All we ask is to be let alone.
0 comment Wednesday, August 13, 2014 |
Even though I haven't blogged much about the state sovereignty movement lately, I am keeping an eye on what is happening around the country, and on the discussion here and there about the issue.
Terry Morris over at Webster's Blogspot has been doing a good job of keeping up with this on his blog, with this latest post and others.
On other blogs and forums, there is far less intelligent discussion of this issue, with a great many people still viewing the idea of state's rights and the implicit topic of secession with a skeptical or jaundiced eye. I am disappointed and sometimes disgusted at the lack of common sense on the subject which is evident in some discussions.
One such sophomoric article appears here, but a great many comments follow, with some sensible ones among them. The writer of the article makes the typical objection to state's rights and secession by opining that the previous attempt at seceding ended badly for South Carolina and the Confederacy, therefore the idea is tainted.
'Because the last time they got all uppity and started mouthing off about states� rights, we got our butts kicked.''
This is often the caliber of the arguments found in a lot of online discussions of state's rights and the Tenth Amendment, with the only other 'argument' being based on some kind of quasi-religious reverence for The Union.
Here Jack Hunter comments on the above-linked article and offers a sound examination of the Tenth Amendment movement and secession.
It's a very well-written piece; I recommend reading it all.
Thomas E. Woods describes here how, in the case of a powerful federal government overstepping its bounds, the only recourse was thought to be either arms or secession. However he spells out another alternative, which Thomas Jefferson himself outlined: nulllification.
He quotes Jefferson's words from The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798:
Let us recall some of Jefferson�s most potent words, ratified by the Kentucky legislature:
Resolved, that the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principles of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that by compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes, delegated to that Government certain definite powers, reserving each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self Government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: That to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party, its co-States forming as to itself, the other party: That the Government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself, since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common Judge, each party has an equal right to judge of itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.'
The great theorist of nullification was Calhoun, one of the most brilliant and creative political thinkers in American history. The Liberty Press edition of Calhoun�s writings, Union and Liberty, is indispensable for anyone interested in this subject-especially his Fort Hill Address, a concise and elegant case for nullification. Calhoun imagined a state holding a special nullification convention, much like the ratifying conventions the states had held when debating the Constitution, and settling the matter there.
The most common argument against nullification is that it would produce chaos, with a bewildering array of states constantly nullifying a bewildering array of federal laws. Given the character of the vast majority of federal legislation over the past several decades (and longer), it is difficult to imagine a libertarian viewing this as an especially grave difficulty.
Having said that, there is little reason to believe that chaos would actually ensue. Consider the historical record. That Americans generally acknowledged the right of a state to secede from the Union-a far more extreme remedy, surely, than nullification-is evident from the number of cases in which states threatened to exercise this option. Abolitionist and pro-slavery spokesman, protectionist and free trader, all at one time or another counseled secession. Yet was the Union overwhelmed with acts of secession before 1860? Most people have little desire to endure a state of crisis for frivolous reasons. But there can be no doubt that the ever-present threat that an oppressed state might withdraw had the salutary effect of restraining the federal government�s exercise of power.
Moreover, to the fear that nullification would lead to intolerable disorder, James Kilpatrick reminds us of the disorder that characterizes the present system: "If power-hungry federal judges may impose one unconstitutional mandate, they may impose a thousand, each more oppressive than the one before." Is this not its own kind of disorder? "But if the Constitution is over the [Supreme] Court, who or what finally is over the Constitution? It can only be the States, who under Article V alone have the power to amend or rewrite it."
In answer to the idea of the Union as being so sacred as to disallow any thought of secession, this piece argues that
The only real argument to hold the Union together is sentimental, since for many Americans the proposition of breaking apart our country sounds repellent and treasonous. But I ask you what is a worse fate for America: To remain geographically united while our founding principles burn to the ground? Or to fracture geographically while our founding principles receive a new lease on life?
To my mind, the first of these options commits the worst sin of modern times, which is to elevate the body over the soul. I would rather live in a small nation with America�s soul intact than a large nation with America�s soul extinct.''
I think he is right; to make some kind of idol out of The Union is to exalt the outward form over the spirit, to say that the idea of The Union is even more important than the idea of freedom and liberty, and as many of us see it, placing the 'nation-state' or the current Empire above the nation in the natural sense of The People, the kindred people who really constitute the nation.
Can there ever be agreement between people who pledge their allegiance to an abstract notion, and those whose allegiance belongs to a 'band of brothers'? Is there any hope of convincing the former group that the nation is the people and not The Union? Watching the debates that are taking place around this issue, I don't see much hope of doing so. And for that reason, because of the deep divides in people's beliefs about what makes up a nation and what their idea of proper government should be, we need to have an option to dissolve a 'union' which forcibly unites people of opposing beliefs and loyalties.
"Secession belongs to a different class of remedies. It is to be justified upon the basis that the States are Sovereign. There was a time when none denied it. I hope the time may come again, when a better comprehension of the theory of our Government, and the inalienable rights of the people of the States, will prevent any one from denying that each State is a Sovereign, and thus may reclaim the grants which it has made to any agent whomsoever."
"I love the Union and the Constitution, but I would rather leave the Union with the Constitution than remain in the Union without it." - Jefferson Davis
"The government of the uncontrolled numerical majority, is but the absolute and despotic form of popular government... If we do not defend ourselves none will defend us; if we yield we will be more and more pressed as we recede; and if we submit we will be trampled underfoot."
- John C. Calhoun
"All we ask is to be let alone." - Jefferson Davis

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