely harass the citizenry. The Federal Government also issues older weapons like heavy machine guns and armored personnel carriers to local police forces.

More disturbingly, the Federal Governments assistance to local police forces, particularly in the name of fighting the War on (Some) Drugs is militarizing the local police forces which are increasingly behaving like occupying forces.

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: On several occasions in the past 20 years, Federal agents have murdered U.S. citizens. They have not been prosecuted. Invariably after a pro-forma investigation, they are found to be not culpable of any crime. And, should any state prosecutor attempt to prosecute them for their crimes, the prosecution will be blocked because agents of the Federal Government are immune from prosecution in the state courts for crimes committed while on “official business”
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: Would you like a Cuban cigar? How about some cane sugar from Costa Rica? Some ivory from Senegal? Would you like to gamble on-line? Purchase a Belgian rifle? How about buying some unpasteurized milk? Would you like to grow and sell some hemp?

The Federal Government, through tarriffs, import regulations, sanctions and other commercial regulations routinely prevents trade with other parts of the world. These tariffs often help control foreign competition as the expensive price of these goods and services is unattractive to domestic customers. This interference frequently benefits a few special interests while hurting everyone else.

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: Every recent bailout bill was overwhelmingly opposed by the citizenry. Yet these bills have passed imposing a crushing tax burden on the citizenry in the future. Moreover Congress often imposes tariffs on necessities like steel and sugar that create shortages and high prices that all of us must pay.

In this day of the income tax, most of us do not recognize that they higher prices due to protectionism are, in fact, taxes. Yet they are the very taxes that prompted our ancestors to take up arms and to drive the distant king’s armies from their lands.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: I am going to ignore the effective suspension of Habeas Corpus by the previous Congress. I am going to ignore the attempt to jail Padilla indefinitely without trial. While these were outrageous abuses of power, they only have affected a few men.

What I will focus on instead is the tens of thousands of men who have been jailed without a trial. Only 5% of prosecutions result in a trial. Most prosecutions are settled by a plea bargain, where the defendant pleads guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a lenient sentence. At first this practice seems benign, until one considers that it is really the result of a vile practice known as “charge stacking”. A single act can result in tens or even hundreds of charges, with the real possibility that a conviction will result in the defendant being sentenced to jail for the rest of his life.

People who are innocent of any crime, who had a reasonable chance of getting a jury to find them not-guilty of the primary charge leveled against them nonetheless plead guilty, accepting a certain short jail term rather than to face the risk of a longer jail term.

Moreover, the Federal Courts have made a mockery of jury trials, when judges are permitted to choose how defendants defend themselves. In the case of Charlie Lynch, the judge effectively prevented from making any defense at all. Given that the jurors who, after the trial, became aware of the facts that had been kept from them have announced publicly and formally that they would now vote to acquit, it is hard to claim that his jury trial, while meeting the form of one, was in substance nothing more than a charade. For every Charlie Lynch we know of, there are hundreds that we never hear of.

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences: Extraordinary rendition anyone? The arrest of Padilla and his placement in military custody? Why transport people when they can be made to disappear into a black hole?
For abolishing the free system of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: At first it seems that this grievance is yet another that we are now free of. After all, we can’t blame the Federal Government for Canada. But consider Guantanamo bay. Consider how the policies of Gitmo were transferred to Abu Ghraib prison.

Consider the enclaves throughout the west that are owned by the Federal Government, in some cases comprising of 40% of the landmass of particular states. Consider how the state laws are in effect void in those enclaves.

Consider how the Federal Government has eroded its respect for the right of people to their property and to be free from arbitrary searches and seizures.

Consider how this disregard for Common Law protections has similarly been condoned when practiced by the states.

Consider how multi-jurisdictional task forces and federal subsidies encourage similar contempt for our rights on the part of the states, and this stops being a funny anachronism.

The Federal Government has made the entire United States an land of arbitrary government where the freedoms once accorded to Englishmen have been completely undone.

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislature, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
How often does the Federal Government pass legislation that overrides state laws? How often do they bend states to their wills via passing unfunded mandates and threatening to withhold aid? The states are no longer independent. They are vassals of the Federal Government, merely administrative regions for enforcing Federal will.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. ICE raids? Border patrol checkpoints? ATF raids?. DEA seizures? The Treasury Department’s attack on the Liberty Dollar and E-Gold? The assaults on travelers carried out daily by the TSA? Is this not a war on us? Last week, the EPA declared CO2, the product of our breath to be a pollutant! They may not be massacring people in front of the state house, but they are waging war on all of us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people Have not the environmental regulations that have made it illegal to exploit the wealth of our land not been a form of plunder? When the Federal Government forced farmers to destroy their crops during the Great Depression were they not ravaging our land? When the Agriculture department forbid a meat-packer from testing is beef for Mad Cow disease, costing them their most lucrative markets were the meat-packers livelihoods not destroyed? When the DOD is permitted to pollute the land, when it is made exempt for lawsuits by privileges like “the state secrets privilege” manufactured out of thin air by an out of control judiciary and executive are they not laying waste to our lands? When the Federal Government outlaws the manufacture or consumption of life giving medicines because they are “unproven” or popular with black Jazz musicians are they not killing the people?
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
Why import mercenary armies when through propaganda our youth can be brought to bear arms against us? Remember the soldier patrolling New Orleans after Katrina who marveled that he was doing in Louisiana the same thing he did in Iraq? Remember the weapons confiscation? The Federal Agents preventing Walmart from shipping in drinking water to affected areas while people dies of heatstroke and thirst?
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. Why import Indians when we can adopt their methods of war? The United States as ceased to respect the laws of war. It attacks civilian populations. It bombs indiscriminately. The senior leadership encourages barbarity, viewing charity and civilized behavior as being “soft” or “appeasement”.

Through the constant wars, the state of emergency that has been in force since 1932, the contempt for the rule of law, the Federal Government has encouraged and rewarded savagery and suppressed enlightened, civilized behavior.

The point is clear, many of the grievances cited by Thomas Jefferson are grievances that we, the people, have against the U.S. Federal Government. If these reasons were sufficient cause for the secession and rebellion 200 years ago, they are sufficient cause today.

People can pound the table and say “Union now… union tomorrow … union forever…” as much as they like – it won’t alter the fact that the United States Government is not a permanent institution. It has become an organization that is destroying vast quantities of wealth with no comprehension that is should limit its activities. Inevitably it will fail to deliver that which it has promised and take too much from the people it is disappointing.. At that point people will turn against it, and the cry of rebellion will be in the air. I pray then that the rebellion will be the peaceful partitioning as occurred when Czechoslovakia broke apart, rather than the destruction of the War Between the States. An amicable divorce is far preferable to one where the man burns the house down and crashes the car rather than allowing his wife to get it.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.