August 8th, 2011

Was Secession Settled Through War?

photo credit: dfbphotos

Imagine engaging in an intellectual discussion with another person over a controversial issue. Passions flare and the discussion increases in volume and intensity. You and the other individual begin to angrily shout down one another over this issue, leading to a physical altercation in which the other individual—stronger and larger than you are—beats you into near-unconsciousness. You surrender of necessity. The other individual, gleefully boasting in his domination over you, victoriously proclaims himself the champion, and his opinion of the original issue the correct one.

This ridiculous conclusion—that violence can authoritatively and conclusively settle an intellectual question—is unfortunately not found only among short-tempered thugs. It is quite common in the world of politics.

In perhaps no other circumstance is this argument more glaringly evident than in regards to the so-called “Civil War.” A recent example is provided courtesy of the thankfully-former Senator Bob Bennett of Utah. Bennett has been given a weekly column in the Deseret News, in which he has adopted a grandfatherly tone ("intrinsically paternalistic," Matt Damon might say), addressing his readers with the same dry, superior style he mastered during his time in the Senate.

In a recent article titled “The Civil War’s lesson on secession,” Bennett discusses why the victory of the North against the South and their successful use of extreme violence and bloodshed has provided future Americans a conclusive, definitive position on the underlying intellectual question.

Tangentially, I should point out one of the article’s glaring falsehoods, namely, his assertion that the war “was caused by slavery.” In Bennett’s defense he cites an old college professor who claimed that Lincoln himself said the war was about slavery, and that therefore that had to be the case, without question. Unfortunately that’s hardly accurate. Lincoln repeatedly affirmed that the war was not about slavery at all. In his first inaugural address he stated that “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” As clear as that can be, he explained in a bit more detail in a previous debate with Stephen Douglas:

I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

Sorry, Mr. Bennett. Your history teacher was wrong.

Returning to the overall question of whether might makes right, or more correctly, whether the intellectual position of a victor in battle is automatically validated and proven correct, Bennett writes (after a hard-to-follow chain of statements) that the issue of secession “has been settled.” So, not only do the victors of war claim that their position has been sufficiently settled, but those who agree with them point in perpetuity to the aggressive acts of the past in support of their own position at present.

This is like saying that a bully who calls his male victim a girl is in fact correct, simply because he beat the kid up. One cannot legitimately provide a convincing and factual conclusion to an argument by pulling out a weapon.

Secession was and remains an intellectual, political question with a complex background and implications. The debate surrounding its past, present, and future is passionate and at times persuasive. And despite the bullies who claim that the debate is “settled,” it will continue to be a valid point of discussion as liberty-minded, sovereign Americans determine how best to “alter or to abolish [their government], and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

54 Responses to “Was Secession Settled Through War?”

  1. rmwarnick
    August 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    The fundamental cause of the Civil War (not the “so-called Civil War”) was slavery. That was the reason for secession. And the question of secession was settled the hard way, once and for all. Politicians who bring up the subject of secession are not serious, because we all know how it turned out the last time.

    The Union was preserved at great sacrifice, because our Constitution was worth saving. It still is. Our freedom depends on it. This really should not be a matter for debate.

  2. Monte B
    August 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    rmwarnick, regardless of the reason the Southern States elected to secede from the union, the response from President Lincoln would have been the same. He did not believe in States rights, and particularly not the right to secede from the union when the state felt the Federal Government was dealing with a heavy hand. So while you are correct that the issue that got Southern States hot enough under the collar to consider secession as an option was indeed their perceived right to keep slaves, it wouldn’t have mattered if they were seceding over the right to burn $100 bills, Lincoln would have still sent in the troops to squash the rebellion.

  3. Matt
    August 8, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    There is a lot of ignorance when it comes to the cause of the civil war. I’d say taxes and ports were more of the catalyst that slavery.

  4. james
    August 8, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    I’m surprised that once again you wish to talk about the civil war in light of the US credit rating going south. I was interested to see what you had to say about the S&P rating, and disappointed that it wasn’t important enough to comment on. You not becoming a politician are you?


  5. Mike Ebert
    August 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    @rmwarnick – your arguments sound just like Bennett’s. “The Union beat the crap out of the Confederacy, and therefore the Union was right.”

    How was the intellectual argument (secession) settled by a physical altercation (war)?

    How was the Constitution in danger because some states wanted to secede?

    You fail to make a distinction between the Constitution (according to Webster’s, “the basic principles and laws of a nation, state, or social group that determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it”) and the United States (the states governed by the Constitution). The Union as it was then comprised was in danger when the Confederate states decided to secede, but the Constitution of the states that remained was not.

    This leads to my next question: when is preserving a nation the way it is currently comprised more moral than allowing a people to break away and choose a different government? Our country was founded on the right of the people to choose who governs them, and then the Union turned around and denied that right to the seceding Confederate states. How could both situations be moral?

    Our freedom really depends on not allowing the majority to steamroll the rights of the minority as long as said minority isn’t infringing on the rights of others.

    This being said, it can be argued the Confederates were infringing on the rights of other. They didn’t help their cause when they attacked Fort Sumter–this could be considered infringing on the rights of the majority (if they were still considered part of the United States) or as an act of war (if they were considered a separate country). To further complicate the matter, the Confederate states were denying the slaves’ rights (at least as defined in the Emancipation Proclamation. If the Emancipation Proclamation had been made before the Confederate states seceded, then arguments about the Civil War would be a lot less messy).

    With these points clarified, this means that fighting to free the slaves when their owners would use force to deny them their rights and prevent others from freeing them was moral but fighting to prevent secession (if the reasons were valid) was immoral. The United States’ secession from Britain (due to infringed rights without a possibility of redress) was moral.

    This also means that the Civil War does not set a valid precedent for every case of secession. Secession when one’s rights are being denied without a chance for redress is moral. The South’s reasons for secession are of questionable validity, and therefore the decisions made during the Civil War shouldn’t be applied to situations where the reasons for secession are valid.

    The United States has been strong when its different groups have compromised in ways that respect individual and state rights while working for the good of the country. We increasingly see a total lack of compromise and of respect for individual and state rights in our government and society, which means we are weak. If problems came to a point where one or more states’ rights were being denied and the federal government or the rest of the states refused every valid compromise, I would support their decision to secede.

    Sorry for the book… 😛

  6. Jim Davis
    August 8, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    rmwarnick says:

    The Union was preserved at great sacrifice, because our Constitution was worth saving. It still is. Our freedom depends on it. This really should not be a matter for debate.

    I’ve heard this before but the questions I have for you are; how did the war save the Constitution? How does our freedom depend on compelling people to stay? If you believe this isn’t a matter of debate then do you also believe there should have been no debate surrounding the secession of the American colonies from their federal government?

    According to wikipedia, less than 4% of the confederate states’ population were slave owners. Yet, modern pundits in academia want us to believe that the South was fighting over slavery?! That can’t hold water when the facts are considered. Also, modern history books don’t teach that the North issued a draft to subdue the South… A draft which caused bloody riots in New York. If the North was so concerned about freeing the slaves then why was there a need to compel its citizens to engage in such a “just cause”?

    *Disclaimer- I don’t believe the South was completely justified either. But I do believe in the principle of independence when people’s rights are no longer being protected.

  7. Morgan D.
    August 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    The Civil War was fought over slavery. Period. Among Civil War historians anybody who aruges otherwise is literally laughed at.

    And secession was never allowed to begin with, but the idea was completly and utterly destroyed in the Civil War. I’ve already had enough educating for one day so I don’t have time go into detail. (Nor do I care that much actually.) But I hope you take enough time to do actual research and not buy into the lost cause myth. In fact a good place to start with this research is “The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History”.

  8. Mike Ebert
    August 8, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Morgan, I’m not impressed by your high-and-mighty, I’m-more-educated-than-you attitude. You won’t persuade anyone acting like that. I also believe it foolish to state that the war was “over slavery. Period.” You could say it was primarily over slavery, but it would be false to say there weren’t any other reasons.

    Whether the Civil War was over slavery or something else, no one has yet come up with a satisfactory answer to the question of secession. Beating someone in a military engagement doesn’t settle an intellectual argument. Nor does the Constitution provide any guidance on the issue of what to do if a state decides it no longer wants to be a part of the Union. I suppose it never crossed the founders’ minds that someone would no longer want to be a part of something as amazing as the United States. Of course, with the percentage of the Constitution that has been neutered in our day and age, this may become a question that requires answering in the not-too-distant future.

  9. Frank
    August 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Modern historians who are the intellectual descendants of Alexander Hamilton continue to downgrade Jefferson’s philosophy of states’ rights. An especially specious example of this is this book. The book’s premise is that the doctrine of states’ rights had no real history but was fabricated after the war by disgruntled former Confederates to rationalize the secession of 1861.

    In the first chapter Nolan asserts that the issue of the right of secession as a cause of the war is a legend fabricated by former Confederates in order to foster a heroic image of themselves and the war. The only evidence he offers of this, is a few quotations from none other than good ole honest Abe Lincoln!

    Nolan doesn’t even bother to mention Webster’s and Lincoln’s false notion that the federal government created the states, not vice versa. Nolan ignores the fact that Lincoln NEVER said that he was launching an invasion of the Southern states over the issue of slavery.

    Read this book for a distorted and incorrect view of American history. Narrow is the path to intelligence – wide is the way to ignorance.

  10. rmwarnick
    August 9, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Some of us have degrees in History and have read extensively about the Civil War. Others seem to think they can ignore history, because for some odd reason the idea of secession appeals to them.

    If you have ever heard of George Santayana, you know what he said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    How did the war save the Constitution? By repairing the fatal flaw of slavery. The 14th Amendment made everyone born in the USA a citizen, and prohibits states from denying the equal protection of the law to any citizen.

  11. Mike Ebert
    August 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Standing behind a degree doesn’t make someone any more persuasive, and it isn’t required to have a degree in history to know and remember it!

    The fatal Constitutional flaw of slavery could have been fixed without the Confederate states. The Constitution would have been just fine without them. The nation, however, would be smaller and the slaves would not be free. I don’t see anything wrong with the nation being smaller IF and ONLY IF the reasons for secession were valid. I’m grateful the slaves were freed.

    Many early writers, such as St. George Tucker (in “View of the Constitution of the United States”) took secession for granted–they believed that joining the Union was not an irreversible decision. It’s almost as if the anti-federal ideas present at the time are being suppressed by modern historians.

    Secession would only be appealing if the United States was so broken it couldn’t be saved. Nobody in their right mind takes secession lightly, and it would only make sense to secede if no one in their right mind would stay.

    One problem nowadays is that our country has swung so far in the federal direction. I believe individual, local, and states’ rights need to be reasserted. I believe that the more anti-federal lines of thinking that were present in the United States’ early history also need to be remembered and examined for ideas that are useful today.

  12. Matt
    August 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Well stated Mike!

  13. Aaron
    August 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    The idea of secession has been addressed by intellectual argument, and has been thoroughly put to rest as a viable political option. Further, the Supreme Court of the United states has addressed this issue. If I recall correctly, they addressed it shortly after the Civil War in Texas v. White, and then again later in Williams v. Bruffy.

  14. Jim Davis
    August 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Aaron apparently didn’t even read the article or the comments.

    My question to those of you who are laying to rest the principle of secession is this- were the British colonies on the East Coast of the North American continent (Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, etc…) during the late 18th century justified in seceding from their federal government?

    If you can provide an honest and well thought-out answer then you have my respect. If you continue to spout that the idea has been put to rest whilst ignoring this crucial example you are being intellectually dishonest.

  15. Frank
    August 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Aaron: How exactly has the secession issue been put to rest? When the 13 independent nations opted into the union (lowercase “u”), where did it say that once they joined the union, they could NEVER leave?

    As reluctant as some of the states were to join the union, I’m sure if they had the notion that once in they couldn’t get out… many of them would have never willingly joined.

  16. rmwarnick
    August 10, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    The right-wing’s ability to revisit settled questions never ceases to amaze me. Secession is settled, as well as nullification. Where does this hatred of the federal government come from anyway? States like Utah receive more benefits from being part of the USA than they give back.

  17. Matt
    August 10, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    rmwarnick: It sounds like your history degree didn’t include the reading of the anti-federalist papers?

    How is the issue of, “Did the south have the right to secede” settled?

    I take it you like big government and living in a nanny/welfare state?

    “benefits”, i’d rather call them handouts with strings attached.

  18. Edward
    August 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Strange that the only point any opposition gives continues to be a condescending “Duh, this issue has already been settled. Period”. If you oppose the idea on logical grounds, then that is fine–however the lack of any reasoning here suggests that this actually is a difficult point to logically reject as incorrect.

    I too would like to hear someone give a logical line of thinking as to why it was okay for the colonies to secede from their federal government, however there will never again be a time when secession will again be justified or when disregarding a federal law will ever be justified.

  19. rmwarnick
    August 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    There is no legal justification for secession. That’s why the question is most often settled, one way or the other, by force of arms. Secession is treason, as the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution well knew.

  20. Matt
    August 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    “There is no legal justification for secession”… There doesn’t need to be a legal “justification”. The absence of an anti-secession law inherently means it’s lawful to secede.

    Comparing the revolution to a peaceful secession from the union gets you nowhere. Inclusion into the union was voluntary with the notion you could leave if you wanted to. There was no law that stated once joined you could not leave.

    The revolution is entirely a different scenario.

  21. JJL9
    August 10, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    “There is no legal justification for secession. That’s why the question is most often settled, one way or the other, by force of arms. Secession is treason, as the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution well knew.”

    Yes, the Founding Fathers well knew that the mother country would view their secession as treason.

    So, according to all of your arguments, the matter was settled and they could not secede, right?

    So if those Founding Fathers would have lost, you would be happily stating that the matter of secession was settled at that point, right?

    On the other hand, if the South had won the “Civil War” and seceded, what would your answer be? The matter is settled. Secession is a viable option because the Founding Fathers and later the Southern states both successfully did it. So the matter is settled?

  22. rmwarnick
    August 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede” – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

    The Constitution grants no right of secession. It’s illegal. If you think the Confederate States were “successful” then I don’t know what to say.

  23. Matt
    August 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    rmwarnick: Where does it say in the constitution that you can’t secede?

    No matter what Scalia’s credentials are, it’s just his opinion, and a weak one at that. For example one of his main pieces of evidence is the phrase “one Nation, indivisible” in the pledge. I just have one question for Mr. Scalia… When was the pledge of allegiance written? 🙂

    His other argument is, because the north one, therefor they were in the right. Very illogical. Go re-read Conner’s opening two paragraphs again.

  24. Frank
    August 10, 2011 at 10:50 pm #


    It seems as though you are using today’s standards, knowledge, experience to judge the past.

    Let me ask you this. What is soooo bad about being able to secede?

    What if you started a group or union of some kind, invited members to join, and then when they asked to leave you killed them? Doesn’t seem right does it.


  25. Lou
    August 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    The united states was bankrupt and when Lincoln took office he was in a bad position because the debt was due and he didn’t have anything to pay with. He needed the property of the South for collateral. The southern states didn’t think they should be beholden to the debt that the north created and didn’t want to give up their land as collateral. That is why they succeeded.

    If you are in elementary school, the story about Lincoln saving the slaves with the Civil War makes sense, but when you are an adult and look deeper (deeper than the government sanctioned history books) you will be able to see that the “slavery” excuse for war makes no sense at all.

  26. Frank
    August 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm #

    Lou, Very good summary.

    By the way, debt and war are Satan’s two biggest tools of destruction. Lincoln used both of them to take freedoms away from the south.

    Also, slavery was on it’s way out in many countries during that time period. It would not and could not have lasted. Slavery would have ended on it’s own either peacefully, or with a lot less violence. A civil war was not needed and your are being short sighted if you think so.

  27. rmwarnick
    August 11, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    What is bad about being able to secede from the Union? Good question, and the answer is simple. Secession undermines democracy. If secession is seen as a practical option for any dissident minority, then we lose the strength that comes from unity.

    It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic or democracy — a Government of the people, by the same people — can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration, according to organic law, in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their Government and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask: “Is there, in all republics, this inherent and fatal weakness? Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?”

    Abraham Lincoln, Special Session Message, 1861.

    This is an issue worth thinking about, because so many gave their lives to save the United States of America from secessionists. Their sacrifice was not in vain, because we are a stronger and better nation today.

  28. Matt
    August 11, 2011 at 11:57 am #


    If secession undermines democracy then that is a good thing.

    How did forcing the south to stay by death “save” the United States?

    Can you prove that we are stronger today because of the Civil War?

    The strongest method of voting is with your feet. If you don’t like something then walk away. Allowing states to secede is healthy for both entities.

    What’s destructive is force with the threat of death for the simple reason of trying to walk away.

  29. rmwarnick
    August 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm #


    Now you’re just spouting utter nonsense. If you want to live in a libertarian paradise like the one you’re advocating, try Somalia.

  30. Matt
    August 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    rmwarnick: If you want to live in a democracy you better leave the USA.

    We don’t live in a democracy, further a pure democracy has some serious risks (ie Plato’s mob rule, etc.)

  31. Clumpy
    August 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm #


    I agree with your comment, though I’d like to register that “democracy” has both a technical meaning and a general one referring to a philosophy of rule by the people. Many people who advocate “democracy” are really just advocating populism and I think that usage reflects the general understanding.

  32. Mike Ebert
    August 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    @rmwarnick I’ve said multiple times that secession isn’t to be taken lightly. I am not advocating that secession is “a practical option for any dissident minority.”

    Lincoln is right to a degree–if we go our separate ways because of every disagreement, then our country (and the world) will soon be a mess. However, there ARE situations where secession is justified (mostly involving immoral governments which are beyond repair), and to deny this is to deny that government derives its power from the consent of the people.

    You can’t have it both ways–you can’t say that secession is never justified AND that the founding fathers are noble men who did the right thing. If secession is always out, then everyone in the United States would be a British citizen today.

    The particulars of secession in the Civil War can be discussed, but it is not a precedent for every case of secession. Just because the North beat the tar out of the South doesn’t mean that the argument has been settled, that every case of secession has been decided, forever. The intellectual arguments you pointed us to DO settle many cases of secession–secession is not usually justified, smart, or good–but they do not settle ALL cases.

  33. Jim Davis
    August 11, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    rmwarnick, you advocate democracy and unity as if those are worthy ends in and of themselves. Can’t those very things be used for evil? I urge you to look at those things as tools (or means) which should be used responsibly. Ezra T. Benson advocated responsible unity in his speech Stand Up For Freedom:

    Another recent development has been the call for national unity. I believe there needs to be a unity in our land. But it must not be blind, senseless, irresponsible unity. It should not be a unity just for the sake of unity. It needs to be a unity built on sound principles.

    Speaking of the continual trend towards socialism he continued:

    If this has lead to disunity then by all means let us return to a program of sound Constitutional principles on which we can unite.

    History has repeatedly taught us that our government continues to give little to no regard to uniting under Constitutional principles. One might argue that the federal government has already seceded from the Constitution and therefore the people who wish to continue a Constitutional form of government aren’t actually advocating leaving the Republic but in restoring it. From this perspective—who are the rebels? Who are the law breakers? Who are the extremists? Who has caused disunity?

    Also, you (and a few others) have failed to address the fact that our nation was founded on the principle of secession. You argue that because it is malum prohibitum (wrong because it is prohibited) then it should not be done without even addressing whether it is malum en se (wrong or evil in itself). The colonists broke the law (malum prohibitum) by seceding from their federal government. The Declaration of Independence lays the cause and justification for secession. So were they justified or not?

  34. rmwarnick
    August 12, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Secession is treason and rebellion. Mike is right, that’s not to be taken lightly. During the American Revolution, there was a great deal of suffering on both sides. The Revolutionary War lasted 8 years. When politicians such as Governor Rick Perry talk about secession, they are being profoundly un-serious.

    Secession talk is just weird in the current context. Today’s federal government is controlled by corporatists who despise progressives and the middle class– why isn’t the right happy with that?

  35. Lin J.
    August 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm #


    You are being very black and white. The american revolution was a civil war, plain and simple. We SECEEDED; they tried by FORCE of arms to make us stay under the British govt.

    You restated secession as treason and rebellion. This is exactly how we were viewed. So be it.

    Answer this: Was it morally wrong for our founding fathers to commit ‘treason’ and ‘rebel?’

  36. Lin J.
    August 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Thomas Jefferson on secession (1803)…

    “…Besides, if it should become the great interest of those nations to separate from this, if their happiness should depend on it so strongly as to induce them to go through that convulsion, why should the Atlantic States dread it? But especially why should we, their present inhabitants, take side in such a question?…The future inhabitants of the Atlantic & Missipi [sic] States will be our sons. We leave them in distinct but bordering establishments. We think we see their happiness in their union, & we wish it. Events may prove it otherwise; and if they see their interest in separation, why should we take side with our Atlantic rather than our Missipi descendants? It is the elder and the younger son differing. God bless them both, & keep them in union, if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better.”

    And 1804…

    Whether we remain in one confederacy, or form into Atlantic and Mississippi confederacies, I believe not very important to the happiness of either part. Those of the western confederacy will be as much our children & descendants as those of the eastern, and I feel myself as much identified with that country, in future time, as with this; and did I now foresee a separation at some future day, yet I should feel the duty & the desire to promote the western interests as zealously as the eastern, doing all the good for both portions of our future family which should fall within my power.”

  37. Jim Davis
    August 12, 2011 at 8:39 pm #


    The discussion here is about the principle of secession/independence, not Rick Perry’s empty/ridiculous threats. The left-right paradigm you espouse isn’t applicable here either.

    Nice job side-stepping the issue of America’s foundation once again…

  38. Jarrison
    August 18, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    When a parent secedes from a family, we call it divorce. When a child secedes from his parents, we call it rebellion.
    When a church-member secedes from his church, we call it heresy. When a people secede from their government, we call it revolution.

    Each is appropriate in some cases, and not in others.

    This issue has a zero-chance of being settled one way or the other, because it’s a subjective question. “Is it all right to secede” is open ended enough to generate a life-time of Diabolically sponsored debate and contention.

  39. Matt
    August 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Jarrison: Not a valid comparison. A better example would be: What do you call it when someone joins a club and then quits/secedes the club when the club strays from its initial purpose? It doesn’t take a rebellion or revolution, you simple leave the club.

  40. JJL9
    August 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm #


    I don’t think anybody on this thread was arguing that secession is always justified, but I think people were arguing that it is basically never justified.

    The point of the post was to debate whether or not the issue of secession has been settled definitively by the outcome of the “Civil War”, that settlement being that secession cannot happen or is morally wrong or something like that.

    Based on your comments I assume you agree that it certainly was not.

  41. Jarrison
    August 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm #


    Thank you for your comment. I completely agree. Unfortunately, the United Club of America has come to resemble a family more than a club, with expectations of its members reinforced by cultural precedent rather than original intent.

    Seccession is appropriate in some cases, and not in others.

    It seems though, that since the 2nd Coming, the Lord has preferred secession over outright violence. The genocide of Joshua has been replaced by the flight of the Saints from Illinouis and of Alma and his followers to Zarahemla.

  42. David Callwell
    August 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    If you see the Constitution binding the states together in nothing more than a “club,” then you’re starting from such a fundamentally unsound position that it’s fruitless to offer any point to the contrary. Read the document again. Really? That sounds like a club to you? The same as a chess club or D&D club?

    The family analogy is much, much more apt given to what the Constitution was binding the states to.

  43. Frank
    August 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm #


    let’s continue down this analogy that the Union is a family. Can you point out who the father, mother, and children are in this family? Then point out the rules for seceding from a family and correlate those to leaving the union.

    Comparing a “union” to a club or HOA is a closer comparison than to a family.

    And could you point out the “binding” part in the constitution you are referring to that restricts leaving the “union”?

    All those who think the south didn’t have the right to secede are trying to write history with their own pipe-dream in mind.

    This is very simple. At the time there was NO legal law or precedent prohibiting a peaceful secession period. Whether secession is good/bad is a completely separate discussion.

  44. Jarrison
    August 18, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    I have no credidentials other than an inquiring mind, but I think I’ve got a textual argument against secession.

    Article 1, Section 8 states that Congress shall have power to:

    “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

    In this article, Congress is given the powers to enforce the “Foregoing powers” which means it has powers to enforce the laws it makes.

    Now, imagine if a criminal could excuse his criminal acts simply by saying, “Well, officer, I secede from your society. You have no jurisdiction over me.”

    Just as the police officer has power to enforce the law, government has power to enforce its legislative decisions, which means states (just like the criminal) can’t use the “well, I secede, so there.” argument. The criminal has already made it implicit that he agrees to participate in society.

    The only exception is if the government is unjust, I think. Then perhaps a rebellion is in order, but not a secession. Secession is like a no-fault divorce. It’s too easy. There need to be consequences to your decision to ratify the Constitution, and I think loyalty is one of those consequences.

  45. JJL9
    August 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    How about comparing it to the United Nations? You know, a union of shirts between a number of sovereign states. It’s not exactly the same thing, but it’s a Hell of a lot closer than a family our a club for that matter. Do you think we should reserve our right to secede from the UN? Suppose the UN doesn’t want us to secede?

  46. JJL9
    August 18, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    Sorts, not shirts! Stupid auto-correct!

  47. Frank
    August 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm #


    Very good point! Would it take a war for the U.S.A to leave the United Nations?

  48. Frank
    August 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm #


    Yes, congress can change make law, but the civil war was an executive order by Lincoln.

  49. Jim Davis
    August 18, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    Many Latter Day Saints will detest the notion of separation based on an isolated reading of the 12th Article of Faith:

    We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

    Few members are familiar with another scripture of theirs (D&C 134) which sheds light on the subject of the role and relationship of government with its people. In the 5th verse we read:

    We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected…(emphasis added)

    I agree with these verses. I believe secession is very serious and should only be considered when our rights are being violated. My question is where is the line? If we consider the British’s breach of the colonist’s rights to be too far than our government crossed that line a long time ago… But like I alluded to before- our federal government has already seceded from our Constitution. It’s restoration time!

    …peacefully I hope

  50. Frank
    August 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    If you haven’t seen Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, I highly recommend it.

  51. Xerac
    November 26, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    The notion that the Constitution never even implied the union to be permanent is without merit. The Preamble puts that to rest with the “to form a more perfect union” clause. That is refering to the “perpetual union” between the states as referenced in the Articles of Confederation. Hence, the Founding Fathers did indeed mean for the union to be permanent and secession not to be an option.

    Also, it wasn’t just slavery that was the paramount issue for secession but also the expansion of slavery. One must look at the Cornerstone Speech given by the VP of the Confederacy hemself and that 4 of the original 7 states that voted to secede sepcifically noted slavery as the underlying main cause. The other 3 referenced “institutions”, a code then for slavery.

    To say slavery wasn’t the paramount, and overriding, issue is to falsely revise history. Also, to say the Founding Fathers didn’t intend for the union to be permanent is also to falsely revise history.

  52. Frank
    November 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Um… Xerac you are the first person to bring up the “permanent” word 🙂

  53. Mark N.
    November 30, 2011 at 2:01 am #

    Should my wife ever announce she wants a divorce, I shall simply cite the Civil War as precedent, beat the crap out of her, and hope she realizes the discussion is over.

    That is how it’s supposed to work, right?

    [sarcasm alert, just in case]

  54. Matt
    November 30, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Mark: Well put, and if your wife ever tries to bring the divorce issue to a public court, YOU will provide the judge, and disallow a jury of her peers.

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